Saturday, September 6, 2008

Review: Metallica - Death Magnetic (* * * *)

"We die hard!" James Hetfield growls during "Broken, Beat, and Scarred," the third track on Metallica's new album, Death Magnetic. Nothing could be more true. Despite the bad career moves, drug addictions, and internal conflict, Metallica seem to refuse to fade into has-been metal gods territory, slowly turning out material, searching for redemption. Has it paid off this time around? Most definitely.

It's been a long time since anyone had positive things to say about Metallica. After setting the gold standard of metal records in 1991 with "The Black Album," the road has seemed bumpy to say the least. It's almost as if Metallica refused to make a record that wouldn't alienate their fans, choosing instead to evolve into a rock band that barely resembled their former selves. It all came to a head with their last album, St. Anger, which barely made it to completion and got a lukewarm reception.

Somewhere in the last few years, Metallica finally decided to give the people what they want. And by "the people" I mean everyone who has waited with crossed fingers and whispered prayers for 17 long years for their still-favorite band to release something worthy of their back catalog. I'll admit I'm not a die-hard fan, but I imagine this album is going to impress a great deal of disillusioned metal fanatics.

Death Magnetic isn't a return to the band's melodic, yet brutal, sound on Metallica, but looks even further back to what some would say is the only time the band made "real" metal music. Less singing, more growling, fewer anthems, more bludgeoning guitar attacks. The album is ten tracks and measures in at just under 75 minutes, pausing only once (during the horn and string intro of "The Unforgiven III) to take a break from the assault of guitars, drums, and bass. It's almost too much, but if metal is your thing you'll likely not be able to get enough of the pounding riffs of "All Nightmare Long," or the constant tempo changes of "The Day That Never Comes." Metallica even throw in a ten minute, a-grade instrumental , "Suicide and Redemption" for old times sake.

Death Magnetic won't revolutionize metal and it doesn't attempt to make a statement, it just rocks, and that's for the best. It's ferocious, relentless, and exciting (not to mention full of guitar solos), though it's so dense it can be a chore to listen to as a whole. True, James Hetfield's voice isn't what it once was, and the lyrics are...well, they aren't what you came for anyway. But Metallica have come back home, and that's reason enough for killing the fatted calf.

Favorite Tracks: "The End of the Line," "Broken, Beat and Scarred," "The Day That Never Comes"


Tim said...

I am not that much of a metal fan but i found that the new Crew CD was I would have to say Rockin'. Do you think this cd rocks as hard as Motley Crews's semi-new CD Saints Of Los Angeles?

Chris N said...

I would have to say that Metallica would out-rock Motley Crew any time, any where, and this album is proof of that.

I have to admit, though, that I've never been a Crue fan. They go more for the shock-rock approach, whereas Metallica is more straight-up metal.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.