Regardless of how long it took him (nearly 15 years, in fact) to return from his self-imposed musical exile, those familiar with singer Midnight's earlier work with Crimson Glory would know to expect something progressive, eclectic, and unconventional from his first solo album, 2005's Sakada…
By all rights, the album that came to be known as Big Star's Third should have been a disaster. It was written and recorded in 1975, when Alex Chilton's brilliant but tragically overlooked band had all but broken up. As Chilton pondered his next move, he was drinking and drugging at a furious pace while writing a handful of striking tunes that were often beautiful but also reflected his bitterness and frustration with his career (and the music business in general). Production of the album wasn't completed so much as it simply stopped, and none of the major figures involved ever decided on a proper sequence for the finished songs, or even a title. (The album was also known as Sister Lovers and Beale Street Green at various times.) And yet, Third has won a passionate and richly deserved cult following over the years, drawn in by the emotional roller coaster ride of the songs, informed by equal parts love, loss, rage, fear, hope, and defeat.
Even though Master of Puppets didn't take as gigantic a leap forward as Ride the Lightning, it was the band's greatest achievement, hailed as a masterpiece by critics far outside heavy metal's core audience. It was also a substantial hit, reaching the Top 30 and selling three million copies despite absolutely nonexistent airplay. Instead of a radical reinvention, Master of Puppets is a refinement of past innovations. In fact, it's possible to compare Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets song for song and note striking similarities between corresponding track positions on each record (although Lightning's closing instrumental has been bumped up to next-to-last in Master's running order). That hint of conservatism is really the only conceivable flaw here.
The 30th anniversary of Metallica’s Master of Puppets came and went last year without much fanfare from the band. Now, the heavy metal giants are finally ready to celebrate their landmark third album with the deluxe boxset it deserves.