…And Justice For All is one of Metallica’s finest moments. Almost progressive in the song structure, length and complexity of the nine tracks on the album. However, since it came out, it’s been criticized for its sound. It’s almost tinny, and for the first full length with Jason Newsted on bass, the bass is so buried in the mix, it’s hard to hear. And according to mixer Steve Thompson, the blame for the sonic quality of the album can be placed squarely on drummer Lars Ulrich. In fact, in an interview with Ultimate Guitar, he says that he almost walked away from mixing it as a result:
I’m putting all the other stuff up and everything like this and Hetfield gives a thumbs up. Lars comes walking in a couple minutes later and listens to about a minute of it and goes, “Turn that off” and I said, “What’s the problem?” He said, “What happened to my drum sound?” I said, “You were serious?” or something like that.
Lars was not happy?
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. He 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 wasn’t kidding?
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.
He said we was talked into staying and going with the way Ulrich wanted it, even though the bass was “perfect.” Perhaps the worst part of it is that he said when Metallica were elected to the rock Hall of Fame, Lars questioned him:
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 sh-t for the lack of bass.
The whole rest of the interview, with Thompson talking about how he got into the music industry and working with Guns N’ Roses among other records, is pretty fascinating.
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