…And Justice for All is the fourth studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on August 25, 1988, by Elektra Records. It was the band's first studio album to feature bassist Jason Newsted after the death of Cliff Burton in 1986. …And Justice for All is musically progressive, with long and complex songs, fast tempos, and few verse-chorus structures. The album is noted for its sterile production, which producer Flemming Rasmussen attributed to his absence during the mixing process. The lyrics feature themes of political and legal injustice seen through the prisms of censorship, war, and nuclear brinkmanship.
The album's front cover, designed by Stephen Gorman on a scheme by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, features a representation of Lady Justice, bound by ropes, with one breast bare and its scales tipping toward one plate filled with money. The phrase "…And Justice for All" appears spray-painted in the lower right corner. The album title is derived from the American Pledge of Allegiance. Three songs from the album were released as singles: "Harvester of Sorrow", "Eye of the Beholder", and "One", while the title track was released as a promotional single.
…And Justice for All was acclaimed by music critics. It was included in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll of the year's best albums, and the single "One" earned Metallica its first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1990. The group's best-selling album at the time, it was the first underground metal album to achieve chart success in the United States. The album was certified 8× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2003 for shipping eight million copies in the US, making it Metallica's second-best-selling album in the country.
…And Justice for All was Metallica's first full-length studio album to feature bassist Jason Newsted after the death of Cliff Burton in 1986. Newsted had previously played on Metallica's The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited, an extended play released in 1987. The band intended to record the album earlier, but was sidetracked by the large number of festival dates scheduled for the summer of 1987, including the European leg of the Monsters of Rock festival. Another reason was frontman James Hetfield's arm injury in a skateboarding accident. The band's previous studio album, Master of Puppets, marked the end of Metallica's contract with the Music for Nations label. Manager Peter Mensch wanted the band to sign with British record distributor Phonogram Records, and Phonogram chairman Martin Hooker was keen to obtain the band's contract. To persuade Metallica to choose his label Hooker offered them a bigger deal, "worth well over £1 million, which at that time was the biggest deal we'd ever offered anyone". His explanation was that the final figure for combined British and European sales of all three Metallica albums was more than 1.5 million copies. The album title was revealed in April 1988: …And Justice for All, after the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance. The artwork was created by Stephen Gorman, based on a concept developed by Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. It depicts a cracked statue of a blindfolded Lady Justice, bound by ropes with her breasts exposed and her scales overflowing with dollar bills. The title appears graffiti-style in the lower right corner.
…And Justice for All was recorded from January to May 1988 at One on One Recording Studios in Los Angeles. Metallica produced the album with Flemming Rasmussen. Rasmussen was initially unavailable for the planned start on January 1, 1988, and the band brought in Mike Clink, who had caught their attention for producing Guns N' Roses' debut Appetite for Destruction (1987). Things did not work out as planned, and three weeks later Rasmussen became available after Ulrich gave him a call. Rasmussen listened to Clink's rough mixes for the album on his February 14 flight to Los Angeles, and upon his arrival Clink was fired. Hetfield explained that recording with Clink did not work out so well, and Rasmussen came over as a last-minute replacement. However, Clink is credited with engineering the drums on two of the album's tracks: "The Shortest Straw" and "Harvester of Sorrow". While waiting for Rasmussen to arrive, the band recorded two cover songs—"Breadfan" and "The Prince"—to "fine‑tune the sound while they got into the studio vibe". Both were released as B-sides of the "Harvester of Sorrow" CD single, as separate B-sides for "Eye of the Beholder" and "One" respectively, and were included on the covers album Garage Inc. (1998).
Rasmussen's first task was to adjust and arrange the guitar sound with which the band was dissatisfied. A guide track for the tempos and a click track for Ulrich's drumming were used. The band played in a live room, recording the instruments separately. Each song used three reels: one for drums, a second for bass and guitars and a third for anything else. Hetfield wrote lyrics during the recording sessions; these were occasionally unfinished as recording began, and Rasmussen said that Hetfield "wasn't really interested in singing" but instead "wanted that hard vibe". Metallica's recording process was new to Jason Newsted, who questioned his impact on the overall sound and the lack of discussion with the rest of the team. Newsted had a different experience with his previous band, Flotsam and Jetsam, describing their style as "basically everybody playing the same thing like a sonic wall". He recorded his parts separately from the rest of the band, with only the assistant engineer present. Newsted noted that his parts were at the same audio frequency as Hetfield's guitar parts, and this created a "[battle] for the same frequency". Steve Thompson, who mixed the album, claims that Ulrich was squarely to blame for the inaudible bass and unusual drums. Thompson wanted to be relieved of his mixing duties when Ulrich presented his ideas on the production, but Thompson was not allowed to leave and received the majority of the criticism for the poor sound quality of the record.
…And Justice for All is a musically progressive album featuring long and complex songs, fast tempos and few verse-chorus structures. Metallica decided to broaden its sonic range, writing songs with multiple sections, heavy guitar arpeggios and unusual time signatures. Hetfield later explained: "Songwriting-wise, [the album] was just us really showing off and trying to show what we could do. 'We've jammed six riffs into one song? Let's make it eight. Let's go crazy with it.'" Music critic Simon Reynolds noted the riff changes and experimentation with timing on the album's epically constructed songs: "The tempo shifts, gear changes, lapses, decelerations and abrupt halts". BBC Music's Eamonn Stack wrote that …And Justice for All sounds different from the band's previous albums, with longer songs, sparser arrangements, and harsher vocals by Hetfield. According to journalist Martin Popoff, the album was less melodic than its predecessors because of its frequent tempo changes, unusual song structures and layered guitars. He argued that the album is more of a progressive metal record because of its intricately performed music and bleak sound. Music writer Joel McIver called the album's music aggressive enough for Metallica to maintain its place with bands "at the mellower end of extreme metal". According to writer Christopher Knowles, Metallica took "the thrash concept to its logical conclusion" on the album.
The album was noted for its "dry, sterile" production. Rasmussen said that was not his intention, as he tried for an ambient sound similar to the previous two albums. He was not present during the album's mixing, for which Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero had been hired beforehand. Rasmussen felt that, in his absence from the mixing process, Thompson and Barbiero ended up using only the close microphones on the mix and none of the room microphones, thus causing the "clicking", thin drum sound. Popoff noted that because of the strange production, the bass guitar was nearly inaudible, while the guitars sounded "strangled mechanistic". He saw the "synthetic" percussion as another reason for the album's compressed sound. The sound has nearly-inaudible bass guitar, which Rasmussen claims was ordered by Hetfield and Ulrich after hearing the initial mixes, resulting in his belief that "Jason Newsted, [engineer] Toby Wright and I are probably the only people who know what the bass parts actually sounded like on that album". Thompson similarly blamed Ulrich for the inaudible bass, stating that Ulrich ordered him to remove the bass from the mix. In their defense, Hetfield and Ulrich said that most of Newsted's bass lines closely followed the rhythm guitar lines to the point of being indiscernible from each other. A lack of direction is also partly to blame; since the album was largely produced by the band, there was no one present in the studio to guide the band's new bassist and tell him what was expected of him, something a producer would typically do. Newsted was not satisfied with the final mixes: "The Justice album wasn't something that really felt good for me, because you really can't hear the bass."
The lyrical content of …And Justice for All is conceptually unified around notions of political and legal injustice as seen through the prism of war, censored speech, and nuclear brinksmanship. The majority of the songs raise issues that differ from the violent retaliation of the previous releases. Tom King wrote that for the first time the lyrics dealt with political and environmental issues. He named contemporaries Nuclear Assault as the only other band who applied ecological lyrics to thrash metal songs rather than singing about Satan and Egyptian plagues. McIver noted that Hetfield, the band's main lyricist, wrote about topics that he had not addressed before, such as his revolt against the establishment. Ulrich described the songwriting process as their "CNN years", with him and Hetfield watching the channel in search for song subjects—"I'd read about the blacklisting thing, we'd get a title, 'The Shortest Straw,' and a song would come out of that."
Concerns about the environmental plight of the planet ("Blackened"), corruption ("…And Justice for All"), and blacklisting and discrimination ("The Shortest Straw") are emphasized with traditional existential themes. Issues such as freedom of speech and civil liberties are presented from a grim and pessimistic point of view. "One" was unofficially entitled "antiwar anthem" because of the lyrics which portray the suffering of a wounded soldier. "Dyers Eve" is a lyrical rant from Hetfield to his parents. Burton received co-writing credit on "To Live Is to Die" as the bass line was a medley of unused recordings Burton had performed prior to his death. Because the original recordings are not used on the track, the composition is credited as written by Burton and played by Newsted. The spoken word at the end of the song ("When a man lies, he murders some part of the world. These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives.") was written by German poet Paul Gerhardt, but was erroneously attributed to Burton in the liner notes. The second half of the speech ("All this I cannot bear to witness any longer. Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home?") was written by Burton.
Released on August 25, 1988, by Elektra Records, …And Justice for All was acclaimed by music critics. In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Michael Azerrad said that Metallica's compositions are impressive and called the album's music "a marvel of precisely channeled aggression". Spin magazine's Sharon Liveten called it a "gem of a double record" and found the music both edgy and technically proficient. Simon Reynolds, writing in Melody Maker, said that "other bands would give their eye teeth" for the songs' riffs and found the album's densely complicated style of metal to be distinct from the monotonous sound of contemporary rock music: "Everything depends on utter punctuality and supreme surgical finesse. It's probably the most incisive music I've ever heard, in the literal sense of the word." Borivoj Krgin of Metal Forces said that it was the most ideal album he has heard because of typically exceptional production and musicianship that is more impressive than that of Master of Puppets. In a less enthusiastic review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau felt that the band's compositions lack song form and that the album "goes on longer" than Master of Puppets. In 1988, …And Justice for All was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, but with much controversy, it lost to Jethro Tull's Crest of a Knave. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly, named the win one of the 10 biggest upsets in Grammy history.
In a retrospective review, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune said that …And Justice for All was both the band's "most ambitious" and ultimately "flattest-sounding" album. AllMusic's Steve Huey noted that Metallica followed the blueprint of the previous two albums, with more sophisticated songs and "apocalyptic" lyrics that envisioned a society in decay. Music journalist Mick Wall was critical of the progressive elements on the album and felt that, apart from "One" and "Dyers Eve", most of the album sounded clumsy. Colin Larkin, writing in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2006), wrote that, apart from the praiseworthy "One", the album diminished the band's creativity by concentrating the songs with too many riffs. Ulrich said in retrospect that the album has improved with time and it is well-liked among their contemporaries.
In The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll, …And Justice for All was voted the 39th best album of 1988, having received 117 votes, including 12 first-place votes. The album was ranked at number nine on IGN's Top 25 Metal Albums. In a 2006 reader poll by Guitar World, …And Justice for All was placed 12th among the 100 Greatest Guitar Albums. All of the album's tracks were featured on "The 100 Greatest Metallica Songs of All Time" made by the same magazine. Kerrang! listed the album at number 42 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time". Martin Popoff ranks the effort at number 19 in his book The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time, the fourth highest ranked Metallica album on the list. The album is featured in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
After years of refusing to release music videos, Metallica released its first for "One". The video was controversial among fans, who had valued the band's apparent opposition to MTV and other forms of mainstream music. Slant Magazine ranked it number 48 on their list of the "100 Greatest Music Videos", saying that Metallica "evoke a revolution of the soul far more devastating than that presented in the original text". The guitar solo was ranked number seven in Guitar World's compilation of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of all time. Additionally, heavy metal website Noisecreep classed the song ninth among the "10 Best '80s Metal Songs".
Although Metallica's music was considered unappealing for mainstream radio, …And Justice for All became the first underground metal album to achieve chart success in the US. It became Metallica's best-selling album upon release, peaking at number six on the Billboard 200, where it charted for 83 weeks. Since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales, …And Justice for All has sold 5,330,000 copies in the United States. It was certified platinum nine weeks after it was released in stores, and sold 1.7 million copies in the US by the end of 1988. Since its release, the album has scanned more than 8 million copies in the US and, according to MTV's Chris Harris, "helped cement [Metallica's] status as a rock and roll force to be reckoned with". Classic Rock explained that with this album, Metallica received substantial media exposure, becoming a multi-platinum act by 1990. The group broke through on radio in 1988 with "One", which was released as the third single from the record. According to Billboard, …And Justice for All found the band evolving into arena headliners, as "One", accompanied by the group's first music video, garnered significant airplay.
…And Justice for All achieved similar chart success outside the United States. It peaked within the top 5 on the charts in Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and remained on the UK chart for six weeks. The album managed to peak in the top 10 on the Finnish, Norwegian, and Swiss album charts. It was less successful in Spain, Mexico and France, where it peaked at number 92 on the former chart, number 130 on the latter, and number 64 in Spain. …And Justice for All received a three times platinum certification from Music Canada for shipping 300,000 copies, a platinum certification from IFPI Finland for having a shipment of little over 50,000 copies, and was certified gold by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI) for shipments of 250,000 copies. It was awarded gold by the British Phonographic Industry in 2013 for shipping 100,000 copies in the UK. …And Justice for All was surpassed commercially by the band's following album, Metallica (1991).
Guitarist Kirk Hammett noted that the length of the songs was problematic for fans and for the band: "Touring behind it, we realized that the general consensus was that songs were too fucking long. One day after we played 'Justice' and got off the stage one of us said, 'we're never fucking playing that song again.'" Nevertheless, "One" quickly became a permanent fixture in the band's setlist. When performed live, the opening war sound is lengthened from seventeen seconds to approximately two minutes. At the song's conclusion, the stage turns pitch-black and fire erupts from various places. The live performance is characterized as a "musical and visual highlight" by Rolling Stone journalist Denise Sheppard. Other songs from …And Justice for All that have frequently been performed are "Blackened" and "Harvester of Sorrow", which were often featured during the album's promotional Damaged Justice Tour.
Metallica played the title track in the opening show of the Sick of the Studio '07 tour, for the first time since October 1989, and made it a set-fixture for the remainder of that tour. A statue of Lady Justice is commonly placed on the scene, to be torn down as the song approaches its conclusion. "Eye of the Beholder" has not been played live since 1989; one such performance appears on Metallica's live extended play, Six Feet Down Under. During the World Magnetic Tour in 2009, "The Shortest Straw" made its way back into the setlist after a 12-year absence, and has been sporadically performed since. "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" debuted live in Helsinki on the Metallica By Request tour in 2014, although the band had previously played segments during solos, impromptu jams, or in a "Justice" medley. "To Live Is to Die" premiered at the band's 30th-anniversary concert at The Fillmore in San Francisco. "Dyers Eve" debuted live sixteen years after it was recorded, during the Madly in Anger with the World Tour at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
All lyrics written by James Hetfield, except "To Live Is to Die" written by Cliff Burton.
Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.James Hetfield – vocals, rhythm guitar, co–lead guitar on To Live Is To Die
Kirk Hammett – lead guitar
Jason Newsted – bass
Lars Ulrich – drums
Michael Barbiero – mixing
Mike Clink – drum engineering
George Cowan – assistant engineering
Bob Ludwig – mastering
Metallica – production
Flemming Rasmussen – production, engineering
Steve Thompson – mixing
Toby Wright – additional engineering
Stephen Gorman – cover art
Ross Halfin – photography
Pushead – illustrations
Reiner Design Consultants, Inc. – design, layout