The music you love at any particular time is determined by your attitude and surroundings. I’m now in my early 20’s and living in a massive city. I listen to melodic post-rock to zone me out of the mundaneness of the daily commute. I listen to old school hip-hop cos I feel a part of a multi-racial maze of concrete. I listen to new music so I can stay on top, impress with my knowledge, get in there first and ultimately use that to make money, make friends and be happy.
When I was 15, in a small Irish town I was stereotypically teenage. Angry, silly, devastatingly awkward. I didn’t know what I was at. I just wanted to have the life that I thought other people were having. But though hindsight is sweet, it would have been nice to know at that stage that pretty much everyone feels the same. Determined to be different in some way I found the loudest, darkest music I could find this side of actually making out lyrics. Thin Lizzy, Sabbath, Slayer, Maiden were all there but nothing ever struck me like the anvil to the face that was Master of Puppets. I heard it before this but this was when it was most important to me.
Battery gets you immediately. Twenty three gradually layered guitars, sustained lead in unison like a buildup to the battle, the frantic cavalry charge just over a minute in.that sets the tone for this unmovable beast. “Cannot kill the family, battery is found in me”. I still have no idea what this means but at that age you consider the writer of such far out stuff to be a madman, the guy who’s figured it out, how to rock and be happy forever.
We figured the title track was about drugs. But not Lucky Strikes, cans of Bulmers and soapbar hash. Real drugs. “Druggies” drugs. These guys weren’t at that though, they were running on mini cans of Bud and pure rock n’ roll energy. Which may be why the allure wore off, or at least I started broadening my mind musically. I noticed the cracks in a wall I’d imagined for myself. There was no Demascus moment. I guess one day I decided, unbeknownst to me, that I’d try punk and reggae or whatever.
The Thing That Should Not Be is a weird one and it took me a while to like it. Musically it’s fascinating, it’s got an unsettling pace to it, like a circus theme song caught in a tornado bound for hell. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) is pure emotion, dark and full that I remember inciting a near religious moment when I heard it live. I often downplay the impact this music had on me. It worries me that so little of the music I love has ever incited that kind of feeling in me. I suppose music serves a function. I need music to calm and educate me. I need to stay cool, in control, on the ball. But back then, music was pure venting. I was pissed off at everything. Metal was pissed off at everything. And not in a cool way. No time for that bullshit. Just time to let loose and rock out. I’m not joking. This shit was and is to many people, deadly serious.
Of course as a mix of conscientious youth and know it all dipshit I knew about war and I was violently against it. While anti-war music on an album that sounds like a battlefield was a perfect match, it was Leper Messiah that got the blood pumping. It is the battle between God and money. I was familiar with cult scenarios. I didn’t know what to make of God. I tried to make it work with the divine but like a relationship on the rocks but ticking along we should have nailed it there and then. The more you rely on something that you later no longer believe in, the more you have to learn later on. But whatever of my unsureness on the overall picture, I was fully sure that anyone looking to make money out of religion by conning people when they are emotionally at their most vulnerable i.e when they’re engaging on a hugely personal scale with something they cannot see, hear or even sense, are the most despicable human beings.
Orion is pure and utter music wankery. In the best possible way. Is it prog nonsense? Or a bizarre futuristic rock opera masterpiece? I like it.
Damage Inc. then wraps it all up. Atmospheric intro. Then a final barrage of advancing Panzers. It’s mayhem. It’s exactly what happens when you successfully harness a fully functioning young persons attitude, vigour and rage. And that’s what the whole album is. That’s what heavy and fast music does for an expanding mind, surging hormones and guilty conscience in a small, wet, boring town. Music is like religion, some people find their own way but most people coast along as their surroundings dictate. Had I grown up in New York I could have been a skinnies and leathers Strokes kid, in London I might have been a Nu Raver, and in Tokyo it might not have taken me so long to fall in love with Yellow Magic Orchestra. But I had no fashion distractions, no cool places to be and no money to do any of it anyway. I had a cracked case with Master of Puppets in it. It served me well"
— Metallica - Master Of Puppets