OBITUARY drummer Donald Tardy was recently interviewed on “Speak N’ Destroy”, a podcast about all things METALLICA, hosted by longtime journalist and METALLICA fan Ryan J. Downey. Speaking about METALLICA‘s classic 1988 album, “…And Justice For All”, and the criticism that record has received for its dry mix and nearly inaudible bass guitar, Donald said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “When there’s conversations with my friends… We all agree the songs are killer; you can’t deny those songs. I like the drum production, and some of my friends absolutely hate it. And there is something weird about it; it makes you feel like you just got out of a swimming pool and your ears are a little bit off. And I get that. But maybe because I loved the record, maybe because I loved the drumming on it, and maybe because it fit the production of the guitars and stuff, I just thought it was killer. I had no problem with that.
“I’m not a dude to argue with friends again and again, night after night about production,” he explained. “Trust me — I’ve heard the reviews of our productions over the years. You can disagree or agree, or agree to disagree. But I liked it. And it’s funny that some people just thought it was a bad production. It was a different production, but there’s nothing bad about it.”
While “…And Justice For All” is considered one of METALLICA‘s classics, it has been panned almost since the day it was released for the lack of any bass guitar on the record. Jason Newsted‘s playing is virtually buried in the mix — and many fans feel that drummer Lars Ulrich, who had very specific ideas for how he wanted his drums to sound, is to blame.
In 2021, Newsted told Metal Hammer that he was “fucking livid” when he heard “…And Justice For All” for the first time. “Are you kidding me?” he said. “I was ready [to go] for throats, man! No, I was out of my head, because I really thought I did well. And I thought I played how I was supposed to play.”
Ulrich told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that fans were extremely vocal about the sound of the album at the time of its release. “I mean, it was unbelievable, you know, ‘…And Justice For All’, ” he said. “People were saying, ‘That’s the worst-sounding record, where’s the bass, and it sounds like it was recorded in a garage, and…’ But, you know, listen, you do the best you can in the moment and then you move on.”
In a 2008 interview with Decibel magazine, METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett attempted to explain the lack of bass on “…And Justice For All”, saying that “the reason you can’t hear the bass so well is because the bass frequencies in Jason‘s tone kinda interfered with the tone that James [Hetfield, METALLICA guitarist/vocalist] was trying to shoot for with his rhythm guitar sound, and every time the two blended together, it just wasn’t happening. So the only thing left to do was turn the bass down in the mix. It was unfortunate, but for some reason or another, that album is known for the low end being there without the bass being very high up in the mix. It was an experiment, too — we were totally going for a dry, in-your-face sound, and some people really like that sound. A lot of the newer-generation bands, especially, think that album sounds great. But at the end of the day, it was an experiment. I’m not really sure it was 100 percent successful, but it is a unique sound that that album has.”