Sound — 9
No more annoying, clanky snare drum. No half-assed, crappy-sounding vocals. Solos left and right (maybe not compared to Kill 'em All, however). Original, catchy, and often fast riffs. An instrumental! Metallica really stepped it up for Death Magnetic, especially in comparison to (the generally considered dreadful) St. Anger. After listening to this album a few times, I'm blown away, and I really have been unable to stop listening lately. It's new, of course, it's a newer Metallica sound, but that's the point - Metallica didn't want to make a repeat album. Everyone expects them to go back to their roots, but everyone should also understand bands change, for the good or the bad. For Metallica, it was most certainly for the good. This album puts St. Anger to shame. I don't even know where to start, really. The album is so great, I wonder how it even happened. Different, and very popular, producer maybe? The addition of a new bassist, rather than Bob Rock's worthlessness behind the scenes? A different approach to writing material? I'm willing to guess these were all huge factors. James and Kirk clearly put more time and effort into making good riffs. Robert's bass can be heard generally pretty well, and his bass lines sound magnificent, especially in the instrumental, Suicide & Redemption. Lars, though his drumming efforts didn't seem entirely promising in the first single, The Day That Never Comes, his drumming can be very complex and fast as hell. In my point of view, his drumming completes a lot of songs rather than just being a part of it for the rhythm (if you know what I mean). His drumming is stellar in Suicide & Redemption, also. Though I don't want to compare it to the old albums (because more than likely whoever is reading this or hears new Metallica, they like the old school stuff better and tend to be picky), there's actually a bit of similarity between Death Magnetic and their old material. And since I have a lot to say about this album - good things - that would probably exceed the character amount in this review, I'll just break down and explain the songs from here. That Was Just Your Life - the song begins with a heartbeat that you'd hear in a really intense part in a war movie. It is followed by a clean riff that sounds like it'd come from the Black Album. Then it just gets heavier, and eventually, faster. The riffs are pretty sweet and catchy, but I'm not really a big fan of the verses that are accompanied by James' vocals. However, the verses are completely made up for when the chorus comes in and the guitars slow down just a little, and James sings I blind my eyes and try to force it all into place. This part really gets me, I don't really know what it is about it, but James sings really well right here and his lyrics are great. The drums in the background really complete it too. Solo, you ask? Hell yes. Brief, but in-your-face and definitely impressive. The End of The Line - starts off with a catchy riff that sounds like a foreshadowing of ass-kicking to follow. The verses are listenable, a bit mediocre, but the chorus is filled with great guitar riffs and it matches perfectly with James' vocals. The breakdown/bridge part (I'm bad at identifying those, and yet I'm writing a review) contains an awesome riff too. The solo in this I find interesting because it sounds like it could come from a work of Tom Morello. It's brief, but interesting. There's a part in this song that seems really out of place. It's slower, and James' lyrics are interesting, like when he says, We bid farewell, the slave becomes the master. But think of this part as the slow, random part in Master of Puppets. Random, but still really good. The part following this is easily the best and most intense part of the song. Broken, Beat and Scarred - one of my favorite songs on the album. To be honest, the introduction doesn't sound very promising - it actually does sound like it'd come from St. Anger. What follows completely redeems the song, however. One of my favorite riff is found in this song, when James' sings, You rise, you fall, you're down then you rise again - what don't kill ya make ya more strong. The riff is in a different form in the verses, which is what make the verses great too. I absolutely love this part, lyrically and musically. The chorus is amazing, with a fast riff and double-bass to really provide intensity. The vocals are excellent too; read the lyrics section of this review and that's what makes the chorus so stellar. James' vocals in this section have a lot of emotional power, at least for me. They just suck you in; it's a goosebumps sort of moment. There's a solo, too. In my point of view, it's okay - a bit generic, but I'm sure many will like it. The Day That Never Comes - the first single. This song told me Metallica was going to deliver a good album. It probably is the most downbeat track, besides The Unforgiven III. But only for the beginning. It is, when you think about it, similar to One - they seem to have the same format, if you will. It starts off with a clean riff, has a heavier chorus, and after a couple of verses/choruses, the instruments guide us into heavier, faster section. From here on, the song is golden. Every part has awesome riffs, and they're so damn catchy, there's no wonder it was the single. This song clearly had potential to reel back in Metallica fans. The solo is great too - fast and elongated. This is definitely one of the best on the album; I'd go as far as to say it's one of the best songs they've come up with. All Nightmare Long - easily one of the best on the album, and I'm sure many of you could have guessed that, judging by the title. The title is just as good as the song (if you think differently, I'm sure the song will at least be good). The guitar has more creativity in it than some of the others, and more catchiness. One of my favorite parts is the chorus, when James shouts, We hunt you down without mercy! Hunt you down all nightmare long! The vocals/lyrics are stellar in this part, and the guitar in the back has sort of an epic feel to it. At one point, after a chorus later in the song, there's a small solo-ish part, followed by a guitar riff that I can't get over. You may not think much of it, but to me (and I'd hope many others) it's one of my favorite riffs that ever came from Metallica. It comes at 5:25 and it's a little brief, but I could listen to it over and over. It's easily ringtone quality (el oh el). The solo after is speedy, and very decent-sounding, which could be an understatement. I'd hope this is the next single, but I don't know how radio-friendly it may be. Amazing song. Cyanide - I think this was one of the first songs to be heard from Death Magnetic. Starts off with distorted guitars with some whammy, then a bass line with drums, and then a bad-ass riff to follow. This is the verse riff and IMO, the verse is better than the chorus, except I especially enjoy when James shouts, Death, hear me call your name! at the end of the chorus. It's altered a bit near the end and sounds even better. The verses are catchy as hell though, so the whole song is worth listening to. There's a little bit of a stretched solo that's all right in the beginning, then becomes a lot better sounding and more focused. They did a great job with this one. The Unforgiven III - the song that I was particularly looking forward to. Unfortunately, it doesn't really live up to my expectations. It sounds okay. The beginning is cool, with a dark, ballad-like piano, followed by a clean guitar riff that also sounds pretty cool and is heard in the chorus. The verses really remind me of something off of either of the load albums, however. Which isn't particularly bad, but there's nothing very special about the verses in this, nor the first three or four minutes of the song, honestly. I will say though, after a bridge section (assuming that's what it is) where James is singing, Forgive me he eventually goes, Why can't I forgive me? It sticks out because at this point, James sounds the best I've heard in a while, and it sounds a bit different from him. But it's bad-ass and beautiful at the same time because of the power it has. I can really appreciate this part. A solo engages from here, and it definitely is one hell of a solo. The last four minutes of the song are totally worth listening to, but this song as a whole isn't really something I'd listen to often, especially considering what the rest of the album has to offer. The Judas Kiss - Definitely an excellent song on the album. Begins with heavy guitars, and works it's way into the simple, yet nonetheless sick riff that was heard in the video that first announced the album name. The verses are incredible in this. Great-sounding riffs with catchy drum beats and James' vocals/lyrics in the back: When you think it's all said and done makes a perfect combination to make a superb song. The chorus, I will say, is a bit generic, but it's not horrible. The lightning-fast (and sometimes whammy'd) solo in this song is awesome too, and there's actually two separate solos. The initial one will sound noticeably more impressive, but both are nonetheless great. Suicide & Redemption - hell yeah! The instrumental! Metallica has no doubt continued their consistently awesome track record of instrumentals. This one is way more modern-sounding (which I suppose it should be, all the songs really are more modern, after all it's 2008). But this song contains the most catchy riffs that I think you'll find on the entire album, though it's hard to say. The riffs hit you the second you turn it on - no slow lead-up that's heard in the previous instrumentals. Bass has some cool moments too. Still, the spotlight is on the guitar and it damn well should be. There's also a slower part midway - sort of reminiscent to that of Orion, just not as elongated. And wowthe solo - it's terrific. Probably my favorite overall on the entire album. Then there's a part near the end where Lars' work is very distinct; it displays a lot more of his talent than other songs may. The riffs though in this song are those riffs that would make someone who doesn't listen to Metallica say, Who is this? because they're so curious and blown away simultaneously. My Apocalypse - pretty good choice as the closer for an amazing album. It's probably the heaviest, most aggressive track on the album, I'd say. The best part, IMO, is when the chorus is first brought in and James (in an interesting way) screams, So we cross! That! Line! The whole sound of the chorus just kicks your ass. The solo is certainly a part that stands in this song, though it may not be entirely long. The song I wouldn't say is amongst my favorites on the album, but it grew on me overtime and it's definitely a great in-your-face song, with a fast tempo constantly, heavy guitars, some crazy drumming, and loud and aggressive vocals.
Lyrics — 9
Okay, so first off, we all have to accept the fact that James probably won't be able to pull off his old school screaming that we hear in songs like Hit The Lights or The Four Horsemen (both Kill 'em All, I know), but I'd safely say that his singing/screaming ability is still above par - it's more than listenable. It's enjoyable. His vocals are especially good in All Nightmare Long, when he shouts: Hunt you down without mercy! Hunt you down all nightmare long! I also really like his more-aggressive vocals in My Apocalypse. One of my favorite parts, vocally, would have to be in Broken, Beat and Scarred, when James shouts Breaking your teeth on the hard life coming! followed by what seems to be the rest of the band in the back shouting Show! Your! Scars! This moment is so powerful, especially since it's backed with double-bass pedals and fast guitar riffs. I think you'll find James at his absolute best singing ability though near the end of The Unforgiven III, when he shouts, Why can't I forgive me? Once you hear it, you'll know. I honestly don't have much to complain about James' lyrical/vocal role in this album. It's not '80s James, but it's sure as hell not anything like Purify, or any other bad examples on St. Anger. He definitely fulfilled the lyrical part sufficiently on this album.
Overall Impression — 10
What this album ultimately all comes down to is two things: 1) is it better than St. Anger? 2) is it anything compared to their old stuff? The answer: I don't know. It really depends on who you are. I can pretty much guarantee more than half of the fans will be satisfied, or more than satisfied. As for me, well, let me put it this way. My brother was able to download the album online, he sent it to me, I couldn't resist. I can't even count how many times I've listened to it, or any of the other songs individually. But what says the most is (and it may be odd), I still 100% plan on purchasing the album. Metallica more than deserve the money. Though I didn't hate St. Anger, there were a few songs that shouldn't have been on there, and the lack of solos was disappointing for everyone. But they have stepped it up significantly to the point where I think it's safe to say this is the best material they've written since The Black Album. Whether it's as good as their old stuff isn't really applicable. They're different - they've been around for nearly three decades - of course they're going to sound different, what band wouldn't? And what fun would it be for a band to have the same sound their entire career? Metallica has a little bit of a different sound, but they certainly have not sold themselves out. It's not '90 southern, heavy rock like the Load albums, and it's not a half-assed album like St. Anger. It's modern Metallica, and they've shown they've still got it in them. They've put blood, sweat, and tears into the making of this beauty. I'm sure Rick Rubin had to be a big contributing factor to the success of this album as well. It's everything a Metallica fan would (or should) want. For me, I thought this album would be good after hearing the first released songs, and it exceeded my desires and expectations. I'm eminently impressed with this piece of work, and I ask for everyone to listen to it with an open mind and stop comparing it to their old stuff because that's their permanent legacy - it's history. Or you may not even need to keep an open mind; the album could just as easily speak for itself.