Master of Puppets: How This Album Came To Be

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 16, 2022

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You can’t NOT have heard of Master of Puppets as a metal fan. But how did it come to be?

Master of Puppets was Metallica’s third album, released on March 3, 1986, and one of the most influential thrash metal albums of all time. It was recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark, and produced by the legendary Flemming Rasmussen, who also produced other Metallica albums. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through every step of the recording process and share some interesting facts about the making of the album.

A Thrash Metal Revolution: Metallica’s Master of Puppets

Metallica’s 1983 debut album Kill ‘Em All was a game-changer for the thrash metal scene. It was the perfect mix of aggressive musicianship and angry lyrics that revitalized the American underground scene and inspired similar records by contemporaries.

Ride the Lightning

The band’s second album Ride the Lightning took the genre to the next level with its more sophisticated songwriting and improved production. This caught the attention of Elektra Records and they signed the group to an eight-album deal in the fall of 1984.

Master of Puppets

Metallica was determined to make an album that would blow away both critics and fans. So, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich got together to write some killer riffs and invited Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett to join them for rehearsals.

The album was recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark and was produced by Flemming Rasmussen. The band was determined to make the best album possible, so they stayed sober on recording days and worked hard to perfect their sound.

The Impact

The album was a huge success and is now considered one of the greatest thrash metal albums of all time. It was the perfect mix of aggression and sophistication that made it stand out from other albums of the time.

The album also had a huge influence on the metal scene and inspired many other bands to follow in Metallica’s footsteps. It was a true revolution that changed the face of metal forever.

Unraveling the Music and Lyrics of Metallica’s Master of Puppets

Metallica’s third album, Master of Puppets, is a powerhouse of dynamic music and thick arrangements. It’s a more refined approach compared to the previous two albums, with multilayered songs and technical prowess. Here’s a closer look at the music and lyrics that make this album so special.

The Music

  • Master of Puppets features tight rhythms and delicate guitar solos, making it a powerful and epic album.
  • The track sequencing follows a similar pattern to the previous album, Ride the Lightning, with an up-tempo song with an acoustic intro, followed by a lengthy title track, and a fourth track with ballad qualities.
  • Metallica’s musicianship on this album is unparalleled, with precise execution and heaviness.
  • Hetfield’s vocals have matured from the hoarse shouting of the first two albums to a deeper, in-control, yet aggressive style.

The Lyrics

  • The lyrics explore themes such as control and the abuse of power, with consequences of alienation, oppression, and feelings of powerlessness.
  • The title track, “Master of Puppets,” is a voice of a personification of addiction.
  • “Battery” refers to angry violence, with a possible reference to an artillery battery.
  • “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” is a metaphor for honesty and truth, dealing with the subject of madness.

Themes of Powerlessness and Helplessness in Master of Puppets

The Album as a Whole

The album Master of Puppets is a powerful exploration of the feeling of being powerless and helpless. It’s a journey into the depths of human emotion, where we discover the control that anger can have over our lives, the grip of addiction, and the enslavement of false religion.

The Tracks

The album’s tracks are a powerful exploration of these themes:

  • “Battery” is a song about the power of anger and how it can control our behavior.
  • “Master of Puppets” is a song about being hopelessly addicted to drugs, and how it can take over our lives.
  • “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” is a song about being held captive in a mental institution.
  • “Leper Messiah” is a song about being a slave to false religion, and how their “messiahs” make a profit off of us.
  • “Disposable Heroes” is a song about the military draft system and how it forces us to the front lines.
  • “Damage, Inc.” is a song about senseless violence and destruction.

So if you’re looking for an album that will make you feel like you’re not alone in your struggles, Master of Puppets is the perfect choice. It’s a powerful exploration of the themes of powerlessness and helplessness, and it’s sure to leave you with a newfound appreciation for life.

The Music of Metallica’s Master of Puppets

The Tracks

Metallica’s Master of Puppets is an iconic album that has stood the test of time. From the opening riff of “Battery” to the closing notes of “Damage, Inc.”, this album is a classic. Let’s take a look at the tracks that make up this legendary album:

  • Battery: Written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, this track is a classic. It’s a fast-paced, hard-hitting song that will get your head banging.
  • Master of Puppets: This is the title track and it’s a classic. Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Cliff Burton, this song is a must-hear. It’s a heavy, thrash metal masterpiece.
  • The Thing That Should Not Be: Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett, this track is a dark and heavy song. It’s a great example of Metallica’s thrash metal sound.
  • Welcome Home (Sanitarium): Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett, this song is a classic. It’s a slow, melodic track that will get your head nodding.
  • Disposable Heroes: Written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, this track is a classic. It’s a fast-paced, hard-hitting song that will get your head banging.
  • Leper Messiah: Written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, this track is a classic. It’s a slow, melodic song that will get your head nodding.
  • Orion: Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Cliff Burton, this instrumental track is a classic. It’s a slow, melodic song that will get your head nodding.
  • Damage, Inc.: Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Cliff Burton, this track is a classic. It’s a fast-paced, hard-hitting song that will get your head banging.

The Bonus Tracks

Metallica’s Master of Puppets also includes some bonus tracks. The original album was re-released with two bonus tracks recorded live at the Seattle Coliseum in 1989. The 2017 deluxe edition set includes nine CDs of interviews, rough mixes, demo recordings, outtakes, and live recordings recorded from 1985 to 1987, a cassette of a fan recording of Metallica’s September 1986 live concert in Stockholm, and two DVDs of interviews and live recordings recorded in 1986.

The Remastered Edition

In 2017, Metallica’s Master of Puppets was remastered and reissued in a limited edition deluxe box set. The deluxe edition set includes the original album on vinyl and CD, plus two additional vinyl records containing a live recording from Chicago. The remastered version of the album also includes some bonus tracks, such as “Battery” and “The Thing That Should Not Be”.

So if you’re looking for a classic thrash metal album, look no further than Metallica’s Master of Puppets. With its iconic tracks and bonus content, this album is sure to be a hit.

The Legacy of Metallica’s Master of Puppets


Metallica’s Master of Puppets has been praised by many publications, and it’s easy to see why! It was ranked number 167 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and upgraded to number 97 on their 2020 revised list. It was also ranked second on their 2017 list of “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time”, and was included in Time’s list of the 100 best albums of all time. Slant Magazine even placed the album at number 90 on its list of the best albums of the 1980s.

A Thrash Metal Classic

Master of Puppets became thrash metal’s first platinum album, and it’s easy to see why. It’s widely accepted as the genre’s most accomplished album, and paved the way for subsequent development. It’s been voted the fourth greatest guitar album of all time by Guitar World, and the title track ranked number 61 on the magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitar solos.

25 Years Later

It’s been 25 years since Master of Puppets was released, and it’s still a stone cold classic. It’s frequently tops critic and fan polls of favorite thrash metal albums, and is seen as a pinnacle year for thrash metal. In 2015, the album was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

Kerrang! even released a tribute album titled Master of Puppets: Remastered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album. It featured cover versions of Metallica songs by Machine Head, Bullet for My Valentine, Chimaira, Mastodon, Mendeed, and Trivium. It’s clear that Master of Puppets has had a lasting impact on the metal scene!

The Master of Puppets: Metallica’s Iconic Album

A Rock Music Revolution

Metallica’s Master of Puppets album was a revolution in rock music. It was praised for its ability to avoid the typical rock music tropes and instead create something new and exciting. Rolling Stone’s Tim Holmes even said that if they ever awarded a titanium album, it should go to Master of Puppets.

Chart-Topping Success

The album was a huge success in the UK, becoming Metallica’s highest-charting record at the time. In the US, it had a 72-week stay on the album chart and was certified gold within nine months. It was certified triple platinum in 1994, quadruple platinum in 1997, and five-times platinum in 1998. It even made it onto Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums ranking in 2003, coming in at No.167.

Listen to the Best of Metallica

If you want to experience the magic of Metallica’s Master of Puppets album, you can listen to the best of Metallica on Apple Music and Spotify. And if you want to own the album, you can buy or stream it online. So what are you waiting for? Get your rock on and listen to Master of Puppets today!

The Damage, Inc. Tour: Metallica’s Rise to Fame

The Start of the Tour

Metallica had a plan to make it big – and it involved a lot of touring. From March to August, they opened up for Ozzy Osbourne in the US, playing to arena-sized crowds. During sound checks, they’d play riffs from Osbourne’s previous band Black Sabbath, which he took as mockery. But Metallica were just honored to be playing with him – and they made sure to show it.

The band was known for their excessive drinking habits while on tour, earning them the nickname “Alcoholica”. They even had T-shirts made that said “Alcoholica/Drank ‘Em All”.

European Leg of the Tour

The European leg of the tour began in September, with Anthrax as the supporting band. But tragedy struck the morning after a performance in Stockholm – the band’s bus rolled off the road, and bassist Cliff Burton was thrown through a window and killed instantly.

The band returned to San Francisco and hired Flotsam and Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted to replace Burton. Many of the songs that appeared on their next album, .And Justice for All, were composed during Burton’s career with the band.

Live Performances

All of the songs from the album have been performed live, some becoming permanent setlist features. Here’s a few highlights:

  • “Battery” is usually played at the beginning of the setlist or during the encore, accompanied by lasers and flame plumes.
  • “Master of Puppets” is a classic in all its eight-minute glory.
  • “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” is often accompanied by lasers, pyrotechnical effects and film screens.
  • “Orion” was first performed live during the Escape from the Studio ’06 tour.

Metallica’s tour was a success – they won over Ozzy Osbourne’s fans and slowly began to establish a mainstream following. And even after Burton’s death, the band continued to make music and tour, becoming one of the most successful metal bands of all time.


Master of Puppets is a classic album that has inspired generations of metal fans. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of Metallica, who put in the effort to make sure their album was perfect. From the songwriting process to the recording sessions, the band put their all into the project and it paid off. So, if you’re looking to make a masterpiece of your own, take a page out of Metallica’s book and don’t be afraid to put in the extra work. And remember, don’t be a “Leper Messiah” – practice makes perfect!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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