Metallica - 2008 Death Magnetic

ARTIST: Metallica
ALBUM: Death Magnetic
LABEL: Warner Bros
SERIAL: 508732-2
YEAR: 2008

LINEUP: James Hetfield - vocals, guitar * Kirk Hammett - guitars * Robert Trujillo - bass * Lars Ulrich - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 That Was Just Your Life * 02 The End Of The Line * 03 Broken, Beat And Scarred * 04 The Day That Never Comes * 05 All Nightmare Long * 06 Cyanide * 07 The Unforgiven III * 08 The Judas Kiss * 09 Suicide And Redemption * 10 My Apocalypse

RATING: image


Unfairly and critically panned, 2003's 'St Anger' was a return to Metallica's speed driven 80's days, even if differing in sound from that halcyon period. Five years later and that non-problem has been remedied in no uncertain terms with a true return to the sound that made Metallica metal legends.

In other words thrash on a large scale, scathing riffs, speed, lengthy compositions and for the real purists an instrumental running almost ten minutes. Rick Rubin appears to have captured the raw essence of the bands sound with a more refined production than 'St Anger', but one which seamlessly blends a mixture of all Metallica eras, with discernible nods to 'Kill 'Em All' to 1991's self titled monster. Most importantly this is heavy. Devastatingly so.

The Songs

At a running time of nearly 80 minutes this is an epic foray. But not once did 'Death Magnetic' fail to lose me despite the plethora of seven minute plus tracks.

'That Was Just Your Life' reverts back to the much h'allowed days of classic Metallica openers such as 'Battery' and Blackened', with a slow beginning, building pace before launching into vintage thrash segments, with Hammett and Hetfield's riffing reaching mammoth proportions. Hammett's soloing recalls the 'Master Of Puppets' era, no doubt appeasing those who loathed the lack of solos on 'St Anger'.

The blueprint for the album set, 'The End Of The Line' follows in similar suit, with some of the riffs at the start echoing 'Load' before quickly dissolving into a 1991 haze except with speed. This track especially reaches into all of the bands past sounds.

Critics will be silenced by the brute force of 'Broken, Beat And Scarred', delving into some vicious landscapes through twisted, distorted and ugly riffs and tangents which eclipse Slayer even.

'The Day That Never Comes' toys with 'Fade To Black' like effectiveness, but soon develops into a thrasher with NWOBHM overtones and shredding riffs I haven't heard from Metallica in 20 years. Galloping along afterwards is 'All Nightmare Long', offering riffs from the thrash gutter and doses of speed almost unfathomable.

'Cyanide' is a combination of 'Reload' and 'Metallica', heavier naturally, but always with that intangible sense of melody which is one of the reasons Metallica succeeded to begin with and what continues to set them apart.

'The Unforgiven III' continues the saga which began in 1991 and continued in 1997, again in the heavy ballad style of its predecessors but not imitating them at all. Hetfield is in fine voice and Metallica continues to excel with this melodic approach, 17 years later.

Flirting with bursts of speed is 'The Judas Kiss', notable for Hammett bending his six strings in every possible direction. This leads into the ten minute instrumental 'Suicide And Redemption', which truly proves Metallica's intent to capture the mindset of the earlier years, when they made an art form out of this with 'Call Of Ktulu, 'Orion' and 'To Live Is To Die. This could easily be 1988 with the guitar tone used, not to mention the intense build up deserving of such a track. All four members are worthy or praise, with Ulrich impressing behind the kit.

Closing thrasher 'My Apocalypse' runs only five minutes and is pure pandemonium, raging forth maniacally, to the point where this could pass for a lost track from 'Kill 'Em All'. Hard to believe? Believe it. All out thrash.

In Summary

I recall disgruntled fans begging Metallica to return to this sound when 'St Anger' was released. That was not enough for some and if this isn't then you can hardly call these listeners 'fans'. Metallica have sealed the deal with 'Death Magnetic'.

This is the sound which took a 20 year break to a large degree, but has returned fiercer than ever. For a group of men well into their 40's it is a major accomplishment. This serves to remind why the glut of thrash bands were always second division.

Even in 2008 the remaining likes of Testament and Exodus still sound second rate to Metallica. I had to shake my head in disbelief at this onslaught. It's still nice to be blown away occasionally. It takes true masters to do it.

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