Could METALLICA ever truly redeem themselves in the eyes of Metalheads world round? They made a lot of money but the work they did in the 90s was massively subpar to their earlier career (and debatably even to be classified as Metal at that). Then there was “St. Anger”, an atrocity of a concept that (although I admire them for trying something new) was a complete failure in the end. So is there any chance that METALLICA could redeem the last decade for themselves?
Well they damn well try with their latest album, “Death Magnetic”. It’s not a throwback album like many of the first reviews have stated but it’s an entity all of its own. They did bring back some of the elements that made their early career enjoyable like the weaving song structures and some of the Thrashier riffs but really it still retains some of the ‘user friendliness’ of the 90s material on top of that. As a whole, the album is quite impressive. Clocking in at almost 80 minutes, the album is long and complex in songwriting with quite a bit of catchiness to the material.
It’s nice to hear the Thrash back in their song writing. The early released tracks weren’t all that representative of the album though. “The Day That Never Comes” and “Cyanide” were some of the weaker tracks on the album. The latter being a lesson in how to inject groove into METALLICA’s music. It’s the faster more intense tracks that really shine on the album (“All Nightmare Long” makes me smile). It’s also nice to finally hear solos again, even though I happen to think Kirk Hammett is massively overrated and still overrated on this album. And just the overall quality of the performances has been kicked in the ass and moved into gear on “Death Magnetic”. Even Lars Ulrich seems to be playing material I didn’t think he could ever play.
But it isn’t all flowers and rainbows and awesome albums in the land of METALLICA yet, as “Death Magnetic” does have some flaws to it. Firstly, the album and every song are ridiculously long. Some tracks don’t feel it (oddly enough the instrumental track “Suicide & Redemption” that clocks in at over 10 minutes doesn’t feel too long to me) but there are parts that seem to drag on forever with some riffs and vocal lines being run into the ground. Then there is James Hetfield. I’m so glad that he has gone back to writing all the lyrics himself but some of his vocal work just grates me nerves. I prefer the stuff where he dominates the lower register of his voice but his ‘ahhh’ at the ending of every damn phrase does get tiring. But his lyrical work is much better on this release.
In the end though, I couldn’t think of a better start to a road of redemption for the band. This album is quite the leap from their last release. Rick Rubin (producer of “Death Magnetic”) was the only guy that could float the sinking ship that was METALLICA and he must have done wonders with helping the band find their true anger and centers again. The album is a solid release with a few weaker tracks that are made up for by the others. Bravo METALLICA, glad to hear you back in better form. Now let’s just keep it that way.
Songs to check out: “Broken, Beat & Scarred”, “All Nightmare Long”, “My Apocalypse”.
(Online September 22, 2008)