Remaining musically doomish and dreary in terms of the song features, this is probably the heaviest release of theirs. Even though some tracks portray clean and/or acoustic guitar melodies, the actual songs are really depressing. That seemed to be Metallica's focus for this album. This remains to be one of my favorite releases from the band.
An introduction to this release begins with lead guitar melodies that segues into a much heavier, E-tuned guitar riff for the song "Blackened". All of the songs are lengthy. The last track entitled "Dyer's Eve" was still well over 5 minutes in length. The tempos for each track vary. Not all of them are downright fast though many melodic especially on the title track and "To Live Is to Die". This song was a tribute to Cliff Burton (RIP).
They remained innovative regarding to the guitar riffs as well as the leads. Kirk Hammett still does a good job in the lead department, though less technical than on "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets". Hetfield belts out some seriously heavy rhythm guitar structures. His vocals are more hoarse than prior releases though it definitely accompanies the music and overall atmosphere.
Hetfield has a lead guitar part featured on "To Live Is to Die". It's not wholly technical at all and I figure that they wanted to create something that fit the clean electric part which takes place in about the middle of this song. Also, the introduction to this track was an acoustic guitar which then flows into more distorted electric parts. Probably their longest song overall throughout this whole album and 1980's discography.
The title track is lengthy also and filled with clean parts mainly for the introduction but not the entire song at all. There's also a ballad which also became a video. That was something that Metallica wasn't too keen on doing in their earlier days. However, "One" was a huge success overall. But mainly to a darker audience. I don't think that they anticipated going mainstream with it.
Sound quality wise came out more fluidly than previous 1980's releases. This was thanks to Flemming Rasmusson's contribution for the mixing. The only complaint though would be that the bass guitar efforts by Jason Newstead seemed to be totally void. Hearing all of the tracks and not one of them you can really tell that there's bass included on this album.
The focus in terms of the lyrics dealt with society, corruption, inner struggles and anger. Hetfield belts out some seriously heavy throat as previously mentioned. He seemed to really sound like a death metal vocalist spewing depressing lyrics in a much greater magnitude. His only cleaner voice is featured during the clean guitar moments for the song "One". They didn't do any cover songs at all.
This album is their last as a thrash metal outfit. As I said previously, it's their heaviest and darkest release ever. The best tracks to hear are "Blackened", "One" and "To Live Is to Die". All of the tracks are noteworthy though. The ones that I mentioned are my favorites. Their songwriting
here was probably the most creative though some would challenge this view. A sad farewell to the Metallica of the 1980's.