Ardent Metallica fans have been under the influence of the skeptic inside ever since the release of their new full length studio album was announced. The previously much awaited return of the masters of thrash ended in mixed emotions after the disappointment that was St. Anger. So it’s no surprise that I was slightly apprehensive when I held it in my hands for the first time.
Well the cover is classic Metallica at least. An open grave with a suspiciously metallic looking coffin with the soil spread around in a circular pattern. Sort of like the behavior of iron around a magnet. Death Magnetic, get it?
Right, well, on to the important bits, like the actual music for instance. First, an overview of how the whole thing sounds; Every single Metallica album I’ve listened to in the past, with the exception of St. Anger , have required a second listen at least, for the full appreciation of its musical content. This is especially true of the first four absolute smashers they released before they went slightly more commercial with The Black Album (1991). And as I thankfully discovered, Death Magnetic started sounding better and better the more I listened to it. It’s a sort of a mishmash of the various styles of music adopted by the band over the ages. Think a generous dose of difference from all of the first four albums with some elements thrown in from their later efforts such as Black and Load/Re-Load.
pic - the early days
But to say it equals any of the first four in quality and pure power would be an overstatement. I would say the album it most resembles at most times would be '..And Justice for All'. It produces a quality of music that I can only call raw, blunt and it hits you right in the head.
But the great disappointment of Death Magnetic (yes, there is one) is the absence of Kirk Hammet. Oh physically his presence is there and it is obvious that some great guitar work has come in from that genius brain of his but the magic of his rip roaring solos are nowhere to be seen in their former glory. I’m talking haunting stuff like Fade to Black, Creeping Death, One, Ride the lightning and I could go on and on. I’m wondering if Hammet simply doesn’t do his thing like he used to or if the band simply decided to tune down the solo department this time around. Whatever the reason was, it sure is a pity, there’s so much more that could have been done with a little more waah and finger lightning if you know what I mean.
But wait, it would be wrong of me to tell you that Hammet is totally dormant, or that the album does not have its haunting moments. The day that never comes has got a super melodious riff to begin with and culminates in a fiery ending courtesy our favorite lead guitarist. The album also features Unforgiven III, which is a great track in its own right. Although it takes a couple of listens to get the hang of if you, like me, were immediately expecting it to hit the standards of the last two Unforgivens.
The album opens with That Was Just Your Life. A throwback to their early days with the kind of flavor you found in The Four Horsemen (Kill em All ’83). Not as great but still a nice enough opening track. Moving down the track list Broken Beat and Scarred is a magnificent song with classic Hetfield vocals complimented with the drum-guitar combination that Ulrich and Newstead perfected in the early 90’s. Newstead of course, has left the band since then and it seems that new bassist Robert Trujillo has not disappointed in his first ever studio album as a part of the awesome foursome. The pair displays their chemistry again on Cyanide, another ripper of a song.
pic - Ulrich & Trujillo (below)
Death Magnetic finishes strong, with the last three tracks being the best among the lot and the band seeming to have rediscovered some of the rebellious feel that singled out its early releases. That’s one thing that it has in common with the first few greats. Another one is the first instrumental they’ve done since the 1980’s! My black blood cells practically magnetized upon hearing about it and let me tell you. Suicide and Redemption did not fail to impress. It’s easily the pick of the album and offers nine minutes of absolute pure evil bliss.
Overall verdict: It’s true they don’t make ‘em like they used to, but screw that, times change, and so do bands. The album has its pitfalls, but I have no doubt that this one will go down as one of their best. So if you’re already a Metallica fan and haven’t listened to Death Magnetic yet, what the hell are you waiting for? Go grab a copy. You can easily find one anywhere in MC probably. Or download it :-) And if you’re not a fan but intrigued about the band and are looking to get into them, I promise you that you cannot go wrong if you start with this one.
Happy listening people! and you can find anything you need on the official Metallica fan site.