On Master of Puppets' "Damage, Inc.," James Hetfield lays out Metallica's business plan: "Go against the grain until the end," he bellows, gleefully adding, "Life ain't for you/And we're the cure." The target of the band's bottomless rage in the mid-Eighties was Van Halen's party-rock spawn. With their third album, the self-anointed "anti-Motley Crue" did their worst to carpet-bomb L.A.'s Sunset Strip while broadening the thrash-metal palette. "Battery" opens the album with a Spanish-guitar passage. You can almost see the tumbleweeds roll past at high noon before the band rides in on Lars Ulrich's galloping rhythm — Hetfield barking threats, Kirk Hammett zinging off flurries of moaning notes. More or less every song is about death. With hindsight, it is tempting to read Puppets' morbid lyrics as an omen; bassist Cliff Burton died mere months after the album's release in a tour-bus accident. But, really, with music this ferocious, what else was Hetfield going to sing about: dancing the night away?
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