Metallica, Ride The Lightning (1984)
It’s pretty simple – this is the first album by Metallica I heard. It remains my favourite and I think it’s the band’s best effort. It’s the best metal album (for me) across the 1980s. And certainly one of the more influential. No real story to tell. I just like this album a lot – always have. In fact I’d compare it to another album from that year – U2’s Unforgettable Fire. It’s similar in a lot of ways. It’s the band with their sound honed, ready to take on the world; it’s the big introduction to the world audience and contains – still – some firm fan favourites; breakthrough tracks. It’s the best indication of what the band – at their absolute best – was about. It contains songs that are still highlights of the live show. It is trimmed of any fat and it is the only album I can regularly listen to by the band. Those last six sentences there describe both Unforgettable Fire and Ride The Lightning for me. I bought a sealed vinyl copy of Lightning a few years ago – maybe nearly three years ago now? – and it sat in the crate waiting to be picked by a visitor. It was always – always – considered. It was regularly selected, commented on, thumbed over, thought about. And almost always the person doing the deciding opted for something else, something safer, given that it is an intense listening experience and when you’re sitting around with the vinyl on as part of the soundtrack of the evening maybe it isn’t the right thing to do to play Ride The Lightning. I think it’s almost always the right thing to do. It transcends bogan attitudes and metal ideals. It plays right in to them and subverts them. It caters for a wider fan-base than some might think. I could imagine people listening to Ride The Lightning ironically. I could imagine people listening to it somewhat passively. People do listen to it very passionately. And people with only an idea of Metallica and their sound have been wowed by the scope and vision of this album. People have had their world changed by this album. Ah, and then I realise it’s not quite such a simple no-real-story album for me. Because, eventually, earlier this year in fact, the vinyl was selected. After the February quake that changed Christchurch forever we took in some billets, strangers that needed to get the fuck out of Christchurch. They only stayed with us a few nights. On the first and fourth nights that they were here – in a sad and eerie turn of events – there were noticeable earthquakes in Wellington; the place they had tried to escape to. They were thinking of moving here for good. The quakes that happened in Wellington didn’t mean that much to me but it was horrific experiencing them with people, young people, whose lives had been transmogrified only the week earlier. On that first night we had some wines and a meal and started getting to know them. Good people. I offered the record crate up – pick something; anything. He chose Ride The Lightning. It seemed – given their immediate story, the context for how we knew them – sad and eerie and (therefore) correct; the absolute right decision and listening experience. I’ll always think about that now when I play this: Metallica’s only album that I love.
Sample Track: Fade To Black
The Vinyl Countdown is a document of every LP I listen to, brand new discoveries and old-old favourites; extremely pre-loved, previously abandoned or with the shrink-wrap having just been removed it’s all here at The Vinyl Countdown