In 1988, Metallica released its fourth studio album, “…And Justice For All”.
The single “One” earned the metal band its first Grammy award in 1990 and the first to win in the newly created Best Metal Performance category. Metallica won in that category the first three years in a row, and, in fact, the group holds the record for the most wins, with a total of six.
On making the album, drummer Lars Ulrich said:
“We took the Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets concept as far as we could take it. 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, […And Justice For All] is kind of the epitome of that progressive side of us up through the ’80s.”
If you love the songs but not the album’s production quality, you’re not alone. The recording and mixing on “…And Justice For All” have been widely criticized, particularly for nearly erasing new bassist Jason Newsted’s volume.
But, that aside, enjoy the raw energy, the existential despair, and the surrealist sounds of the following songs.
And while you’re at it, check out all the facts about Metallica’s “…And Justice For All” that we rounded up for you.
Why is there no bass in “…And Justice For All”?
Although “…And Justice For All” is highly praised by Metallica’s fans, there is a flaw in it that it’s hardly unnoticeable. There is no bass guitar! Ok, that’s not completely true; there is some. But it is barely heard in the mix. So, why is that, you may ask?
There are a few versions of the story behind this. One version is told by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, and another by the sound engineer who mixed the album, Steve Thompson.
Hetfield said that at that time, the band was burnt, going back and forth between playing the gigs and recording the album. Without using earplugs, their hearing was shot, and they couldn’t hear the high ends so good anymore. So, when the mixing of the album was happening, they insisted on turning the high end up more and more, which resulted in canceling the low-end frequencies.
Ulrich said the mixing of the album was all about balances and the result of instinctive choices.
He said that it was the way to get other parts of the sound (his and James’s) to coexist without anybody having to take a back step.
The sound engineer Steve Thompson was unsatisfied with the mix, mainly because of the changes that Lars Ulrich requested.
Thompson said he was perfectly happy with the first mix and that Hetfield’s guitar was nicely matched with the bass guitar played by Jason Newsted. Thompson and the producer of the album Flemming Rasmussen both agreed that the Newsted’s bass lines were killer. However, Ulrich requested that the low frequencies should go way down, so they’re barely audible.
Thompson was not happy about the direction Lars was pulling him in, but he finished the mix by his instructions. And the result is – almost no sound of the bass guitar in the final version of the album. Thompson later said he regrets having to follow Ulrich’s orders, who, paradoxically, asked him afterward what happened to the bass. However, the album was there, and it gained success nevertheless.
There were speculations that the new bassist Jason Newsted was intentionally hazed from the album because the band still griefed recently deceased bassist Cliff Burton. Newsted recorded the bass lines separate from the rest of the band and was, of course, unsatisfied with the final mix and nearly inaudible bass.
Newsted was unfamiliar with Metallica’s recording method, and he expressed concerns about his influence on the overall sound and the lack of communication with the rest of the team.
However, in the end, even he agreed that it’s how it’s supposed to be and that the album made a mark on the world.
“Harvester Of Sorrow”
“The Shortest Straw”
What did Cliff Burton write on “…And Justice For All”?
“…And Justice For All” was Metallica’s huge comeback after the death of the bassist Cliff Burton, who died in a bus accident in 1986. He was in the band since the first album, “Kill ‘Em All,” in 1983 and played on the next two releases, “Ride The Lightning” and “Master of Puppets.”
Burton died during Damage Inc. tour in support of the “Master of Puppets” album when the band’s bus skidded off the road and flipped onto the grass. Burton was violently flung through the bus window, which then landed on top of him, instantly killing him.
Although Burton didn’t participate in the recording of the “…And Justice for All”, he was post-humous credited on the album, particularly for the song “To Live Is to Die.”
First of all, the song “To Live Is To Die” was named by Burton’s favorite phrase, and it represents the Metallica’s tribute to their dead member. Burton recorded the fragments of the bass lines for this song on the tape, and Newsted played them on the final version of the album.
Also, although the song is instrumental, it features some spoken words, of which Burton wrote the last two lines: “All this I cannot bear to witness any longer/Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home?”
These words were engraved on Cliff Burton’s memorial stone, which was unveiled on October 3, 2006, in Sweden near the scene of the fatal crash.
What is the meaning behind “…And Justice For All” by Metallica?
The meaning behind the phrase “And justice for all” that was used both for the album and song name is pretty straightforward.
The original phrase is a part of the pledge of allegiance, which is an expression of loyalty to the flag of the United States.
However, Metallica used the phrase somewhat sarcastically, expressing their dissatisfaction with the justice system in the USA. The album’s name and song lyrics aim to address political and legal injustice, war, censored speech, and environmental issues.
It was the first time Metallica addressed political and environmental issues in their lyrics. Hetfield, the band’s main lyricist, stepped out of his usual subjects and wrote about topics that he had never dealt with before.
Digging deeper into the lyrics of each track, the band covered numerous issues such as environmental issues (“Blackened”), discrimination (“The Shortest Straw”), freedom of speech (“Eye of the Beholder”), war (“One”) and Hetfield’s personal rant against his parents (“Dyers Eve”).
The album artwork and stage scenography followed the concept developed by Hetfield and Ulrich, and it also represents how the band felt about social and political injustices.
It shows a cracked statue of Lady Justice, blindfolded and chained by ropes, her breasts exposed and her scales brimming with dollar coins. The band used a huge replica of the statue on the stage during the “Damaged Justice” tour, and they named her Doris. Until the end of every concert of the tour, Doris would fall and become decapitated.
What is the message of Metallica “One”?
Probably the biggest hit on the “…And Justice For All” album was the fourth song, “One.” It was written by Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield.
The song and the music video depict the story of a World War I soldier whose arms, legs and jaw were blown off by a landmine. He is blind, mute, and can’t move his arms and legs. He can’t communicate with the outside world, and he begs God to kill him. He eventually finds a way to communicate with the hospital workers, so he jolts in the hospital bed and spells “Kill me” in Morse code.
The story in the video is intercut with scenes from the anti-war film “Johnny Got His Gun,” based on the novel of the same name. Both the movie and Metallica’s song aim to show the horrors of the war, which ultimately serves as an anti-war message.
The song’s concept has its first origin in James Hetfield’s dream about just being a brain and nothing else. Once the band realized the connection between Hetfield’s dream and the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” written by Dalton Trumbo, the final concept of the song was born.
The song won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1990, and it was the first-ever to win in that category. “One” became a fixture of Metallica’s live performances and one of their most popular songs.
“Eye Of The Beholder”
“…And Justice For All”
What genre is “…And Justice For All”?
We all know that Metallica is one of the big four of the thrash metal. However, “…And Justice For All” takes a small detour musically, although it still follows the band’s roots.
The album is considered one of the first progressive metal releases ever, although progressive metal was not yet established as a genre at that time. The link with progressive metal are extremely complex arrangements, especially the guitar leads, and fall out from the thrash metal standards.
Throughout the album, you can hear long and complex guitar leads, multiple sections, and strange and ever-changing fast drums, which will later become one of the watermarks of the progressive metal genre.
The raw energy of Metallica’s “…And Justice For All” cracks the frame of thrash metal sound. The band took a dive into the complex leads, peculiar drums, and deliberately changing tempos while pushing a strong concept.
The album addresses injustice of the political system, social and environmental issues and anti-war cries, packed into an emotional child that the band shaped out of their grief.
This was the first album to be released after the death of the bassist Cliff Burton and the last one where he was credited.
Even though the final mix of the album hazed the sound of the new bass player Jason Newsted (intentionally or not) so that it remained almost completely bass-less, it is a masterpiece that pushed Metallica into a wider development of their unique sound.
The album may not do justice for Newsted’s killer bass, but it will surely be remembered as one of Metallica’s most successful releases.
Money-wise, it is in second place on the list of Metallica’s top-selling albums, with 18.1 million sales. Musically, it was longer, faster and more complex than previous albums and pushed the band in an innovative direction. Emotionally, it’s the band’s farewell to their too soon lost bassist and the point when the band matured in many aspects.
That’s maybe one of the reasons why the major of the album’s sound was not changed when they did the remastered version. Not even the non-audible bass part. The bend knows (as well as fans, I guess) that “…And Justice For All” is good just the way it is, and even the flaws should be praised as part of its value.