Ride the Lightning is one of those records that altered forever the course of modern music with their appearance. The sophomore record by Metallica is in fact a landmark for the trash-metal genre. More in general, for all the bands, that from 1984 on tried to play extreme variants of metal music.
It is also one of the first records that helped establish the vision of metal as a serious and thoughtful musical style. Something more than just kids screaming and making noise with ultra-distorted guitars. The L.A. formation in this album explored various themes that later will establish as metal groups and artists’ core topics. Suicide, depression, violent deaths, oppression, war, hopelessness before the powers-that-be, to mention a few. All this, blended and topped with a generous dose of horror weltanschauung and iconology. In this work, the listener finds the instrumental The Call of Ktulu just named after the H.P. Lovecraft cycle of cosmic horror novels and short stories.
The sonic stance
From a sonic stance, the band evolved from their debut Kill ‘Em All, adopting more complex rhythmic and melodic solutions, blending the heaviness of the bloody and speedy power-chord riffs that were preeminent also in the previous work with elements of prog music.
In this record, we see that Metallica develop and process metal as a technic and intricate style that needs a high quality of musicianship to be played but also to be interpreted. The listener is in fact constantly immersed in tempo changes, riff variations, crazy bridges and interpolations, and more melodic solos that manage to add a great contribution to the songwriting side and to the whole quality of the project.
The first leg of the record
The first leg of Ride The Lightning is probably the most famous and the one that remained in the history of metal for the Metallica (but not only) fans. Songs like Ride the Lightning, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and Fade to Black count among the most successful and well-written songs of the Four Horsemen.
In general, the album shows a great balancing alternating super-fast and straightforward aggressive songs like Fight Fire With Fire, Trapped Under Ice, and Creeping Death with more elaborate and structured but still heavy songs like For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ride the Lightning. Finally, the haunting Fade to Black is an ultra-power ballad about a man committing suicide. With its darkly enchanting melodic intro and its grim breakdown, it stands to this day as one of the most powerful and moving songs in the band’s whole career.
You can find Ride the Lightning on Spotify.