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Album Reviews : Metallica – Death Magnetic

By on November 28, 2008

It’s been out for about two months now. It’s had time enough to breathe, stretch it’s legs and run free with the buffalo. The time is right to review the new Metallica album!

The last album that Metallica released prior to Death Magnetic was St. Anger, so on the plus side,  things could only go up from there. St. Anger was hated by pretty much everyone who heard it, as well as by those who hadn’t. I liked the album for about the first year after it’s release, until someone finally got through to me and brought me to the realisation that it was in fact, shit (that was an embarrassing year). There were two sides to this criticism. Firstly, it was a genuinely bad album. From the production, to the lyrics, to the songwriting, it was an album that time is trying to forget. The second aspect of the criticism was the same thing that Metallica have been facing ever since the Black album, namely that people keep comparing their new material to their classics. Whilst this may be understandable, it always resulted in over expectations and inevitable disappointment.

Well, despite some criticisms, Death Magnetic has not been a disappointment. There’s been no disguising the fact that this album has been an attempt to resurrect the glory days of the band. It’s a mixture of fast and angry thrash with a return of Kirk Hammetts best melodic work in recent memory. Even Hetfield, whilst not being able to reach certain heights in his old age, is on top form here, no more of the annoying St. Anger yells or Reload’s country and western twang.

That Was Just Your Life is a great introduction as message of intent. The dark bass intro leads into classic Metallica, hard and heavy with some melodies thrown in to remind the Hammett is still there despite what St. Anger made us believe. End Of The Line builds on this foundation, forcing us to face the reality that they are back with a vengeance.
Broken, Beat and Scarred keeps the pace up, whilst admitting that this is new Metallica, in a good way. The verse and chorus are filled with interesting guitar parts outside of the traditional framework of the bands, whilst still fitting their return to the old school like a glove. The song is brought slightly down to earth with a rather poor guitar solo towards the end, a solo so fast it can circumnavigate the earth one time for every snare note and just and comprehensible.

By this stage, the songs are starting to sound somewhat similar to one another, and you’re beginning to think “twelve of these songs in a row may eventually become boring.” Well, never fear, because The Day That Never Comes is not only vastly different to the rest of the album, but it’s also one of the best songs of the year. The intro will no doubt be a shock to most fans. After I’d finished downloading the track off Napster (;)) I thought someone must have been Rickrolling me. It literally sounds like Coldplay or some other such pop group from England led by Chris Martin. Then the fun begins as Kirk pulls of a tasty guitar lick to go with the dead snare drum that Lars keeps flogging, and away you go. This song is “One” for the 21st Century, in more than just lyrical content. A mellow first few few minutes filled with sweet guitar melodies and a catchy chorus is only the start of it. Some of James’ best vocal work on the album takes you into and aggressive burst of machine gun guitar, before Kirk melodizes to his heart’s content before a cacophony of noise brings the song to an epic close. I should probably stop there before things become a little too intense, but I think you’ve got the message.

Putting in a song on the album titled The Unforgiven III was always going to be a huge risk. Both The Unforgiven and The Unforgiven II were two of the biggest songs on their respective albums, and were instant classics. Something big was needed here to live up to it’s name. Metallica chose violins and piano. OK, so it shouldn’t come as a total surprise and this is similar to what they did for the first two, but here it is put to much better use. The piano intro with the violin coming in over the top does not sounds like Metallica at all, which is a good thing, as I’d trust Metallica to handle a piano as much as I’d trust a madman holding a knife to handle my genitalia. Unfortunately, unlike with the previous Unforgivens, when the distortion guitars kick in here, any emotion seems to be lost immediately and it’s just another song. Luckily, it is still a good song, and the track keeps its soul, continually returning back to the simple violin, bass vocals chorus that makes the song so good. The track is then allowed to build towards the end again, and earn itself a place alongside the previous Unforgivens as a highlight of the album.

The next two tracks, The Judas Kiss and Suicide and Redemption, provide Metallica with the argument tthat hey have tried something a little different on this album. The first is a strange little track which is sometimes hard to get into given it’s jerky nature. It never settles into a grove or just flows. It changes like the weather, and not always for the better. As for Suicide and Redemption, simply put, it’s an instrumental track. It’s not half bad, but there’s no reason why someone (preferably Hetfield) couldn’t have made up some lyrics. I’ve got nothing against instrumentals. In fact, some of my best friends are instrumentals… But the important thing about these types of songs is that they should keep changing throughout. Once you notice a clearly defined chorus-verse-chorus thing happening, it becomes pretty repetitive. Good guitar work in the latter stages goes some way to redeeming this song, but it’s still not the most enthralling song.

My Apoclypse closes the album, reverting back to the classic thrash that dominates most of this album. It’s a fitting close to what has to be seen as a return to form after a long absence from Metal’s street cred list. There is still the matter of the production of the drums, but if you haven’t noticed it I don’t want to spoil the album for you (however, if you haven’t noticed, you are probably deaf and should seriously consider cochlear implants). If you liked old Metallica you should definitely try this album. If you don’t like old Metallica, what the fuck are you even doing here?

8/10

Band: Metallica
Album: Death Magnetic
Year: 2008
Genre: Hard Rock/Thrash Metal
Label: Universal Music Australia
Origin: Los Angeles, California, US
http://www.myspace.com/metallica

Tracklisting:
That Was Just Your Life
The End Of The Line
Broken, Beat & Scarred
The Day That Never Comes
All Nightmare Long
Cyanide
The Unforgiven III
The Judas Kiss
Suicide & Redemption
My Apocalypse
Reviewed by Mathew Boelsen