Saturday, September 13, 2008

Death Magnetic, a Review

Death MagneticSo much for all the talk about the sound quality. Back to what matters: the music itself.

Death Magnetic has been a long time coming, and I was convinced it was going to be terrible. YouTube videos of new material, so aptly titled "The New Song" and "The Other New Song" had me scared. A plod fest and a Misfits this all you guys can muster?

But after what feels like an eternity, the new album is now here, and I say it is good. Very, very good. After all these years of being disappointed (at least fifteen), I'm amazed that Metallica had it in them to make an album like this.

Death Magnetic is full of details. I find the record to be a mix of ...And Justice For All and "The Black Album". Songs like "The Judas Kiss" and "All Nightmare Long" are long and strung together with many Justice type riffs, but they have a catchiness that reminds of their '91 chart topper. If there's any part that strikes one as being "off", just wait two seconds, and another new riff will back it up. James Hetfield outdid himself with his rhythm playing: it's tight, precise, under control, and heavy.

Some coolness examples: the riff at 3:49 of "Broken, Beat & Scarred", and the way it leads into the solo, plus the riffage after the solo, is classic thrash Metallica. Also note the speedy riff after the solo in the aforementioned "Nightmare" (5:21). Their galloping/chuggy riffs are back as well (4:47 in "That Was Just Your Life" into the solo...again, very Justice-y). Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy lead harmonies are sprinkled throughout. The guys have a lot of memorizing to do for their new tour.

Lars Ulrich does a decent job drumming. I especially like the work in "The End of the Line". There's something about some of his patterns that's reminding me of some of his technical prowess he showed off in the late 80s, with a bit of timing flair I found in their "Fuel" single.

Sadly you can barely hear the bass. Every now and then it shows up, like in the beginning of "Broken, Beat & Scarred", but for the most part, er, exactly why do they say Rob Trujillo made such great contributions? If this is true, let me hear them!

Kirk Hammett's soloing is quite good, and he amazes me with his Satriani-ness in "Suicide & Redemption". His guitar work on this is beyond awesome; he threw every trick he knows into this tune. At 10 minutes, it's a hell of a long instrumental, but it's just heavenly for the musicians in all of us. I love the crazy Rush inspired progressive jam that occurs a smidge after the solo ends (8:06 to 8:42). The middle noody bit (3:39) reminds of "Orion", which is never a bad thing.

Hetfield does sing on this album, but he's been doing this since '91, so what can you do. He does yell in key as well, and at least we got a real 100% yell-fest in "My Apocolypse", which is my favorite song on the album.

The only number that flops for me for right now is "The Unforgiven III". I like the beginning moodiness (even though there's something about the very beginning which almost goes off the rails into a Pink Floyd "Atom Heart Mother Suite" jam). The rest is sort of blah "Unforgiven"-ish territory, although I do like the quiet break leading up to the solo ("Forgive me...forgive me not," croons James), which explodes with noise before turning into a wah fest for the second half.

"The Unforgiven III," plus some weirder bits at times in other songs, makes the album 10% meh. Which makes it 90% r0ck. At $9-10 this weekend at most stores, it's a must buy. It's not perfect, but if you were a Metallica fan at any point in their powerful years, you'll remember why you liked this band so much. I do personally believe they tried on their last disc, St. Anger, but while that album was a failure, this is a success. With U2 not releasing their new disc until 2009, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a better album this year. Eet Fuk!


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