metal guitar

When they were Monsters: A rare, smiling Metallica band promo photo from the …And Justice for All era. From left to right: Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, Jason Newsted, and James Hetfield.

Photo by Ross Halfin

Impressions from the road with the world’s heaviest band—during their ascent, from the Monsters of Rock tour to …And Justice for All and Load.

We are all in Hell. At least that’s how it seems in Akron, Ohio’s Rubber Bowl stadium, a nearly half-century-old, crumbling concrete relic built to amass the sun’s rays until hot enough to remove the flesh from the bones of the members of the University of Akron’s football team. It’s June 1988, and the first day of a two-show stand for the original Monsters of Rock tour, with Van Halen, Dokken, Kingdom Come, the Scorpions, and, in the middle of the bill, Metallica. One of these things is not like the others. Most play by the old-school rules of metal, and they hit their marks—hard. But not as hard as Metallica, whose set detonates with an almost incomprehensible mix of rage and soul. In the songs they play that day, which include “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” “Harvester of Sorrow,” “Fade to Black,” “Seek & Destroy,” “Master of Puppets,” and “Am I Evil,” there is a world of pain and celebration, of self-doubt and exorcism—all hinged on James Hetfield’s downstroked guitar tones, a tsunami of high-gain amplification, and a drummer who is seemingly trying to beat the Devil back into his pit.

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