There will always be a debate with Metallica fans: Cliff Burton Or Jason Newsted? Everyone is conflicted, but most seem to side with Burton’s style of playing. While the two are both completely different beasts – Cliff being home cooking metal and Jason being more precise, both did have a huge purpose, but it seems like Jason Newsted may have something to say to those comparing the two, after his live return was announced.
Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are both former bassists of the iconic heavy metal band, Metallica. They each made significant contributions to the band’s sound and legacy during their respective tenures. Cliff Burton’s innovative playing style and use of techniques such as wah-wah and distortion pedals helped to establish Metallica’s early sound and cemented him as one of the greatest bassists in metal history. Tragically, Burton died in a bus accident in 1986, cutting short his time with the band and leaving a void that has never been fully filled.
Jason Newsted joined Metallica shortly after, following Burton’s untimely death. He played on a bit of the band’s following work and tours, but of course, would be almost entirely audibly left off of …’And Justice For All’ as the bass was seemingly gone; but he provided a solid foundation for the band’s music and contributed to many of their classic songs.
In 2008, drummer Lars Ulrich denied that there was any malice involved in Newsted’s parts on the album being buried to the point of being scarcely audible. “No, it wasn’t intentional,” as reported by Decible.
Lars went on: “Justice… was the James and Lars show from beginning to end, but it wasn’t, ‘F*ck this guy — let’s turn his bass down.’ It was more like, ‘We’re mixing, so let’s pat ourselves on the back and turn the rhythms and the drums up.’ But we basically kept turning everything else up until the bass disappeared.”
Cliff would, in 1991 speak on the consistent Cliff comparisons and he knew his work should have been heard: “With no disrespect to Cliff Burton, I think my picking brought a new tightness to Metallica. Cliff’s sound wasn’t very defined” via an interview with Bass Player and as reported by Guitar World.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to compare Burton and Newsted directly as they each brought different things to Metallica. Burton was a trailblazer and helped to define Metallica’s early sound, while Newsted brought stability and consistency to the band during a time of great transition. Both were important members of the band and left indelible marks on Metallica’s legacy.