Record Company: Warner Bros. Records
Release Date: September 12, 2008
Producer: Rick Rubin
Web Site: http://www.metallica.com/
James Hetfield ~ Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Kirk Hammett ~ Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Robert Trujillo ~ Bass Guitar
Lars Ulrich ~ Drums
1.) That Was Just Your Life [7:08] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): An ominous-sounding heartbeat opens this track, joined soon after by a flanged guitar riff. Of course, it isn't long before the pace picks up to a frenzy. The song changes tempos and themes several times, often bordering on the frantic. This one reminded me a bit of something off "St. Anger"... but fortunately nowhere near as discordant. Overall, it's not a bad song... but I think it will take a bit of time to grow on me. Rating: 6/10
2.) The End Of The Line [7:52] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): Wow. This one hits will all guns blazing! It sounds a bit like Fuel, or perhaps something from the black album. Clocking in at nearly 8 minutes, it gets a bit repetitive... but it also gives me hope that this album will clobber its predecessor before it's all said and done. Rating: 7/10
3.) Broken, Beat & Scarred [6:25] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): This tune starts off heavy... and just keeps getting heavier. It switches from theme to theme throughout, à la "Justice..." but has a much looser groove, like something from "Load" or "Reload." I think this would have been Metallica's natural sound if "St. Anger" had never happened, and it's a much better song than anything you'll hear on that one. Rating: 8/10
4.) The Day That Never Comes [7:56] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): I think this was a conscious attempt to remake Fade To Black... and throw in a touch of Unforgiven for good measure. I've heard a few people say that they didn't really think too much of this song, but I managed to get my hands on a copy of it a week or two before the album's release... and I must say that it's grown on me quite a bit. As far as the mellow side of the band goes, I think you could do a lot worse than this song. Rating: 8/10
5.) All Nightmare Long [7:57] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): Fast and aggressive... tight and relentless. I heard this one a few times this weekend on the band's XM channel... and it's a great excuse to get a ticket. My advice. Watch that speedometer. "Hunt you down without mercy... Hunt you down all nightmare long." Very hard... Very heavy... Very good. Me likey! Rating: 9/10
6.) Cyanide [6:39] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): More pent-up aggression from the guys that couldn't understand why their last album got such bad reviews. This one is almost as heavy as the last, but with a bit more groove. It's got a "Load" vibe to it... and Kirk fiddles with the wah pedal again. Overall, a very good return to 90's form for the band. Rating: 8/10
7.) The Unforgiven III [7:46] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): Is that a friggin' piano? Oh dear God. Make it stop. I'm not sure why the band feels the need to rehash a song that wasn't all that good to start with, but they do... over and over again. To be honest, this one isn't quite as bad as I'd expected, but it isn't anything to write home about, either. Rating: 4/10
8.) The Judas Kiss [8:00] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): Here's another heavy-duty kick in the ass to make up for the last tune. Powerful and straightforward... it has all of the aggression of "St. Anger"... without all the suck. A pretty solid song. Rating: 8/10
9.) Suicide & Redemption [9:57] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): This song is an instrumental piece, similar to Orion... but much heavier. The funny part is that unlike Orion, it really sounds as though it should have lyrics. Clocking in at just under the 10 minute mark, the song seems to be just a series of themes strung together, running the gambit from hard and heavy to melodic interludes. Overall, not a bad listen at all... it just sounds as though something is missing to me. Rating: 7/10
10.) My Apocalypse [5:01] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Trujillo): This one starts out like a ton of bricks, but quickly degenerates into a "St. Anger" leftover. It sounds like they might have been going for a Damage Inc.-meets-Fuel type of thing... but it doesn't work for me. If you stop at the the end of the last tune, you've still got a pretty decent disc, so that might be the way to go... Rating: 5/10
The Last Word:
Well, I'm on the fence about this one, to be honest.
I tried to be impartial and objective on my ratings and descriptions, but it's not easy with a band like Metallica. While it's much better than I expected it to be, it's still a far cry from the songs of Metallica's heyday. With all the bad press Metallica has gotten in recent years regarding the Napster thing, the whine-fest known as "Some Kind Of Monster" and the miserable failure of "St. Anger"... I really wanted to see these guys come back with a classic mud-stomper that would reward their fans for their long wait in purgatory. Unfortunately, this ain't it.
If this were any other band, I'd probably be talking about what a solid release this is... but I hold Metallica to a higher standard. I really don't think they are capable of putting out an album of the caliber of "Master Of Puppets" or "Kill 'Em All" anymore. Realistically, I can see the band wanting to stretch out a bit over the years, but these guys seem to consistently ignore the wishes of their fans... putting out albums that neither fully satisfy their original fan-base, nor attract a new generation of fans into the fold. Perhaps they are just too big... too rich... or just plain out-of-touch with their loyal fanbase. Whatever it is, I think they have forgotten how they got to where they are, and perhaps more importantly, how to make the music that made them the biggest metal band in the history of rock. I've been a Metallica fan for nearly 25 years now... I don't think I should have to settle for less while the band has yet another identity crisis.
On the bright side, at least Megadeth and Testament still know what thrash is supposed to sound like.
Don't get me wrong here. My negativity towards the band's direction is not meant to imply that this is a terrible album. On the contrary, in fact... it's really got a few things to like. Many of the songs reach back to their 90's style of aggressive metal with a bit of a groove, while the long track lengths and changing themes are reminiscent of "...And Justice For All." The aggression of "St. Anger" is still there in many cases, but the music lacks the discordant grating of that album. Maybe the band should have named this "Metallica: And Justice For Load"...
Overall, I'd say that this is a pretty good album... but at the same time, I think that "Death Magnetic" represents the last nail in the coffin of the classic Metallica we all know and love. If you liked Metallica's albums of the 90s, I think you'll probably like this too, but if you're favorite Metallica is the classic stuff, buy at your own risk.
The Bottom Line (AKA - The Six-Pack Scale):