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Music / Master of Puppets

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"Master of Puppets, I'm pulling your strings..."

Master of Puppets is the third studio album by Metallica, released on March 3, 1986. It is their final studio album to fully feature bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed in a bus crash while touring in Sweden to support the album. Burton does appear on the B-sides that wound up appearing in Garage Inc.. While his death was traumatic, the band eventually decided to continue and replace Burton with Jason Newsted. This album is also their first to be released on a major label — Elektra Records.

The lyrics by James Hetfield deal with manipulation and a lack of control, but the diversity of the ideas which tackle these themes somewhat defeat the idea of a concept album. Following the template set by its predecessor Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets was an immediate commercial success, becoming the first Thrash Metal album to be certified Platinum.


Standard Edition

  1. "Battery" (5:12)
  2. "Master of Puppets" (8:36)
  3. "The Thing That Should Not Be" (6:37)
  4. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" (6:27)
  5. "Disposable Heroes" (8:17)
  6. "Leper Messiah" (5:40)
  7. "Orion" (8:28)
  8. "Damage, Inc." (5:29)

Bonus Tracks (Digital Reissue)

  1. "Battery (Live 1989)" (4:53)
  2. "The Thing That Should Not Be (Live 1989)" (7:02)

Principal Members:

Original Album

  • James Hetfield - rhythm guitar, lead vocals
  • Kirk Hammett - lead guitar
  • Cliff Burton - bass, vocals
  • Lars Ulrich - drums, percussion

Live Bonus Tracks

Troper of Puppets:

  • Audience Participation Song: The Title Track is a prominent example when played live.
  • Bedlam House: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", where the protagonist is locked away in an insane asylum.
  • Big Word Shout: "MASTER! MASTER!" Also, given Metallica likes Death, "I was born for DYIIIIIIIING!"
  • Concept Album: This album has the thematic element of those whose fates are controlled by others or who control others' fates, which links their songs together.
  • Content Warnings: The album originally came with a self-made parody sticker of content warnings, which read:
    The only track you probably won't want to play is "Damage, Inc." due to the multiple use of the infamous "F" word. Otherwise, there aren't any "Shits", "Fucks", "Pisses", "Cunts", "Motherfuckers" or "Cocksuckers" anywhere on this record.
  • Continuity Nod: "Damage Inc." contains the line "fuck it all and fucking no regrets", which would reappear on their album St. Anger in 2003, immediately followed by "I hit the lights on these dark sets", which is another reference to "Hit the Lights" from Kill 'Em All.
  • Corrupt Church: "Leper Messiah:"
    Send me money, send me green
    Heaven you will meet
    Make a contribution and you'll get a better seat
    Bow to leper Messiah
    Marvel at his tricks, need your Sunday fix
    Blind devotion came, rotting your brain
    Chain, chain, join the endless chain
    Taken by his glamour, fame, fame
  • Cosmic Horror Story: "The Thing That Should Not Be", is directly inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos and features the typical tropes of the genre.
  • Driven to Madness: "The Thing That Should Not Be":
    Drain you of your sanity
    Face the thing that should not be
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Master of Puppets:"
    Taste me, you will see
    More is all you need
    Dedicated to
    How I'm killing you
  • Eldritch Abomination: "The Thing That Should Not Be" is inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, specifically "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", in which the eponymous Thing is Dagon.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Aside from the downright instrumental "Orion", all others take at least one minute before the lyrics start.
  • Epic Rocking: The only songs that don't qualify are "Battery", "Leper Messiah", and "Damage, Inc.", being less than six minutes long. Kirk has said in interviews that at the time, "Master" was the fastest song they'd written, eighth notes at 220 beats per minute.
  • Greedy Televangelist: "Leper Messiah" attacks the televangelist practice of promising heavenly rewards for those donating to their cause.
  • Hidden Villain: Cthulhu from "The Thing That Should Not Be":
    Fearless wretch
    He watches
    Lurking beneath the sea
  • Instrumental: "Orion" is an instrumental.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: The use of "Master of Puppets" in the film Old School is a little odd during the scene where Beanie, Mitch, and Frank are kidnapping the pledges, seeing as the song is about drug addiction.
  • Laughing Mad: The Title Track ends in this kind of laughter.
  • Motor Mouth: The Title Drop of the last song is James saying "Damage Incorporated" really fast as the song slows down.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title "Disposable Heroes" doesn't appear in the song.
  • Once per Episode: "Are you alive? How does it feel to be alive?", usually said by James before the solo to "Battery".
  • One-Word Title: "Battery" and "Orion".
  • People Puppets: Invoked by the title track and the album cover.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Damage Inc." became Metallica's second song with profanity after "Whiplash" dropped the F-Bomb on Kill 'Em All.
  • Progressive Metal: Has a lot of characteristics of the then-nascent genre and, if you don't consider it to be one of the first examples of the style, then you'll probably consider it an Ur-Example instead. To give an example of the album's prog credentials, Dream Theater has covered it in its entirety.
  • Protest Song: "Disposable Heroes", which is an anti-war song about a young soldier whose fate is controlled by his superiors.
  • Religion Rant Song: "Leper Messiah":
    Marvel at his tricks, need your Sunday fix
    Blind devotion came, rotting your brain
    Chain, chain
    Join the endless chain
    Taken by his glamour
    Fame, Fame
    Infection is the game, stinking drunk with power
    We see
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)":
    Sleep my friend and you will see
    That dream is my reality
    They keep me locked up in this cage
    Can't they see it's why my brain says Rage
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: "Master of Puppets", but it offers a far less positive view of the lifestyle. It was partially inspired by a friend of theirs who was drug addicted and wound up dying of AIDS.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Two to David Bowie: the title "Leper Messiah" comes from a lyric in "Ziggy Stardust", while the guitar riff just before the final verse of the Title Track interpolates a section of "Andy Warhol".
    • The warning sticker parody above may be a nod to George Carlin. The only one of his Seven Dirty Words not in their list is "Tits", which Carlin said didn't even belong on the list. And they only listed his other six.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: "Battery". and "Damage Inc." sometimes get pegged as this due to James' fast delivery.
  • Song Style Shift: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" has this as the song progresses. "Orion" has this happen in the middle but reverts back to straight-up heavy metal in its outro.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: James plays the first guitar solo in "Master of Puppets", something he'd never done before on an album and would do only rarely going forward.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song:
    • "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" starts out like this, but build up in intensity.
    • "Orion" is this to some extent, especially in the middle.
  • Take That!: "Leper Messiah" is an attack upon televangelism.
  • Title Track: "Master of Puppets:"
    Master of puppets, I'm pulling your strings
    Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
    Blinded by me, you can't see a thing
    Just call my name, 'cause I'll hear you scream
    Master! Master!
  • To the Tune of...: Metallica borrowed the intro of Bleak House's "Rainbow Warrior" for "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"; the bridge is based on "Tom Sawyer" by Rush. The latter was acknowledged by thanking Rush in the album liner notes.
  • Uncommon Time:
    • "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" is in 10/4 for most of its first half. It's probably not the only example on the album, either.
    • "Master of Puppets" has what is commonly believed to be a measure 5/8 in its main riff, but it's actually 21/32. (One more 32nd note than 5/8.)
  • Villain Song: "Master of Puppets" and portions of "Disposable Heroes".
  • War Is Hell: "Disposable Heroes", which alternates between a soldier turned into a Blood Knight, an overlooking narrator noting how dehumanized he got, and a commanding officer who treats the troops as Cannon Fodder. The post-solo part even goes as close to the trope name as possible:
    Why, am I dying?
    Kill, have no fear
    Lie, live off lying
    Hell, hell is here