Like Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets has been expanded to provide the ultimate Metallica experience. The sheer amount of content included in the deluxe box set is surely worth every penny. However, not everyone has the expendable income for a large purchase. Fortunately, working class fans can gain access to rare recordings with the 3CD Expanded Edition.
The expanded edition has the feel of a mini box set. Thick packing ensures that this version of Master will stand out from other CDs. Folding out into four panels, three CDs and a 28-page booklet provide ample opportunity to immerse oneself in the years 1985-1986.
Disc One contains the remastered edition of Master of Puppets. Rather than compare the sound to older copies, I simply took pleasure in revisiting a classic album. As the familiar songs filled the room, I reflected on what it was like hearing them as an impressionable thirteen year old kid.
Disc Two is where the real fun begins. Labeled “Riffs, Demos, Rough Mixes & Interviews,” the title holds true. Each snippet included in the second disc offers a glimpse into an ongoing creative process that culminated in a canonical metal masterpiece.
Several demos are merely instrumental run-throughs. These tracks offer a glimpse into how Metallica work. The focus is strictly on MUSIC. As talented as the lyrics and vocal delivery are, they succeed because of the strong foundation beneath.
“The Thing That Should Not Be” shines as an instrumental. The clean, drop D riff is potent. At once mellow AND heavy, lack of production gives the riff a gritty feel. Distorted sections have a raw quality that just oozes heaviness.
The demos that DO have vocals hint at the rewrites that Metallica songs are subjected to. The title track is mostly in tact, offering only subtle variations such as “what I do to you.”
“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” has clearly undergone a dramatic rewrite. With the exception of “They see it right/they see it well” the demo lyrics are completely different. Although the chorus remains similar, verses bear little resemblance to the final product.
“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” also contains an instrumental piece that would later become part of “Orion.” Cliff’s melodic bassline combines with harmony lead guitars to demonstrate musicians who are increasingly confident with their chosen craft.
Recordings from “James’ Riff Tapes” offer further insight into the creative process. Clearly in the earliest stages, Hetfield has the working title of “Damage Inc,” which he recites at the conclusion of each chorus. The rest is merely James singing a vocal melody. Again, it’s the music that takes precedence with the lyrics being a final layer in the composition process.
Metallica’s long-running fascination with cover songs is also represented. Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” and Diamond Head’s “The Price” are included. Both tracks, designated as “Work in progress Rough Mix,” are instrumental versions. Even with cover songs, Metallica ensures that the music is perfect before adding vocals.
Disc 2 is concluded with a Cliff Burton interview. Conducted for Metal Madness magazine, the interviewer sounds like a fan rather than a seasoned journalist. He comically refers to “Damage Inc.” as “Damage Company” twice, both times being corrected by Burton. This, it seems, is due to nervous energy from meeting Cliff.
James and Lars had historically been the public voices of Metallica so it’s nice to hear Cliff in an interview. We are reminded of Burton’s open-mindedness as he talked of music outside of the metal genre. He gave props to Thin Lizzy and Aerosmith and even sang the praises of R.E.M. Naturally he discussed The Misfits and Samhain. It’s interesting to hear November Coming Fire in the context of being a new album.
The final CD is a collection of live tracks. Rather than document a single show, the third disc contains performances from several gigs. Staples like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” were still relatively new and are delivered with a youthful passion that can never be replicated. Obviously these are the final shows with Cliff Burton. It’s the end of an era and we are lucky to have this era so thoroughly documented.