When Was Metallica’s ‘…And Justice For All’ Actually Released?
Metallica unleashed …And Justice For All, their fourth studio album—and first full-length following the death of Cliff Burton — on Aug. 25, 1988…
…or was it Sept. 7? Maybe it was Sept. 6?
Wait, it was definitely Sept. 2, right?
Believe it or not, there seems to be no definitive answer to the simple question, "When was …And Justice For All actually released?" Well, until we managed to track down an official response from Metallica's team. But before we get to that, let's examine how this has played out over the years and why there has been such widespread confusion and uncertainty.
Just What Is Truth? I Cannot Tell
Metallica are known for many things, one of which is being experts at archiving their history. Whether it's cataloging their live shows or reissuing their albums with massive box sets that detail every aspect of that moment in their career, Metallica are great at inviting their fans to experience every aspect of their career, past and present.
A release date for a studio album should be a pretty simple conversation. After all, nobody disputes the July 25, 1983 release of Kill 'Em All or the July 27, 1984 release of Ride the Lightning. Even Aug. 21, 1987, the release date of their first EP, The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited, receives no pushback.
But as soon as you get into a conversation about …And Justice For All, exactly when the LP hit store shelves remains a mystery.
For years, Loudwire has celebrated the anniversary of …And Justice For All on Aug. 25. After all, the Recording Industry Association of America says the album was released on that day. Who are we to argue with the RIAA, the very organization that has declared it to be multi-platinum?
Several other places confirm this date, including Spotify, Deezer and Amazon. But many other outlets will have you believe the date lands in September.
In the Sept. 25, 1988, copy of The New York Times, Jon Pareles wrote, "Metallica, speed-metal's prime mover, has sold a million copies of its new album, …And Justice For All, in less than a month." The language Pareles used in his column would lead the reader to believe that the album came out that same month, rather than the month before in August.
Michael Azerrad reviewed the record in the Nov. 3, 1988, issue of Rolling Stone, calling it "a marvel of precisely channeled aggression." This would have been the first issue of the new month following a September release; it seems like it would have been a late review if the record dropped in August.
Wikipedia states a Sept. 7 release, as does YouTube Music.
But what does Metallica's official website say?
Metallica.com is an incredible online experience that captures much of the band's history and it features a very thorough discography for all of their releases. As one might imagine, each release's page includes the official release date.
According to Metallica.com, the release date for …And Justice For All is Sept. 7, 1988.
Case closed? Not quite.
Metallica's official SoundCloud profile lists the release as Aug. 25, 1988.
A culling of Metallica's social media shows very few anniversary celebrations for the record's release, which is strange given they regularly do that on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Even in 2018, the 30th anniversary of …And Justice For All, the band seemed to ignore the anniversary.
But if you were to go all the way back to 2016, you'd find a proper celebration of the album's release…Aug. 25.
(As you do your own sleuthing, it's worth noting that the official "album release day" didn't become Tuesday until 1989; it seems like there were no hard-and-fast rules for releases prior to that, and of course, in 2015 that day changed from Tuesday to Friday.)
Does Anybody Really Know When …And Justice For All Came Out?
The simple question we posed at the start of this—"When was …And Justice For All actually released?"—might not be as simple as we thought. While it's reassuring to simply agree with Metallica's website, how do you ignore the RIAA and the band's own SoundCloud profile?
Regardless of where you land on this debate, we are happy to say that we do have an answer to the question—and it's about as official as it gets.
We got in touch with Metallica's team and they confirmed, "definitely," that Sept. 7, 1988, is indeed the official release date of …And Justice For All.
Is it safe to say "case closed" now?