Ranking the Discography: Metallica Part II: Ride the Lightning (1984)

Ride the Lightning was the first album to feature contributions from Kirk Hammett, however there are still songs that were partially written by Dave Mustaine. (This would be the last album to feature any of his material) The album spawned three singles ( “Fade to Black” , “Creeping Death”, and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”) and was certified Platinum 6 times as of 2012. The title is a reference to the electric chair, inspired by The Stand by Stephen King.

Members:

James Hetfield: Lead vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: lead guitar, backing vocals

Cliff Burton: bass, backing vocals

Lars Ulrich: drums and percussion, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Fight Fire With Fire “: This is another song that contradicts its title. It actually condemns the mentality of its title. I like the frantic percussion and acoustic intro.
  2. “Ride the Lightning” : the title track criticizes the death penalty. Hetfield’s driving rhythm is excellent, making it one of my favorite songs. This is the final song that was partially composed by Mustaine.
  3. “For Whom the Bell Tolls “: I love how ominous this sounds.
  4. “Fade to Black” : The acoustic guitar and slow tempo are a great approach. It’s another favorite song.
  5. “Trapped Under Ice” : This song is based on a song that Exodus demoed called “Impaler”. While I like the rhythm, I can’t say I like this one much.
  6. ” Escape” : This song was an early attempt to make a radio-friendly song and feels half-hearted. Hetfield says this is his least favorite song. I don’t like it either.
  7. “Creeping Death”: This is an excellent song about the tenth plague of Egypt, the killing of their first-born children.
  8. ” The Call of Ktulu”: The album closes with an epic instrumental showcasing great rhythm from Ulrich.

Final Verdict: This album shows a marked improvement from the previous album. I have to wonder why 1001Albums You Must Hear Before You Die skips it, because I think it’s much better than Kill ‘Em All.

Grade: B+

Ranking the Discography: Metallica Part 1: Kill ‘Em All

Metallica was founded in 1981 when drummer Lars Ulrich put out an ad in Los Angeles’ music newspaper, The Recycler. The ad was answered by 3 people who would become the founders: James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, and Ron McGovney. The band’s name came when Ulrich heard his friend Ron Quintana brainstorming names for a fanzine, and was deciding between either MetalMania or Metallica. They released several demos, with No Life Till Leather being the one that attracted their first deal. But by this time, the roster had changed. Ron McGovney had often clashed with Ulrich and Mustaine, as he felt he was not respected. He left the band and was replaced by Cliff Burton, who had left a band called Trauma because he felt they were “too commercial” . Burton’s agreement to join the band came with a relocation from Los Angeles to El Cerrito, a town near his native San Francisco, which initially didn’t sit well with Hetfield.

In 1983, the band arrived in Rochester, NY to record their first album together, Metal Up Your Ass. However, the remaining members had ejected Mustaine from the band, citing his erratic behavior and alcohol abuse. He was replaced by Kirk Hammett of Exodus. Mustaine would eventually form Megadeth, leading to a rivalry between the bands. Mustaine felt ripped off, as Hammett had stolen his leads. They had even reworked his song “Mechanix” into a song called “The Four Horsemen”. When distributors refused to release the debut because of its name, Burton was livid, exclaiming “Those record company f —-s … kill ’em all!”, inspiring the new name.

Members:

James Hetfield: vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: lead guitar

Cliff Burton: bass

Lars Ulrich: drums

Producers: Jon Zazula and Paul Curcio

I want to say that I have actually listened to No Life Till Leather as well as this album. There is a huge difference between the styles of both Hammett and Mustaine. Mustaine’s style is rougher and faster than Hammett. I’m not really sure which I like better, and that may be because I’ve only heard one Megadeth album. I have put Megadeth on my to-do list, for the curious.

The Tracks:

  1. “Hit the Lights”: This is based on an unfinished song Hetfield had written with Hugh Tanner, a bandmate in his previous band, Leather Charm. This version has some clean riffs, but Mustaine’s sounded slightly better.
  2. ” The Four Horsemen “: Mustaine’s solo is one of the high points of the demo, and Hammett seems more focused on polish.
  3. ” Motorbreath “: Burton’s bass line sounds like it it’s running a race. Ulrich’s drumming is excellent.
  4. ” Jump in the Fire”: Mustaine sounded faster and rougher on this, and it was one of my favorite songs on the demo. Hammett was good, but Mustaine’s was more sinister.
  5. “(Anaesthesia)-Pulling Teeth”: This is a bass solo, showing off Burton’s unique talents. The distortion is great on this.
  6. ” Whiplash “: This was the band’s first single, and it reminds me of a monster lashing at a victim. Hammett is pretty good on this.
  7. ” Phantom Lord”: Mustaine was excellent on his version. Hammett sounds good.
  8. “No Remorse”: One of my favorite songs. Ulrich’s drumming is great.
  9. ” Seek And Destroy”: This is actually about the urge to kill and not doing it. The wrestler Sting used this as his theme song in his times in WWE and TNA. Mustaine ‘s performance is worlds different from Hammett ‘s. Hammett is a good player, though. Clear Channel banned this song after the 9/11 attacks.
  10. “Metal Militia”: Hammet’s version sounds like an actual army. The only time this version sounds like a march is when the troopers come in at the end. I like how fast this version is, though.

Final Verdict: I like both versions of this debut. No Life Till Leather, however, almost makes me wonder how the band might have been if Mustaine hadn’t been ejected. They sound like two different bands!

Grade: No Life Till Leather gets an A-. Kill Em All, while still a good debut, gets a B+. Kirk sounds like he can play fast, but I think there’s more to metal than that.

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part IX: Human. :II: Nature (2020)

Human. :II: Nature is Nightwish’s most recent album, and their first double album. This was the last album to feature Marko Hietala, who left in January 2021. It also marked the official debut of Kai Hahto as the band’s drummer, although he had appeared as a guest star on the previous album.

Members:

Floor Jansen: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitars

Marko Hietala: bass, male vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards

Kai Hahto: drums, percussion

Troy Donockley: Uillean pipes, low whistle, bouzouki, bodhran, digital aerophone, guitar, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Music”: This opens the album with a melodic intro.
  2. “Noise”: This is one of my favorite songs. It’s a commentary on addiction to technology.
  3. ” Shoemaker “: This song was inspired by geologist Eugene Shoemaker, who discovered a comet. Tuomas’s wife has a spoken part in the song.
  4. “Harvest” : This features Donockley on lead vocals, and is his most prominent role on the album. The song has rich instrumentation.
  5. “Pan”: Tuomas describes this song as an ode to imagination. I like its lyrics about writing and creation.
  6. “How’s the Heart?” : Floor is beautiful on this song about altruism.
  7. “Procession”: This has a great rhythm and keyboards.
  8. ” Tribal”: I think this is Hahto’s best performance.
  9. “Endlessness”: The first disc ends with a slow, almost quiet piece.
  10. “All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World”: The second disc consists of one song divided into 8 parts, which the album treats as one song (although streaming versions present it as separate parts). This has sparse vocals, and relies mostly on an orchestral sound. Floor is only heard on the first and final parts. It’s a beautiful suite.

Final Verdict: While I like the beauty of the album, the second disc feels stronger than the first.

Grade: C+

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part VIII: Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)

During the tour for Imaginaerum, Anette Olzon fell ill and was replaced by Elize Ryd and Alyssa White-Gluz. A day after what would become her final performance, Olzon posted that she didn’t like being replaced without being consulted. She was then fired, and current vocalist Floor Jansen replaced her for the rest of the tour. (Troy Donockley also joined the band during the tour as well) After the tour, Jukka Nevalainen left the band due to insomnia. He was replaced by Kai Hahto (of Wintersun and Swallow the Sun). This was the first album with the current roster of the band.

Endless Forms was inspired by the theories of Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins. Dawkins guest stars on two songs.

Members:

Floor Jansen: vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards, piano

Empuu Vuorinen: guitars

Marko Hietala: bass, guitar, male and backing vocals

Kai Hahto: drums

Troy Donockley: Uiellan pipes, low whistles, bodhran, bouzuki, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Shudder Before the Beautiful” : This is one of the two guest appearances by Richard Dawkins. The song is about the fragile beauty of the world. Floor’s singing fits Nightwish better than Anette ever could.
  2. “Weak Fantasy “: This song is meant to be critical of religion’s restrictions. Live performances include a quote from Bill Maher ‘s movie Religulous.
  3. ” √Član”: This song was originally not intended for the album, but Holopainen began to like the song more as they recorded it. The song is about living in the moment. It’s one of my favorites from the album.
  4. “Yours Is An Empty Hope”: This is one of Floor’s best performances on the album.
  5. “Our Decades in the Sun”: This ballad was written about Tuomas’s parents. It’s one of the most emotional songs on the album.
  6. ” My Walden”: the title is in reference to Thoreau. I like the variety of instruments from Donockley.
  7. “Endless Forms Most Beautiful “: the title track was inspired by Dawkins’ book The Ancestor’s Tale. It’s another excellent performance for Floor, with some awesome instrumentation.
  8. ” Edema Ruh”: This was the first song written for the album, and the only one with a fantasy theme. Donockley sounds great on this one too.
  9. “Alpenglow”: One of the best songs on the album, with an awesome choir and energy.
  10. ” The Eyes of Sharbat Gula”: This serves as sn interlude into the album’s chief epic.
  11. “The Greatest Show on Earth” : This is the longest song Nightwish has ever recorded, split into 5 parts. The song evokes many classical pieces, and I think it’s one of the band’s best overall.

Final Verdict: I really enjoyed this album, and I think it’s one of their best. The new members bring excellent work to the band, and it’s one of their strongest albums.

Grade: A-