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Metallica – Death Magnetic

Label: Warner Bros.
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: Rich Catino
Everyone knows Metallica have a lot to prove with “Death Magnetic”. The fans (like myself) who supported the band during the 80’s buying those classic albums “Kill Em All”, “Ride the Lightning”, “Master of Puppets”, and “And Justice For All” on vinyl, attending concerts, wearing their patches on denim jackets, have surely been let down over the past ten years.

Let’s be honest, the albums after the 1991 self titled commercial hit (those being “Load”, “Reload”, “S&M”, and OHH DEAR GOD NO…“St. Anger”) have progressively gone down hill with each. Metallica adopted a more straight ahead hard rock/metal style which is all well and good, “Load” and “Reload” both did have some good tunes looking back, but in the process the band almost abandoned their thrash roots.

Adding insult to injury, Metallica also became more fashionable sporting hip trendy threads to even wearing suits if I recall for a photo on an album single, performing the biggest sacrilegious act by cutting their hair at the start of this whole mess for “Load”. Yes I know the length of your hair means nothing but obviously when all four members of a band chop their hair at the same time a statement is being made. And if you think about it long hair is very much a part of the traditional heavy metallers uniform. Obviously Metallica were selling out.

There is more good than bad to say about “Death Magnetic”. What do I like. “Death Magnetic” clearly has a much better grasp of what a good Metallica arrangement should be like, how a Metallica song should be presented and played. James, Lars, Kirk, and Robert have pretty much dug themselves out of the hole called “St. Anger” away from the malformed disjointed compositions and thankfully from its shitty production, steering more towards the more progressive musical direction on “And Justice For All”. And speaking of “Justice” (all “Magnetic” songs are an average length of seven minutes), lead off track “That Was Just Your Life” is delivered as if the guys were still jamming on demos for said album with those riffs, drums and overall arrangement ideas. Its Metallica being Metallica, finally! Also, James is singing better, singing that is instead forcing his vocal like heard on St. Anger” and Kirk is getting reacquainted with soloing again (notice I said “reacquainted” cause I’ve heard him do better). “That Was Your Life” also includes Maiden twin lead harmonies something that hasn’t been done in years, especially at this level on musicianship. Good for them. “The End of the Line” follows nicely with a very “Puppets” type riffing and drum beat with breaks recalling ideas from the album “Load” which works just fine. Again, some more harmonizing leads. “Broken,Beat and Scarred” at its start, is more closely related to the ‘Load”/”Reload” period with its slower riffing and rhythmic beat but later on, surprise surprise the solo section is the Kirk Hammett I love with very agitative soloing nasty in its intentions. Even part of the track’s last section reminded me of “Kill em All” Tallica. Yeah I know, never thought you would read that, huh?

“Death Magnetic’s” unfortunate first single, ‘The Day That Never Comes”, follows. I found this to be a VERY poor choice for a first single when there is sooo much to prove. Why not pick something like “This Was Your Life”, “My Apocalypse”, or “All Nightmare Long” that takes your head off? I mean that’s where the smart money is.

What don’t I like, and this is this first thing I noticed was Lars’ snare drum is what a blanket is to Linus from the Peanuts. He just can’t get away from it! and his lack of flair really acts as a crutch for what could potentially be great songs. Where are the fills?? Lars needs to stop banging on that five piece baby kit and start playing the way he did on “Puppets” and “Lightning”. I mean really, at times I thought it was like listening to a march for the Civil War. There is not a single decent drum part on “Magnetic” and his playing is one of the albums Achilles heels. We got Kirk back shredding but now we have to deal with Lars’ sub par drumming.

I will never forgive Metallica for writing ANOTHER “Unforgiven”, it is just unnecessary. Nuff said on that.

Another gripe I have is with the shitty, flat, uninspired artwork. What the hell is that on the cover, an un kempt pussy or a coffin to bury themselves into if this album lets the fans down (who cares about the casual fair weather fan or knowledge less Rolling Stones critic)? Again, everything after the self titled album has been treacherous and to boot the Metallica logo was altered and changed to something ghastly. At least with “Death Magnetic” we got the classic logo back. Remember the cover artwork for “Puppets”, “Kill Em All”, “Lightning” as simplistic as it was but sharp as hell, and “Justice”? Ohh I bet you do, all four album covers contain memorable images with an equally bold logo that was a statement in itself.

All in all this is a MUCH better Metallica. Will it ever be as good as what came before? I doubt it. But this is better and something I will listen to more often than not. I like the album but compared to let’s say the latest Testament’s “The Formation of Damnation”, Metallica appear to have climbed to the top of their creative mountain many moons ago.

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