Friday, October 10, 2008

Music Review: Metallica - Death Magnetic

Thank you Sarah Palin. As I was thinking of a way to start off this article, I was kind of stuck. Then Sarah Palin and the VP Debate rolled through. Leading up to this debate the folksy looker from Alaska had taken shots for some televised interviews and public opinion of her was falling dramatically. Essentially the expectations of her were so low that unless she dropped the N-bomb or vomited all over herself, then her first debate appearance would be considered a success (to paraphrase and reword a joke from SNL).

The point? Sarah Palin's expectation level for the debate are the same as the expectations on Metallica for their new album Death Magnetic. Basically, give us an album that sounds like Load and we'll get by, but for the love of God don't vomit all over yourself (aka St. Anger). Well, Metallica didn't vomit all over themselves. With St. Anger, the band was falling apart. Lead singer James Hetfield was in rehab, long time bassist Jason Newstead quit the group, and recording carried on and on and on...What was produced was a 'sonic abortion' of a band crumbling under the weight of their greatness.

The product was an attempt to veer the band in a new direction, but without the focus, drive, and balls to pull it off. Five years have passed, and Metallica seems to acknowledge the monumental mistake that St. Anger was. To atone, they finally got rid of Producer Bob Rock, who has worked with Metallica since the Black Album, and brought in Rick Rubin (Linkin Park, Beastie Boys) to lend his ear to the process. A sober (whether that is good or bad is debatable) and focused Metallica knew what their mission was. Saving their legacy.

Everything about Death Magnetic is an appeal to 'Tallica fans to show them the old guys still got it. The old logo is back, the classic CD look is in place, and we have our 6-9 minute songs and even an instrumental! Guitars and volume a plenty. There have even been complaints that when the album was mastered (...of puppets, heh) it was mixed in a way that the high volume levels do not allow for the finer impressions of the music to come through upon listening. Basically, people are saying it's too fucking loud. Isn't saying a Metallica album is too loud is like saying Megan Fox is too hot, a beer is too cold on a hot day, Brad Lidge is too dominant? This is the way things should be.

Anyway, Metallica did put there all into this album. The guitar rifts and solos will melt your face and the volume, oh it's there. Essentially, it's all you could have hoped for if you are a Metallica fan. Meaning it's solid, not embarrassing, and you can go on liking your favorite band a little longer because they're not washed up shells of their former self. It's not ...And Justice for All and they will never be like that again. This album is like Load and Kill 'Em All. Or as I like to put it, if Metallica were all 20 yrs old and coming out in today's music scene, this is what they'd sound like. Thrash and original to themselves, but not a part of any past, more of a present.

Musically, I think Death Magnetic is off the charts. Solos in The Day That Never Comes and my favorite song, End of the Line really make you happy to have stuck with Metallica.

Lyrics wise, their still weak. Hetfield is better than when he was going through rehab (there's not Fran-tick, tick, tick, tick tock). The issue has been the same since the Black Album where the lyrics are more internal. I'm going through this, I feel that, etc. The best albums of Metallica had observational lyrics, but you really felt the misery, anger, and struggle that they were telling you about.

A point on the album that absolutely pulls the whole theme together for me is in the last song My Apocalypse. A jam about half way through the song unleashes Metallica in all their musical force. It's at one time powerful and one time teetering on the brink of completely falling apart. They're playing so fast, so calculated, yet almost reckless. As if the slightest wavering of concentration could send limbs and instruments flying through the metal galaxy.

I'm glad to have a better and tolerable Metallica back in action.

Worth the Purchase: 4.0/5
Compared to Prior Works: 3.0/5
Progression: 3.5/5
Sound: 4.0/5
Production: 3.5/5

Final Score: 3.6/5

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