Sound — 5
Probably one of, if not THE most anticipated album of 2008, Metallica's attempt to go back to their roots, a hard mission to even take up, let along accomplish, few bands going 20+ years have been able to do this successfully. "Death Magnetic" has been described by band members as "the link between ...And Justice for All and The Black Album". Of course I can see where they place this, there are signs of late 80's early 90's era Metallica, had they of made this album 20 years ago it would of been much more successful and the metal community would of accepted it more so than they have done now. Rick Rubin is placed as producer for Death Magnetic, which is good because I always thought Bob Rock was a complete toss pot. The song writing's definitely the best its been since TBA, a lot of the themes here are about death and loss (the album title for starters). The musicianship is the best it's been in years, there are hints of thrash sections in this, but even with the mid-tempo songs they try to spice it up a bit (even Lars is using a fill here and there). Robert Truijillo who I think is a much better bassist than Jason, mainly because I don't care much for pick-style bass playing, puts some tasteful bass lines where they're needed, the groove in Cyanide is an example. Kirk's solos aren't that good, but they aren't mega-boring tasteless licks that he's been using in Load/Reload, hell there weren't even solos in St Anger, so there's something. James' rhythm playing is top notch, some really good riffs in there which definitely kept my attention, his solo in Suicide and Redemption is enjoyable too. Now, the production.....eek. Well you can definitely tell they got inspiration for AJFA with this, because for one the drums are too high, the bass is too low, and at times there's very little dynamic. If the final mastering was done better, and the tracks weren't over-compressed then the whole album would of been far better, but of course faults lower scores.
Lyrics — 7
As I said before the song writing's the best it' been since TBA, no songs about drag racing here, the themes here include, death, loss, fear, and redemption. I for one would rather that over drag racing any day. The music reflects onto the themes, for example the start of "That was just your life" includes a haunted echoed clean intro to reflect on the character going through insanity. The Unforgiven 3 is a power ballad with touching melodies and includes a slow piano intro and deals with the character going through a depressed state. James' vocal work is good for his age, of course it's no 80's era harsh gritty yells but they fit the music well and aren't irritating and off-key.
Overall Impression — 6
Hands down this Metallica's best album in years, a definite indicator that these veterans still have it in them to go strong. They don't try to push it too far and try and play 10 songs at Damage Inc tempo, they show their age but they also show they're stripes and can hit a punch in the right areas. The top songs for me are * Broken, Beaten and Scarred * The Judas Kiss * The Unforgiven 3 * All Nightmare Long * My Apocalypse - probably the most "thrashy" song on the album All in all this is a good "come back" not their best work by far, but not their worst. If not for the lack of dynamics and the production problems I'd rate this higher but for what it is, it's great.