Back before Metallica made a living suing its fans, they used to make kickass metal albums. So which one is the best?
Obviously there is no "correct" answer to this question, but I'll try to give it a semi-fair shot, colored with my own subjectivity.
Unlike some of the die-hard fans, I do not outright reject “Load” and “Reload,” but I’ll admit they were not as good as their other albums. “Death Magnetic” was a refreshing return to their roots and was a pretty good album, but not on par with their earlier ones. “Enter Sandman” is their biggest chart-topping song, but I don’t think that makes the “black album” their best. One could argue that the “black album” reached out to the broadest audience and brought people into the world of metal who would not have otherwise listened to “that crazy Devil-music!” Seriously... sneak “Enter Sandman” into your next party’s playlist, right in between a couple hip-hop, techno, dance, classic-rock or whatever songs. Everyone present will be air guitaring and headbanging in no time. That being said, I don’t think the rest of the “black album” can support “best album” status.
This leaves us with “Kill ‘Em All,” “...And Justice For All,” “Ride the Lightning,” and “Master of Puppets.”
For most people, it’s easy. “Justice!” While “Justice” was an excellent album, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. “One” is an epic song, and so are many others on that album, but that’s precisely why I don’t want to call it their best album. Each song is so long and complex, I need to devote too much attention to it to really appreciate it. I feel like I have to be in a very specific mood to listen to it, similar to how I feel about classical music, which should be no surprise since progressive metal shares a lot with classical music structurally.
“Kill ‘Em All” is decent, and has “Seek & Destroy” and “Four Horsemen,” but the rest of the album doesn’t do it for me enough to call it the best.
So that leaves me with “Ride the Lightning” (RtL), and “Master of Puppets” (MoP). This is gonna be tough. Both are very solid albums, that are similar in structure. They both have big radio hits, complex instrumentals, heavy slower songs, and fast thrashy songs. I’ll try to be as fair as I can in comparing them.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” vs. “Master of Puppets” ... RtL +1
“Orion” vs. “Call of Ktulu” ... MoP +1
“Fade to Black” vs. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” ... Very close, but I think I have to go with “Fade to Black” ... RtL +1
Fast “thrash” album opener:
“Battery” vs. “Fight Fire With Fire” ... MoP +1
Mid-album heavy hitter:
“Leper Messiah” vs. “Creeping Death” ... Another one that’s very hard to call, but I’ll go with advantage MoP on this one. MoP +1
“Disposable Heroes” vs. “Escape” ... RtL +1
“Trapped Under Ice” vs. “Damage, Inc.” ... RtL +1
“The Thing That Should Not Be” vs. “Ride The Lightning” ... RtL +1
RtL - 5
MoP - 3
Winner: "Ride The Lightning"
Hmm... didn't think it would be such a landslide when I started this post. I love MoP and each track was a photo finish, but I guess I like RtL more.