When looking through the Metallica highlight reel of their career, producer Flemming Rasmussen tends to get left out of the conversation more often than not.
Before the bass-less sound of And Justice For All or the commercial crossover that they did with Bob Rock on The Black Album, Flemming was the one known for whipping the guys into shape, turning albums like Master of Puppets into classics of thrash metal.
While everything was going well off the strength of Ride the Lightning though, the four horsemen actually almost got a progressive rock legend behind the board for Metallica’s magnum opus.
Before settling with Flemming to make the record again, Metallica’s original plan was to ask Rush’s Geddy Lee to serve as producer for the record.
While Rush might not have been at their heaviest at the time, Lars Ulrich had been a huge fan since their early days, citing Neil Peart as one of his biggest drum influences and even rubbing elbows with the Canadian icons beforehand when he got to speak with Neil about drums back in their prime.
As Lars himself recalls: “We thought if we were going to get a producer, maybe it should be someone a bit different. So, the first name that was kicked around was someone named Geddy Lee, who plays bass in Rush.
We were actually very keen on getting him, and he was very keen on working [with us]. He was a very good friend of our management. He came out to our show in Toronto and we got on with him really well.
Basically what happened was that there was a sort of “conflict schedule”. He couldn’t do it because of his commitments with Rush.”
As Geddy tells it, Lars’s recount was pretty spot on: “There was some discussion with Lars, back in the day, about working with them. This was before Master of Puppets came out, I think? There was talk, you know. I was friends with their management, and I met Lars back in England.
I remember going to see them here in Toronto when they played at the Masonic Temple. That’s when Cliff Burton was still happening. You know, before that tragedy. And, you know, we talked about it, and I liked their band a lot at that time. But it just never came together.”
While most of the recording issues could have come down to timing with both bands touring, Geddy was already transitioning away from metal at the time, saying “I don’t listen to a lot of metal.
Even though there’s an aspect of our sound that can be quite metal, I sort of attribute it more to early metal, in the way that Zeppelin were metal and in the way that Black Sabbath were metal, and Blue Cheer were metal.
And that’s the sort of tradition of metal that we took on. I like Metallica. I’ve got great respect for them. But, you won’t hear too much speed metal or death metal in my house.”
Looking back on it though, us thrash fans may have lost out on a big opportunity here. The sound of Master of Puppets is absolutely perfect for what it is, but it can drive you mad just thinking what songs like “Orion” would sound like if given that real progressive touch.
Or who knows, maybe a Geddy Lee touch wouldn’t changed the sound in such a way that Puppets wouldn’t be the absolute classic that it is today. Guess we’ll never know…