Metallica’s ‘…And Justice for All': 10 Facts Only Superfans Would Know
By the second half of the 1980s, Metallica were in a strange boat. They had released three albums — the most popular of which being Master of Puppets — lost bassist Cliff Burton in a horrific accident, recruited Jason Newsted and released an EP with him.
They had several different routes they could take. Either they could recreate Master of Puppets and continue onward with that familiar format, or they could change it up and prove they weren't the type of band that would keep putting out the same album. Lars Ulrich, in particular, wanted Master's follow-up to be as raw and in-your-face as possible.
The result was titled ...And Justice for All, a mockery of the social and political climate of the country, and was released on Aug. 25, 1988. The sound was aggressive and brash, the structure was progressive, featuring unusual, alternating tempos.
"One" was the gem of this new collection of songs, and it put Metallica in a light that they hadn't previously been seen in before. The video became one of the most highly-requested on MTV, and the song was nominated for the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the Grammys in 1989 — which they infamously lost to Jethro Tull.
Justice is recognized by many Metallica fans as their last true thrash record. They would go on to work with producer Bob Rock on The Black Album in the following years, which expanded their audience beyond the purely metal horizon. Here are 10 facts only superfans would know about ...And Justice for All.
1. An affair with Guns N' Roses.
After hearing Guns N' Roses groundbreaking debut Appetite for Destruction, Ulrich became fixated with Metallica's next album having as hard of a sound. "It was so venomous. It was so fucking real and so fucking angry," the drummer gushed to Classic Rock.
Thus, when producer Flemming Rasmussen told Metallica he would not be available to work with them, Ulrich sought out Mike Clink — who had produced Appetite. On the other hand, writer Mick Wall noted that Axl Rose gave Metallica's Ride the Lightning as an example to Clink prior to recording it.
2. They recorded two covers to get comfortable working with Clink.
Metallica recorded covers of Budgie's "Breadpan" and Diamond Head's "The Prince" with Clink as an introduction to working together. The two songs were released as B-sides, and they were later included in their 1988 covers album Garage Inc.
3. It ultimately didn't go so well.
Ulrich and James Hetfield had slightly different visions at the start of the recording process. Where the drummer was hoping for this next album to take Metallica to a larger-than-level status, Hetfield wasn't a fan of the Guns N' Roses debut, and he wasn't a fan of how they were going about his guitar parts.
“I just flipped out,” the singer admitted to Wall. “Couldn’t hang with it anymore.”
Clink was fired shortly after. “As much as I believe they wanted me to put my magic on the tracks... I think that they were used to doing things on their own and doing it their own way," he chimed in.
The band called Rasmussen and he ended up being able to work with them again. They chose to keep the drum tracks they had recorded with Clink for "Harvester of Sorrow" and "The Shortest Straw."
4. Cliff Burton's final songwriting credits.
...And Justice for All was the last Metallica album to list Burton in the songwriting credits, particularly on "To Live Is to Die." Burton had recorded fragments of bass lines on tape, but Newsted ended up actually playing them on the final version. The song is considered instrumental, though there is a spoken word portion that consists of two lines written by different poets and the final two lines written by Burton.
5. Jason Newsted's bass... or lack thereof.
As St. Anger is known as the album in Metallica's discography for having too much snare, Justice is known for having nearly-inaudible bass. "I was so disappointed when I heard the final mix," Newsted told To Live Is to Die: The Life and Death of Metallica's Cliff Burton author Joel McIver.
“I know for a fact, since I recorded it, that there’s brilliant bass playing on that album," Rasmussen affirmed to Classic Rock.
"The bass frequencies in Jason's tone kinda interfered with the tone that James was trying to shoot for with his rhythm guitar sound, and every time the two blended together, it just wasn't happening," Kirk Hammett explained to Decibel Magazine. "So the only thing left to do was turn the bass down in the mix."
6. James Hetfield's first introspective set of lyrics.
Prior to The Black Album, the subject matter of the lyrics on Metallica's first four albums tended to focus on the world around Hetfield, rather than his own. However, "Dyer's Eve" features some introspective lyrics that reflect the frontman's confusing Christian Scientist upbringing, which he would delve into on later songs such as "The God That Failed."
“It’s basically about this kid who’s been hidden from the real world by his parents the whole time he was growing up, and now that he’s in the real world he can’t cope with it and is contemplating suicide,” Lars described to Classic Rock. “It’s basically a letter from the kid to his parents, asking them why they didn’t expose him to the real world.”
"Dear Mother / Dear Father / What is this hell you have put me through?"
7. "One" and Johnny Got His Gun.
Dalton Trumbo's 1938 novel Johnny Got His Gun tells the story of an American World War I soldier named Joe Bonham, who was severely injured by a German shell. When he woke up in the hospital, he realized he lost everything — legs, arms and face — except for his brain. Eventually, he communicated with the officials in Morse Code by hitting his head, and wrote out the message, "Please kill me."
Hetfield had a similar idea for a song before reading the novel, about being just a mind. Thus, "One," one of Metallica's most epic songs, was born.
The band even purchased the rights to the film adaptation of the movie, which was also directed by Trumbo, in order to use parts of it in their music video for the song. Some sound effects from the film were used in the final recording of it as well.
8. It was the beginning of their road to excess.
As Wall mentioned in Classic Rock, the tour Metallica embarked on while the album was being mixed was when they began experiencing a true breakthrough. They were out with Van Halen, the Scorpions and Dokken, and though they were the smallest of those acts at the time, that was all about to change.
Women, cocaine and alcohol became more accessible than they could have imagined. Hetfield, especially, was starting to drink a lot.
"I would get pretty violent," the frontman revealed in an interview with Ben Mitchell. "There’d be the happy stage, then it would get ugly where the world is fucked and fuck you. I became… the clown, then the punk anarchist after that, wanting to smash everything and hurt people. I’d get into fights. With who? Sometimes with Lars. That’s how resentments would get released, pushing and shoving, throwing things at him."
9. Platinum, and more platinum.
Just a few months before ...And Justice for All was released, its predecessor Master of Puppets was certified platinum. Then, just nine weeks after its release, Justice was certified platinum as well. This would begin a streak of immense success for the band for years to come.
10. The statue of... Doris.
The album cover features an illustration of a tied-up, blind-folded Lady Justice — an obvious reflection of how the band felt about social and political injustices in the U.S. at the time, which went hand-in-hand with the title and general theme of the songs.
During their Damaged Justice tour, they erected a large replica of the "mascot" on the stage. They gave her the name Doris, and she represented Metallica's early foray into stage production. Toward the end of the set on each night of the tour, Doris would collapse and become decapitated.