Metallica has returned

“What don’t kill ya, make ya more strong,” growls Metallica vocalist and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield. These lyrics, uttered on the track Broken, Beat & Scarred, sum up the band’s new album, Death Magnetic, which just might be their best effort since 1991’s self-tilted “black” album. After 17 years of disappointing albums and lukewarm critical reception, Metallica is back.

The 2001 departure of longtime bassist Jason Newsted sparked a series of heated conflicts within Metallica, culminating in Hetfield’s admission into rehab for alcoholism during filming of the documentary Some Kind of Monster. But in 2003, the kings of thrash metal were back in the studio, recording tracks for St. Anger. Fans were psyched to hear what this clean and sober Metallica would have to offer.

The result was less than stellar. St. Anger was almost universally lambasted by fans and critics alike. It was a thrown-together effort that lacked both the speed and the ferocity of 80s-era Metallica. Gone were the solos, replaced by lazy, middling riffs and an infamously “steely” sounding snare drum. It seemed that the Metallica the fans had come to know and love was gone, replaced by a handful of 40-something sellout has-beens who neither cared for nor were aware of their fanbase.

But Death Magnetic, released Sept. 10, is the album Metallica fans have been waiting 17 years for. This is a return to Metallica’s 1980s heydays—longer songs, blistering guitar solos, aggressive drumming, growling vocals and intense bass backing. Death Magnetic has more in common with albums like …And Justice For All and Master of Puppets than any of the band’s 90s fair.

After a rough few years of rehab and therapy, followed by a dismal album, it seems what hasn't killed Metallica has only made it stronger.

The album opens with "That Was Just Your Life," a track reminiscent of 1988’s "Blackened" in its quiet, slower-paced beginning digressing into a raging torrent of guitar and drummer Lars Ulrich’s pedal-laden madness. It’s almost shocking to hear Metallica’s raw 80s style—albeit in the drop C tuning of St. Anger.

Next up is "The End of the Line," a song many fans might be familiar with from Metallica’s recent show in Seoul. It’s a solo-heavy track with fancy fretwork courtesy of both Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammet. This was the first track on the album that made me realize I was listening to something special.

Other notable tracks include "Broken, Beat & Scarred," "All Nightmare Long" and the single, "The Day That Never Comes," a song evocative of the classic track "One." And, for the first time since 1988’s …And Justice For All, Metallica included an instrumental track (and a damn good one at that), entitled "Suicide and Redemption."

There are some letdowns, though. "The Unforgiven III" feels unnecessary and unfinished, and generally out-of-place on Death Magnetic. It sounds like a remnant of their more mainstream 90s style, and is the only real disappointment on the album. "Cyanide" is also fairly bland, but both tracks are quickly forgotten after songs like "The Judas Kiss" and "My Apocalypse" follow to blow them away.

Backup vocals are virtually nonexistent on Death Magnetic, though maybe we should be thankful, considering the absence of Newsted, the only member of the band other than Hetfield capable of carrying a tune. But Robert Trujillo, Metallica’s new beast of a bassist, makes his official record debut here, and most definitely proves himself with furious finger-style plucking. He is showcased nicely in a few tracks, notably "The End of the Line."

Hammet is at the top of his game, shredding solos and weaving in and out of Hetfield’s furious rhythm guitar. The pair of them create a fiery duel of monstrous riffs. Ulrich reclaims his throne as well, divorced from that awful snare drum and doing what he does best—double bass-pedal and lots of it. As songwriters, the members of Metallica have produced some great tracks, with superb instrumentation and lyrics that hearken back to the golden days of thrash metal. The navel-gazing than ran rampant throughout St. Anger is gone—these musicians have gotten over themselves and returned to their passion for music.

This Metallica fan was one album away from giving up on the fearsome foursome, but my love for the band has been rekindled with Death Magnetic, an album that pulls style right out of the 80s and modernizes it for fans old and new. It’s hard to believe it, but these middle-aged rockers have put out a truly kickass album. Despite a few bland tracks, Death Magnetic is, hands-down, the best Metallica album in 17 years, and well worth a listen for any fan, loyal and apprehensive alike.

You can listen to the album streaming in its entirety on the official Metallica website.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are strictly moderated by this blog's administrator. Obscene, hateful, or otherwise offensive comments will not be tolerated. Racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks have no place on this blog. Spam will be promptly reported and deleted. For more information on R#09's moderation policies, please check the FAQs.