TMS Album Review: Metallica's Death Magnetic

September 05, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

Open up iTunes (or WinAmp if you're like Chip and still live in 1996). Pull up any Metallica songs off their first 4 albums. Spend some time listening to them. Remember what it was like to crank it up to 11 and feel your brain turn into cottege cheese and run out of your eyeballs.

Now pull up some songs from Load and ReLoad. Not the ones that were decent, like Until It Sleeps, Ain't My Bitch or King Nothing (the preferred Freshman Year Dorm Anthem of UNI). I'm talking about the bottom-of-the-barrel songs like Mama Said or Low Man's Lyric. Force yourself to sit through them.

Next, dig up that copy of St. Anger. I'm not saying you should sit through the entire thing, because that would Constitutionally fall under "cruel and unusual punishment" but at least listen to as much as you can without castrating yourself.

Congratulations, you've lived through the roller coaster that is Metallica's sound and career. Now pop in their newest effort, Death Magnetic.

Hear that heartbeat opening the first track? That's the Metallica you remember from their first four albums. And guess what? They're still alive.

I'll admit that I was extremely skeptical of Death Magnetic to begin with, as anyone that paid money for St. Anger will most likely be. A Metallica album without Bob Rock? It didn't seem possible. I'm not saying that Rick Rubin isn't capable of producing an excellent Metallica album, but a lot of the sound Rubin gets sometimes is very ready-for-radio, which is what seemed to doom Load and ReLoad.

Well you can rest easy, true believers. Rubin, Hetfield and the rest of the gang deliver. While certainly not on par with Master of Puppets or ...And Justice For All (but what is?), Death Magnetic seems to balance being both mainstream and thrash-y. It seems like the perfect album to have come out between ...And Justice For all and the Black Album, because there sure are influences from both in most of the songs. Gone are the emo lyrics, tinny snare drums, awful production and the ban on guitar solos that made St. Anger suck a fat one. In its place are 10 songs that seem like they were all the result of intense jam sessions instead of being crafted around a catchy chorus or two. Throw in the fresh perspective and manic playing of Rob Trujillo, and you've got a winning combination. While I wouldn't put it on the level of the band's first 5 releases, it's worlds better than everything else the band has done. Not a hard feat to accomplish, true, but it's still good enough to knock you on your ass from time to time.

Let's check out the tracks:

1. That Was Just Your Life - A lot of this song reminds me of Battery, the opening track off Master of Puppets, as close to a perfect album as you can get if you're a thrash/metal fan. So obviously, Metallica wanted to send the message loud and clear from the get go that Death Magnetic is no St. Anger Part II.

2. The End Of The Line - This one takes a bit of time to get going. For the first 50 seconds or so, it just seems like a bit of mindless riffing (See? More jamming). It's not poorly done by any means, but it's nothing that couldn't be done by 10 other bands I can probably name off the top of my head. This is the song Some Kind Of Monster off St. Anger wishes it could have been.

3. Broken, Beat And Scarred - Another song that takes a while to really kick in. I don't have a problem with not hearing any lyrics until 1:20 into the song. I have a problem with filling the first 2 minutes with the same riff, good or not, over and over again. This will be a good one for football locker rooms, but it's pretty average overall.

4. The Day That Never Comes - I liked this song better when it was called Fade To Black. We know Metallica doesn't have anything against doing sequels to their own songs. So why not be honest with us and call this one Fade To Black II? I'm still a bit confused why this song was their lead single. I think it's one of the weaker tracks on the album. These 8 minutes could be trimmed down to 6 and the song would be much tighter and better. By the end, it just starts repeating itself.

5. All Nightmare Long - This song is one of the ones that will please fans of ...And Justice For All. All Nightmare Long (Not to be confused with Lionel Richie's 'All Night Long') could slot right in anywhere on that album and not miss a beat. The chorus is catchy, the lyrics are vintage Metallica, 

6. Cyanide - Metallica played a handful of shows this summer, including the annual KROQ Weenie Roast in Los Angeles. The only Death Magnetic song they busted out was this happy little number, which was smeared all over YouTube within days. This is another one of the songs that seems to lean more toward Load/ReLoad Metallica than toward their first 4 albums, but it's not bad by any means.

7. The Unforgiven III - I did not enjoy this song one bit. I'll cop to the fact that I actually enjoyed both The Unforgiven and The Unforgiven II, so maybe I went into this one with higher expectations than I should have. After all, this was the third time they went back to the same well. I am ready to declare that well empty and barren. How can you call a song part of the Unforgiven family when it doesn't even stick to the familiar Em-C-G-Am chord progression that every starting guitar player knows by heart?

8. The Judas Kiss - Meh. A decent song, but the multi-minute long solo by Kirk Hammett definitely bumps it up a tad. Still, not very memorable other than that.

9. Suicide And Redemption - I'm not really one for instrumentals, and this one does nothing to 'wow' me. If you've got an excellent piece of music along the lines of The Call of Ktulu, then just let it play, man. But if it's not at that level (which this song is not), would it kill you to throw some lyrics over the thing?

10. My Apocalypse - An excellent way to end the album. Around the two minute mark, My Apocalypse starts to resemble Battery as well, bringing some nice closure to the album. I really don't care for Lars Ulrich as a person. He seems pretentious and suffers from a serious short man/drummer complex. So when I listen to the drums on this song and it sounds like he's do ing so many things that his arms are going to fall off of his body, it makes me like the song a bit more.

Score: 3.5 out of 5.