Next month marks the 20th anniversary of Metallica's ... And Justice for All, which is perhaps one of the most important studio offerings of the band's illustrious career. Not only was it Metallica's first LP following the untimely passing of bassist Cliff Burton, it shot straight to #6 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum just nine weeks after it first hit stores.
The now-classic album signaled many other firsts for Metallica: It was the first record to feature new bassist Jason Newsted, it netted them their first Grammy nomination, and it featured the single "One," for which they shot their first-ever music video. Since its release, Justice has scanned more than 8 million copies in the U.S. alone, and it helped cement their status as a rock and roll force to be reckoned with.
In summation, it was a momentous release for Metallica, one that changed the entire trajectory of the band's career. Now, 20 years later, we've spoken to the group's members, asking them to think back to that time and reflect on the importance of what may be one of their most beloved efforts.
"Justice obviously was a huge record for us. ... We took the Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets concept as far as we could take it," drummer Lars Ulrich reflected. "There was no place else to go with the progressive, nutty, sideways side of Metallica, and I'm so proud of the fact that, in some way, that album is kind of the epitome of that progressive side of us up through the '80s."
Ulrich said that when he listens to the album now, he thinks it still holds up. He feels Justice was an album Metallica — who, starting October 20, will headline their first U.S. arena tour since 2004 — had to make, in order to progress as a band and mature.
"It's aged quite well," he said. "There's a certain kind of specific sound to that record, peculiar sound — whichever adverb you want to choose — that's given it a kind of life of its own and a little bit of a vibe all its own. There have been a lot of great musicians we admire who've come up and talked about what a great inspiration that album has been to them and to their sound. It's obviously awesome to be part of that. That album also sent us on this whole other merry way, because when we came back from touring on that record in 1989, we were like, 'We have nothing more to offer on this side of Metallica,' and that set us off on some other adventures. When I think of the nine records we've put out, it's impossible for me to think of the music without thinking of the experience. And when I think of the experience, I have warm and fuzzy feelings, but I also have questions. Obviously, Justice is well-revered, especially among a lot of our peers."
According to frontman James Hetfield, Justice provided a showcase for what Metallica were capable of — both as a band and as individual players.