Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Death Magnetic (music CD)

Band Name: Metallica
Music Type: Heavy Metal
Release Date: September 12, 2008

I used to be a pretty big Metallica fan. Actually, I still am; just of their early years. After the "Black Album", as fans have dubbed it, it was all downhill for the band. Load was completely mediocre while ReLoad was just plain bad. Let's not even get into the complete mess that was St. Anger; I know it was important to the band but they really screwed the pooch there and the band became something of a bad joke to me at that point. I'm not going to mince words; idiotic fanboys who eat any crap handed to them can kiss my ass because that album was garbage.

But hey, this past decade has been very kind to both metal and regular old rock and roll. One could call it a decade of comebacks. Iron Maiden reunited with Bruce Dickinson and Judas Priest reunited with Rob Halford; both went on to make fantastic albums since the reunion. Megadeth has sowly pulled itself back from it's mistakes with "Risk". Rush kicked ass with "Snakes and Arrows". Whitesnake is back and actually doing well. Hell, in the biggest shock of them all, Van Halen has reunited with David Lee Roth. Everyone seems to have picked this decade to get their acts together. So was it time for Metallica to make a return to their former glory? Can a band that completely sold out come back from the pit?

The answer is yes.

Don't get me wrong; this album is not perfect by a longshot. But Metallica has finally shed the desire to cater to the mainstream and gone back to the roots that got them so far to begin with. Death Magnetic is harder, faster, better structured and simply more cohesive than anything the band has done in years.

In some ways, this particular album seems to echo "Ride the Lightning"; high praise from me considering the aforementioned album is a personal favorite of mine. The album is structured similarly, for instance. The first several tracks rock the doors off the joint, then the fourth track kicks in, a power ballad of sorts in the same spot "Fade to Black" was on "Ride to Lightning". While it's not a great track, it helped me hearken back to the glory days just a bit more.. Then things pick up once more. Eventually we get to an instrumental, something the band hasn't done since "... And Justice for All", before we get to the closing track.

The albums a bit uneven in overall quality, however. The first half of the album is arguably the better of the two. The first three tracks - "That Was Just Your Life", "The End of the Line" and "Broken, Beat & Scarred" - simply rock hard. Seriously, Metallica hasn't sounded this good in years. "That Was Just Your Life" is probably the best off the entire album, starting out with what sounds like a heartbeat and powering forward. "The Day That Never Comes" is decent enough, but aside from it's placement echoing the better "Fade to Black", it just doesn't get the job done. I got a major "modern Green Day" vibe from the track, of which can I just say yuck? Then we hit "All Nightmare Long", which is back into the harder feel of the first three albums with a very high sense of speed to the instruments.

The second half, however, feels weaker. "Cyanide" is fine, continuing the harder tone of the album. "The Unforgiven III" however, is not quite there. On a personal nitpick, I don't know why the band is fascinated with naming songs as sequels to "The Unforgiven" in name, but it really needs to stop. That aside, the song really is nothing special and is definitely the worst track of the album; it reminds me way too much of the sort of things the band did post-Black Album and that's not a good thing. Even Hetfeilds vocals suffer. The original "The Unforgiven" was a pretty decent track; neither of it's sequels are. On top of that, this weaker song goes on for about seven plus minutes; way too long for a song without any noteworthy points to it. If we're truly past the "Bob Rock" era, can't we leave relics inspired by it behind? This song is the definite weak link of the album and the album would have been better off if it had been cut; it barely even sounds like Metallica, or at least the badass Metallica that has resurfaced with this album.

The Judas Kiss is better, but something about it doesn't quite click. The song is a return to the harder edge most of the album carries after the last track, but it doesn't quite have the chops other songs on the album do. Said song is quickly forgotten, however, once we get to "Suicide & Redemption". Said song is the return of the instrumental to Metallica's albums, something I've been waiting for ever since they went with their radio friendly image. It's a fantastic song that you wish would go on longer; this is despite the fact that the song runs for close to ten minutes! The album then closes with "My Apocalypse". This is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album, though I don't believe it to be the best. Still, it's a thundering track that closes the album well.

One of the problems I had with the album, however, had to do with the production. I mean, why are the drums so damn loud? Also, what the hell happened to the bass? Yeah, it's there, but what happened for it to be shuffled so far to the background? Hopefully the band realized the bass was kicked to the background and keep it in mind, because it's just baffling.

Also, those lower songs of the album really do detract from it. When the songs rock, they really rock. But when they flounder, man do they ever flounder. Had "The Day That Never Comes" and "The Unforgiven III" been cut from the album it would have felt much, much stronger on the whole. Take out the solid but forgettable "The Judas Kiss" and what was left would have made for a suitably kick ass album that clocked in at a respectable fifty some odd minutes. Sometimes it's best for the chaff to be cut from the album; after all, cut songs hardly stay gone these days anyways what with reissues and collections of such songs.

The Score: Dramatic Thumbs Up

Finally, the old Metallica has resurfaced to rock the world once more. No matter how good they get from here on out, it's never going to wash to stain of those awful three albums away, but even the best bands have low periods; even if they never get quite as low as Metallica did. This album is a true return to form for the band; it's not perfect and cracks show through the lesser songs, but it's the album we've been waiting for ever since Metallica sold out. Welcome back guys; your true sound was greatly missed.

1 comment:

  1. The drums are loud cuz Lars is an arrogant ASS! No seriously, say what you want about his skills outside of drumming, but in music he's a decade or so behind. Still thinks he's the shit, but he's just not.

    I haven't listened to this album, but I've hear a couple of tracks (Cyanide, All Nightmare Long and Day That Never Comes), so from that I can agree with you, mostly. Seems the guitars are sharper (as in tone) than they used to be, they could turn the bass up on their own amps (and I echo your inquiry "where's the bass?"). Hetfield's voice is a lost cause, and he needs to come to terms with it. I keep waiting for the more guttural sound of old, but all I hear is nasal. And the drumming...still boring. At times he picks it up and does something moderately cool, but not often. I had the same problem with black, the drumming needs to be more interesting. John Bonham could do it, so why not? Honestly, I enjoy jazz drummers more often than rock or metal (obvious exceptions being Neal Pert and the like).