Metallica: A Tale of Squandered Potential
Then ...And Justice For All happened. Consensus says that this is the last great Metallica album before they blew their load (pun intended) but I respectfully disagree. It's not just that they were making more overt overtures to the mainstream -- i.e. the video for "One." While providing the template for progressive thrash, the band have clearly lost something by replacing deceased bassist Cliff Burton with Jason
Some of the fire that fueled Kill 'Em All was present on the two subsequent records. By Justice, it's gone, edged out in favor of alternating gratuitous displays of technical prowess and moronic monkey metal riffing that would later inspire Pantera and their ilk ("The Frayed Ends of Sanity," anyone?). The band eschewed spooktactular tales of Cthluhu for forced allegories about 'Nam.
Then this happened:
That's "Steel Monkey," the lead single off Jethro Tull's Crest of a Knave, the album Metallica lost to for the first ever heavy metal Grammy. The lesson they learned was apparently "suck that corporate teat hard." And suck they did. The rest of their catalog hardly seems to merit discussion, though my fondness for Lulu is well known.
No band with so much potential fell so hard so fast into the world of red carpets, personal stylists and Skynyrd worship. It's interesting to ponder what might have been, but not for too long. After all, the longer you think about what might have been, the more you realize just what was lost.
See also: Lulu Is the Best Album of 2011