Metallica - Death Magnetic
Record Label: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 12, 2008
They say 30 is the new 20. If this philosophy rings with any truth, then Metallica, who are all in their mid-forties, are really in their thirties. And with the release of their ninth (yes, ninth) studio album, Death Magnetic, their said “youth” makes all the more sense.
Death Magnetic isn’t a tiptoe through the tulips, or a sissy catalog of lullabying ballads and uber-slow “metal” jams. Instead, the band returns to their roots with maniacal riffs and some ripped-jeans attitude.
The album opens with “That Was Just Your Life”, and like many of the spearhead bands of early metal, opens ominously with one lone guitar, slightly reverbed, before punching in heavily with cymbal smashes and crunching distortion. Before long, the listener realizes that this is not the Metallica of the nineties, but a band returning to form with breakneck riffs and advanced arrangements. “The End of the Line” confirms this as well with its own riffage. And sheer riffage it is; riffage reminiscent of Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets. In fact, the guitars stand so far above the rest of the elements that the only other notable element would be Hetfield’s vocals, which under the proper production of Rick Rubin, sound quite pleasant. The drumming is a bore, of course, but then again, it always has been and will always be ingrained in Metallica’s identity.
Nevertheless, “Broken, Beat, and Scarred” shows some swagger with hints of southern metal influence in a song that falls on the catchy side of things with a more repetitious pattern of arrangements and a verse that sings “breaking your teeth on the hard life a-coming.” “The Day That Never Comes”, however, is a snooze-fest and an adrenaline-raught free-for-all wrapped into one. The first half of the song is a melodious ballad, and unforgivenly boring. The second half, however, kicks up the rhythm and is soon locked into Ride The Lightning mode, full of grimacing riffs and solos. “All Nightmare Long” offers the most rampant and tiring arrangements of the whole album, while “The Judas Kiss” is dominated by a pattern of stress chords, introducing a more modern Metallica. “The Unforgiven III” begins with gentle piano, horns, and strings, but doesn’t sound shoddy, marking the best ballad the band has written in years.
If you’re a young one, or perhaps if you’ve only been exposed to the watered-down Metallica of modern rock radio, then Death Magnetic may be a bit of a surprise for you. And for all you die-hards who will never classify the band as a “dinosaur band” and still have Master of Puppets in regular rotation on your iPod, this album will be the glory you’ve been waiting over 15 years for.
However, it is a not a rebirth. The band hasn’t come up with some new ingenious formula for writing metal. Instead, they’ve understood what they have done the best and tried to imitate it: attitude, guitar riffs, ridiculous solos, and at times, power-ballads. But time changes everything, and with years upon years of technological advancements in music production and recording and personal journeys through various musical elements, Metallica have sprung forth on Death Magnetic with one of the best albums of their career, showcasing some of the best guitar work to date, but tipping their hats down and walking with just enough swagger to show that they ain’t dead just yet.