Next month marks the 20th anniversary of Metallica's ... And Justice for All, which is perhaps one of the most important studio offerings of the band's illustrious career. Not only was it Metallica's first LP following the untimely passing of bassist Cliff Burton, it shot straight to #6 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum just nine weeks after it first hit stores.
The now-classic album signaled many other firsts for Metallica: It was the first record to feature new bassist Jason Newsted, it netted them their first Grammy nomination, and it featured the single "One," for which they shot their first-ever music video. Since its release, Justice has scanned more than 8 million copies in the U.S. alone, and it helped cement their status as a rock and roll force to be reckoned with.
In summation, it was a momentous release for Metallica, one that changed the entire trajectory of the band's career. Now, 20 years later, we've spoken to the group's members, asking them to think back to that time and reflect on the importance of what may be one of their most beloved efforts.
"Justice obviously was a huge record for us. ... We took the Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets concept as far as we could take it," drummer Lars Ulrich reflected. "There was no place else to go with the progressive, nutty, sideways side of Metallica, and I'm so proud of the fact that, in some way, that album is kind of the epitome of that progressive side of us up through the '80s."
Ulrich said that when he listens to the album now, he thinks it still holds up. He feels Justice was an album Metallica — who, starting October 20, will headline their first U.S. arena tour since 2004 — had to make, in order to progress as a band and mature.
"It's aged quite well," he said. "There's a certain kind of specific sound to that record, peculiar sound — whichever adverb you want to choose — that's given it a kind of life of its own and a little bit of a vibe all its own. There have been a lot of great musicians we admire who've come up and talked about what a great inspiration that album has been to them and to their sound. It's obviously awesome to be part of that. That album also sent us on this whole other merry way, because when we came back from touring on that record in 1989, we were like, 'We have nothing more to offer on this side of Metallica,' and that set us off on some other adventures. When I think of the nine records we've put out, it's impossible for me to think of the music without thinking of the experience. And when I think of the experience, I have warm and fuzzy feelings, but I also have questions. Obviously, Justice is well-revered, especially among a lot of our peers."
According to frontman James Hetfield, Justice provided a showcase for what Metallica were capable of — both as a band and as individual players.
"That album, songwriting-wise, it was just us really showing off and trying to show what we could do," he said. " 'We've jammed six riffs into one song? Let's make it eight. Let's go crazy with it.' I listen to some of that stuff, and it's pretty progressive. Sonically, it has its shortcomings, but that is the one where we were able to step forward from Puppets, and we were out on the road a lot during that record. That's when we first had major stage shows, with pyro and things falling, and that's when we started to get into more of the theatrics.
"We mixed that record while we were on the road." Hetfield continued. "That's not an excuse for the way that it sounds, but our ears were beat. Anywhere I go, whenever I ask someone what their favorite record is, someone's bound to say Justice. It's pretty great that, across the line, someone can jump into your history and feel comfortable."
But is Justice Hetfield's favorite work?
"Not so much," he confessed. "I'd have to go song by song. ... I was just listening to [1997's] ReLoad, and there are a couple of songs on there that I think are absolutely brilliant. But as an album itself, and as a time, [Justice] just isn't a good memory for me. But those songs are good. I have to try and erase the memory of that experience somehow and let the songs take me."
So which of Metallica's LPs is Hetfield's favorite? "The next one," he said. "It's always the next one. I think [the forthcoming Death Magnetic is great. But there's always a better something. The holy grail of guitar sounds? I haven't got there yet, but I will — on the next one. I'll write the ultimate song on the next one. The hunger is always there to do it better."
Metalheads, do you ever feel persecuted for your taste in music? Chris Harris sounds off on "genre discrimination" in the MTV Newsroom blog.
The rest of the week's metal news:
Shadows Fall will be touring next month with Avenged Sevenfold. So far, just five North American dates have been set — three of them in Canada. But they will be playing Huntington, West Virginia, on September 6 and Baltimore on September 7. ... Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones, Soulfly's Max Cavalera and Bad Brains members H.R. and Darryl Jenifer all make guest appearances on Brooklyn rapper Ill Bill's The Hour of Reprisal, which hits stores September 16. ...
Tool's enigmatic Maynard James Keenan has recorded vocals for a song called "I Don't Have an Excuse, I Just Need a Little Help," for Jubilee's debut offering. The new band features Nine Inch Nails' Aaron North and Queens of the Stone Age's Michael Shuman. But Maynard isn't the only guest the newcomers managed to nab for their inaugural LP; the disc will also boast contributions from Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters and QOTSA frontman Josh Homme. ...
Hatebreed will issue an album's worth of covers called For the Lions on October 28. According to the band's label, the effort will feature Hatebreed's take on classic tracks by the likes of Judge, Metallica, Negative Approach, Agnostic Front, Sheer Terror, the Misfits and Obituary, among others. ... Animosity will hit the road with Decrepit Birth and Antagonist next month for a handful of West Coast gigs. The first is set for September 9 in Anaheim, California, and the last has been booked for September 13 in San Francisco. ...
Horse the Band and Heavy Heavy Low Low will team up next month for a brief run across the U.S. The tour gets under way September 3 in San Antonio and runs through September 25 in Warren, Michigan. ... Annotations of an Autopsy have parted ways with drummer Dan Smith, replacing him with Lyn Jeffs. "Due to various reasons, it wasn't working out with us and him," read a statement from the band. "We felt his heart was no longer in it after expressing his want to leave on numerous occasions this year, which showed when he played live." ...
At All Cost have been dropped by Century Media Records, and in the wake of that development, appear to have gone on an unspecified hiatus. "Things have officially bottomed out," the band wrote in a statement. "The machine, which was so finely tuned, has frozen from the cogs and grease balls caught along the way. No label, no press, no money, no tours, no fans — not much hope. But there is and will always be music, and that's something no one could take from At All Cost. We haven't played or practiced since June, but have written songs that take the band to another sound, another place. We seek our individual futures for now — some working at school, some just working. Waiting. Waiting for the sun to rise again."