VOLBEAT frontman Michael Poulsen says that he doesn't agree with the criticism METALLICA's "…And Justice For All" has received for the bass parts being nearly inaudible, explaining that he is "totally fine" with how the finished record sounds.
While "...And Justice For All" is considered one of METALLICA's classics, it has been criticized almost since the day it was released in 1988 for the lack of any bass guitar on the record. Jason Newsted's playing is virtually buried in the mix — and many fans feel that drummer Lars Ulrich, who had very specific ideas for how he wanted his drums to sound, is to blame.
Poulsen, whose band is opening for METALLICA on the North American leg of the "WorldWired" tour, was asked in a new interview with CBSPhilly.com which METALLICA album really got him hooked on the band. He responded (hear audio below): "The record that really got me going was, like, 'Okay, these guys are fucking great…', because I did hear 'Kill 'Em All' and 'Ride The Lightning', and I thought, 'This is great [and] heavy],' but when I heard 'Master Of Puppets', [I heard] something different happening. Even though you could totally the same band, but you could just hear that they were progressing — the melodies were stronger… everything around it was just stronger. But I became a huge METALLICA fan when '…And Justice For All' was released. That was totally up my alley — great riffing."
He continued: "I'm one of those METALLICA fans who actually really like the sound on '…And Justice For All'. I love the way it all [blends together]. I don't need the bass on that album. I think Jason Newsted is an amazing bass player — I have so much respect for the guy — but, [to] my ears, that record doesn't need bass. I'm totally fine with the totally brutal, cutting guitar from James [Hetfield] and the drum sound from Lars. I really like that album."
In a 2015 interview with Ultimate-Guitar.com, one of the "...And Justice For All" mixers, Steve Thompson, said Ulrich was responsible for the lack of bass on the album. 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 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 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] 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'. 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".