Sound — 4
Well, this certainly wasn't what this 15-year fan was expecting from a top-shelf band like Metallica. The overall sound quality of this album was about as good as if you were to record yourself farting into a running blender. Most of the album is recorded (tuning, low to high) CGCFAD, is extremely muddy and muffled, and the lack of a single guitar solo is depressing and unimpressive. (And I'm one of Metallica's biggest fans and defenders). I would agree that it does sound like there is some sort of new-metal influence. You can hear those kinds of, dare I say, amateur riffs on any Godsmack or Staind album, so for such god-like guitarists as James and Kirk to have to resort to the bare essentials of what I would consider to be "beginner guitar rock" is almost vomit-inducing. Let us also not forget (no matter how much we want to) that the introduction of Lars' popcorn-like snare drum makes his beats sound like a two-year-old pounding on a coffee can. I also agree that there is virtually no need for Kirk to have even showed up for recording sessions. Tell me he didn't study under Satriani so he could play this kind of trash. I have truthfully heard better music from no-name, three-piece garage bands playing in their parents' basements. But, for the simple fact that four people were able to play their instruments together at the same time, I guess it still barely deserves a 2 in my book.
Lyrics — 2
I could probably write a novel about how stupid and redundant these lyrics are, but I'll just attack the main problem that I see. The lyrics are extremely shallow and near-meaningless, almost like they were pressed for time and needed to come up with something... anything, fast. Example: "St, Anger 'round my neck, he never gets respect..." Now to me, that just sounds like you're trying to make words rhyme and nothing else. Where's the heart, the bread, the depth that we have all come to know and love over the last 20+ years? I realize that lyrics are mostly James' department, and that this is their 10th album, but he seems to have lost whatever flare was driving him through the other albums. I also understand that one can only write about war, deception, fear and hate for so long and still avoid monotony. It is this writer's opinion that this album's lyrics have been heisted from the whiny crap-metal bands of today in order to appeal to fans of the likes of Linkin Park, Staind, Disturbed, and the list goes on forever. I think we're all tired of hearing about how angry, sad or inadequate somebody feels, whether we realize it or not. If I want to hear that junk, I'll buy a Good Charlotte record.
Overall Impression — 2
Overall, this is not just the worst Metallica album, but potentially the worst metal album of all time, delivered by arguably the best metal band of all time. It is an engine of media, barely floating, and designed only to appeal to an already apathetic audience and sell records. This album, for lack of a better term, really takes a crap on all things metal. I suppose the next thing we could expect is for Metallica to tour with Nickelback. Metallica itself is more a religion than it is a music icon, and its fans have been left scratching their heads at this one.