One of the most recurring questions in metal is, “why is there no bass on Metallica’s 1988 album, …And Justice For All?” It could be one of the band’s biggest mysteries, or maybe we’re avoiding an obvious answer. Producer Flemming Rasmussen recently spoke with Alphabetallica, revealing it was the band’s choice to turn down Jason Newsted’s tracks. This was the first album following Cliff Burton’s death and while many assume grieving was the reason, we still don’t fully know.
Rasmussen recalled the following:
“What happened was [mixing engineers Steve Thompson and Mike Barbiero] did a mix that they thought sounded really, really good, which had lots of bass in it.
And the bass – let me just point out – the bass tracks on ‘…And Justice for All’ are actually fantastic. Jason plays really well. He probably tried to prove that he was worth, that he was up there with Cliff, which in my opinion he is.
It’s a different style, but he is as good of bass player as Cliff, just in a different way. And I’ve heard the bass tracks and they were actually amazing. They sound good, he plays well. But, they heard the mix and they went, ‘Alright, take the bass down, change this this this and this, and then take the bass down.’ So you can barely hear it. And then once they’ve done that they said, ‘Take it another 3dB down.’
Why they did that – I have no idea! It could be that they were still grieving about Cliff. I have no idea. But imagine my surprise when I heard the album. I was like, ‘What the… What?!’ It got really criticized when it came out, and people got more or less blown away because of the dryness of the sound. It just goes BANG, right in your face.
‘…And Justice for All’ was probably the single album in the last 30 years which has been the most influential in terms of sound for the whole generation of the hardcore metal bands. They all wanted to sound like ‘…And Justice for All.’ That really clicky, high-endy bass drum, all that stuff…
Every time I hear the bass drum like that, I go ‘I’m really sorry about that. That’s my mistake.’ Well, I didn’t mix it!”
Check out the full conversation below: