So, here it is – album no. 9 Death Magnetic. Or should I say I here it will be in a little under week if you were strong enough or just unaware that the album has leaked online. I downloaded it, but Lars is cool with it. Besides, I actually already have paid for the album…so that makes it okay, doesn’t it? I did the same with Reload eons ago.
There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news first: This isn’t the best album Metallica has ever made.
The good news: This is almost unarguably the best album Metallica has made since either 1988 or 1991 depending on how you feel about the carve up in the commercial leaning self-titled album.
Death Magnetic, though birthed in 2008, could also have been released either before the Black album or before the Loads due to the song lengths mid tempo thrash riffs married to rock sensibilities, and some pop sensibilities.
To re-address the bad – James will never unlearn to sing, age has also bought a kind of ‘mad dad’ appeal to his voice which slightly dilutes some of the darkness, and Lars isn’t doing the interesting rhythms he used to, but they’re both trying more than ever. No, this is really a Kirk album because he’s the highlight here having been seemingly chained to a pole outside the studio during St. Anger and indulging in almost U2’s Edge like solos in the mid 90s. The production is good, but there does seem to be an issue with clipping (or unnecessary disortion), but alas this seems to be the trend on a lot of albums now.
Back to the good though is that although there aren’t really any strong singles – the digital songs are just merely good, and not even a full reflection of the rest of the goody bag – as an album it’s quite potent. It starts off with a creepy acoutic riff (not heard since Black) and heart beat that leads into That Was Just Your Life, which wouldn’t have been out of place somewhere in 1990.
Then there’s the End of The Line where the ‘slave becomes the master‘ amidst some almost dissonant sounding riffage which darkens an otherwise fairly straight rocker. The highlight of Broken, Beat & Scarred would be the chorus which is as pure as the venom oozed in the mid 80s.
The Day That Never Comes is a decent single, but it’s let down by having riffs later on that though heavy are kind of a bit too nostalgic.
All Nightmare Long though merges a bit of Load country with a little bit of Slayer. I don’t how that arose, but it seems to work.
Cyanide though is boring and seems to have attracted the most filler riffs in an unneccesary long arrangement. The Unforgiven III can be applauded for not having the chorus “are you unforgiven also?” and neither any motif similarity of the first two, which to me would’ve stunk of laziness. It’s better than Unforgiven II and is a more worthy little brother to the original.
The Judas Kiss and My Apocalypse themselves recall a good Black album song and another variation of Damage, Inc. (St. Anger’s Frantic somewhat being a slower other) in that order.
The instrumental Suicide & Redemption is at the bottom in ‘tallica instrumental greatness but seems to be just about sustainable. Note a Led Zep break down near the end, with basic, almost ‘stock’ Bonham fills.
Out of 10, depending on mood I’d give it 7.5 to 8. The only people who won’t like this are those who have an unrealistic expectation of what the band can acheieve now or didn’t really like the softer growth after Black album; I like Black and a handful of Load songs and the band can’t suddenly forget everything they did post ’96. If you focus on the good conjured up here, you’ll like it. There’s nothing even strong as brooding Load era tracks like The Outlaw Torn & Fixxxer, but in it’s place we get a concise album with no soft twang or stoopid nu-metal posturing.
Metallica could’ve done better because this doesn’t touch any of their back catalogue and longevity is only vouched for after sufficient time passes, but in many years of disappointment (resulting in the ‘epic fail’ of St. Anger), you don’t scoff at a piece of meat that’s quite succulent. This my friends is as good as it gets in ’08. And I like it a lot. I keep playing it at least once a day.
I just look forward to recieving the packaging now.