Four months of recording ensued in early 1988 at One on One Recording Studios in Los Angeles. The aggressive complexity, fast tempos, and few verse-chorus structures are complemented by an infamously dry and sterile final mix, done in absence of producer Flemming Rasmussen. The lyrical themes of political and legal injustice project through the prisms of censorship, war, and nuclear brinkmanship. The cover, designed by Stephen Gorman based on a concept by Metallica guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, depicts Lady Justice bound in ropes. The album title is derived from the American Pledge of Allegiance. Three of its songs were released as singles: "Harvester of Sorrow", "Eye of the Beholder", and "One"; the title track was released as a promotional single.
Metallica's previous studio album, Master of Puppets, marked the end of Metallica's contract with the Music for Nations label. Manager Peter Mensch wanted them to sign with British record distributor Phonogram Records. Phonogram manager Martin Hooker offered them "well over £1 million, which at that time was the biggest deal we'd ever offered anyone". His explanation was that the final figure for combined British and European sales of all three Metallica albums was more than 1.5 million copies.