Sound — 8
It's... different. It's not "old Metallica." It's not bad, but it's not the same. I liked it, for the most part, even if it was lighter and different. It's just... not the same as we would all expect, but it's interesting to listen to now and again. More melodic, easier to pick up (and a hell of a lot easier to play! ), and overall just strangely cool. It's the "accessible but listenable Metallica." It's still pretty good, if not nearly as good as their better days, but it absolutely does not sucks.
Lyrics — 7
Meh... Metallica's had much better before. Not a big fan of most of the songwriting, but the way Hetfield delivers the vocals helps out here. I like his voice for their songs. I strongly prefer the songwriting from Ride the Lightning, but this isn't BAD by any means. Some songs are written well, others come off as mediocre and almost uninspired. A weak point for the album, but overall it was pretty good.
Overall Impression — 8
This album absolutely does not compare to "old Metallica." Don't expect it to. Ever. It's still part of "good Metallica," but it's not that old, nostalgic, thrashy, heavy, aggressive Metallica we all know and love. It's still good music, it's just not the same. All of you extreme naysayers are more than likely uber-metalheads who have this impression that if a song isn't super heavy or lightning fast then it sucks, and if you're not in that category, then either you expected old Metallica and got disappointed, or you're just not taking this album for what it really is - an accessible new direction without ruining the music. I'll admit, some tracks on this album were... horrible (I'm sorry, but I hate The Unforigven. I like Unforgiven III and II was okay... but I HATE the original. It's just so, boring.) You can listen to pretty much any song on the album at random and they're all fairly catchy (even the cursed Enter Sandman, which everyone knows), and they're certainly all listenable. It's an interesting new direction for Metallica, but unfortunately, the albums that followed (until Death Magnetic) just failed. My favorite songs are Wherever I May Roam, Sad But True, Of Wolf and Man, My Friend of Misery, The God that Failed, Nothing Else Matters, and Through the Never (yes, I did like most of this album). The long and short of this all is, if you want a new direction for Metallica that keeps part of the old formula and warps it (in an interesting way), go for this album. If you're an "old Metallica" elitist, don't even bother.