29 Years Ago: Metallica Releases '...And Justice For All'

August 25, 2016

With three consecutive knockout albums in a row (Kill 'Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets), Metallica was banging on all cylinders. They expanded the realm of thrash metal and ascended to new heights with songs like "Fade to Black", "The Call of Ktulu", and the instrumental "Orion." 

On August 25th, 1988, Metallica achieved that same level of success with the release of their fourth album, ...And Justice For All. It gave birth to one of their most iconic and socially-conscious hits, "One," which made its debut on the Billboard 200 at No. 6 and would achieve platinum status in only nine weeks. On the surface Metallica was rejoicing in their creative and commercial success. But underneath it all was hostility and anger.

Preparations for a new Metallica album were being made as emotions were still high since the death of bassist Cliff Burton in 1986. As a result, they took their frustrations out on their new bassist Jason Newstead in a manner that would draw similarities from a fraternity initiation. "They threw my clothes, my cassette tapes, my shoes out the window," Newstead said in Enter Night by author Mick Wall. "Shaving cream all over the mirrors, toothpaste everywhere, just devastation. They go running out the door, 'Welcome to the band dude!' I was definitely frustrated, fed up and kind of feeling unlike. I didn't sleep properly for three months after I joined Metallica."

"There was a lot of grief that turned into spite towards Jason," James Hetfield said. "One could argue we didn't give [Jason] a fair shot. But we also weren't capable because we were 22 years old and we didn't know how to deal with stuff... other than to jump to the bottom of a vodka bottle and stay there for years."

Although the situation was uncomfortable, they continued with their creative process, allowing Newstead to compose the main riff to "Blackened." But his creative contributions ended there. "We were waiting for Jason to write some big, epic stuff but it never came," said guitarist Kirk Hammett in Birth School Metallica Death. "It was great that he was there and he was enthusiastic, but he didn't make any huge contributions."

That lead to Hetfield and Lars Ulrich to take the lead on the songwriting. The instrumental "To Live Is To Die" was written in homage to Burton, and "One" was written in reference to a conversation he and Hetfield had about a soldier returning home from war as a deaf and blind quadriplegic incapable of communication, through his mind remained whole.

When the recording process began, ...And Justice For All was initially going to be produced by Mike Click, who received engineering credits on Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction, but his working style clashed with Metallica's working style and they decided to part ways. "We realized that working with Click wasn't working out," Ulrich said in Birth School Metallica Death. "[He] was a super nice guy, [but the] vibe just wasn't happening." They resorted to Plan B and flew Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets producer Flemming Rasmussen, who would work with the band for 12 to 14 hours a day. But endless partying into the late hours of the night caused Rasmussen to adjust their working hours. In less than three months, they were able to lay town the tracks to most parts of the songs for the album.

As they neared the end of recording, engineer Toby Wright is said to have spent an entire day going through the bass lines with Newstead. He was quickly able to learn and master the bass lines for the songs, but because his recording process was isolated away from his bandmates, as well as Rasmussen, Newstead felt even more left out from the band. "My situation was very awkward," he said in Birth School Metallica Death. "We started with 'Blackened' because that's the one I know the best. The rest of the songs were like a double-black diamond level of difficulty in terms of technical demands. I wasn't used to have 14 or 18 parts a song, but I was ready for it."

Although Newstead's bass recordings came in loud in clear, in the end they were turned so far down during the final mixing stage, they reached the point to where they were sounded almost non-existent. Some believe that the bass lines were turned down because they would have clashed with the already dense sound of the guitars. Others believe that it was just another sign of Heftield and Ulrich's deliberate hazing of Newstead.

Though he did not mix the album, Rasmussen believes it was because of the omission of low-end sounds the mixers Steve Thompson and Steve Barber were using. Thompson would later appear on One on One with Mitch LaFon, saying that Ulrich was behind Newstead's low bass levels. Ulrich said that if it was because of him, it wouldn't have been on purpose. "It wasn't, 'F**k this guy - let's turn his bass down," he said in Birth School Metallica Death. "It was more like, 'We're mixing, so let's pat ourselves on the back and turn the rhythms and the drums up.' But we basically kept turning everything else up until the bass disappeared."

In 2013, Newstead told Loudwire of the bass situation, "Historically, [the album] stands up over time. Maybe not the mix, but the songs do. The other day... a kid comes up and gives me '... And Jason for All.' He's remixed the bass tracks back into 'Justice'... he was like, 'Dude, this is for you, how it was supposed to be.' I think how it was supposed to be is how it came out and how it made the mark on the world."

Bass or no Bass, ...And Justice For All remains Metallica's second highest-selling album and it stayed on the charts for 83 weeks in a row.

(source: Loudwire)