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By Jean-Pierre Sabouret |

As if coming up with a worthy successor to the incomparable monument Masters Of Puppets wasn't daunting enough, Metallica had to go through the loss of Cliff Burton, who was more than just a bassist: he was a kind of spiritual and musical guide.

Although they would later call on the services of a psychiatrist (see the film Some Kind Of Monster), it was when they started work on this fourth album that Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett really needed the services of a shrink. Poor old Jason Newsted probably could have done with some help as well, coming to terms with becoming the group's whipping boy, especially on this album where he was simply "eliminated" from the mix. Although Lars and James swore that they'd never remix the bass back into ...AJFA it's clearly much more present on this remastery and on the numerous live tracks that feature on this re-release.

Consciously or not, the three survivors of the tour bus accident that killed Cliff on 27 September 1986 were trying to record an album that the he would have liked. With Cliff, the group's horizons had widened, and they had become a sophisticated band whose tastes ran from Bach to the high-flying prog rock of Rush, King Crimson or Yes, from the bluesy hard rock of Thin Lizzy to the southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Allman Brothers… It's clear that Lars and James took Metallica forward in this period, but they pushed their convoluted compositions to their outer limit, with the result being that …AJFA feels like a gigantic cabinet with countless compartments and drawers. Throughout the development period of the nine tracks on this double album (which dates from the last halcyon days of vinyl), things were never easy for Kirk or Jason, which is made clear by the many offcuts and first drafts included in this re-release (running from James's first audio cassettes in 1986 all the way through to the sessions with the whole band from October 1987 to January 1988).

While Cliff's shadow hangs over this album, which is surely Metallica's most "progressive" album, the group was soon to take a turn in another direction. After all, it would have been hard for them to go much further into experimental madness. The paradox is that …AJFA brought the four-piece their first "mainstream" success with One. The the cut-down version made it onto the airwaves and MTV thanks to Metallica's first ever music video. © Jean-Pierre Sabouret/Qobuz


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