Metallica – Master Of Chicago (Zodiac 019)

Metallica - Master Of ChicagoMaster Of Chicago (Zodiac 019)

Poplar Creek, Hoffman Estates, IL, USA – July 13, 1986

(59:22) Ecstasy Of Gold, Battery, Master Of Puppets, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), The Thing That Should Not Be, Seek And Destroy, Creeping Death, Fade To Black, Damage Inc.

Metallica released their seminal 1986 opus Master Of Puppets they not only raised the bar as a band but also the level of all thrash bands, now almost 30 years later it stands as an iconic release of American metal music. The tour was one of legend, filled with triumph and tragedy. The first triumph was securing the slot as opening band for Ozzy’s Ultimate Sin American tour, a tour that saw the former Sabbath front man having all he could handle with a hungry Metallica. Thankfully there are many recordings from the tour, Zodiac presents us with a release that documents Metallica’s opening set culled from the Summer leg of the tour and what is commonly called a “shed” gig as the venue was an open air amphitheater located in a Northern suburb of Chicago.

The recording comes from a very good audience source that borders on excellent, it is very clear and powerful with a nice mix of music and audience that gives it ambience. There are some quiet conversations that can be heard but are at a minimum and do not distract from one’s listening pleasure and just a bit of hiss is present but does not interfere with your listening experience. Instruments and vocals are well balanced and the recording passes the test when turned up loud. The intro of Ecstasy is the quiet before the calm and the pre recorded Battery intro fails to fully ignite the crowd, once the band hits the stage with the full frontal assault of Battery it is now no holds barred. The playing is very tight, the band is fully in sync with each other as evident on Master Of Puppets as the band continue to grind you to a pulp. James tells the crowd to say hi to Cliff as a prelude to For Whom The Bell Tolls, he plays a great intro through a wah pedal and as Kirk breaks into the leads at the beginning you can here a muffled cheer rise up. I must gives props to Lars, while not on my list of favorite drummers his playing on this night is really solid, he keeps a solid foundation. Kirk gets a short solo at the songs conclusion as sort of prelude to the eerie Welcome Home (Sanitarium), James plunks down the opening chords that seem to rise from the depths, Cliff’s bass comes in very clear and enjoyable. The song builds in momentum and once complete makes you feel like you are ready for incarceration in a quiet spot, James asks the audience “So you like that one or what “, the audience scream their positive response.

The Thing That Should Not Be is slow and ponderous, a bottom feeder type of song so heavy in its brilliance. Cliff’s bass is so fat he gives the song its groove. There is some  feedback squeal in the beginning that is quickly remedied, a great version of the song one can only head bang along to the massive riff. Crowd participation time follows with an oldie but goodie. James asks if the audience is still awake, he knows the answer and demands that they make a bunch of noise which they instantly reciprocate back to him. Speaking of groove, Seek and Destroy has tons of it, when the full band break into the main riff, James demands ”Lets see some action !”. The taper must have been close to the stage as the audience sing along is drowned out by the music although James does acknowledge the “Loud fuckers” at the songs conclusion. Creeping Death is played at break neck speed to finish the main set, James gets the audience to help with the “DIE” chants to great effect.

Due to the band’s overwhelming success they would be award a longer time slot during this tour with Ozzy, they get an encore beginning with Fade To Black, the song is an epic battle of life or death with the music deciding the outcome, the transition to the ever so bad ass Damage Inc is a strange one as it usually is linked with Am I Evil?. Nonetheless Damage is pure aggression, the song just plain kills. The band is making sure they leave an impression like a boot heal on your face, one of my favorites for sure. Great recording, after multiple listening’s I am still in awe of it. For an open air recording it does not have that open air thin sound or whoosh noise so many do and is a treat to listen too.

The packaging is great, full color inserts adorned with live shots of the band from the era as well a Puppets record cover graphics all packaged in a jewel case. There is also a tour book reproduction done in a mini size making for a perfect companion piece. The print is good and clear with the interior text being clear enough to read, certainly a great addition to this set. This release is a no brainer, superb performance, great recording and wonderful packaging, Metallica in 1986 were a force to be reckoned with, as is the Zodiac label with their metal releases.

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