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Death Magnetic [ 2 LP ]

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  • I have been a Metallica hater since the black album.
    I grew up with Kill, Ride, Master, and Justice.
    Some of you have said my reviews of the black album, load, reload have been too harsh.
    Keep this in mind, Metallica were always seen as the “every man’s” band.
    Four guys in jeans and t shirts who were the guys you went to the bar and had a beer with.
    The original fans were thrilled by the success of “One”.
    But it appeared to all of us long timers that the little success of “One” went to their heads and with one album the band went from the “every man’s” band to the pompous rock star nonsense that Metallica had always stood against.
    They completely changed their sound, their attitude, they abandoned speed metal and started writing pop songs.
    As a fan of “old” Metallica I, along with countless others felt betrayed, insulted and genuinely hurt by Metallica’s new persona. How could this band of four guys in jeans and t shirts, who we put on top, turn their backs on us?
    Was it the pain of losing Cliff?
    Was it the money?
    The reason really doesn’t matter anymore. Fifteen years have passed since the black album and every album since the black album helped solidify my hatred of “new’ Metallica.
    The old Metallica I grew up with and loved was gone and never coming back.

    WRONG!!!!!

    I usually give a band three strikes and their out. Three bad albums and I pretty much abandon the group.
    Metallica had four albums I detested.
    But wait…….
    Rick Rubin?
    Master of Puppets as a template?
    How could I not be curious?
    I bought the cd and was almost afraid to put it in the disc player.
    I was sure this would be yet another disappointment.
    Metallica trying to reclaim their glory days? Yeah right.
    Sometimes you can’t go home.

    I put the cd in and WHAM!!!
    Guitars? Crunchy and heavy.
    James and Kirk NAILED the sound this time.
    Drums? Not irritating like St. Anger. Lars was never the most technical drummer but he’s always been a solid player.
    The bass is still kind of hidden but that’s always been the case with Metallica.
    I don’t understand why people are complaining about the production. It rules.
    Everything sounds perfect.
    The mix is perfect, my only gripe is “The Judas Kiss” will NOT play for the first minute.
    I may have gotten a defective disc. Anyone else have this problem?
    Other than that the production is NOT an issue.

    As for the music itself, in a word brilliant.
    I like this better than even Justice.
    Metallica accomplished the impossible by going back to their roots while making the whole thing sound fresh and updated.
    I’ve already heard the haters saying James’ vocals are shot.
    I can’t disagree more.
    His voice sounds the best it ever has. Not as growly as the old stuff but it’s been a long time since he’s sung that style and he has grown up and so have I. If I want growly I’ll put in a Deicide disc.
    I was never a fan of James’ vocal style from the Black album to St. Anger but obviously it’s paid off, because the guy can actually sing in tune now.
    He sounds very impressive on Unforgiven III.

    Lars like I said, isn’t the most amazing drummer out there but his performance is solid.

    Rob is there in a few parts but he’s not out in front enough, but he still does a damn good job of holding the whole thing together.

    And Kirk……….THE SHRED MACHINE IS BACK!!!
    Solos, solos and more solos, Kirk for the most part abandons the bluesy approach for a full out shred attack. He proves once again why he is considered one of the greatest shredders of all time.
    How many shredders can inject so much feeling into a lead that’s going a thousand miles an hour?

    I’m not going to go into a song by song breakdown, everyone has their own opinion of what songs are good and what songs aren’t.
    I usually say which songs I don’t care for and on this disc, there really isn’t one bad track.
    I will say my favorites are My Apocalypse, All Nightmare, and the song that EVERYONE seems to be ripping, The Day That Never Comes.
    I hear people are saying, it’s just a poor version of Fade To Black.
    Here is the problem I have with people dogging the new album.
    You have the old fans like me who hated new Metallica.
    You have the new Metallica fans who hate the old stuff.
    Then you have the people who will hate them no matter what they do.
    And that really is the problem with this disc.
    It takes everything that was good about old Metallica and updates it with some of the new Metallica influences.
    So both crowds are going to feel alienated somewhat. Like Day That Never Comes, it follows the template of Sanitarium and Fade to Black but it sounds new and fresh at the same time.
    The entire album does.
    I read an article with Lars where he said he was tired of the world expecting Metallica to shoulder the entire heavy metal genre.
    I have to feel bad for Metallica in that regard, it must be pressure beyond belief to have everyone love or hate you no matter what you do.
    In the case of Death Magnetic, they did good. Very good.

    Metallica has pulled off the impossible by going back to their roots and updating their sound without sounding corny or dated.
    People are griping about the lyrics too, their just as good and just as dark as anything off Lightning or Puppets. Honestly people, is there no pleasing you?

    The other big four of thrash should be very afraid.
    Hell, I was very afraid Metallica would go the Testament route and turn into watered down death metal.
    Or the Megadeth route where it’s speed for the sake of speed without any emotion or any kind of memorable song structure.
    Or the Slayer route where the same album has been released for the last fifteen years.
    Anthrax?
    Aren’t they content on touring off their old stuff?
    Have they even released anything new?

    No folks, Metallica did it………AGAIN!!!
    They proved you can update your original sound without abandoning the core elements of what made you great the first time around. The dueling guitars, the smoking leads, memorable songs, harmony.
    Thrash was always a merger of beauty and brutality. The other bands in the big four seem to have forgotten this.
    Metallica has proved that thrash can be done in the old way but with new influences that don’t detract from the original vision.
    I call it thrash for grown ups.
    And in many ways this album reminds me a lot of Over Kill’s “I Hear Black” album.
    An album that was classy, mature and WAY ahead of it’s time.
    Metallica has redefined the metal genre with every release, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
    But damn if they haven’t pulled off the biggest upset of the last fifteen years.
    Completely redefining thrash yet again with a sound that is old and new combined.
    Mature, classic songs that are layer upon layer of awesome riff after awesome riff, epic and majestic.
    Metallica has proven that thrash is alive and well and if done right…..ahem Testament, Megadeth.
    Very much relevant in today’s world.

    Metallica’s original influences of Mercyful Fate, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden can be heard loud and clear along with the better parts of the newer stuff thrown in to make it fresh.
    Easily their best album since Justice.
    I would put it right behind Puppets and a little ahead of Justice.
    People are saying this album bridges Justice and the Black album.
    I have to disagree.
    It’s heavier and faster than Justice and a whole lot fresher, and it bears little resemblance to the Black album at all.
    I have heard other trash talkers saying bands like Otep who were influenced by Metallica have carried the metal torch to places Metallica could only dream.
    Dream on!!!
    Metallica has proven that they are capable of innovative, progressive, genre defining thrash that few if any other bands can replicate.

    Everyone, myself included said, they can never do another Master of Puppets.
    And we were right, that was twenty plus years ago.
    They were different guys then, they grew up.
    So did we.
    Sometimes you can’t go home.
    And after hearing Death Magnetic, I don’t want another Master of Puppets.
    I like this new Metallica who is progressive thrash at it’s finest.
    Metallica did it, and this is coming from a grumpy old man who has hated Metallica for years.
    They gave us not only the best metal album but the best thrash album in the last fifteen years.
    Metallica is back, a force to be reckoned with, hopefully never to be underestimated again.
    Ignore that haters.

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
    REVIEW UPDATE………….
    Now that I’ve lived with this disc, YES the production stinks.
    Still…….great disc but this whole “loudness wars” MUST end.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Going from my review of the CD version, I will say that these tracks are the closest Metallica has gotten to pre-Metallica/Black Album days since …And Justice for All. The tracks are all really good.

    However, there is a huge problem. There is clipping on the CD version. What this means is that you will hear distortion and popping on the CD version, along with a muddying of the instruments, that isn’t intentional. They also turned the volume on the CD all the way up on the authoring side, so the CD is also overly LOUD.

    So you think to yourself, “I can avoid all those digitally introduced problems; I can just buy the vinyl.” Well here’s where the problem arises. These tracks were recorded digitally from start to finish so there is no original analog master. The problem isn’t that it’s digital, it is that Metallica allowed the producers to record their instrument/vocal tracks at or very close to the 0 db level. This means that when mixed for the final stereo mix, the music is already maxed out on the volume side. This means all the clipping they recorded while in the studio made its way into the final mix. This INCLUDES the vinyl mixes as they went with the final mix tapes/files for the vinyl.

    So if you are buying this to avoid the horrible authoring on the CD, save your money as the quality, for all intents and purposes, is just as ruined as it is on the CD.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • [First things first- don't be put off by the fact I gave this album "only" 4 stars. Unfortunately, there's no option for 4 and 1/2 stars, and it wasn't easy to decide between 4 and 5 stars. Read on, and you'll see why this generally pretty damn good album ended up not making the 5 star cut.]

    There’s no doubt that Metallica is one of the most influential metal bands out there, along with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and a handful of others. Starting with the raw, street-level thrash/speed metal of “Kill ‘Em All”, Metallica raised the stakes with the more epic and polished “Ride the Lightning”, and created a bona fide masterpiece with “Master of Puppets”, which managed to be incredibly brutal yet melodic. 1988’s “…..And Justice For All” saw the band attempt to merge the ambitions of progressive rock with a sort of ultra-technical brand of thrash, and surprisingly enough, yielded their first hit single. When they released their self-titled 1991 album, Metallica made a conscious break from the frantic and dense structures of their prior efforts in favor of a much more radio-friendly, arena-metal sound. While it made the band incredibly successful and popular, it also was the first sign of trouble for many fans. While “Metallica” (aka the Black Album)could boast great production and tight (if somewhat mainstream) songwriting, 1996’s “Load” was, for many, a kick in the gut. While the album was promoted as containing as much music as a CD could hold, too much of it was filler, and the music itself was often incredibly unambitious. Songs that started as promising would end up flogging the same 2 riffs to death for far too long, while other songs were filler tracks that were dead on arrival. The new “bluesy hard rock” twist on Metallica’s approach to metal was applied in a rather sloppy and undeveloped fashion, something that continued in “Reload”, 1997’s companion piece to “Load”. While both albums did have some decent singles fodder and some “experimental” songs that were not half-bad (yes, I did actually like “Mama Said”), the overall results weren’t good. Metallica continued to buy time with their “Garage, Inc.” covers compilation, and the live orchestral “S&M” CD, until 2003, when “St. Anger” was released amidst promises of a “return to form”. The energy was there, but everything else went painfully and horribly wrong, and the CD has been gathering dust in my collection since the first couple of listens. Suffice it to say that after St. Anger, I would no longer buy a Metallica CD on pure faith.

    Lars and those other guys must have been reading my mind, because they actually put up the full songs in streaming format on their website right before the launch of “Death Magnetic”, allowing me to judge for myself. And you know what? I bought it as soon as I could, because “Death Magnetic” is their best album in years, finally following up on the tease of a return to form I heard in their 1998 “Mercyful Fate” medley (on “Garage Inc.”). While the end result shows that Metallica wasn’t lying this time about the quality of their new release, it does show them to be liars in a different way. Namely, Metallica tried to justify their mid-90’s direction by claiming they were “playing more naturally”, thus requiring them to be much more simplistic and sloppy.

    The thing is that “Death Magnetic” shows that they could’ve been more organic than “…Justice”, yet still interesting and ambitious. On songs like “End of the Line”, “Load”-era groove and swagger will inundate one riff, only to have the band suddenly kick into a “Master of Puppets”-inspired tight and heavy barking gallop. Indeed, vocals that are reminiscent of 1990s Metallica (and occasionally “St. Anger”), but more energetic, can be found layered on top of song structures that recall past songs such as “No Remorse” and “One”. Guitar harmonies simply abound throughout this album, sometimes even evoking Iron Maiden. “Cyanide” rides on a groovy flow that would be at home on “Load”, with a “Black”-album catchy melody, but seemlessly incorporates a much more complex song-structure midway through. And while other reviews indicated that “Suicide and Redemption”, Metallica’s first new instrumental since 1988, was disappointing and repetitive, I’m not sure which song they were listening to, as it has plenty of variety, and hits hard. The whole CD exudes a shockingly effortless and unlabored feel in general, given how hard Metallica tried to disassociate themselves from metal in general.

    That being said, “Death Magnetic” occasionally stumbles, making what could’ve been a masterpiece merely a very good album. The production is too dry for my tastes, and there are times when James Hetfield’s voice is strained beyond capacity (such as the mid-point of “The Day That Never Comes”). While “The Unforgiven 3″ is a good enough song (with a nice piano intro), a questionable “emotive” lyrical decision midway through the song reeks of cheesiness. In addition, while the constantly shifting and syncopated riffs and beats keep things from becoming too repetitive, there are times when putting in a total shift in key for a few moments could’ve taken the music to a higher level. The truth is that other bands, such as Rage and Blind Guardian, have been filling in admirably in Metallica’s “absence”, and have raised the bar (even if Metallica innovated first). As a result, Metallica is at a bit of a disadvantage, despite the obvious effort they put forth. But that’s like complaining that the pretty Asian girl next door isn’t Helen of Troy. While “Death Magnetic” can’t rise to the level of “Master of Puppets” (few bands ever can top their truly definitive album), it may well knock “…And Justice For All” or “The Black Album” out of their current spots, being less stiff and stilted than “Justice”, and more complex and aggressive than “Black”.

    In the end, I can’t help but recommend this album. For the first time in a long while, my first listen to a new Metallica album was actually a fairly pure joy, where I didn’t feel I had to self-justify enjoying any of it, or where I didn’t cringe that often. Get the album, crank “My Apocalypse”, and you may actually find your head bobbing. Sometimes people do deserve a second chance, and Metallica has re-earned my faith, at least for the time being. Go buy yourself a Jaegerbomb, Lars…..you’ve earned it.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I remember when “Master of Puppets” was the new album, I had played my cassette of “Whiplash EP” to the point where it was worn and wobbled. I won’t say “Master” wasn’t awesome, but I was always partial to “Ride the Lightning.” So when every new Metallica has come out in the last 22 years and people keep comparing them to “Master” I just say, chill out and let it stand on its merit.

    What’s hard is that Metallica will admit that “Load” “Re-Load” and “St. Anger” where not high-points in their career. Infighting, bickering, the firing / quitting of J. Newkid left the band “Broken, beaten and Scarred” Unfortunately with the exception of the exceptional “Symphony” disks and “Garage Inc.” those three records represent in years, over half of Metallica’s career. Is it any wonder then, that with Uber-Producer Rick Ruben at the helm “Death Magnetic” has become the single most anticipated Metallica Album ever?

    As for the album, those of us who grew up with “Ride” “Master” and “Justice” will recognize the song pattern. While “Death Magnetic” has two more tracks (being it was recorded for 80min CD world, not the 45min vinyl one) the placement of the songs is very telling and familiar to those older records. The first track “That was just your life” starts quiet (heart beat, wobling guitar) and then suddenly burst in your face. The second track is about addiction and death (master = addiction, ride = death). The third track slows it down and is more grinding and heavy (“Bells” “Thing” Sad but True”) and the fourth track is a ballad with a heavy second half (“Fade” “Sanitarium” “One”) The second to last track is an instrumental (“Orion” “to live is to die”) The last song is a ripper (“damage inc.” “Dyers Eve”).

    Unlike “Load” and “Reload”, “Death Magnetic” avoids the bluesy, dirty grinding songs, and unlike “St. Anger” this one aims for strong hooks, harmonies structure and flow.

    “Death Magnetic” is not a new “Master” but rather a culmination of everything these guys have every done. While many songs will remind listeners of “Justice” “Broken, Beat and Scarred” is reminiscent of “St. Anger” with its chants of “what don’t kill ya, makes ya more strong” and riffing rather than solos. “Unforgiven III” is far closer to “Unforgiven II” on re-load than the original. The Guitar has that same bluesy, flowing feel and the eastern influence that gave the original its greatest strengths are completely washed away by familiar metal riffing. Not to say the song isn’t good, but without the late Michael Kamen the orchestration just doesn’t life the song the way it should and the chorus builds and builds but doesn’t crest, it keeps feeling like there should be more, some kind of heavy release that never comes. “My Apocalypse” closes the album by channeling “Slayer” as Metallica tries and fails to go back to “Kill `em All.” Not that the song doesn’t rock, it’s heavy, fast and awesome closer, but the feel is forced and the song feels tacked on to a mostly mid to fast-mid tempo album.

    The biggest shocker here may be the 10 min (and longest song) “Suicide and Redemption” the bands first instrumental in 20 years. This is the best they’ve done since “Ktulu”, it’s got more energy than “Orion” or “To live is to Die” but lacks the kind of expressionist solos you’d expect from such an epic. However, the ten minutes goes by fast! I had listened to the CD four or five times before I realized the song had no lyrics!!!

    If there’s one thing missing in all these loooooooooooooooooooong songs (only one song under 6 min) is a true epic. Yes, “All Nightmare Long” “The Day that Never Comes” and “The Judas Kiss” are all brilliant (so is the Black Sabbath inspired “Cyanide”) but nothing comes close here to the epic feel of “master of puppets” “Just for all” “Outlaw torn” or “Fixxxer.” those songs had such a deep, complex feel with so many ups and downs and such a perfect flow (ok, “justice” is the least of the four) that nothing on “Magnetic” quite get’s there.

    I am not in love with packaging, it looks cool with the coffin cut-out but the cut the lyrics out. That’s annoying.

    In the end “Death Magnetic” is just what it needs to be. It’s everything Metallica’s done better than anyone else for over 25 years, it’s most of the best parts of all the albums to date and it’s 100X better almost anything out there. Plus, these guys are in their 40’s, and are harder, faster and more intricate and intelligent than anything these Kids half their age are putting out there. Buy this CD.

    Update:9/16/08
    It’s been confirmed by several sources that the Guitar Hero III version of this album has not suffered from the brick-wall compression of the CD / Vinyl release. Apparently someone decided MP3’s sound better mixed as loud as possible and then clipped of the highest and lowest ranges. So, the retail CD / Vinyl of DM have been mixed with heavy dynamic range compression (meaning they’ve eliminated the difference between soft sound and loud sound) the album now sounds like a wall of noise. This is a too common recording industry practice, it ruins the experience and removes the subtleties of the music. You may notice this CD suffers from a lack of bass guitar, that the guitar is flat, the drums do not resonate, the cymbols are thin and the vocals are often drowning in the music mix. Also, there is a lot of noise, you can not only hear distortion in the music, but their is noise at the beginning and end of every track, which, a CD should not have.

    There are multiple petitions and blogs as well as thousands on Metallica’s own website begging for an uncompressed re-release.

    If you hear the GHIII versions, you may never go back.

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Many Metallica fans have thought of them as sellouts ever since they released their first music video to “One” back in 1989. After they enlisted producer Bob Rock for “The Black” album, Metallica became “radio friendly” with many songs coming in at around five minutes or less. Load and Reload did little to reverse this, and St. Anger was easily the worst CD that Metallica ever released. So it is with good reason that many have been sceptical about what to expect from Metallica’s latest offering Death Magnetic.

    Some significant things have changed since St. Anger. This is the first release from Metallica on their new record label, Warner Bros. Many will cheer that producer Bob Rock is also gone having been replaced by renowned career resurrector Rick Rubin. All of this is somewhat academic, though, unless the music also changed as a result.

    I’m pleased to report that Death Magnetic is somewhat of a Renaissance for Metallica. While it will not be mistaken for what many consider to be the best trio of metal CDs made (Ride The Lightening, Master Of Puppets, and …And Justice For All), it is a marked improvement over what Metallica has had to offer over the past 15 years. Much of what you will hear falls somewhere between Justice and The Black Album.

    Right out of the gate on “That Was Just Your Life” many of the signs of old school Metallica are on display. This song starts with a simple, bare, and undistorted guitar line, but it builds to full on thrash as we see that Lars Ulrich has remembered what drums on a Metallica album are supposed to sound like. Before the first verse starts, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett remind us what the dual guitar lines can sound like. And yes, Kirk Hammett’s soloing is also back, and he does not disappoint. The next two tracks continue to crunch along, but some will lose heart when “The Day That Never Comes” come up. However, it manages to finish much stronger than it starts. As if sensing that they needed to dial it back up, “All Nightmare Long” returns to full on shredding and goes from there. The combined guitar lines and drum line create a tempo that feels like it could match the speed of helicopter blades. This song also finds Metallica on the familiar theme of mental stability heard on “Welcome Home Sanitarium” and “The Frayed Ends Of Sanity” from days of old.

    When I looked at the track listing before hearing any of the songs, I had concern when I saw “The Unforgiven III”. My first thought was, “Do we really need another rehash of the radio hit ‘Unforgiven’?” However listening to the song showed me that my concern was in vane. While “The Unforgiven” and “The Unforgiven II” are fairly straightforward, “The Unforgiven III” is more metaphoric as it relates life’s torment to sea adventures in search of gold gone awry. The lyrics actually don’t include the word “unforgiven” making the title choice a bit puzzling, but I think that “The Unforgiven III” is better than either of its namesakes.

    All in all, Death Magnetic is solid heavy metal CD, but I expect reaction to it to be very mixed. The part of the Metallica fan base who will enjoy this the most are those who liked …And Justice For All and The Black Album. They don’t reach far enough back for the oldest of old school fans while those looking for Load or Reload will also likely be disappointed. Hopefully having a better idea of where this fits in the Metallica spectrum will help you decide if it is for you or not.

    Download this: All Nightmare Long

    Posted on January 7, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now