Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' is First Metal Album Added to Library of Congress

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Metallica in 1985, L-R: Cliff Burton, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield  (Photo: Mike Cameron/Redferns/Getty Images)

Metallica, San Francisco Bay Area's hometown heroes of thrash metal, learned Wednesday that their landmark 1986 LP, Master Of Puppets will be the first metal album entered into the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry.

The Library of Congress included the album in the 2015 registry, which means it was determined by the federal government to be preserved for all time because of its historical significance. It joins 24 other seminal recordings, including John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and George Carlin's Class Clown.

Master of Puppets, the band's third album and last with influential bassist Cliff Burton (he would later die in a bus crash while touring for the album 30 years ago), was not only the band's first release on major label Elektra, but it saw the band move away from the "Thrash Metal" sound it helped develop in the Bay Area in the '80s. Songs like "The Thing That Should Not Be" (posted below) saw the group move away from the breakneck speed and bludgeoning riffs of their first two records, and concentrate on the more subtle aspects of songwriting, such as dynamics.

"Thrash, a reaction against the pop metal of the early 1980s, aimed to renew metal by emphasizing speed and aggression. For example, the song 'Battery' on this album — with rhythm guitarist James Hetfield's galloping power chords, Lars Ulrich's machine-gun drumming, and lead guitarist Kirk Hammet's blinding tapped leads — is as rousing an example of the sub-genre as one could find and the technical proficiency is astonishing," the Library of Congress wrote in an announcement about the 2015 registry.


"However, other songs on the record break free of thrash orthodoxy. Cliff Burton's clean bass lines, volume swells, and careful harmonies, for example, on 'Orion,' set that song apart from the standard metal song."

The album was the first thrash metal record to go platinum, eventually selling six million copies.

Cliff Burton and James Hetfield of Metallica, live in Palo Alto in 1983. (Photo by Brian Lew)
Cliff Burton and James Hetfield of Metallica, live in Palo Alto in 1983. (Photo: Brian Lew)

Drummer Lars Urlich posted a statement on the band's website:

"Who would’ve ever thought that Master of Puppets, a record made by a band hovering way left of the mainstream in 1986, would be granted the honor of being added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress?"

"Master of Puppets is a collection of songs that we consider a defining moment in our formative years and the honor bestowed upon this album is beyond thrilling."

Other Bay Area-related recordings added to the 2015 registry include Santana's Abraxas, which the San Francisco-based group recorded locally in 1970 and features their first number one hit, "Black Magic Woman;" and a recently-discovered 1940 recording from the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco that showcases composers such as Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael playing their biggest hits during a one-of-a-kind concert.

Congress began the registry after passing the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the goal of which was to protect the nation's sound recording heritage. The 2015 registry brings the total number of recordings under the government's protection to 450.