"MASTER OF PUPPETS." Metallica. Elektra.

On its third LP, America's premiere speed-metal band is in a lyrical, if not musical, rut. Vocalist-guitarist James Hatfield's rantings paste together god-awful gothic garbage borrowed from grade-B movies past and present. Hatfield and Metallica are certainly alienated from society, but instead of facing reality head-on like the original punks, they've created a brain-dead fantasy world. But words are secondary in speed-metal, and complaining about them is like kicking a dead corpse. These dirt-bags do crank out at full throttle with some complex arrangements and leads, especially on "Damage Inc." and "Orion."

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