The collective consensus of the sound quality on Metallica’s fourth album …And Justice for All definitely didn’t come from the same champion litter that birthed Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. The legendary metal band’s producer for the three albums, Flemming Rasmussen, clarifies that the album is not reflective of his work, and that the sound was intended to be a symbolic act in honor of their deceased bassist Cliff Burton. He claims that the band adamantly requested lower bass tracks, and made a lot of creative demands throughout the production of the album.
Shortly after the release of Metallica’s third album Master of Puppets in March of 1986, the band’s former bassist Cliff Burton died in a tragic bus accident in southern Sweden. The band recruited their second bassist, Jason Newsted, almost immediately after Burton’s passing. Newsted stayed with the band for 15 years before departing in 2001 to pursue several projects that included playing for Echobrain, playing alongside Ozzy Osbourne, and joining Voivod.
Rasmussen said in an interview with Metal Injection, “What happened was [mixing engineers Steve Thompson and Mike Barbiero] did a mix that they thought sounded really, really good, which had lots of bass in it. And the bass – let me just point out – the bass tracks on …And Justice for All are actually fantastic. Jason plays really well. He probably tried to prove that he was worth, that he was up there with Cliff, which in my opinion he is. It’s a different style, but he is as good of bass player as Cliff, just in a different way. And I’ve heard the bass tracks and they’re absolutely amazing. They sound good, he plays well.
But, they heard the mix and they went, ‘Alright, take the bass down, change this this this and this, and then take the bass down.’ So you can barely hear it. And then once they’ve done that they said, ‘Take it another 3dB down.’Why they did that – I have no idea! It could be that they were still grieving about Cliff. I have no idea. But imagine my surprise when I heard the album. I was like, ‘What the… What?!’ It got really criticized when it came out, and people got more or less blown away because of the dryness of the sound. It just goes BANG, right in your face.
“‘…And Justice for All’ was probably the single album in the last 30 years which has been the most influential in terms of sound for the whole generation of the hardcore metal bands. They all wanted to sound like …And Justice for All. That really clicky, high-endy bass drum, all that stuff…”Every time I hear the bass drum like that, I go ‘I’m really sorry about that. That’s my mistake.’ Well, I didn’t mix it!”
Photo Credit: Mauricio Alvarado