Thirty years ago this week, with little fanfare or major promotion, Metallica released its third studio album. Within days, countless longhaired teens were congregating in convenience store parking lots and their parents’ basements, blasting “Master of Puppets” and banging their heads in approval.
It was the sort of moment that comes along every now and changes everything — like Michael Jackson doing the Moonwalk or Britney Spears putting on a school girl outfit. Three decades later, it is often cited by bands as their prime influence — and by middle-aged men as the reason for their tinnitus.
To celebrate the ultimate long-haired classic, here are five reasons why you need to put “Master of Puppets” on today and turn it up really, really loud.
The bass player for the band, Cliff died in a bus crash while Metallica was promoting the album, and “Puppets” was his final effort. Over the years, he has become a fallen rock icon along the lines of Randy Rhoads or Keith Moon, and it’s easy to see why. Listening to the album, Burton’s bass keeps the band grounded heavily, even as the title track and “Damage, Inc.” build off his lead. Sadly, “Damage, Inc.” was the last song Metallica would ever write with their beloved bassist.
The Big Four
Alongside Megadeth’s “Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?,” Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” and Anthrax’s “Beyond the Living,” Metallica’s album redefined what was known as heavy metal. Suddenly, there was even heavier music that was faster, louder, and less dependent on image. It was like the going from 8-bit to Xbox. Preferring to perform with their long hair covering most of their faces, clad in nothing more exciting than black tees, these bands spoke in the currency of finger speed, percussion power — and above all else, the riff.
“Master of Puppets” became thrash metal’s first platinum album, and over the years everyone from Sepultura to Primus to Nickelback cited it as a formative influence. It’s hard to get more disparate than that, and the ultimate sign of a good artist is when they influence other art that runs such a wide spectrum.
The Heavy Metal Heyday
Pop culture has spent plenty of time romanticizing the hippies, the rappers, the boy bands and the one-hit wonders. But for a massive number of Americans growing up in the ’80’s, there was a time when metal was everything. Each album was more amazing than the next, the hair and clothes hadn’t yet become a cliche, and making a new friend was as easy as popping a Metallica cassette into your car’s tape deck. As “Master of Puppets” celebrates its 30th anniversary, we should all take a moment to appreciate the joys of that particular moment in time.
Dude, Just Listen
Seriously, you want more reasons why “Master of Puppets” is an album worth celebrating? Step one: press play. Step two: raise your hand in the air, bang your head, and pretend it’s 1986 all over again.