We are in September of 1988, just 2 years after Cliff Burton’s loss and Metallica are releasing their 4th album, “…And Justice for All”. Their first best-selling album, climbing to #6 on the Billboard 200 and staying there for 83 weeks. It is the album that officially presented Jason Newsted as the band’s new bassist. Unofficially Jason was introduced to the fans in the previous year’s “The $ 5.98 EP – Garage Days Re-Revisited,” which featured five covers on bands that influenced Metallica’s music. With the new album, however, the situation with Jason was still a bit confusing, as on one hand the other 3 still felt anger and sadness over Cliff’s death, but at the same time they wanted to continue, as they believed that that’s what Cliff would have wanted. Jason was caught somewhere between all this and his position was not the easiest it could have been. The times that he was pranked or heavily teased were far from few, but not ill-intended. It was their way of getting away from the whole situation and adding a measure of “fun” so that they could cope, mainly mentally.
Moving on to the musical part of the album, we must first of all mention that here we will listen to Cliff’s music for the last time and this is the last time we have 5 composers in Metallica. The middle part of “To Live Is to Die” with the bass is the last musical composition of the late Cliff and we have the 4-verse poem that is also written on the memorial stone that has been erected in his memory at the place where the accident happened on 9/27/1986. Also, as trivia, we will hear James playing a solo for the 2nd time in the band’s history, on this particular track. Regarding the composition part of the album, we have more “progressive” structures in the songs, yes with the classic verse-chorus motifs, but with many changes in the songs and of course quite difficult to perform live. In fact, Kirk’s somewhat famously stated to the others, after a performance in which they played the eponymous track of the album and as they were going backstage, that “this is the last time we play this shit”. Of course, that didn’t happen, as the track gained a prominent role in the setlist on the album’s tour, with a huge statue of Lady Justice being built while Metallica were playing and torn down at the end of this track in a very festive way. The guitars became really heavy on this album, something that continued through their later releases, with the peak being “Metallica (Black Album)”, released 3 years later in 1991. The drums mostly heard mixed in high frequencies, the bass drums over-triggered to speak with today’s terms, as I don’t know if triggers existed in 1988 and the bass… well, non-existent in terms of the final result. They obviously recorded bass, but Lars decided almost last minute to turn it down to close to zero, with James raising his hands high (literally, as seen in a similar video with the band’s interviews). This caused a storm of reactions, which continue to this day, especially after the release of an unofficial remastered version, entitled “…And Justice for Jason”, in which the bass is re-recorded by the person who created the remaster and raised over the guitars. Of course, this created 2 “camps”, with those who say it’s good, but they don’t change the original version -myself being one of them- and those who say that Metallica should officially release the album again with the bass where it should be. For the record, even Jason himself was furious when he was given the opportunity to listen to this version of the album, saying that he disagreed with anything that was going to change the original thing.
Also with this release, we see the first Metallica video clip, for the song “One”, an anti-war “hymn”, with scenes from the movie “Johnny took his gun”. Once more the band found themselves at the center of criticism, as there were many who (again) accused them of selling out because they had once said that they would never make a video clip. Clearly this did not deter them much, as they enjoyed the huge success they gained after touring for their previous album “Master of Puppets”, and especially during the time they were supporting Ozzy. Of course, along with the good things there are also some bad, especially with what happened to Cliff. Going back to the new album, we had the nomination for a Grammy award, specifically for “One”. In fact, the company had already printed stickers on the cover of “…And Justice for All”, which read “Grammy winners”, but Jethro Tull had a different opinion on the matter as they won with their own new album. When Metallica returned to the Grammys years later, Lars joked “First of all, thank you Jethro Tull for not releasing a new album this year”. The problems started when James showed the first signs of alcoholism, and as he said it was not uncommon for him to be seen drinking a beer, as he was forbidden from drinking his favorite Absolut. Years later in interviews, they themselves said that it was not very easy to manage all this success and let’s not fool ourselves, they were only 25 years old. Let’s all think about what we did in our 25’s and consider what they did.
Regarding the album tour, “…And Justice for All” was supported and promoted by the Damaged Justice tour, which began on September 11, 1988, just three days after the album’s release, and ended on October 7, 1989. Jason, however, said in a statement that the tour was essentially prepared and unofficially started with their appearance on the Monsters of Rock tour (27/5/1988 – 30/6/1988) with Scorpions and Van Halen as headliners. Metallica took the 2nd spot, after Kingdom Come and before Dokken. One of the funniest moments of this particular tour was on 24/7/1988 when they played in Los Angeles, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. There, Metallica themselves realized that their big “opening” was going to take place very soon, something that happened a few months later, with the beginning of the Damaged Justice tour. As we already mentioned they were appearing 2nd, at 2 in the afternoon and were playing a 60-minute set. Bearing these things in mind, consider that a crowd of 50-60,000 fans had already gathered, with a maximum capacity of 80,000and all those people were there for Metallica. Jason remembers that when “Ecstasy of Gold” started playing on the speakers, he saw people coming down from the stands to the arena like a swarm. As he specifically said, “it was like pulling a giant cistern”. He went on to say that “All of the people came down out of the bowl and onto the floor. ”The mosh pit had 200 people in it. But it was hard for the fans since the concert promoter had placed rows of folding chairs, all bound together, on the field. We get to the fifth or sixth song, which was ‘Whiplash,’ and they started tearing the seats up,” Newsted recalls. “They started passing the rows of chairs, five or six hooked together at a time, over their heads like a crowdsurfer and you’d see it coming all the way from three quarters of the field towards us. They were coming by the hundreds and they’d hand them to the security guards when they got up to the barricade. The security guards were overwhelmed. Where do we put these hundreds of seats that were bent and broken with pieces of hair and shoes on them, as they come up? So we had to stop a verse and a half into ‘Whiplash’ and walk offstage. We get behind the PA and start watching and for five or seven minutes, they’re cleaning the field of the chairs. Once those seven minutes were finished, the chairs were gone and in a big pile in the parking lot behind the stage. They looked like a record burning or a book burning, like a pyre. So we came back on, and James goes, ‘Two, three, four, bam!’ and we pick up right where we left off — “Whiplash!” and it went freaking bonkers. Those pits turned into 500 people, and they’re all across the field whirling and dust kicking up. And that was at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. By the time Dokken were ready to come on, it was like, ‘Uh, love you, guys, but good luck. Follow that!’”. You can watch all this here:
(in the minutes 29:20 – 33:00 we see the chairs gathered in front and at 34:35 we hear the drum roll and the song resuming).
According to Lars, the tour for this album was unprecedented, especially for a band like Metallica in 1988. That’s when they started playing in big arenas and matured musically and synthetically. At the end of the tour, after a 3-night show at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in Seattle, the video that was included in “Live Shit: Binge & Purge” (1993) -which marked the official end of the tour- and after 3 stand-alone appearances in Brazil, they were already thinking about their next steps. It was there that the first samples for their next album began to take form, which were to take them to levels and situations they could not have imagined up until then, while the first new tracks appeared, namely “Enter Sandman”, Sad but True “and” Wherever I May Roam “. At this point, Metallica realized that they would change course, from the strange structures and lyrics about the corruption of justice, to a more straight-forward musical style and path.
I don’t know if there is anything more to add in conclusion. Personally, while I obviously love it, I don’t have the same emotional bond I have with their next album for which we have already talked about in the previous article. However, listening to the album as I am writing this article, I remember the time when a friend, a few years older, sometime in 1994-1995, brought me a cassette with Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. Reaching the end of the tape, a song that was very different came in and I remember myself being very impressed. It was the best track that this “Nevermind” album had in it, as I thought it was really a song from this album, which was my first contact with Nirvana. So listening to this track, it had made a crazy impression on me and especially a part, towards the end of the song, where the drums were like a machine gun. Of course I’m referring to “One”, that my friend had added to fill in the blank space on the tape. That moment was the beginning of my relationship with “…And Justice for All”, a relationship that lasts to this day and I don’t see ending anytime soon or well…ever. Of course, as in every Metallica album, talking on a personal level, while I obviously love them all, there are always some tracks that click with me on a different level. In this case, this “click” happened with “Blackened” and its raging introduction, “One” of course and “To Live Is to Die”. I don’t know why these 3, with the exception of “To Live Is to Die” possibly, which, even if you want to, can’t help but getting touched by it.