Metallica have been on a reissue bender for a while now and with their first three albums, Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets successfully enhanced and reintroduced to the wild. They’ve reached the monster that is …And Justice For All.
And Justice, the band’s fourth album, was a landmark release in many ways. It featured the arrival of Jason Newsted on bass (following the death of Cliff Burton in 1986), marked the bands switch from the Music for Nations label to Phonogram, introduced a new level of political awareness into the metal scene with its references to environmental destruction and the threat of nuclear war, and established the band at the forefront of the prog metal genre. It was certified platinum within weeks and gained the band their first Grammy nomination (although they lost out in notorious circumstances to Jethro Tull).
This reissue is available in a range of formats and combinations including a luxury ‘All Singing, All Dancing Expanded Edition’, which includes previously unreleased demos, rough mixes, and live tracks and an expanded booklet of never before seen Ross Halfin photos. The one pressing only Limited Edition Deluxe Box Set includes the remastered double 180g LP, a one picture disc, three LPs featuring their iconic performance from Seattle in 1989 remixed by Greg Fidelman, eleven CDs, four DVDs, a set of four patches, a Pushead print, a tour laminate, lyric sheets, a download card for all material in the set, and a deluxe 120-page book with photos and stories from the people who were there. What more could you ask? Oh yeah. And of course the set includes an elephant in the room. How could it do otherwise?
…And Justice For All is not just remembered for all those good things listed above. There’s also the small issue of the sound, probably the thinnest and most sterile ever to grace a major piece of metalwork, in particular the suppression to the point of virtual inaudibility of Newsted’s bass to avoid any clash with Lars Ulrich’s drums.
So the first question on most fans’ lips when they approach this reissue is ‘Have the band taken the opportunity to right this ancient wrong and restore Newsted’s contribution to its rightful place in the mix?’ and the answer is, no they haven’t. The album is still a bass-free zone in all its original echo chamber-ish glory. On the other hand, we have a huge collection of live material to show just what it might have sounded like with the four string left in, including complete shows from Seattle 1989, Hammersmith Odeon 1988 and The Troubadour, West Hollywood 1988. The recordings are of variable quality, but they show a band rapidly reinventing themselves through their live work and going from being a relatively loose club band on The Troubadour recording to the fully formed rock and roll juggernaut we know and love at Hammersmith a year later.
All in all you get a lot for your money and it feels like a lot of thought and effort have gone into the package. Do you need to be a Metallica obsessive to get the most out of it? Well, let’s be honest, it probably helps. If you’re so steeped in the band’s music that you can spot tiny changes in the developing performances, so much the better, but even if you’re a Metallica occasional, there’s no filler and no rubbish here. Every track repays a proper listen, probably several. So that’s Christmas sorted.