Ranking the Discography: Metallica Part VII: Reload (1997)

Reload had 4 singles and like its predecessor, made it to #1. And like its predecessor, it’s got garbage written all over it. Just look at that awful cover. Let’s get this over with.

Members:

James Hetfield: Vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: lead guitar

Jason Newsted: bass

Lars Ulrich: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Fuel”: You know an album is bad when even the singles are garbage. I’ve always hated this song.
  2. “The Memory Remains”: I’d forgotten how terrible this song was. Thanks for reminding me, Reload.
  3. ” Devil’s Dance”: I skipped this halfway through.
  4. “The Unforgiven II” Yeah, it’s just like “The Unforgiven”…if it sucked.
  5. ” Better Than You”: James, leave the diss tracks to the rappers. They don’t write boring ones.
  6. “Slither”: Next, please.
  7. ” Carpe Deim Baby”: Seize the day, and still write a garbage song.
  8. “Bad Seed”: Just which grunge band are you trying to be? Because you don’t sound like any of them, even Stone Temple Pilots, the one I never liked!
  9. ” Where the Wild Things Are”: I have HOW many songs left?
  10. “Prince Charming” : Oh joy, a song about death.
  11. “Low Man’s Lyric” : A violin, really? In a metal song? You think you’re so innovative, huh?
  12. “Attitude “: You’d think a song called “Attitude” would actually have some.
  13. ” Fixxer”: Paul Stenner said this has a killer riff in his review of the album. What version were you listening to? Because this does not have a killer riff!

Final Verdict: Do I even have to tell you?

Grade: F

Ranking the Discography: Metallica Part VI: Load (1996)

Load is one of Metallica’s most infamous albums. The band had changed both their look and sound, having cut their hair. Everything about the album was about Metallica selling out to remain relevant. Yet somehow, the album stayed at #1 on the Billboard Albums chart. Four singles were released. It is Metallica’s longest album.

My first problem is the cover. Bodily fluids are not art. My second problem is the album is too long. I don’t mind long albums when they’re interesting, but this wasn’t. There were a lot of songs I wanted to skip. Let’s get this over with.

Members:

James Hetfield: vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: lead guitar

Jason Newsted: bass

Lars Ulrich: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “Ain’t My Bitch”: This is a terrible opener. It sounds immature and stupid.
  2. ” 2 x 4″ : The first of many songs I wanted to skip.
  3. “The House That Jack Built”: Is this referring to Jack Daniels? Yeah, no.
  4. “Until It Sleeps”: Finally, a good song! Actually, the best on the album. It almost sounds like it belongs on a different album.
  5. ” King Nothing “: This is like a bad version of “Enter Sandman”.
  6. “Hero of the Day” : This feels like a parody, and a bad one.
  7. “Bleeding Me”: Is it possible? Another good song? This is pretty good.
  8. ” Cure”: Sigh, back to the garbage. I wanted to skip this one.
  9. “Poor Twisted Me”: The production is terrible.
  10. ” Wasting My Hate”: Oh this song is a waste, all right.
  11. “Mama Said”: This feels more like a country song than a rock song, and not even a metal song.
  12. ” Thorn Within”: This almost sounded good. Almost.
  13. “Ronnie”: The album could have stopped with the last song. This was another skippable song.
  14. “The Outlaw Torn”: This is a slog of a song. I breathed a sigh of relief when I finished it.

Final Verdict: I’m fine with a new direction. But everything about this album feels like Metallica feared they weren’t relevant and sold out. This was garbage from start to finish. The only reason I didn’t give it an F was it had two good songs.

Grade: D

Ranking the Discography: Metallica Part V: self-titled (aka “The Black Album”) (1991)

Metallica debuted at #1 in ten countries, including the United States. This was my first exposure to the band. It marked a change in both their look and sound, becoming slower and heavier. The album had 5 singles, and is their best-selling album, at 16 times Platinum in the United States.

Members:

James Hetfield: Vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: Lead guitar

Jason Newsted: Bass

Lars Ulrich: Drums

The Tracks:

  1. “Enter Sandman “: This song and its video depict nightmarish imagery. It has an excellent bassline and pounding rhythm. Appropriately, it’s the entrance music for infamous ECW wrestler The Sandman. It’s the perfect opening song, as it shows the change in the band’s sound right at the start.
  2. “Sad but True “: This song is about the dark nature we try our best to hide from others. I love this one’s complex lyrics and rhythm.
  3. ” Holier Than Thou “: Hetfield considers this one of the band’s sillier songs, but I like it. It mocks the arrogance seen in hypocritical Christianity.
  4. “The Unforgiven”: This song is the start of a trilogy of songs. Parts 2 and 3 are on Reload and Death Magnetic. The trilogy is about a man who has suffered through religious subjugation. It’s my favorite song on the album.
  5. “Wherever I May Roam”: This ballad is about being on tour. While it’s the song I like the least, I still like it.
  6. “Don’t Tread On Me” : This song mocks the nationalistic attitude of right-wing America. I have to wonder how many people get the wrong idea about it.
  7. “Through the Never”: This song is about mankind’s never-ending appetite for greed and power. It has great drumming.
  8. ” Nothing Else Matters”: This ballad is my second favorite song. It’s a much better song than their previous ballad, “Fade to Black” .
  9. “Of Wolf and Man” : Thus song is about our primal natures. I probably rank this one slightly above “Wherever” .
  10. “The God Who Failed”: This song attacks Christian Science, the cult that is infamous for its members’ refusal of medical treatment, especially for life-threatening diseases. Hetfield’s mother was a member of the cult, and died of cancer as a result.
  11. “My Friend of Misery” : This was supposed to be the instrumental track on the album, similar to “Orion” on Master of Puppets. The song has a self-pitying feel to it, and it’s not one I like much.
  12. “The Struggle Within” : This song’s is about depression. It’s the shortest song on the album, and it has a great bassline.

Final Verdict: To many Metallica fans, this is where the band starts to go downhill, as it’s their most commercial album. I don’t hate it at all. I actually think it’s one of Metallic’s strongest albums, and the change in direction helped them adapt to the 90’s change in attitude towards metal.

Grade: B

Ranking the Discography: Master of Puppets (1986)

Master of Puppets was Metallica’s first album to feature material not credited to Dave Mustaine. The album reached 29 on the Billboard 200. It has been certified Platinum 6 times.

Members:

James Hetfield: vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: guitar

Cliff Burton: bass, backing vocals

Lars Ulrich: drums

Tracks:

  1. “Battery “: The title refers to the crime of assault and battery. It has a fast start to the album.
  2. “Master of Puppets”: This is the album’s only single. I love the start-stops during the chorus. The song refers to drug addiction.
  3. “(Welcome Home) Sanitarium”: This slow song has a chilling feel to it, and some of Hetfield’s best vocals.
  4. “The Thing That Should Not Be” : This song was inspired by the Cthulhu mythos. I like the rhythm of this one.
  5. “Disposable Heroes “: This isn’t a terrible song, but I don’t like the chorus.
  6. “Leper Messiah”: This song attacks televangelists. It’s my least favorite song on the album.
  7. ” Orion”: This is an excellent instrumental track with a great driving rhythm.
  8. “Damage, Inc.” : I don’t like this song much. I think it’s the weakest song.

Final Verdict: The band shows some great evolution, with only a few weak songs.

Grade: C-

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 V: Once (2004)

Once had three singles (four if you count “Kuolema Tekee Taitellijan”, which was only released in Finland and Japan.): “Nemo”, “Wish I Had an Angel”, and “The Siren”. This was the last album to feature Tarja Turunen on vocals.

Members:

Tarja Turunen: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar

Marko Hietala: bass, vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Dark Chest of Wonders”: This song gets its title from Stephen King’s dedication in The Stand to his wife Tabitha. It makes me think of the Greek myth of Pandora. It’s an excellent opener.
  2. ” Wish I Had an Angel “: This song seems to imply a loss of purity, and makes references to both the Virgin Mary and Judas’s betrayal. It’s my favorite of the singles.
  3. ” Nemo”: Tuomas’s keyboard is beautifully haunting on this. It’s one of my favorite Nightwish songs.
  4. “Planet Hell”: This song was used by the San Antonio Spurs during their 2005 season. Marko’s vocals are excellent.
  5. ” Creek Mary’s Blood”: This gets its title and inspiration from a book by Dee Brown. It has a beautiful flute.
  6. “The Siren”: Tarja is beautiful on this one. One of the best songs on the album.
  7. ” Dead Gardens “: I don’t care for the growly vocals on this.
  8. ” Romanticide”: Marko has good vocals, and the orchestra is great.
  9. “Ghost Love Score”: This is the longest song on the album, at 10 minutes. It’s the best song on the album.
  10. ” Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan”: This is the second song to be sung in Finnish. The title means “Death of an Artist” .
  11. “Higher Than Hope” : This song is dedicated to the memory of Marc Brueland, who narrates the song. He died soon after the album was released.

Final Verdict: This is probably my favorite Nightwish album so far. It’s an excellent album for Tarja to go out on.

Grade: A+

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part 4: Century Child (2002)

I started getting into Nightwish around the time this album was released, thanks to hearing “Bless the Child” and their cover of Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” on Pandora. This was the first album to feature Marko Hietala on bass and vocals. It was also the first album to feature an orchestra.

Members:

Tarja Turunen: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar

Marko Hietala: bass, backing vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. ” Bless the Child”: The opening song contains a quote from Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem “Even Such is Time”. It’s one of my favorite songs from the band.
  2. ” End of All Hope”: This song quotes an Emily Dickinson poem, “A Wounded Deer”. The keyboards are great.
  3. ” Dead to the World”: The title is a reference to the Edgar Allan Poe poem “William Wilson “. It’s the first song on the album to feature Marko’s vocals.
  4. ” Ever Dream”: This song was written specifically for Tarja’s vocals, and is arranged differently in concerts, with only the keyboards and vocals at the start, before the band joins in. One of the best songs on the album.
  5. “Slaying the Dreamer”: Tuomas wrote this in response to those who criticize his lyrics.
  6. ” Forever Yours”: This song quotes “Fare Thee Well” by Lord Byron.
  7. “Ocean Soul”: This song represents Tuomas’s love and fascination with the ocean. It has never been performed live because he feels the song is too personal. I love the imagery of the lyrics.
  8. ” Feel For You “: This is not one of my favorite songs, but I don’t hate it.
  9. ” Phantom of the Opera “: Tarja and Marko sing a cover of the main theme of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical based on thw classic movie.
  10. ” Beauty of the Beast “: Tuomas feels this is the most ambitious part of the album, closing the loop started by the opener.
  11. ” Lagoon”: This song references Eden, and was originally only on the Japanese release of the album.
  12. ” The Wayfarer”: This is another song referencing Walt Whitman.

Final Verdict: Marko is a great replacement, and his vocals complement Tarja’s well. This is a great new direction.

Grade: A

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part II: Oceanborn (1998)

(note: I like the European cover art better than the American cover art, so I’m using that instead.)

For their second album, Nightwish became a more bombastic, power metal band. They also added a new bassist, marking their first album as a quintet.

Members:

Tarja Turunen: vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards, backing vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar

Sami Vänskä: bass

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Stargazers”: The guitars and keyboards sound excellent, and I like the new direction for the lyrics.
  2. ” Gethsemane “: Like “The Carpenter” , this song is inspired by the story of Jesus, focusing on his crucifixion. It’s one of the best songs on the album.
  3. “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean”: In this song, a mermaid encounters the Anti-Christ. While the instrumentation is excellent, I don’t care for the vocals.
  4. ” Sacrament of Wilderness “: This was the first single to reach #1 in their native Finland. Another one of my favorites.
  5. ” Passion and the Opera”: I like the drumming on this one.
  6. “Swanheart”: I love the guitars on this one.
  7. ” Moondance “: This is a short instrumental track serving as an interlude.
  8. ” The Riddler”: I like the imagery and message of this song.
  9. “The Pharoah Sails to Orion”: This song was inspired by Exodus. It’s got a great keyboard.
  10. ” Walking in the Air”: This is Nightwish’s first cover. The song was written for the animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. Tarja is so beautiful on this one.

Final Verdict: This is an excellent album. I have to agree with Loudwire’s ranking for this.

Grade: A