Welcome to a new series on Tempelores where the staff members bare it all for the audience… and by baring all, we mean the origin point of our metal journeys, the singled out, solitary album responsible for being our gateway drug into the boundless universe of metal that in the end became more than just background for most of us.
The album that converted me to metal was Metallica’s monumental, 1984 opus, Ride the Lightning.
The backdrop: I was in middle school, freshman year, fresh-faced and tuning into the sound of Turn the Page, the song and the video on TV (we used to have a music television, kids…) I was just 12 years old at the time, and right on the cusp of nu-metal breaking into the scene. My musical repertoire at the time was limited to my mother and father’s CDs, and rock meat Chicago back then. Unaware that there was such a thing as the “middle school Metallica phase” among my peers, I coaxed two friends to go to a media store with me and asked for our more Metallica-savvy member to recommend me an album. He said Ride the Lightning was maybe a bit too harsh to start out for the uninitiated, maybe I’d be better off with Load or ReLoad.
I took that as a challenge. Didn’t know what I was getting into. See, I hadn’t heard anything outside of Turn the Page or Whiskey in the Jar at the time, didn’t know they were covers either, and was definitely not ready for a song like Fight Fire with Fire. It hit me like a MAC truck, the pace, the intensity.
I didn’t get it. Not at first.
For about two weeks, I kept wearing the cassette (we used to have those too) out, trying to make heads or tails of it. It was unlike anything I had heard so far, but I couldn’t hear much of anything. Fade to Black was more merciful, and its mournful tune was alluring beyond my capacity to understand why, but other cuts, like Trapped Under Ice or Creeping Death were mysteries. But I knew, I just knew that there was something there, something I wasn’t yet attuned to, something I was definitely going to discover. That being almost 20 years ago, I have since learned to trust that instinct, and it has led me to return to and discover many an album because of that same “something” there.
On week three, the album suddenly clicked.
One evening, playing it with my cousin-in-title-only, who was getting into Megadeth at the time, I heard For Whom the Bell Tolls and finally it clicked into place. I could hear the riffs, having trained on them, I could hear the drums, I could hear the bass, I could understand the lyrics and, most of all, I was surprised to discover that the album cover reflected the music perfectly, as most of the album is in hues of blue – if you didn’t know, sounds have colors attached to them. For Ride the Lightning, take a look at the cover and see what you’re getting. It was a moment of blinding clarity and I knew then, I knew that this was it, this was the thing, this was my thing. My world had just changed, and by the end of The Call of Kthulu, I was a different 12-year-old.
After two weeks of non-stop Ride the Lightning, I was ready to branch out. That marked the beginning of three habits: one, ritually listening to albums, start to finish, in one sitting upon purchase to form a first impression. Two, collecting discographies of bands I get into late. These two habits would later form the basis of all my listening, and to this day I still use my iPod like it was a Discman that can hold many disks at once.
The third and perhaps most important lesson Ride the Lightning has taught me is that albums can be growers. They can sound horrid at first listen, but then gradually blossom. Patience is often rewarded, and this pretty much ensured that I would give any album the time of day, even if the genre is entirely foreign to me, and allowed for my branching out. Over the years, I have had many albums that baptized me anew, time and time again, but were it not for the opening salvos of Fight Fire with Fire, the mourning embedded in the heart of Fade to Black or the suffocating darkness of Trapped Under Ice, I would never get into something that has remained part of me through most of my life, and continues still to offer something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, every time.
01. Fight Fire with Fire
02. Ride the Lightning
03. For Whom the Bell Tolls
04. Fade to Black
05. Trapped Under Ice
07. Creeping Death
08. The Call of Kthulu
Release Date: July 27, 1984
Label: Megaforce Records
James Hetfield – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett – lead guitar
Cliff Burton – bass, backing vocals
Lars Ulrich – drums