Sound — 8
As most of us know, Metallica emerged in the early 80's and were the frontrunners of speed/thrash metal up until the rest of the world caught up in the 1990's. Over the years the band's sound, writing, and management has changed, but one thing still remains the same: Metallica have proven themselves time and time again as the reigning kings of heavy metal. With their 2008 release, "Death Magnetic," Metallica once again have shown to their ever changing fan base that even though they are nearing age 50 (Kirk being the oldest, turning 46 later this year), they can still rock out as fast and as hard as ever. It's been five long years since Metallica have had a studio release, with DM following up 2003's "St. Anger." Even though St. Anger alienated many of their longtime fans with it's detuned guitars and lack of solos (and in my opinion, songwriting), they came back as good as ever with a new producer (kicking out longtime veteran Bob Rock and replacing him with another: Rick Rubin [Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even Tom Petty]). This time around, the riffs are back to the style of the 80s: long and drawn out intros that set up the songs well, fast paced and half-time verses and choruses, and thank God after almost a decade solos are back! Hammett's solos fit the songs, don't seem forced, and work as natural flowing parts of the songs. Lars's drumming doesn't sound like he's beating on a set of trash cans (a la St. Anger), and a few of the songs incorporate some double kicks, which many will be very glad to hear. The bass work by Rob Trujillo is more evident than it was on St. Anger, and even though Metallica hasn't been a band defined by it's bass playing since the death of Cliff Burton (RIP), it's also evident that Trujillo is a much better fit than Newstead, and even the band has said that his contributions to the song writing has changed the way the band sounds. Overall the sound is good. The listener can hear elements of Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, And Justice For All, Black Album and even Load and Reload. Pretty nice change up from 2003.
Lyrics — 7
My overall thoughts about the lyrics were that they were pretty good, and fit the songs well. Some songs still contain some passages that could have been structured better or even re-written, but for the most part they were good. I think James's voice is still good, and now that they are back in a stnadard tuning, it sounds like it fits the music well. Can't really comment much here because I haven't read ALL of the lyrics yet, but from what I have gotten through so far it's a nice change from the confusing lyrics of St. Anger and Reload. They are more to the point, and the stories being told are much easier to follow. They really paint a clearer picture of what the songs are about, and I could actually see myself in some of them acting out the stories (Unforgiven III being a good example).
Overall Impression — 9
Death Magnetic has proven to a once skeptical Metallica fan that these guys can produce when called upon and I'm gonna step out on a limb and say that St. Anger was a very bad fluke. As for the songs, I thought "That Was Just Your Life" was a great intro, and "The Judas Kiss" was a good change of pace after (sigh, yes... ) "The Unforgiven III." While some may scoff at the idea of a third installment in the "Unforgiven" saga, "The Unforgiven III" was truly a good song and a well deserved follow up to the original and part two, and in my mind making it one of the better songs on the album. While it's a complete contrast and relies more heavily on thier 80's roots to speed metal, "All Nightmare Long" is a good middle track for the album, as well as the song right after it: "Cyanide" which conjures up memories of the palm muted chugging heard on Kill 'em All tracks like "Seek and Destroy." The almost 10 minute instrumental "Suicide & Redemption" will remind many of the instrumentals found on MoP and AJ4A, while it is a little more modernized and groovy. All in all, I love the tracks when played in succession, and didn't have too many negative things to say about the album in it's entirety. My only qualm was that there are still a few parts that many, like myself, will kind of say "WTF?" A few of the lyrical lines and a few (very few) of the musical passages of the album may provoke this thought. Overall, I love this album, love the effort, and am now a reborn Metallica fan thanks to it. Many will still say that new Metallica sucks, and many will still think this album is too mainstream and that they have once again 'sold out.' To those people I would like to quote Lars Ulrich, our favorite pint sized arrogant drummer, from a couple of years back: "People have told us that they think we have sold out... and I agree with them. I tell them that we sell out every night we play." I think it's a great attachment to thier legacy, and would now be more than happy to buy a ticket to see them live again. If lost or stolen I would definately pick up another copy because this album will be one of the better ones of 2008. Thank you Metallica for redeeming yourselves!