Metallica: The First Four Albums – “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”

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Bleak House – “Rainbow Warrior”
You may hear a resemblance

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Thus ends the greatest album side in metal history. Side A of Master of Puppets: boom, boom, boom, boom. Four untouchable classics, four songs to know by heart. I realize that thinking of albums in terms of sides is antiquated, but that paradigm shaped how I listen to recorded music.

In addition to discrete songs – also a dying craft – album sides offer another layer of depth. Album sides can complement or refer to each other. They can have their own identities – e.g., Side B of Black Flag’s My War – and I’m sure bands have named album sides (e.g., “Day Side”, “Night Side”), though examples elude me at the moment.

Side A of Master of Puppets is “the epic side”. Not that Side B isn’t; its songs are just a little funkier and not as grand in scope as those on Side A. To put this into perspective, imagine if Reign in Blood started with “Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood” – and then had three more songs just as epic. That’s the power Side A of Master of Puppets has.

As for “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, much of its appeal comes from the fact that it’s easy to relate to. It’s nominally about a mental asylum, but being “labeled mentally deranged” and having others “assuring me that I’m insane” is not exclusive to the institutionalized. As a teenage metalhead, I was doubly vulnerable to such vexations. I did my best to alienate parents and teachers, and was constantly in trouble with authority figures. These words resonated with me:

Just leave me alone

As an adult, I don’t feel that way as much now – and I’m in more of a position to be the type of oppressor the song references. But it’s good to hang on to this song’s fighting spirit. Another metal song comes to mind, Sepultura’s “We Who Are Not As Others”, which repeats its title as a mantra. Being different is something to be proud of. This is one of metal’s greatest lessons for me.

In “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, the seemingly insane don’t think they’re insane. In fact, they see through the eyes of their oppressors: “He’s getting better, can’t you tell?” Now a movie comes to mind, Terminator 2. Sarah Connor is institutionalized, deemed a hazard to others and herself. But, really, she knows what’s up. She’s “got some death to do”, and it’s “the only way for reaching out again”. In contrast to “Battery”, which casts insanity as lack of control, “Welcome Home” portrays it as almost empowering. The guitars, which keep upshifting and uncovering bad-ass riff after bad-ass riff, make that case, anyway.

— Cosmo Lee

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“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”

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METALLICA: THE FIRST FOUR ALBUMS

“The Thing That Should Not Be”
“Master of Puppets”
“Battery”
“The Call of Ktulu”
“Creeping Death”
“Escape”
“Trapped Under Ice”
“Fade to Black”
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”
“Ride the Lightning”
“Fight Fire With Fire”
“Metal Militia”
“Seek & Destroy”
“No Remorse”
“Phantom Lord”
“Whiplash”
“(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”
“Jump in the Fire”
“Motorbreath”
“The Four Horsemen”
“Hit the Lights”

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