Metallica’s second album, 1984’s Ride the Lightning served as a groundbreaking achievement for the band, and considerably upped the ante on their 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All. But the album most fans and critics rank as the band's greatest is Master of Puppets, which Metallica released in 1986. The record adhered to a similar structure as Ride the Lightning, combining speedy thrash cuts with slower, more anthemic fare, and including a cinematic instrumental.
But Master of Puppets took all of its predecessors strengths and made them even better. The songs were more intricate, the hardcore-paced tracks were more visceral, and the instrumental, “Orion,” was executed with more fervor. Many consider it a flawless album, but it might not have been if Metallica made different choices during its creation.
The band spent far more time working on Master of Puppets than their first two albums combined - each of which was created in less than a month. By contrast, Metallica spent a whopping four months simply tracking Master. From there, studio time increased exponentially as the band worked with producer Flemming Rasmussen in Copenhagen between September and December 1985.
Bassist Cliff Burton drew from his love of classical and soundtrack music when the band put the tunes together, and played bass by plucking the strings with his right hand instead of using a pick. Singer/guitarist James Hetfield was on fire when it came to concocting crushing, memorable riffs and poignant lyrics, and driven by the energy in the studio, drummer Lars Ulrich rode the wave, laying down tumbling beats and crashing cymbal hits that underscored the rollercoaster ride of the album. But there's a lot even hardcore fans don't know about the making of Metallica's Master of Puppets.