Metallica's sophomore album, Ride the Lightning, is one of heavy metal's landmarks. It's so groundbreaking, influential and filled with outstanding songs that no one in his right mind would ever bother to consider separating the great from the even greater ... until now. And so we give you: Metallica's Ride the Lightning, Ranked Worst to Best.
One of two arguable "weak links" threatening to reveal potential weaknesses in Ride the Lightning's impregnable suit of armor, "Trapped Under Ice" suffers from an unusually indifferent selection of metal-thrashing riffs and words. Still great by most standards, it's not quite on par with Metallica's best work.
The same complaints ("not perfect enough!") can be aimed at the very next song in Ride the Lightning's track sequencing: the comparatively slow, melodic (and disappointingly safe) "Escape," which Metallica have tellingly performed live only one time.
Beyond this point, no Ride the Lightning song is anything short of stunning, and while it too has only rarely surfaced in Metallica's live sets over the years, the album's formidable title track is a thrilling, multi-sectioned tour de force. Almost a warm-up for Master of Puppets, two years later, actually ...
One of Cliff Burton's finest hours, "The Call of Ktulu" combines the bassist's love for H.P. Lovecraft with one of his most inspired and greatest performances. Listen as he whales away behind the band's patented guitar barrage and we're sure you'll agree that this is one of those rare instrumentals that keeps you riveted, from start to finish.
Is this the heaviest, fastest, overall most devastatingly pulverizing song in Metallica's entire discography? Even with that deceptively sweet introduction, we think so -- thanks to James Hetfield's muscular guitar and animal grunts, Kirk Hammett's lightning leads and Lars Ulrich hanging on for dear life. A nuclear explosion really was the only way to end it.
It has its critics, but "Fade to Black" is undoubtedly one of the most important songs in Metallica's history. Their first true ballad, it showed they were far too astute to box themselves in, creatively speaking, and churn out only pedal-to-the-metal thrashers. There's hardly a whiff of that here and, instead, this somber comment on suicide showcases James Hetfield's increasingly mature lyrics and Kirk Hammett's impressively tasteful guitar melodies.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
One of Metallica's all-time, best-loved tracks (though, ironically, also lacking an ounce of thrash), "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was inspired by Ernest Hemingway's classic war novel and constructed around a deliciously insidious Cliff Burton bass line. After that bombastic intro (featuring all the bells but no whistles), the song inexorably marched its way into the hearts of heavy metal armies everywhere, and thus eased many traditional metal fans into Metallica's then unconventionally heavy new sound.
Its title may feel a tad too metal for its now middle-aged creators, but "Creeping Death" still stands tall as one of the quintessential Metallica songs. A full band songwriting effort (the bridge, for instance, originated in one of Kirk Hammett's old Exodus demos), "Creeping Death" dispelled any lingering doubts about the quartet's collective genius, post-Dave Mustaine, to deliver truly epic, state-of-the-art thrash metal. Where the incomparable Ride the Lightning is concerned, songs really doesn't get any greater than this.
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