Joe is a writer, music composer and guitar teacher. He has been writing professionally for the last 10 years. He resides in New York City.
Why no bass on "...And justice for all" is not an insult to Jason Newsted.
...And justice for all album cover
"...And justice for all" is an all time fan favorite album of Metallica fans because of the heavy riffs, fast paced drumming, intelligent lyrics and many other reasons. (If you haven't heard it go put it on now! Then you'll understand).
But it will always be a classic thrash metal album with controversy behind it. It's missing one key element of any great album: bass!
For years people have speculated on why it is, asked James, Lars and Jason on why it is and have made up reasons why.
The official reason from James Hetfield is that Jason's bass lines and his rhythm guitars were in the same frequency and were conflicting with each other in the mix. Now, while that may be true, there is more to it than that.
It's well known that Jason was taking a lot of abuse from the rest of the band die to the fact that he was replacing recently deceased bassist and close friend Cliff Burton. Many people have agreed that he was abused and harassed by them as a way for them to vent their angry and frustration on the death of their friend. So because of that fans believe that this is the reason for the lack of bass on the album. The idea being: to mess with Jason.
Process of elimination
But that isn't the case. Why would Metallica lower the quality of their official album just to mess with Jason? They just released a cover album call "Garage Days revisited" where they introduced Jason to the fans. They could of used that album to do that since it wasn't a major release and contained no original songs. But the bass on that album is heard without any problem.
The problem isn't with that, it wasn't a part of the hazing that Jason received. They may have been rough on him but this would be overboard. To forever have a lesser soundly quality album just to mess with Jason isn't a good enough reason.
To say the frequencies were messing up the mix is a convincing answer but not good enough. You can change them in the studio to better suit the sound. So it wasn't that.
The true problem lays in the songwriting itself. Metallica had recently suffered a great tragedy. The death of Cliff Burton was a true loss of a friend, a band mate, musical genius, superb talent and inspiration. His death fueled the songwriting for the album. They were angry. They resented so much. Yes Jason felt much of that, sadly. But because they needed to vent the anger they took a lot out in the songwriting process. What they came up with was an album that was heavier, more complex, more in your face then any album they had written before. This was an album that was going to change the metal world around. This was an album that was going turn heads (or make people bang them), and it did. This album became the soundtrack for so many who had anger built up inside them and couldn't let it out. This album help people with deal with their own problems in their lives and find something that can help them get through the hard times.
Going into the studio they found themselves with the heaviest material they had ever written. As they went through the recording process they started to realize that this album was going to create a serious effect out there.
Would it make people forget about the beloved Cliff Burton?
Cliff doing what he does best
And justice for Cliff
At the time since this was a new music scene and no one knew what the future would hold they we're threaten with the idea that maybe this album would overshadow the earlier albums and people would forget about Cliff Burton. So, in order to salvage Cliff's name they turned down the bass so people wouldn't think,"this new bassist is much better, they are better off." No it would be a thought more like,"Wow this album is great but the bass doesn't kick like the earlier albums." The album could have easily taken Jason and put him in a higher position with fans immediately but that isn't what James, Lars, and Kirk would have wanted. They did pick Jason because he is awesome and he rocks. He was the only one that was able to play their tunes and fit their style. He was one of them from the beginning. They just didn't want his introduction to the masses to be something that overshadowed Cliff.
Telling people that definitely would have upset fans as their beloved Cliff had just passed away tragically and abruptly and also might have made people think less of Cliff. So to protect themselves from attack by giving another reason that most people wouldn't argue.
They knew that "...And justice for all" was going to be a powerhouse of an album due to their anger from Cliff's death along with the nature of metal and its aggressiveness.
James and Lars thought they were making the right choice but as we all know, making choices in a time when you are hurt emotionally you seldom make the right choice. Sadly all of us must suffer the consequences of their choice.
If you want to solve the problem of no bass yourself then pick up a bass, plug it in, crank up the volume and play along with the album. Trust me, you'll have way more respect for Jason after that.
What do you think?
Keith Abt from The Garden State on January 20, 2017:
I've never bought into the conspiracy theory that Jason's bass was buried in the mix on "AJFA" to haze the new guy. James/Lars may be jerks, but I sincerely doubt they would've wasted several million dollars of their record label's money just for a prank.
I blame Lars/James' insistence on micro-managing the production/mix of the record even though it's obvious from the final product that neither of them had a clue what they were doing. They should've stood back and let the recording engineers/producers handle it, but their control freak impulses wouldn't let them.
I give Jason credit for staying in that band for as long as he did. If it had been me, "AJFA" would've been my last album with them, I would've said "Screw you guys, I'm out" as soon as I heard the final mix.