There’s no doubt at all that Cliff Burton died in 1986. Every metal fan in the world knows that, only a complete idiot would suggest he was still alive, right? Well with that in mind, we’d still like to put forward an alternative theory; Cliff’s body might have perished but his spirit survived and is still with us to this day. And it’s trapped in the body of one of the guys from Reign Of Fury.
Now that might seem ridiculous, but give ‘Death Be Thy Shepherd’ a spin and it’ll seem a lot more convincing. This is the kind of high speed, virtuoso thrash that dominated the 1980s Bay Area scene, packed with riffs so sharp they could cut glass and vocals that sound so much like James Hetfield with an English accent, it’d only take a single cry of “Hoo-yeah” to complete the illusion. The only explanation is that they’re possessed from beyond the grave by one of the genre’s most revered icons. Otherwise, they’d just be relying on their own expertise and as every right thinking person knows, that’s not possible. Young musicians are too busy getting their hair done and sexting each other between breakdowns to know how to write proper music. It says so in Revelations.
No, this is the kind of music that can only be created with help from the other side but the spirt of Cliff must have been working overtime because ‘Death Be Thy Shepherd’ is a blast. With only one song falling short of six minutes, purists will love it and there’s a wealth of anthems to sink the proverbial teeth into. ‘Hypnotize The Masses’ for example is a textbook example in how to write a killer single without sacrificing any whiplash inducing brutality, while the excellent ‘All Is Lost’ is a perfectly executed “half ballad,” sombre one minute and mosh inducing the next. ‘Gates Of Sanity’ has some truly incredible guitar work in it (plus a few unexpected but effective death growls), although the highlight has to be the closing title track.
Running to more than ten minutes in length, it’s a remarkable statement of intent. Riffs pile up on each other in increasing intricacy, the chorus is a soaring call to arms and there’s an extended instrumental passage in the middle that could have been lifted from an Ennio Morricone film score. It’s a tremendous piece of work and demonstrates their talent and enthusiasm in equal measure.
Of course, some folks might argue that they owe their success to endless practice sessions and several years of touring the UK underground, but that sounds like no more than superstitious nonsense. It’s the guiding hand of a long dead maestro or they’ve been hanging around crossroads making pacts with demons. Either way, it’s an incredible album and it pisses over everything Lars Ulrich has put his name on in the past twenty years. You don’t make albums this good on raw passion alone, Ghosts or the Devil are the only logical explanation.
it’s an incredible album and it pisses over everything Lars Ulrich has put his name on in the past twenty years. You don’t make albums this good on raw passion alone, Ghosts or the Devil are the only logical explanation.