Sound — 7
5 years after the catastrophic St. Anger album, Metallica release what is probably their most important record since their 1991 "Black Album", or perhaps even since Justice. This is the album that will make up most people's minds as to whether Metallica can still be considered a big player in metal. I bought this album one week after its release, and before i put it on I was filled with a mixture of great excitement and also to an extent great dread. Because if I put this album on and it was an epic fail, then that would be it. I would be forced to admit to all the doubters that the band who to this day I call my favourite band ever was dead. Well; lets start from the start. This album has been called a "return to form", and god did Metallica need it, because the more I listen to 2003's St. Anger the worse it sounds. WIth Death Magnetic, Metallica has attempted to get back to the sound of its first five albums, and to be fair the riffs are back, as are the guitar solos, Lars' snare no longer sounds like a child banging a stick off a binlid, and Hetfield, whilst no longer able to offer his aggressive rasping vocals of Metallica's early work, does at least seem to be making an effort to sing rather than simply shout with a faint melodic inclination as he appeared to do on St. Anger. The production quality is noticably better than on the band's previous album, and the instruments are clearly defined rather than sounding muddy and disorganised as they did on said previous release. In terms of the overall sound of the album, it sounds somewhere between "...And Justice For All" and the "Black Album". The riffs are certainly very reminiscent of these releases, as are the guitar solos, which unfortunately are repetitive and unexciting. Kirk squeezed the last drops out of the Pentatonic Minor 19 years ago, and somebody really needs to tell him that, so that maybe if Metallica make another album then we might be treated to some of the inventive guitar work that we saw on tracks like "Fade to Black" and "Disposable Heroes".
Lyrics — 7
I would cite 1988's "...And Justice For All" as Hetfield's greatest lyrical achievement. After that he became less outspoken, aiming to create more radio friendly material. Popular lyrical themes in Death Magnetic include Hetfield's struggle with alcoholism, in tracks such as "That Was Just Your Life", and a recurring nightmare in "All Nightmare Long". Generally speaking the lyrics are better than on other recent Metallica releases, and fit the music fairly well. Hetfield doesn't sound as good as on the first five albums, but he hasn't sounded as good as that since his blowout in '92, so it's hardly a surprise.
Overall Impression — 9
In comparison with St. Anger, this is a vastly superior album in every aspect. Megadeth's United Abominations and Endgame would be better again, but considering where Metallica were coming from, this is an achievement nonetheless. That was Just your life; Broken, Beat and Scarred, All Nightmare Long and The Judas Kiss are my favourite songs on the album, as these are the songs which I feel have the best melodies and guitar work. The most hyped song is The Day That Never Comes, but I feel that this hype is largely undeserved. For me, this song never quite gets into its stride, and the long guitar solo at the end doesn't fit the song. If it were stolen/lost I would probably replace it. It is certainly an album worth getting, just don't expect another Master of Puppets.