Sound — 10
In Metallica's 5th studio album, self-titled or otherwise known as the "Black Album", the kings of thrash metal have slowed down the speed of their songs. However this is not necessarily a bad thing. While I prefer the Master Of Puppets and Ride The Lightnin style of metal, Metallica has been able to keep their metal roots in this album and put a speed that is around that of Judas Priest, which is a great thing. Every song, including the ballads "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters", has that metal feeling from the opening and best track "Enter Sandman" to the fast pace rhythm of "Through the Never" and the very heavy "Sad But True", the Black album keeps it hard and heavy but instead of the superspeed picking from songs such as "Whiplash" and "Fight Fire With Fire", it replaces it with heavy riffs that will meet your headbanging needs. As far as the solos we are accustomed to when we think of Kirk Hammett, he isn't finger picking his hands apart such as he did on "One" or alternate picking at breakneck speed as on "Trapped Under Ice" but rather having great solos that remind us of Slash's work with Guns N' Roses. It may not be as fast as on the previous four albums, but it will make you very happy. James Hetfield's rhythm guitar work continues to be a thing of beauty, but where we some diversity and where we see him showcase more of his talent is surprisingly on the songs "Nothing Else Matters" and "The Unforgiven". While they may be acoustic parts and not what we are used to seeing Hetfield play, they are heavy and they show that just because it isn't electric, doesn't mean it can't be heavy. Jason Newsted's bass playing is more apparent and more audible in this album, which is a welcome change since... And Justice For All where we were unable hear him nine times out of ten. Jason keeps the rhythm going and actually plays along with Kirk and James, which adds as a very dynamic sound. Finally, we can't forget about Lars, don't worry fans or new fans who have heard the first four albums but have yet to hear the fifth album. Lars keeps his heavy beats, bass petal, cymbals and all in every song, including the ballad songs which have been mentioned before already. Even though they are not as fast pace as Master Of Puppets, they have that same feeling of beating on your desk, steering wheel, wherever you are while listening and you will beat with them that is a promise. Great sound and great songs throughout.
Lyrics — 9
It is well known that James Hetfield is a very, very, talented vocalist and lyricist and he showcases it again. Each song has a list of possible meanings that fans can think about and make it worthwhile listening to again and again to determine. "Enter Sandman" seems to be the easiest of these where it is about nightmares for the most part, but can also be about dying in your sleep or whatever your imagination takes you. Every song though seems to have a meaning that everyone can figure out at least on the first go such as "The Unforgiven" being about an elderly man who has done horrible things to society and his family that make him, well, unforgiven. "Nothing Else Matters" is on a more personal note as it is about James's ex-girlfriend while "Sad But True" talks about you being a slave to someone else's needs. But like I said, it really is all about you, the listener trying to figure out what every song means. It just depends on imagination... Or if you just want to listen and headbang.
Overall Impression — 10
Now let me make this clear, I love Master Of Puppets, Ride The Lightning, you get the idea. But that doesn't mean that I'm not open to other possibilities, and that is what Metallica did. To the Metallica fans who are closed minded people who don't want to listen to anything else other than the first four albums, well, it's your loss. This album isn't Master Of Puppets (I know, I'm using that example a lot, but it gets the point across) but it is right up there with it in my opinion, I actually prefer this over... And Justice For All because it is seems to be more polished and it seems that the band is in perfect sync on every song. Now Metallica could've done the same thing forever, but they decided to try a different approach and it was a great move. This album is heavy as the first four, it's just a different speed and doesn't get the respect it deserves. To those that say Metallica sold out with this album, get your head on straight and listen to it again, they didn't sell out, it's as metal as anything else they made. It's a great album, it's metal, it's headbanger worthy if you listen and it has a great sound to it.