Ride the Lightning was released on July 27, 1984. A few months later, the band signed a with a major record label.
When the album first came out, the band heard an "s" word that would occasionally crop up from fans and critics.
One of the album's signature songs, Fade to Black, begins with an acoustic guitar. Overall, the album has more variety than Metallica's debut, Kill 'Em All. Ulrich explains the initial reaction:
"There was an odd reaction to 'Fade to Black' and to the variety of the record. It did surprise us a little bit, I guess. People started calling us sellouts and all that type of stuff. Some people were a little bit bewildered by the fact that there was a song that had acoustic guitars. That was kind of funny because every great Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate record, that was part of their arsenal, too. The fact that we followed down that path surely couldn't have surprised anybody."
The album holds up well, however. Ulrich notes that four of album's songs, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Creeping Death, Fade to Black, and Ride Lightning remain staples in Metallica's live set.