How Metallica changed metal with their groundbreaking 1986 classic Master of Puppets

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett onstage in Japan, 1986
(Image credit: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

In early 1986, James Hetfield was in bullish mood, talking about the new Metallica album as it was being mixed at Amigo Studios in Los Angeles. “I know that on this album the fast ones are some of the fastest we’ve ever written,” he told Sounds writer Steffan Chirazi. “We’d never try to forget what Metallica formed for, no way. It’s just that maturity in style breeds better material all round.”

The album in question was Master Of Puppets, and its title track was everything that guitarist/vocalist Hetfield promised. It was fast – 220bpm at peak velocity. It had a sense of artistic maturity in its epic scope and dramatic twists and turns, playing out over eight-and-a-half-minutes through several tempo and time signature changes. 

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Paul Elliott

Content Editor at Total Guitar and freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis, and has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss. He lives in Bath, UK – of which David Coverdale recently said, “How very Roman of you!”

With contributions from