35 Years Ago, Metallica Strikes Twice With 'Ride The Lightning'

July 27, 2019

After Metallica released Kill 'Em All July 25th, 1983, they set the bar high not only for themselves, but for their colleagues as well. With bands like Slayer, Anthrax and Exodus hot on their tails with new albums of their own, Metallica took the next step forward to stay ahead of the competition, let alone of all rock bands with the release of Ride The Lighting on July 27th, 1984.

Ride The Lighting was also the first Metallica album to where bassist Cliff Burton stepped up in the songwriting process since Dave Mustaine's departure. Cliff's contributions to the band weren't limited to just his playing ability. He also taught James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet a little music composition 101 like augmenting core notes with counter-melodies, basic guitar harmonies, and introducing effect pedals.

But despite their success, Metallica really had to pinch every penny while renting out a house in order to get by. Money was tight and the bandmates couldn't afford to splurge on vices like alcohol. But whoever did manage to bring liquor would be met with the warmest of welcomes.

Three months before flying off to Denmark to record Ride the Lightning, they became victims of a robbery in Boston on January 24th, 1984. Their van was broken into where much of their equipment was stolen, including Lars Ulrich's drum kit, Kirk's Marshall head cabinet and James' favorite Marshall head cabinet and speaker. In a bizarre twist of fate, the robbery became the source of inspiration for Metallica's timeless hit, "Fade To Black."

But if Metallica's going to record an album in Denmark with some of their gear stolen, what are they supposed to do? Enter producer Flemming Rasmussen. While Metallica brought over some of their other guitars, Rasmussen managed to borrow nine Marshall amps from other local Danish bands that were in town. Now that the amp problem was out of the way, the bigger elephant in the room was Lars' drumming style. Rasmussen realized that often times that when Ulrich was keeping a steady beat, he would either speed up or slow down during certain parts of songs. When he asked Lars if he drums with an upbeat, Lars responded saying that he had no idea what an upbeat was. Flemming then brought in drum tech Flemming Larsen to teach Lars a little Drumming 101.

By mid-March, Ride the Lightning was complete and the guys of Metallica were more than pleased with their work. James Hetfield recalled hearing his girlfriend's sister eagerly listening to "Fade To Black" by herself, satisfied knowing that one of their songs was able to connect with someone so quickly, despite negative comments from other fans claiming that they sold out when they did a ballad. At the same time, he also heard from fans that were completely blown away by their new material, and how it was also able to connect with them on a deeper level too.