Like the ones they released for Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, and Master Of Puppets, Metallica have packed a ton of stuff into the Deluxe Box Set reissue of their 1998 album …And Justice For All. Unfortunately, this 11 CD, 6 LP, 4 DVD collection doesn’t have everything a hardcore fan would want, and a lot they don’t need, a dubious distinction given that this costs more than buying all of their other albums combined.
Metallica’s …And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set…
naturally kicks off with a remastered version of the album on both CD and vinyl, with a digital version available to download with an included code. Compared to the previous CD editions, this new version sounds slightly better, though only if you listen to it on a good stereo.
Though a good stereo can only take you so far. As fans have lamented for years, …And Justice For All is a rather thin sounding albums, thanks to the bass parts being really low in the mix. One has only to listen to how full such tunes as “One,” “Blackened,” and the title track sound live on later live albums to understand how much this album would benefit from being remixed. Which isn’t to say they should’ve replaced the original version with a remixed one — I’m not a fan of that kind of revisionist history — but rather that including both would’ve this collection that much better.
Next, Metallica’s …And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set has two discs called “Riffs, Jams, & Demos” that are full of solo guitar parts and really early demos. As with the same discs in the previous collections, most of these tracks are not worth listening to more than once, some not even that much, and really only if you want to know how the sausage is made.
Metallica’s …And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set also has a disc aptly titled “Rough Mixes From The Vault.” Unfortunately, my version of the boxed set didn’t have this disc, it has another disc in its place, so I can’t comment on how good or bad these demos may be. Though if the versions on the Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, and Master Of Puppets collections are any indication, most if not all of the tracks are not worth keeping.
Moving on, Metallica’s …And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set next has a series of live recordings on CD, vinyl, and DVD. Unfortunately, all of them are rendered moot for various reasons (assuming, of course, you’re as much of a stickler about live albums as I am). For starters, some of them are incomplete. The shows from the Hammersmith Odeon and the Long Beach Arena are missing songs or parts of songs, while the Seattle one, which was originally released in the Live Shit: Binge & Purge boxed set, is three shows mashed together.
As for the ones that are complete concerts,
the video of the one from The Stone Balloon in Delaware was recorded on a camcorder, and thus doesn’t sound — or, for that matter, look — all that good, while the video of the Shoreline Amphitheatre concert, though recorded professionally, also doesn’t have the clarity you’d want from a live album.
Which leaves the show from The Troubadour, the only concert recording in Metallica’s …And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set that’s complete, professionally recorded, and has good sound…it’s just not a great show from this era. For starters, it took place months before the album came out, so it only has one song from …And Justice For All, “Harvester Of Sorrow.” More importantly, this was the first tour where they got to headline in arenas, and the big live sound they’ve had ever since — the one that’s made them one of the better live bands of the last thirty years — really came into its own on this tour. But they weren’t quite there yet during this show, as evidenced by comparing how rough the transition from “For Whom The Bell Tolls” into “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” was during this show compared to the later ones in this collection.
As for the rest of Metallica’s …And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set, it has a ton of things that, while interesting, are nothing you’ll want to listen to or watch more than once. It has a bunch of one-off live tracks on both audio and video, including all of the ones released as the B-sides of singles; live TV appearances; the radio edits of “One,” “Eye Of The Beholder,” and the title track, which are just shorter versions of those songs; an entire disc of audio interviews; some video interviews; both versions of the “One” music video, as well as the intro by drummer Lars Ulrich from the 2 Of One home video. The only exception to this are the covers of Budge’s “Breadfan” and Diamond Head’s “The Prince,” which are great, as anyone interested in this collection already knows because they probably own Garage Inc.
Rounding out the…And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set is a laminated all access pass from their Damaged Justice world tour, a replica of the “One” picture disc (though the live version of “Seek & Destroy” is also included on the CD with the other B-sides), three patches, sheets of lyrics, and a handsome hardcover book that delves into the making of the album with a ton of photos as well as recollections from producer Flemming Rasmussen, mixing engineers Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, tour mates Sammy Hagar and ex-Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin, and even the guy who designed the cover art. Though not, oddly, any of the guys in the band.
All of which is ultimately why I can’t,
in good conscious, recommend Metallica’s …And Justice For All: Deluxe Box Set to anyone who isn’t a completionist or who doesn’t care as much as I do about live shows being complete, single-sourced, or having great sound. Especially since the remastered (but not remixed) version of the album is available separately. Because while this has more than we need, it doesn’t have everything we want.