Sound — 9
Ride the Lightning kept a lot of traits from Kill 'Em All, but also gained some new characteristics. While it kept the high speed insanely distorted thrashy riffs, from Metallica's debut, it also included some slower acoustic, clean songs, such as Fade to Black, and Call of the Ktulu. It still included some pretty sick solos from Hammett. On top of that, his Guitar ability seems to have improved since Kill 'Em All, with shreddy speed solo's like Ride the Lightning and Creeping Death to the slowed down pure musicianship in Fade to Black. Another small thing I like about the lead in this album is it's echoing, wet, mysterious sound. However, these are all good traits. The album also kept the poor production and sound quality of the first album. The vocals could have been more, clear. Overall, the album is a great example of some classic thrash, pros and cons included.
Lyrics — 6
A definite improvement from Kill 'Em All, in both lyrical content AND quality. The songs have much more meaning, with Lyrical themes such as Nuclear War, Freezing and Drowning, Plague, the Death Penalty. And pretty much Death in general. What can get much better than that? Lyrical quality is still iffy, but did improve from their debut. From the unclear, muffled, yelling of Kill 'Em All. Well how could they not improve? James voice is clearer, lyrics are much more understandable, and overall just better. James also added some soft singing instead of the growling normally used. Fade to Black is really a huge step vocal-wise for Metallica. So all together, the lyrics and vocals are definitely an improvement. We've got that cleared up.
Overall Impression — 10
01. Fight Fire With Fire - beautiful harmonized acoustic guitar starts out this song. Then in comes the huge thrashy riff. Then in comes James' voice. Not a great vocal example. But this song doesn't need awesome vocals to be an awesome song. Although it would've helped give it a higher rating. 02. Ride The Lightning - I must say that the beginning is very catchy. And if you have your speakers turned all the way up right when the song begins, it sure scares the heck out of people. it's about the Death Penalty, and Death itself (a common theme of this album). The lyrics/vocals are just average, but that doesn't matter. This song is one in the trilogy of what I call Metallica's Most Awesome Solo's, along with Master of Puppets, from the album of the same name, and One, from ...And Justice For All. Definitely one of the truly impressive songs on the album. 03. For Whom The Bell Tolls - the classic Hells Bells bells toll at the start of For Whom the Bell Tolls. That's almost a Tongue-Twister. An awesome bass riff courtesy of Cliff Lee Burton, God rest his soul. The vocals for this song are some of the best in Metallica's entire career. The ending Guitar solo, if you want to call it that is quite intriguing. While this song may not be the thrashiest or the headbanging. It still is one of Metallica's most successful songs, albeit is simplicity. 04. Fade To Black - the definite highlight of the album. Metallica's first stab at a semi-acoustic ballad is a successful one. While at the time, the song was considered a sellout, it remains to this day one of Metallica's signature songs. From the beautiful opening acoustic guitar with the ominous sounding solo over it's top, to the sad sounding verse, to the gradual gain in heaviness, to it's climax moment, the solo, this song just reeks awesomeness. More on the solo. This has got to be Kirk Hammett's greatest solo ever, even if it isn't a speedy shred of death. The musicianship and technicality just flows from it like a river. The way it just melds with the song is incredible. When you listen to this piece of music, you just think Wow, this is gold. This is what a great song sounds like. 05. Trapped Under Ice - this is definitely the remains of Kill 'Em All. This song maintains that extreme speed that was all over Metallica's debut album. The song starts with a slow paced distorted power chord, followed by a few more, into an insane intro solo, which basically marks the beginning of the face-meltiness (yeah, I said face-meltiness) in this song. From this point on we have notes fast enough to be a Dragonforce song, a crazy, eyeball-popping solo, and harsh vocals. Although not widely regarded as a highlight from the album, it definitely fits the position of the Dark Horse. 06. Escape - this song is the weakest point of the album. The guitar work isn't that great, the vocals are okay, but forgettable (Trust me on this one, I've listened to this song plenty, and I still can't remember the lyrics), and the guitar solo is just average. Metallica doesn't seem to like this song either. They've never played it live. Ever. Maybe because it's not well regarded by fans, or maybe they just plain don't like it. I personally like it. It's a favorite of mine, but, well. 07. Creeping Death - one of Metallica's greatest songs, and definitely a staple of their live performances. With a memorable riff, a crazy ass solo, and awesome lyrics about plagues and death that creeps n' stuff. What could possibly go wrong. The song is based upon the plague in the desert and Cliff Burton saying, it's like Creeping Death. This song is also a staple of live performances with it's fast paced theme and middle bridge with the word Die chanted over and over (the fans just gotta chant along). 08. The Call Of Ktulu - a really long instrumental. It has one of the creepiest beginnings to a song I have ever heard. Try listening to that alone in a dark house at 2 in the morning. The song slowly gains pace as it goes along until finally we hit a fully distorted riff. The solo for this is an excellent long bit of guitar work, as is the case with the entire album. Interestingly, this song was written mostly by Dave Mustaine. It was originally titled When Hell Freezes Over. The title was later changed by Cliff Burton, in honor of The Call of Cthulhu, an H.P. Lovecraft book, which Burton was a big fan of. In my personal opinion, I prefer the first title. Ride the Lightning is a classic example of real thrash. It follows only behind Master of Puppets as Metallica's greatest work. It produced 5 great Metallica songs, which are still played often at concerts. It came at just about the perfect time: before Metallica turned away from their thrash roots, but after they had solidified themselves as a high class band (high enough to produce sufficient sound quality). It is ranked among the greatest metal albums of all time by many, and has sold 5 million albums in the US, and even more worldwide. Ride the Lightning is just a great album. Go buy it. Now.