Sound — 9
Metallica is back. I've had all 10 tracks from this album on my pc for a good week now (I know a friend who got a CD from the leak) and all I can say about it is those three words. Metallica as we knew them have returned. Three years since the band returned to HQ following the huge disappointment of St Anger, Metallica have finally released something that at least can expect to stand out of the shadow that they've been under for 17 years. The thrash is back, but it doesn't once sound dated. The solos are back. Okay they're not all as good as 'Creeping Death' or 'Battery' but they're the sort of solos you should hear on a metallica album and are clearly Kirk Hammett's solos. No Intervention this time. Metallica have taken their old sound into the 21st century at last and in doing so have captured elements of almost all their pre St Anger albums. Here's a track by track. Opener 'That Was Just Your Life' recalls thrashers such as 'Blackened' with a clean built up intro followed by an all our rifforama of a song that just doesn't let up. There is a solo (short but neat and fits the song like a glove) and there is a mammoth chorus (a theme of the album, metallica seemed to have perfected the art of the chorus) and Hetfield vocally shines. This is followed by the Guitar and distorted bass harmony intro of End of the Line which even on first of numerous listens recalls "for whom the bell tolls". The song opens up into another thrash monster, with another great chorus. it's related to old Metallica, but is not dated at all. This song was played live back in '06 under the name 'Death is not the End' but has been altered hugely since then. The Improvement since then is remarkable. Track three is the more Mediocre 'Broken Beat and Scarred' which has a groove that recalls Reload work or maybe even St Anger in places. Has a nice solo and some good vocal work by James but it isn't one of the stronger songs on the album. Track four 'The Day That Never Comes' is as tradition would suggest, an epic. Starts clean (Think 'Nothing Else Matters' mixed with 'One') and turns into one of the heaviest thrash sections that Metallica has ever penned. The Guitar work is awesome and the solo is great too. I heard this live first at Reading Festival and it came across really well. Track five 'All Nightmare Long' is a belting tune. It has all the classic hallmarks of a great metallica song. Machine gun riffery, a long intro (the vocals take 2 mins to come in), a typical kirk solo and new for 2008 a huge chorus. This song really shines and is one of the best of a pretty good bunch. Track six 'Cyanide' which has been in circulation a long time is a grooving track reminiscent of "Sad But True" and "Leper Messiah". There are some sections where it lags but the riffing is incredible in places and there's a nice solo section too. Hetfield vocally shines on this track and it comes across live a lot better than on record. Track seven The Unforgiven III is in my opinion the weakest track on the album. It just doesn't do anything for me at all. Lyrically it's fine but musically I'm not convinced. The Piano intro seemed unnecessary to me. I anticipated a lot more from this than what I ended up getting Track eight The Judas Kiss is another absolute belter and anyone who's seen the "fly on the wall's" from mission metallica will recognise the riff and chorus instantly. This song is what Metallica in 2008 is all about. Pounding riffery, a huge chorus, a huge 2 minute plus solo section courtesy of Mr Hammett and a truckload of attitude. One of the standouts. Track nine 'Suicide and Redemption' is the penutimate track which follows the tradition of "... And Justice For All" and "Master of Puppets" in being instrumental. there's riffs a plenty, the first truly decent bass work from Robert Trujillo, an beautiful and moving orion-style guitar section from kirk hammett and it clocks in at 9 mins 58. The longest Metallica track! The closer My Apocalypse is well worth the 70 min wait up to this point. it's the shortest track by far but is also the heaviest. The song is reminiscent to Testament or Slayer but you can tell that it's a metallica song. There's fast spat vocals, a sweet but different solo and so many chugging riffs that they're uncountable. A great end to the album and a standout track. However a few things let this album down. The mix is terrible yet once more. The bass is nearly inaudible most of the time and when you can hear it, lets just say I expected a bit more than following the guitar (and in some cases not even that) from a bassist of Robert Trujillo's calibre. He may have contributed to every song but this it's sounds even more like no one will ever fill the void of Cliff Burton. The Drums are still too high in the mix and the snare sound, although better than St Angers dustbin lid is still bad. On top of this Hammett's solos only ever threaten to take off on a couple of occasions. However Hetfields rhythm work is flawless yet once more. There are a couple of tracks that let the album down though and my feeling is if they (tracks 3 and 7)were to be removed and the remaining 8 tracks left would be hailed a something near a masterpiece. On The Whole though, this album is a darn sight more impressive than I ever thought it would be. Metallica are back.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrically, Hetfield has recovered completly from the massive blip that was St Anger. He stands out again and his lyrics remain a crucial part of the band's sound and cause them to stand out. The lyrical concept behind 'Death Magnetic' is the dangers of being in metallica's business and all the dangers and problems that rockstars tend to suffer. Addiction is a big theme here and the lyrical theme behind all of the songs is basically the same. However this brings the album together and makes it seem more complete. Lyrical high points include 'That Was Just Your Life', 'The Judas Kiss' and 'Cyanide'. In Terms of vocal Talent, Hetfield's Still got it. The angry thrash vocals of the Justice Era are still there, and it's only in more extreme melodic moments that his voice seems weaker. Since these are few and far between then this is not a problem. However from St Anger this is a step of Goliath's proportions in the right direction. His best vocal performance since justice without a doubt.
Overall Impression — 9
Musically, Death Magnetic lies somewhere between '... And Justice For All' and 'Metallica (The Black Album). The elements of thrash are recalled but are held together by huge choruses and some more mellow moments. Death Magnetic is comfortably better than anything metallica has done in the past 16 years, leaving Load, Reload and St Anger in it's dust. In modern terms, it can compete with any of the best metal releases of the past 5 or so years. There isn't enough to merit it as a classic but it stands alone as a very good album. Among the high points on the album are the return of guitar solos, Massive singable choruses, the return of thrash metal and a return to vocal form for James Hetfield. Low points for me include the poor mix, weak bass guitar work, lar's snare still and a couple of weak tracks that need not have been included. This album however is more good than bad. Were it Stolen, I'd re buy it, but only when I realised how much I missed it. Metallica fans have had to wait a long while for anything that slots nicely next to the 5 classic albums in their playlists. That void is now filled, and fans and band alike can allow themselves a wry smile, knowing a corner has been turned. Standout tracks: That Was Just Your Life, The Day That Never Comes, All Nightmare Long, The Judas Kiss, My Apocalypse