‘Metallica: Death Magnetic’ Album Review
It has been 5 long years between ‘St. Anger’ and the release of Metallica’s new album ‘Death Magnetic’. At first, I wasn’t too fond of ‘St. Anger’, but with time a few songs grew on me proving that there was some good on the album albeit missing solos, killer riffs, and a snare that sounds like my kids banging on pots and pans. When I first heard the name ‘Death Magnetic’, I was like what in the world is a ‘Death Magnetic’. The more I listened and read interviews with the band explaining the kind of music that was going to be on the new album, it all made sense. ‘Death Magnetic’ is about death, suicide, destruction and all the fears that come along.
Since 1991 with the release of ‘The Black Album’, fans of old pretty much stuck the final nail in Metallica’s coffin because of the direction they took. Metallica added groovy and blues to the hard and heavy sound in the 90’s and 2000’s, they refined their sound to where the production values were at an all-time high. But the fans of 80’s Metallica wouldn’t have it anymore calling them sell outs and that they lost their edge. While the media praised Metallica for the work they did during the ‘Load’ era, there were a lot of fans out there bashing away that these guys went light. Over the last 17 years of being criticized, I think that the “Hellish Fire” or “Beast” was unleashed in the boys after the ‘St. Anger’ did bring embarrassment to their name.
One of the problems is that if you have not seen the ‘Some Kind of Monster’ DVD documentary, you will not appreciate ‘St. Anger’ or at the least understand it. The production of ‘St. Anger’ came at a cost due to the severe problems with the band and their producer Bob Rock trying to get all creative. At the point of ‘St. Anger’ their fire had burned out from my perspective. While ‘St. Anger’ will always be at the bottom of the list for me of Metallica albums, it was the final straw that lit the “Hellish Fire” in these guys.
Over the last 17 years since ‘The Black Album’ I have enjoyed the various styles of music that Metallica has shared with us. I still hold to my heart their first 4 albums because they are utter masterpieces. But I do like very much all their work from over the years. With Bob Rock stepping down as their producer, Metallica brought in Rick Rubin whom didn’t really spend too much time with the guys on ‘Death Magnetic’ but Rubin did offer something else. Rubin helped bring out the “Hellish Fire”.
After all the Napster lawsuits from the 90’s, Metallica decided to do something that only a few bands have done with upcoming albums. They went on a total marketing blitz since the beginning of summer with “Mission Metallica” and their daily “Fly on the Wall” videos featuring snippets, riffs, the band demoing songs, etc. Then the last few weeks they would go and release full songs on their official site and a video from the album. This negates a lot of the undercover let’s keep everything a secret Metallica methodology of the past. Trust me, the hype will payoff when this album goes platinum in no time.
The band hit rock bottom by 2003 due to all kinds of issues internally and externally. It was like they buried themselves so deep under, that getting them out of the hole was going to be next to impossible. Being beaten, battered, bruised, and left for dead they rose out of the ashes to give us probably their best effort since ‘And Justice For All’. ‘Death Magnetic’ is of EPIC proportions clocking in at over 70 minutes long that go by so fast, you are left there wanting more.
Metallica calls this album ‘Modern Justice’…………and even as the link between ‘AJFA’ and ‘TBA’. Let’s take a look at a track by track review.
1-That Was Just Your Life – When I first saw the name of the song on the announced track list, I was very afraid as to what we would be hearing. If any song on this album comes close to being the missing link between ‘AJFA’ and ‘TBA’ it is this song. The song compares a lot to ‘Blackened’ and ‘Sanitarium’, while others have mentioned ‘Dyer’s Eve’. Hetfield blasts through these vocals and the guy is on fire as his vocals leads into one riff after another. This has to be the best opener right next to ‘Blackened’ and ‘Battery’.
2-The End of the Line – The intro riff kicks major ass and this is Hetfield snarling at his best. This is the intro riff from ‘The New Song’ that they played at concerts in 2006. There are a few places in the song that remind me a bit of ‘Fuel’ from ‘Load’. Hammett continues to blast away as the riffs and solos are insane on this song and goes to show what has been missing the last few years. Things slowdown a bit with the last part of the song, but then James will tell you why “The Slave Becomes the Master.” At this point, the shit hits the fan again and the song goes into high gear. Lars is also in top form here with his military like drumming that helps add to the atmosphere of the song. Now we are only 2 songs in and I have been kicked in the balls a few times already.
3-Broken, Beat & Scarred – This song has the best riffs of the whole album, and the intro has become my favorite of the entire album. Another note is that this intro has that Middle Eastern flavor that Lars kept on talking about being on this album. The way that ‘Broken’ was written, it almost feels like ‘The End of the Line’ flows right into this song without missing a beat. The first 40 seconds will kick your ass and will find yourself bopping your head for the next 6 minutes. Mark my words, this song is going to reign supreme live for headbangers and mosh pit fanatics. Hetfield’s voice is incredible here. The complexity in this song is also off the hook, considering the stoppages at the beginning of the song and then both James and Lars working together make this song one wicked ride. Kirk hits a nice solo here too. My head is going to explode at this point and that is a very scary thing.
4-The Day That Never Comes – The first single to hit off of ‘Death Magnetic’ and a very well done song in fact borrows a lot from ‘One’ and ‘Fade to Black’, but I think that Metallica were trying to strike lightning again like they did with ‘One’. The first half of the song starts off as a typical Metalliaballad, but James isn’t snarling like he did in ‘One’ and maybe that would have been for the better. For the first 4 minutes we have the rhythm and lead guitar over laying each other with Lars going at it with the bass and snare. Once the 4 minute mark hits, all hell breaks loose and this is where we get the ‘Justice-esque’ riff changes like in ‘One’. The complexity of this song can make a non metal fan cringe and run for cover. When I first heard the single, I wasn’t feeling the song, but with time it grew on me. ‘The Day That Never Comes’ could have used a bit more time in the editing room and trimming this song down by 1-2 minutes could have done wonders and made this a total masterpiece. Trujillo does a great job on this song and just listen to him and Lars……pure musical bliss. I do wish that there was more double bass in this song. One reason I think this song worked out well for the video is because it builds, builds, and builds on the suspense factor right to the end.
5-All Nightmare Long – Like ‘That Was Just Your Life’, I was wondering what kind of name is this for a song. ‘All Nightmare Long’ starts off rather slow and builds up into a thrash frenzy and then has that signature ‘AJFA’ multiple changes in pace and then hits you back again. This damn song is so damn evil and boy are the headbangers going to have a good time with this one. This is literally 8 minutes of ‘Blow Your mind/Up Your Ass’ metal. Take the multiple ‘AJFA’ riff and chord changes ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ with a mix of the best of ‘Load’s’ vocals. I don’t know what got into Hetfield, but he was belting those lyrics out like there were no tomorrow and Lars returns with the double bass. This is where the riffs from ‘The New Song’ come into play. While the entire band shines here, Hammett kicks major ass on the guitar with his solo which helps pull the song along. If you are a huge fan of ‘Disposable Heroes’ this song is its offspring. ‘All Nighmare Long’ is the best song on the album with ‘Broken, Beat & Scarred’ coming in second with ‘Judas Kiss’ a very close second.
6-Cyanide – This was the song that debuted at Ozzfest 2008 and was it killer live, but it sounds so much better in studio. The studio version has a much better flow to it and probably would have been the better song to have as the first single to show off some of the hard edge of this album if it were between this and ‘The Day That Never Comes’. ‘Cyanide’ is another song on this album that has that ‘Load’ flavor, but the drumming is just fantastic here. Again, the vocals shine very well on this song and that is one reason why it helps make this a better song even though I still think it is the weakest of the three singles.
7-Unforgiven III – This is the third song that I was a bit baffled about based off of the track listing. I kept on thinking to myself as to how can Metallica release an Unforgiven III. The song starts off rather different for a Metallica song, we hear a piano at the beginning and it is good. After about 30 seconds of the piano, the song bursts into the coined horn sound from the guitar and piano sending a chill down my spine. After the 1 minute mark it picks up getting a bit harder. ‘Unforgiven III’ is different from the other two Unforgiven’s and I was waiting for James to sing, “And the Unforgiven III”; except we get James saying “please forgive me”. This is James tale and he takes us through a ride of forgiveness. For the Load haters, this song does feel like it came right out of that era but with heavier guitar work and riffs. James singing right into Kirk’s solo is the highlight as the last 2 minutes Kirk really goes nuts and with the outro they used I think this is the final ‘Unforgiven’. I can’t wait to see the video for this one as Metallica finishing off tale is of my high utter expectations.
8-The Judas Kiss – This is heavy as hell and the beginning is just kick ass. Very pumping and gut wrenching song which also has that ‘Load’ and ‘AJFA’ flavor, but heavy as hell. The beginning is complexity at its best with the changes in tempo. James singing is some of the best yet on this song, this is one song where his vocals meld in very well. This is a very powerful song and the lyrics will prove that. Listen throughout as Lars continues the machine gun like sounding drumming. It really adds flavor to this song and the main riff is to die for and a thing of beauty.
9-Suicide and Redemption – How much I miss the Metallica instrumentals, but this one is nowhere near the caliber of previous instrumentals. It’s a good instrumental, but felt a bit basic to me. I felt that this song was a tad bit long and boring in some parts. That is one of the issues here too is that editing this song a bit would have helped make it a better song. I have listened to this song plenty of times already and still don’t feel it.
10-My Apocalypse – I am glad that this song follows the instrumental, because I needed it big time. This song has a lot Slayer influences throughout via the vocals, which isn’t a bad thing. I am glad that they made ‘My Apocalypse’ a faster song that to keep the listener on track with ending the album. ‘My Apocalypse’ does remind me a bit of some of the work off of ‘Kill Em’ All’.
‘Death Magnetic’ really took Metallica up a notch and I didn’t expect this album to be this good. I have listened to this album so many times since it became available; I am still in disbelief that Metallica released an album of this caliber. I would say that about 8 of the songs are in proper length, but I would have edited both ‘The Day That Never Comes’ and ‘Suicide and Redemption’. I would go as far as also removing ‘Suicide and Redemption’ from the track list. In my heart, ‘Death Magnetic’ sends a KO punch to ‘The Black Album’, ‘Load’, ‘Reload’, ‘Garage Inc.’, and ‘St. Anger’ even though I immensely enjoyed the ‘Load’ era a whole lot due to its groovy, bluesy, old school, heavy rock. I see ‘Death Magnetic’ as a best of styles from Metallica as that is what has culminated here. Two albums though have a larger influence here; those are ‘And Justice for All’ and ‘Load’.
In a way now I am happy that ‘St. Anger’ didn’t do so well and that these guys hit rock bottom at a point in their life where they picked up the pieces and showed metal and hard rock fans that they are hungry again. I am thinking about the next album already; I do hope that this style in ‘Death Magnetic’ continues to their future work. This “‘balls to the wall” sound here is a thing of beauty. Now that Metallica knows less is more in terms of tracks, in the future, please trim down any songs that may sound like they are going on for too long…..COUGH “The Day That Never Comes” COUGH. Look for my Guitar Hero III Death Magnetic pack review sometime this week.
In 10+ years, if not sooner, ‘Death Magnetic’ will share the podium with ‘Kill Em’ All’, ‘Ride The Lightning’, ‘Master of Puppets’, and ‘And Justice For All’ as their all-time classic albums.