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 Many will cheer that producer Bob Rock is also gone having been replaced by renowned career resurrector Rick Rubin.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