Thirty years ago today, one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time1 was released: Metallica’s Master of Puppets.
Philosopher William Irwin puts it well:
Something outsiders may not have realized at the time should be crystal clear to all 30 years later: Master of Puppets is serious music, a work of art. It is not mere entertainment, and it certainly is not party music. It’s meant to be felt and contemplated. Please don’t confuse Metallica with Kiss or Van Halen. Like ancient Greek tragedy, serious heavy metal can deliver a catharsis, a purging of negative emotions. With Master of Puppets, the chief emotions are anger and despair. The galloping guitar riffs and soulful solos, backed by the pounding bass and drums provide the soundtrack for alienated adolescent life. But it was the lyrics that spoke to me most.
“A theme of manipulation and resistance runs throughout the album,” including that which comes from addiction (“Master of Puppets”), religious and political power (“Leper Messiah,” “Disposable Heroes”), and insanity/social constraints (“Welcome Home/Sanitarium”).2 Metallica was the reason I began taking guitar playing more seriously. They were the catalyst for my expanding musical palate. And they continue to be one of my favorite bands and Master of Puppets one of my favorite albums.