While METALLICA‘s 1988 album ‘…And Justice For All’ is considered one of the band’s classics, it has been criticized almost since the day it was released for the lack of any bass guitar on the record. Jason Newsted‘s playing is almost inaudible — making life hard for current METALLICA bassist Robert Trujillo when he joined the band and had to learn the songs.
“‘Justice’ is the biggest challenge, ’cause it’s also complex in the arrangements,” Trujillo told Rolling Stone Australia. “So as a bass player, it’s kind of open territory, and you cater to the riff, but then you listen to the live stuff, see what Jason was doing. ‘Frayed Ends Of Sanity’ off the ‘Justice’ album is a song that I really wanted to play with the band, and for years and years I was always, like, ‘Let’s play this song!’ But I’ll tell you something, I started working on that song almost from the very first time I joined the band. I knew some day we would play that song, and I knew that if I didn’t do my homework that when that day came, I would have a hard time learning it the week before. So I nurtured that song for years, and we played it for the first time last summer, five times, and it was a dream come true for me.”
He continued: “By the way, the tablature books too were very helpful when I first joined the band. Anything I could do. I wasn’t getting the master tapes back then. It’s a different time now. Nowadays you can go online and you can get the masters for just about any band out there, but back in the day you didn’t have that option. Kirk [Hammett, METALLICA guitarist] uses the tab books sometimes: ‘Let me get the tab books I’ve gotta learn my solo from ‘Dyer’s Eve’ again!'”
In a 2015 interview with Ultimate-Guitar.com, one of the ‘…And Justice For All’ album mixers, Steve Thompson, revealed that METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich was the culprit for the lack of any bass guitar on the record. Ulrich apparently wanted his drums to sound a certain way — even if it meant cutting out the bass.
Thompson explained: “We had to get the drum sound up the way he had it. I wasn’t a fan of it. So now he goes, ‘See the bass guitar?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, great part, man. [Newsted] killed it.’ He said, ‘I want you to bring down the bass where you can barely, audibly hear it in the mix.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding. Right?’ He said, ‘No. Bring it down.’ I bring it down to that level and he says, ‘Now drop it down another 5 dB.’ I turned around and looked at [guitarist/vocalist James] Hetfield and said, ‘He’s serious?’ It just blew me away.”
Thompson added that a terrific performance by Newsted was wasted due to Ulrich‘s meddling, saying: “My only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to at least mix it the way we heard it… It was all there but I think they were looking for more garagey-type sound without bass. And the bass was great; it was perfect.”
Thompson said that he spoke out because he was tired of being blamed for the lack of bass. He remarked: “They flew us out [to METALLICA‘s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2009] and I’m sitting with Lars. He goes, ‘Hey, what happened to the bass in ‘Justice’?’ He actually asked me that. I wanted to cold cock him right there. It was a shame because I’m the one getting the shit for the lack of bass.”
Ulrich told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that fans were extremely vocal about the sound of the album at the time of its release. “I mean, it was unbelievable, you know, ‘…And Justice For All’, ” he said. “People were saying, ‘That’s the worst-sounding record, where’s the bass, and it sounds like it was recorded in a garage, and…’ But, you know, listen, you do the best you can in the moment and then you move on.”
‘…And Justice For All’ was Newsted‘s first full-length album with METALLICA after he replaced late bassist Cliff Burton in 1986.
The album was the first by the band to sell more than a million copies and featured their first radio hit, “One”, which was also the basis of the group’s first music video.
The record was nominated for the first-ever Grammy for “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance”, but infamously lost to JETHRO TULL‘s ‘Crest Of A Knave’.