It was 35 years ago today (March 3rd, 1986) that Metallica released its genre-defining third studio album, Master Of Puppets. The set was produced by Flemming Rasmussen, who also produced 1984’s Ride The Lightning and 1988’s …And Justice For All for the band.
In an interview with Phoenix New Times, Rasmussen was asked if he knew the album was special while he was working on it, and said, “Oh yes. Right from the demos, we pretty much knew this was gonna be a killer album. I think we all felt that this was gonna be the best Metallica album yet, as we had a bunch of really strong songs. Even the instrumentals were awesome.”
Master Of Puppets was the final album to feature Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, who died in a tour bus crash in September 1986 and was replaced by Jason Newsted. Rasmussen said about Burton: “He was surely one of a kind, and even though Jason is a great bass player, it was impossible to fill out Cliff’s shoes.”
Many fans consider Master Of Puppets Metallica’s masterpiece, which the band itself acknowledged when it played the record in its entirety on a summer 2006 tour of Europe.
Frontman James Hetfield told us that playing the album live came down to the fans: [“It was more of a fan’s asking for that than us wanting to do it. Y’know, that was a pretty important album in our career, so pretty historic for a lot of people and that made sense.”] SOUNDCUE (:11 OC: . . . that made sense.)
Current bassist Robert Trujillo told us a while back that the Master Of Puppets material is among his favorite to play live with the band: [“Anything off Ride the Lightning and Master Of Puppets is always a great, fun time for me as a bass player. I love playing ‘Disposable Heroes,’ we don’t play it very often. So I don’t know, there’s a lot. Every song is great. It’s just always about having a good time, especially with the old stuff.”] SOUNDCUE (:17 OC: . . . the old stuff)
Master Of Puppets was Metallica’s first gold album, for sales of more than half a million copies. Many songs from the disc, including “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” “Battery,” “Leper Messiah” and the title track are still part of the band’s live set to this day.
Master Of Puppets was recorded between September and December 1985 at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. Rush bassist/singer Geddy Lee recently confirmed a longstanding rumor that he almost produced Master Of Puppets.
The album’s iconic cover art was painted by Don Brautigam, who also did the covers for Motley Crue‘s Dr. Feelgood and AC/DC‘s The Razor’s Edge. He died in 2008 of stomach cancer.
Master Of Puppets went gold without benefit of a hit single or music video and peaked at Number 29 on the Billboard 200 albums list. It has since sold more than six million copies in the U.S. alone.
The album made Number 167 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time,” and also got onto Time magazine’s list of the “All-Time 100 Albums.”
Back in July, as part of its “Metallica Mondays” YouTube series, the band posted a show from June 6th, 2006 in Waldbühne, Germany, featuring Master Of Puppets performed in its entirety.
Back in 2016, the band published Metallica: Back To The Front, a book on the making of Master Of Puppets. The book was written by Matt Taylor and compiled from a combination of the band’s personal archives, fan submissions of photos, videos and anecdotes as well as extensive interview with the band, their management, tour promoters, members of their crew and other groups.