Obey your master...
Metallica have announced a brand new studio album – it's called 72 Seasons, and it lands in April of 2023. Exciting.
In honour of that occasion, it's time to rank every single official Metallica studio album in order from worst to best.
No, it's not an album but Metallica's contribution to the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack is an absolute banger and should be hailed as such.
Plus, the video is gloriously wacky as Jason Newsted gets attacked by Wall Street and Lars Ulrich solves his exploding building problems by defenestrating himself:
Clip via Warner Bros. Records
Some Kind of Monster
The single best music documentary ever made featuring Metallica as the real-life answer to Spinal Tap.
If you love, loathe or don't even care about Metallica at all, SKOM is nonetheless essential viewing.
A live album and seeing as we're focusing on Metallica's 10 studio albums to date at the time of writing, S&M doesn't make the list proper.
It is, nonetheless, an interesting if divisive curio in the canon.
Did they really need to team up with a symphony orchestra? No, but that's grandstanding heavy metal excess for you.
Featuring 'Whiskey in the Jarohhhhhhhhhh, Yeaaaaaah' don't you know.
Garage Inc. is a covers album, so while yes, it is technically recorded in a studio, it stands just to the side of the Metallica catalogue that we're focusing on here.
A DISHONOURABLE MENTION
God rest the soul of Lou Reed but this team-up was extraordinarily dreadful. Sorry, Lou.
AND NOW THE OFFICIAL LIST
Metallica's studio discography, in order from worst to best...
#10. Death Magnetic
Ah, the great Metallica 'apology' album of 2008.
The reaction to St. Anger proved so toxic five years previous and thus James Hetfield and the boys seemingly felt that they had no other option than to churn out an exceedingly generic album that sounded like it was recorded on phone microphones in a condemned shed.
From the ultra-plodding snooze-fest of lead single 'The Day That Never Comes' to the audacity of breaking out 'The Unforgiven III', Death Magnetic is a violently uninspired grovelling return to the status quo.
Key Tracks: N/A
Clip via Warner Bros. Records
'Fuel' is a perfectly nonsensical Metallica joint, and 'The Memory Remains' - featuring spooky vocals from Marianne Faithfull of all people - has its moments. Skip the rest.
Key Tracks: As above, mate.
The only album that can realistically come before an album named Reload, Load is perhaps best remembered for its edgy-as-hell 'Semen and Blood III' artwork which rather puts a juvenile spin on things at a time when the lads probably should have been ageing gracefully.
But this is Metallica, brah! Rock and roll. Load is... fine? It's not a terribly memorable album, the production isn't much to write home about and it just feels a bit stock, as Lars Ulrich might say.
Key Tracks: 'Until It Sleeps', 'King Nothing'
#7. St. Anger
Much as this writer would like to troll everyone by putting St. Anger at number one, there's only so much of a case you can make for it.
One of the most notorious albums of modern times, St. Anger was violently rejected by critics and fans alike.
Sure, there are some who argue that it has a certain charm and that Lars' insanely highly strung snare drum is a thing of beauty (hey!) but for the most part, St. Anger is utterly despised.
The songs are ridiculously long, Hetfield's lyrics are bottom of the barrel and the removal of solos immediately dated the whole enterprise, but it's perfectly enjoyable if you turn off most of the songs halfway through.
Key Tracks: 'Frantic', 'St. Anger', 'The Unnamed Feeling'
#6. Hardwired... to Self-Destruct
Now we're talking. This is how you do a return to form.
Clip via Metallica
Let's get the criticism out of the way; Metallica's most recent record is way too overstuffed.
If they had have been a bit more ruthless and kept it to one coherent narrative rather than the Side A/Side B thing they opted for, we would be looking at a legitimate classic.
Instead, it's a strong recommend with some caveats, but the good stuff represents Metallica's sharpest, most energetic and adventurous work in a long time.
Key Tracks: 'Atlas, Rise!', 'Moth Into Flame', 'Halo On Fire'
#5. Metallica (The Black Album)
A vaguely controversial entry in the Metallica story, with some diehards marking this as the point when the band SOLD OUT.
The Black Album - as it is so often referred to - definitely has more mainstream leanings than what came before, but it's not like they went down a laser-focused pop route.
Despite a troubled production process, the self-titled album was a huge success commercially and generally proved a hit with critics, too. Arguably their last good full-length for 27 years.
Key Tracks: 'Enter Sandman', 'The Unforgiven', 'Nothing Else Matters'
#4. ...And Justice for All
The first Metallica album not to feature the late Cliff Burton following his tragic death could only ever represent a seismic shift for a previously super-tight unit.
And so it was that new recruit Jason Newsted found himself rather shunned both in person and on record, as his bass contributions barely register on Metallica's fourth outing.
That it doesn't harm things as much as it could have is a testament to just how powerful some of these songs are.
Key Tracks: 'Blackened', 'Eye of the Beholder', 'One', 'Harvester of Sorrow'
#3. Kill 'Em All
It sure ain't subtle, but Metallica's debut album is exactly what it needs to be.
Brash, wildly confident, a bit messy, angry, fast, chaotic yet somehow controlled - Kill 'Em All, as the title suggests, takes no prisoners.
Ladies and gentlemen of the summer of 1983; we have a thrash metal band.
Clip via Metallica
Dave Mustaine probably doesn't revisit it too often, mind.
Key Tracks: 'Hit the Lights', 'The Four Horsemen', 'Seek & Destroy'
#2. Ride the Lightning
Just one year later, Metallica would perfect their sound and present a pretty bulletproof collection of material for metal fans to drool over.
Ride the Lighting is lean and mean, too at just eight tracks, all of them essential and highly influential.
You might call it showing off, and you'd be right.
Key Tracks: Take your pick, but 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', 'Fade to Black' and 'Creeping Death' are all-timers.
#1. Master of Puppets
But of course. Long before Netflix and Stranger Things gave the Metallica brand a jolt of life, they were already so very super-charged.
From the opening barrage of 'Battery' to the closing bruises doled out by 'Damage, Inc.', Master of Puppets is a brutal masterclass in what a metal album should be.
It manages to marry the violent, destructive elements of the genre with an oddly life-affirming spirit even in the face of crushing mortality, conjuring up the kind of moments that you don't easily forget.
Try and imagine a Metallica set without a clutch of these songs. It's impossible.
Master of Puppets usually tops lists like these, even ones that don't just limit things to Metallica, so yeah, it's a fairly predictable #1, but hopefully it's also an excuse for you to go fire it up again for the first time in a while.
For all of Metallica's flaws, for all of the Napster bullshit, for all of Lars Ulrich's irritations, for the cringe-worthy lyrics, the corporate deals, the sense that they're somehow the Coldplay of metal now... you cannot deny the raw power of Master of Puppets.
And you shouldn't even consider doing so.
Key Tracks: 'Battery', 'Master of Puppets', 'Orion'
Clip via Metallica