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Metallica: The First Four Albums – “Phantom Lord”

“Jump in the Fire” b/w “Phantom Lord” picture disc

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A tight little punk song about metal: that’s what “Phantom Lord” was, before Dave Mustaine left. On 1982’s No Life ’til Leather demo, which featured Mustaine in the lineup, the song lasted about three and a half minutes. On Kill ‘Em All, the song ballooned to almost five minutes.

The filler was a clean guitar passage probably inserted to “de-Mustaine” the song. In the grand history of Metallica’s clean guitar passages, it’s not much – but it’s the first. I don’t know if Budgie’s “Breadfan” was on Metallica’s radar yet; if so, that song’s middle clean passage might have inspired “Phantom Lord”‘s. Note also the chugging E chords that rise up out of the passage – it’s a precursor to the “I was born for dying” part in “Disposable Heroes” three years later.

For me, what makes “Phantom Lord” is its chorus (“Hear the cry of war…”). The song drops down to its IV chord and worms around A, G, and F#. This adds “growl” to an otherwise bouncy jaunt in E.

I don’t find “Phantom Lord” particularly interesting. The title and the opening drone, which sounds like an analog synth, are cooler than the song proper. “Phantom Lord” is respectable, and its place in context is undeniable. But Metallica hit much greater heights – starting with the next song.

— Cosmo Lee

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“Phantom Lord” (No Life ’til Leather demo, ’82)

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“Phantom Lord” (album version, ’83)

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“Phantom Lord” (excerpt) vs. “Disposable Heroes” (excerpt)

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METALLICA: THE FIRST FOUR ALBUMS


Metallica: The First Four Albums – “Whiplash”
Metallica: The First Four Albums – “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”
Metallica: The First Four Albums – “Jump in the Fire”
Metallica: The First Four Albums – “Motorbreath”
Metallica: The First Four Albums – “The Four Horsemen”
Metallica: The First Four Albums – “Hit the Lights”

. . .

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