Ride The Lightning was the first album from Metallica that I had the pleasure of hearing. It was released during the summer between my junior and senior year in high school. At the time we were listening to Motley Crue, Ratt, Judas Priest and Scorpions (hadn’t fully embraced Iron Maiden yet, young fool that I was) and in getting ready for the senior year in high school somewhat dismissed the significance of this album. It wouldn’t actually be until Master of Puppets was released (while I was in college) that I would go back and fully relive RTL and appreciate it for what it was. It was also around that time (1986) that I would discover Kill ‘Em All – an album (along with RTL) that me and my friends absolutely wore out on Thursday and Friday nights in our dorm room. Although Metallica’s first two albums were a constant staple of my metal listening for nearly 4 years (never forget air-drumming to “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “Ride The Lightning” – can’t count how many dorm-room trash cans I destroyed thanks to Metallica) I can honestly say KEA, and to a lesser extent RTL, have not been a huge part of my metal regimen for nearly two decades. Needless to say, when I discovered the Deluxe Remastered box sets (about two months ago – what is it about me always being late to the Metallica party?) I didn’t hesitate to fork out the high dollar amount to obtain these fan-oriented collections.
See my review of the KEA set for a detailed description but suffice it to say that the construction and presentation of these sets is quite exceptional. The biggest difference between the KEA and RTL set is that this one contains a cut-out for a lyric diary, and there are 3 posters included as well.
These records are exceptional. Metallica apparently chose not to reissue the original releases in wide groove, 2 LP format, but they still sound great (even at 33RPM). There is the single sheet insert with lyrics and credits and the static free sleeve. The weight on the outer jacket is perfect, and the new Blackened label on these weighty records also looks great along with the enhanced artwork (best Metallica cover ever!). The live LPs (Palladium, March, 1985) sound excellent as well. To think this was recorded two months before I graduated from high school … and I wasn’t there! The treble/bass balance is perfect and the crowd noise just right for the setting. There is very little low end distortion and very little surface noise. It’s a great set list (is this the earliest we are hearing “Am I Evil” inserted into the set list?) – a nice 50/50 mix of KEA/RTL songs. Of course, the EP “Creeping Death” picture disc may be worth the price of this set alone, especially with the “B” side “Am I Evil” and “Blitzkrieg” tandem.
As most know by now, the remastered LP and CD can be purchased separately so the real value in the box set is with the live LPs, the picture disc and the hard cover ear book which is filled with tons of great stories, information and pictures. The quality of the book cover, design and content is first rate. I would have liked to have seen a page or two devoted to the equipment/instruments each member used during the era, but otherwise there is a plethora of stuff to peruse. Spend some time in the details. Yeah, the pictures and stories from industry, media and friends is interesting, but looking at the details of what is presented is really where the treasure lies – the set lists, the posters, the reviews, interviews and “top” lists from the era. Love the legal story from Paterno (not exactly a humble guy) about how the band needed a label with money to take things to the next level. I’ve always been amazed at how fast Metallica made their charge to the forefront of aggressive metal at the time, both musically and commercially.
CD 1 (Original Remastered)
What else can be said about one of the greatest metal albums of all time? These songs hold up so well over time and they have been faithfully treated on this reissue. It is not over compressed, and although it doesn’t sound as good as the vinyl version, it is definitely a worthy version all fans will want to check out. The digi double gate-fold packaging with lyric book is faithful to the original but yet it seems the artwork/colors are more brilliant (enhanced).
CD 2 (Interviews) (63:50)
Compared to the Metal Forces Magazine interview from the KEA box set (barely discernable due to background noise) these interviews are much cleaner. It is amazing to listen to how much Lars has changed (matured?) in less than a year’s time between early 1984 and late 1984. Hard to believe they were only on Megaforce one and a half years before moving on to bigger things (Elektra). I love the discussion about “boot-leg” double live LPs and Lars doesn’t know anything about that … and then now we have those very recordings on vinyl in this box set. Fans of the 49ers will love the Joe Montana references during the Kirk/Cliff interview. It is interesting, also, to hear their interpretation of other bands’ music at the time.
CD 3 (Demos) (69:32)
The “rough” mixes are pretty good but the “garage” mixes are pretty rough. These tracks provide great insight into early Metallica, but don’t expect anything you will jam/play for your friends. I do like the rhythm guitar cuts of “Blitzkrieg” and “Am I Evil” which feature that “wall of guitars” front Metallica perfected.
CD 4 (San Francisco, March 1985) (55:10)
This is a great set list (Kabuki Theater) and parallels the vinyl live Palladium set list (a few more songs on this tape) from that show 5 days prior in that it’s a 50/50 mix of KEA and RTL. I love the fade-in to “Fight Fire With Fire.” The audio quality is not quite as good as the Palladium show and at times the guitars sound a bit out of tune. The energy is good, though, and its worth having this show on CD.
CD 5 (London, December, 1984) (60:39)
Aside from the tape cut on the first track, this is a surprisingly well-balanced boot-leg recording from the Lyceum Theatre with a somewhat odd lack of crowd noise. This is quite noticeable during the call and response pre “Seek and Destroy” when James keeps calling out louder and louder with this relatively silent response coming through the speakers – kind of eerie. With only 3 songs from RTL it is surprising to see this disc included in this set as opposed to the KEA box.
CD 6 (Castle Donington, August, 1985) (46:21)
This is another 50/50 mix (KEA/RTL) set list but with a much more acidic, raw “echo in the tin can” bootleg sound. I think it is really interesting how different all of these live recordings present in terms of both performance and sound quality. This is one of the few shows that didn’t include Burton’s bass solo, although his bass is featured on the intro to “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” I love the pace on this show, though, as Lars is really pushing the tempo here and its cool how the transitions between songs flow really well, like how “The Four Horsemen” transitions right into “Fade to Black.” It’s too bad the sound quality isn’t better here as the band was really “spot-on” during this performance.
The band was really clicking better live by 1985. The set from the Metal Hammer festival is extensive – great set list – but the sound quality is very bootleg with a muffled bass and lots of distortion, but at least there is sound for the entire set (unlike the KEA DVD). My favorite part of the DVD would have to be the 3 tracks from Oakland stadium in August, 1985. Not only is the sound quality much better, but I love the “stage left” bootleg camera perspective that features perhaps one of the best metal bassists of all time (R.I.P.). The interview that follows shows how uncomfortable James (drinking a beer - priceless) always was in front of the camera and how Lars never failed to render an opinion about anything, and how Metallica (at the time) truly believed they were totally different from any young metal band at the time. The only negative that was starting to become apparent was that in their quest to be a “natural” metal band, they were starting to define themselves too much as the band that wasn’t all about image and commercialism, and in doing so, they started to develop a cliché’ “anti-mainstream metal” attitude that was somewhat cliché in its own way.
Overall, this is an exceptional box set that will appeal to both collectors and fans alike. There is enough new content here to make this worth the cost and the quality of the content and presentation is excellent. Clearly, the hard-cover book and the live LPs and picture disc are the nuggets here, but the live CDs and DVD, and even the lyric book, are special in the rawness/simplicity of their quality.
- Audio CD (13 May 2016)
- Original Release Date: 13 May 2016
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Virgin EMI Records
- Run Time: 47 minutes
- ASIN: B01D9DBT72
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Audio Cassette | Vinyl | Accessory
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,048 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)