Metal Legacies

Metallica’s Master of Puppets Turns 35 Years Old Today

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Opinions about Metallica are like, well… opinions about Metallica: everyone’s got one. Or two, or five or ten. And they always arrive with no shortage of controversy.

So here’s my hot take of the day: Metallica didn’t truly become Metallica until Master of Puppets, their third album, came out on March 3, 1986, 35 years ago today.

Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning no doubt have their place in Metallica history, and I’d certainly call them both “great” albums without any hesitation. Tracks from both remain among the band’s all-time bangers, staples of Metallica’s live sets to this day.

But it was on Master that the band fully leaned into the sound they’d begun to develop on tracks like “Seek & Destroy” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” producing breathtaking epics like “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and the album’s sprawling title track. Mixing more complex arrangements with shifts in tempo and orchestration, Master was unquestionably Metallica’s most dynamic and complex record to date, and somehow also their most accessible. And it showed: Master of Puppets become the most commercially successful Metallica album yet.

It was all onwards and upwards from there, of course, culminating in the band’s dominance of ’90s rock radio and everything that followed, for better or worse. But I’d argue that Master of Puppets was the record on which Metallica truly found themselves, honed in on what it means to be Metallica. They nailed the formula.

Disagree? Did they already have it figured out on Kill ‘Em All, or did it take all the way until The Black Album? Chime in with a comment below.

Either way, 10 out of 10 Metallica fans agree: you should crank Master of Puppets today, the album’s 35th anniversary, as loud as you possibly can without pissing off your neighbor or waking the baby.

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