…And Justice For All … This monumental album came out my senior year in college and I can’t think of too many albums in my lifetime that I had looked more forward to hearing or experiencing. Master Of Puppets was brilliant and remains my favorite, but this album took things to another level by moving outside the realm of purely speed/thrash and into the progressive genre to some degree. Great thing, though, is that it stayed heavy metal, but slowed things down a bit and focused on massively heavy riffs and melody more so than any of the first 3 releases. The longer song lengths never bothered me for some reason even though many fans called it a “sell-out” from thrash. Lars stepped up his game and changed the status quo for metal drummers going forth – he broke the formulaic patterns of metal drumming. The lyrics went to the next level as well, expanding on the progression away from the typical rebellious metal themes (explored on Masters Of Puppets) and now dealing with real life people struggling with emotional distress and turmoil. And the sound quality and mix (love it or hate it despite the low bass guitar in the mix) remains, to me at least, one of the most cutting-edge metal recordings in the history of the genre. It was far from perfect, but it was so extreme, and to this day so unique.
This set is massive. I mean, the first 3 sets in this series have been extremely expansive, especially the Master Of Puppets box. But there is even more material, if that’s believable, on this release (although no cassette this time). I love the consistency in the box design and graphics, although the cartoonish title text does appear on the spine and the front cover, which is a nice deviation. Justice has the best ever Metallica cover and its really cool to see the green and black inner sleeves with Doris emblazoned on the front. Many of the CDs and DVDs are packaged in mini-double LP style jackets with 2 discs, the Rob Halfin photos adorning the covers. There are nice extras here with the (4) Pushead 3”x3” patches, the Cap’n’s Krunch All Access Pass, “The Shortest Straw” poster and the folder with “tablet paper” lyric sheets. It all fits so perfectly in the heavy box with cut-outs for CDs. Unlike the early sets where the discs were falling out of the cut-outs and the sleeves in transport, improvements here in layout and format affirm that Metallica and Blackened care about the quality of the product and the series and have made continued improvements with each release.
As has been the history with this series, the book remains one of the centerpieces of the Deluxe set. This one is no exception. I had to laugh at Ross Halfin’s commentary on how Jason Newsted looked like Carole King. But there is so much great content in the book. It is an understatement to say that the book makes the Deluxe set worth the price of purchase. There are some great stories contained here and plenty of amazing photos. More so than with the previous 3 books, the photos take precedence – probably because the band agreed to more photoshoots during this era than ever before. Sammy Hagar’s comments from the Monsters Of Rock tour (’88) are noteworthy – Hetfield was becoming a huge force on the stage as a “frontman.” Hagar confessed that Metallica would surpass Van Halen. Once again, I would have loved to see a list of the equipment the band was using circa ’88-’89, but at least this one is consistent with the other books in this series in the exclusion of such information.
This may be the most complex analog metal album ever recorded … at least from a drummer’s perspective. I remember hearing this for the first time and was completely blown away. To me, this album represents the pinnacle of Lars’ drumming innovation … and the pinnacle of the bands’ aggressive, yet cutting-edge, metal sound. Hetfield matured as a singer and wasn’t just shouting the words. The records are housed in a double-wide jacket – the discs true to the original but housed in anti-static lined sleeves. The 11x 11 lyric insert fits perfectly into the jacket as well. I definitely prefer the vinyl version over the CD, because this over “treble-ized” (sans bass) recording sounds much better in the realm of the warm vinyl milieu.
The 10” Single
The Pushead “One” artwork remains stunning 30 years later. Picture discs aren’t known for their sound quality, but with “Seek & Destroy” live in ’89 on the B side, how can you go wrong?
The Live In Seattle ’89 3LP
This is a highlight of the box set for sure … at least for me. I remember catching the Damaged Justice tour about a month prior to this recording – July 19th, 1989 in Philadelphia, PA at the Spectrum. I had just graduated from college and was headed off to medical school and to the Army. I remember the parking lot – tailgaters competing with one another for who could play their favorite Metallica album the loudest…!! This 3 LP live set perfectly captures the magic of that night – minus the throwing of the free-standing chairs in the mosh pit on the main floor! The Cult opened up, and while I did like them, Ian Astbury seemed so wasted – their set paled in comparison to what would follow.
As with the other Deluxe sets in this series, the live LP quickly became my favorite “piece.” With very little surface noise, this 3 LP set sounds fantastic. As precise as the studio release was (and remains), there was this odd treble vs. low-bass with almost no middle. For one, in this live setting, Jason’s bass contribution is not so suppressed. Two, there is a more full frequency of sounds going on to fill the speakers. This live version of “Harvester Of Sorrow” is brutal – so much better than the studio version. While Newsted’s bass solo was a bit odd, his performance overall in the live setting was solid and solidified his position in the band. The triple gatefold presentation is a thing of beauty.
The negative … Hetfield’s conversations with the crowd between songs were starting to sound a bit cliché metal circa late 80’s. In some ways I missed the early years where he was pretty reticent.
CD1: The Remaster
As everyone already knows, it doesn’t sound any different … which is just fine. This album was monumental and I wouldn’t want it to be changed – that just wouldn’t make sense. It does come in the mini-double gatefold with inner sleeve on one side and original lyric book on the other – this disc looking like the original and doesn’t have the “Deluxe box” green and black theme shared by the other discs in this set.
CD 2: Interviews
The KSDT 10 minute interview with Jason is a highlight because it’s very different from those which we’ve heard up to this point in this series. Instead of talking about the bands’ differences from other metal bands, there is just priming and inquisition about the new material in ’88. Also interesting to hear how Jason placed himself within the context of the band circa ‘88. The Circus Magazine interview features the very cynical James – one of the hardest guys to interview in the history of metal perhaps – with every other word beginning with an “f” or an “s.” This is probably the most, though, I’ve ever heard James talk about the lyrics and such of any release up to this point in time. The KDHX Kirk interviewers sound almost vindictive, which is really strange – like “did you copy the lyrics from the book” type thing and such regarding the song “One.” And “why didn’t you help on the garage?” And then there is the usual Metal Forces Bernard Doe Lars’ poor sound quality phone interview. Always cracks me up how Doe sounds so “un-impressed” – his flat affect hilarious – during these interviews. Not much new info here but there is some interesting discourse about the controversial “Grammy’s” thing and the “James’ raps” between songs thing.
CD 3-4: Riffs, Jams & Demos
These recordings could best be categorized as the “early mixes” of the Justice material, from 1986 to early winter 1988. The “late mixes” can be found on CD 5 (below).
Disc 1 (78:53)
Tracks 1-15 contain James’ riff tapes with various versions of the songs from 1986 to 1988 with emphasis on his guitars. If you like humming the melodies in your head or out loud, these tracks will resonate with you as it is really great to hear these riffs/ideas in isolation from the rest of the band. These are the core elements that give each song their character. Some of the early tracks are rough (with a little banter in the background) to the later tracks that have matured. Highlights are track 7 with the beautiful “One” melody drawn out here, and the 1986 riffage from “The Shortest Straw.” This early, slightly down-tuned “less happy” version sounds menacing and bad-ass. Also, it is interesting how riffs from “Harvester of Sorrow” ended up in “Eye…” and riffs from “Dyer’s Eve” ended up in “Harvester…” Also pervasive on these early tracks is Hetfield’s low-slung lounge vocal style, especially cool on the ’86 version of “Dyer’s Eve.” And the almost “rap-like” drum beat (track 11) adds a whole new perspective to the wonderfully rhythmic “Frayed…”
Tracks 16-28 (fall of ’87) represent the pre-studio “writing in progress” versions. These are instrumental only versions of what you will hear on the “Demos” disc and they do, for some reason, sound better – like the band was more sober perhaps! Also, these “writing in progress” tracks don’t feature James’ annoying “wa-na-na-na” pilot vocals, so that’s a plus.
Disc 2 (70:41)
As I stated above, these demo tracks are more complete pre-production versions, but they contain James’s mock-up pilot vocals which, while they do add rhythm to the vocal parts, they grow tiresome by halfway through this disc. The first 5 tracks are late fall ’87 and the last 5 tracks January ’88. The highlight track here is clearly “To Live Is To Die” because the bass guitar is huge and Lars’ drums sound best on this track. However, I don’t really hear significant improvements over the writing progress tracks – with Lars’ timing really off on some of these – so as far as I am concerned this section of the Deluxe reissue could have been left out and this is truly die-hard fans only material.
CD 5: Rough Mixes From The Vault (76:50)
As has been the case in this deluxe reissue series, these “rough Vault” mixes are really very good. In fact, this material may be as close as you can get to the final versions – and there is plenty of bass guitar on these tracks. There are some guitar leads missing from some of the tracks and a few where the vocals are missing but otherwise this set of songs may be as close as we are going to ever hear of the “full band” studio experience with this material. I love it. The “To Live Is To Die” tracks are especially cool, but stinks that “Frayed” doesn’t have vocals.
CD 6 (64:05) – 7 (76:31): Live At The Troubadour, May 24th, 1988 + B Sides
Of the live CD recordings presented in this set, this West Hollywood set is definitely the most raw and “club” live-like. If you grew up on small venue metal, this 2 CD set is most excellent, and this one probably best represents Metallica (during the Justice era) as they sounded at inception. Even though this was only a few months before the Justice album would be released, “Harvester Of Sorrow” was the only song to appear (during the encore session, no less) and the fans loved it even though it had a somewhat abrupt ending. It’s easy to say that the rendition of “Leper Messiah” (probably one of my favorite Metallica songs ever) which followed, stole the show. The “B” Sides is a great collection of songs. Hard to believe the “One” single had 4 different “B” Sides – the “Seek & Destroy” version showing up in this Deluxe set on the 10” vinyl. I really like the mini-double LP gatefold CD digi’s format. All of the track titles/song credits are printed on the inside of the gatefold, leaving the front and back covers clean for pictures. The amount of music on these discs is massively ridiculous … did I say that already?
CD 8 (63:43) - 9 (55:50): Live At Hammersmith Odeon, October 10, 1988 + Radio Edits
By this point in their career you would hope that someone would learn how to press the RECORD button at the beginning of a show … nope. The first two songs in this set list, “Blackened” and “For Whom The Bell Tolls” were not recorded. Kind of a shame, because of the 3 CD live shows in this set, this one is probably my favorite. There is this muted, somewhat muffled drum sound, but overall the sound quality here is better than the Troubadour show. The crowd noise seems filtered, but it really lets you hear the instruments and vocals more clearly. Kirk’s guitar solo during the first encore is fantastic and the lead into “Battery” a highlight. The band seemed more focused on this effort, but during the double encore jam they kind of lost it for a moment. James’ excessive drinking was starting to take its toll? I always thought it hilarious that the radio edits of “Eye...,” “One” and “…And Justice” were still 5 to 6 minutes in length, but they have been included here for the sake of completeness.
CD 10 (58:50) – 11 (43:48) Long Beach Arena, December 7, 1988
I suspect that most fans will love this set. With the exception of the opening track “Blackened” (only the last minute or two recorded), the rest of this is pretty solid. There is at least a good version of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” here (missed on the Hammersmith show). And the Master of Puppets material on this one is primo with killer versions of the title track, “Welcome Home,” “Leper Messiah” and “Battery” (during the encore section). For some reason, though, the first disc songs don’t sound as good as the latter section of the set (on disc 2). The snare drum sounds terrible (like a wire broke) for some of the early songs. “One” features a prolonged intro with movie sound effects. The pace on this song is noticeably faster than the studio version.
Overall, disc 2 (tracks 1-6) in this set is killer. For whatever reason, the band just sounds tighter, the sound quality is better. It’s like the longer they played, the tighter and more powerful they sound and the better dialed in the sound. Jason’s bass really cuts through on this version of “Creeping Death,” and “Battery” is just a monster closer. Note that the last 3 tracks on the disc (“Last Caress,” “Am I Evil?” and “Whiplash”) are not from Long Beach Arena, but from the November (’88) show in Chicago.
One observation about all of these shows … it’s a shame that “The Shortest Straw” never made any of these set lists as it remains – to this day – one of the best songs from the album.
…And Camcorders For All (94:40)
The majority of this disc consists of clips from Lars’ personal tour collection. Extremely bootleg quality sound. Some tracks are complete whereas other just clipped portions of songs. The scene from the top of San Antonio’s forum (from the rigging), where Lars’ fear of heights results in his chucking of his beer to the stage below, is classic. Watching the rigging and Doris blow from back-stage is also pretty cool (Atlanta). The Irvine material features Lars singing “Am I Evil?” with James on drums! From a musical standpoint, the “One” filmed in Biloxi is nice, and the Sao Paulo material, especially “Frayed…” is vintage. My only complaint here is that some of the sections are so short that I kind of wonder why to include them. Oh yeah, and watch Ross Halfin lose his hair!
“One” Videos (25:03) Lars’ provides a background and inspiration for the song followed by the full and shortened versions plus the Grammy performance.
“One” B-Rolls (30:57) Protracted shots from the individual camera angles of the band and each member through multiple cuts of the song. Fan band worship.
DVD 2 Live At Shoreline Amphitheatre, September 15, 1989
Filmed near the end of the world tour, this is a very good quality recording of one of the best performances in this box set. Not only is the audio quality very good, I am surprised just how well this SD video upscales to HD (using PS3 as player and 4K LG TV. It’s shockingly clear. Not only is the set list well-representative of the full array of material the band covered during the Damaged Justice tour, but the execution this night was really very near perfect. This is definitely Jason’s best bass solo of the lot here, and having “The Thing That Should Not Be” included a bonus. Plus you get all 4 of the cover songs during the encore. Watching the stage set and lighting, this is exactly how I remember this show so many years ago so it is a great trip down memory lane.
DVD 3 (129:29) Live At The Stone Balloon, Newark, DE, August 7, 1989
This bootleg quality video is a departure from the “big arena” shows – this is old-school/small venue chaos. Not only is the set list quite different from the “mainline” shows, the band is just out of control. Don’t expect the same level audio or video quality (very limited view angles and a lot of movement) compared even to the Shoreline gig on DVD 2 of this set. The opening back-stage “warm-up” session establishes the more “laid-back” approach to this gig. The set list is almost completely devoid of any new material – “Harvester Of Sorrow” the sole song from Justice and encore fragments of “Frayed…” Regardless, it’s cool to see them go back and pick up songs like “Phantom Lord” and “Mortorbreath, and even a brief jam of “Jump In The Fire” at the end of “Fade To Black.” Of course, the “lead-vocal audition” during “No Remorse” is quite amusing and one of the hidden gems on this video. Things kind of degenerate from there until they right the train wreck (sort of) with “Motorbreath” and “Hit The Lights.” Great to see though that even at this point in the band’s career, and even within the confines of the Damaged Justice World Tour, that they still took the time to play small venues.
Justice On Wheels ’89 (43:19)
Nice concise documentary featuring some of the “behind the scenes” guys like Andy Battye (guitar tech), Mick Hughes (sound engineer), John Broderick (lighting) and Jake Berry (production manager) to name a few. It’s great to have this included in this box set because it complements the commentary provided in the art book. After all, no tribute to …And Justice For All would be complete without a thorough discussion of the stage production from the Damaged Justice tour. I like the realistic observations Lars and Kirk make about the diversity of their fan base which is a testament to how well the band and their music resonates with the mass of humanity.
Masa Ito Interviews (47:13) ... a lot here to digest, but clean and clear.
Raw Live Footage Philadelphia, PA (9:04)
Raw Live Footage Troy, NY (17:55)
Raw Live Footage Hamilton, Ontario (19:16)
Note: DVD 1 & 2 are housed in mini double-gatefold digi and DVD 3 & 4 are in similar configuration with different photos. For some reason, the band/Blackened decided to keep the plastic inner-inner sleeves on the DVDs. Plus, the DVD discs themselves have black print on green background (differs from the CDs which sport the opposite color scheme).
Overall, while not quite as impressive as the Master Of Puppets Deluxe set, Metallica have definitely delivered the next chapter in their history in glorious fashion. It’s a plethora of footage and material metal historians and fans will enjoy for years to come.
- Vinyl (2 November 2018)
- Original Release Date: 2 November 2018
- Number of Discs: 21
- Format: Import
- Label: BLACKENED
- ASIN: B07GW4MK54
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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- #33 in Hard Rock