Death Magnetic

I know there are people out there who will hold a grudge against Metallica until the day they die. Over the past couple of decades fans of the band, as the song on Death Magnetic says, have been broken, beat and scarred, and a lot of them still have a lot of anger. To be quite honest, though, I’m too old for that shit. I don’t have it in me to hold that kind of grudge anymore, and no matter what you’ve done in the past, if you deliver an album I like, bygones are bygones. That’s just what Metallica has done.

First thing’s first. This isn’t the ’80s and Death Magnetic isn’t the second coming of Master of Puppets. It does, however have more in common with those 1980s records than anything Metallica has done since. Early reviews that called it a cross between …And Justice for All and The Black Album are, for the most part, pretty accurate. A closer listen, though will reveal snippets of just about everything Metallica’s ever done – good and bad.

Perhaps the best thing about this record is the return of Kirk Hammett’s wah pedal and the shredding he unleashes here. Frustrated after being told by producer Bob Rock that solos would make St. Anger sound “dated,” he takes those frustrations out here, wailing away at will.

The impact of bassist Rob Trujillo is felt early and often on the record, his first effort as part of the creative team. It’s the first time in a long time that the bass on a Metallica record has been memorable, and he brings a welcome groove on songs like “End of the Line” and “Broken, Beat and Scarred,” which despite being one of the less thrashy offerings is perhaps the best with the most memorable riff and hook on Death Magnetic.

And the thrash does indeed make a return here, as announced earlier with album opener “That Was Just Your Life.” It has a nice galloping rhythm from James Hetfield, reminiscent of …And Justice for All. Admittedly, Hetfield still struggles a bit vocally, trying to sing too much rather than barking the lyrics, but occasionally he does hit a note that reminds you of old times.

To say the thrash is back, though, is not to say it’s a return to their old style. There are a couple of nods to The Black Album with the hook driven “Cyanide” and “The Judas Kiss,” which echoes “Holier than Thou” in places. There are also a few notable misses. “The Unforgiven III” is just as bad as you’d expect when looking at the title, and the instrumental “Suicide & Redemption” is pretty much a snoozer. While I don’t mind a new Metallica insturmental, they set a high standard in the 1980s, and this one simply lacks the complexity and elegance of an “Orion” or “To Live is to Die.”

Rounding out the record are the requisite power ballad “The Day That Never Comes” which offers a nod to the band’s better ballads of the 1980s, and the thrash ‘n’ roll of “All Nightmare Long” with its fast riffing and hard rock vibe. The show closes in good form with what, for many, will probably be the star of the record, “My Apocalypse.” It’s the shortest track on the record and gets straight to the point, offering a tip of the hat to Master of Puppets.

Death Magnetic delivers a solid set of songs that features a nice blend of the entire Metallica catalog. No, it’s not the much ballyhooed return to their classic sound. Those first four records are classics that continue to shape metal, but that band is not likely to return. They’re older and they’re mellower, and I guess, so am I. I suppose, to make a bad pun, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but I like it. I know some of you are just itching to blast something smartass right now, so I’m done. Fire away.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
September 10th, 2008


  1. Commented by: Dan

    I’ve never been particularly interested in Metallica. I certainly appreciate everything they’ve done for metal, but I’ve just never been turned on by them, musically speaking. Just out of curiosity I checked out ‘The Day That Never Comes’ and thought it was pretty lame. Especially the solo.

  2. Commented by: jk666

    I’d call that fair and accurate from where I sit. I hope the album sells well for them and for the sake of the music industry. It could certainly use a boost right about now.

  3. Commented by: bast

    Kmon people are you serious?

  4. Commented by: xBenx

    Brave review. Well written Fred, for me its a step in the right direction, we’ll see if they do anything further.

  5. Commented by: STIFFY

    Fun listen. It wouldn’t be this big of a deal if another band put it out. I like it because no matter what anyone says it doesn’t sound like anyone but Metallica. There are definite weak songs, and Dan, The Day That Never Comes is the worst.

  6. Commented by: Staylow

    Nice review Fred. I like this album – quite a bit actually. There isn’t a song on the album I can say I dislike, but some are certainly better than others. The Unforgiven III isn’t the trainwreck I thought it would be, but probably my least favorite here. The instrumental, while not terrible, is boring compared to instrumentals past. I think The Judas Kiss, All Nightmare Long and That Was Just Your Life are the best songs they’ve written since 1988, and this the best album since then as well.

    I’ve held a grudge for awhile, but I always said if they could make an album I enjoy, I’ll take it and all is forgiven. Now hopefully they’ll keep this up, and not wait another 5-6 years to put out another one.

  7. Commented by: Red

    not that bad really, though James’ vocals haven’t been worth a shit in 17-18 years and guess what, they still blow ass.

  8. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I never heard all of st anger, as I sampled one track and decided it was shite. This is an OK album, Metallica are simply never going to re visit the glory days, its twenty years later, get over it. They have.

  9. Commented by: bast

    Allrighty then, I guess I’ll have to download it.

  10. Commented by: Apollyon

    Death Magnetic is not the “shittiest” album on the planet. I’ve heard albums far worse. It’s listenable, even if at times it’s fucking horrible. Sometimes it’s even somewhat decent. And few moments are actually great. But most of all, it is an insignificant album. There’s basically no real reason to listen to it as it doesn’t do anything. Hardly anything stands out. Nothing sticks. Whatever good moments there are on the album are lost in between the mediocrity of whatever.

    While Randal talks about the Lord of the Rings movies in Clerks II (“If Peter Jackson really wanted to blow me away with those “Rings” movies, he would have ended the third one on the logical closure point, not the 25 endings that followed.”) — it also works quite well when talking ’bout Death Magnetic and its songs. Throwing all the good ideas together into one pile doesn’t necessarily result in a good song. Most of the songs simply lose their point and my interest at one point or another. For example, That Was Just Your Life should be cut by at least 4 minutes from the beginning. The only song besides that, that I actually remember is Suicide and Redemption. The song seems to flow the best, where as the rest kind of grind onwards ’cause they have to.

    But if people really and honestly want to listen to a _new_ Metallica album, I suppose this’ll do a lot better than the last one. But that’s not saying much as musically that album ain’t too hard top. Yet at times, as contradicting as it sounds, DM seems even more forced, less focused and soulless than St. Anger. Puzzling.

    But yeah. Death Magnetic goes as background music and doesn’t raise an uncontrollable gag-reaction, but if I need my Metallica-fix for whatever reason (every sixth year or so), I think I’ll stick with the 80s albums.


  11. Commented by: crotchrot

    the day that never comes has sort of a black sabbath vibe in a lot of the first half of the song… and I like the way they ended it, cyanide is a lot worse as a single. I dont think it takes anything away from death magnetic. Ill be goddamned if I didnt bang my head to the chorus of broken beat and scarred.

    I knew this wasnt going to be the monumental return to form that a lot of us were hoping, but Im just happy to hear these guys thrashing again. I had a kickass time listening to it.

  12. Commented by: jk666

    It’s on track to sell 500,000 copies first week which should give the music industry a good boost.

  13. Commented by: axiom

    I’m old enough to hold a grudge against Metallica, but I don’t. Nice that they’ve tied to tie in some elements of the “classic” sound.

    The problem is, this a big rollercoaster ride of decent ideas and bad, all pieced together and not at all inspired.

    This could have been pared down to a teaser ep, followed by a better written full length.

    I don’t know if their hearts are really into it anymore.

  14. Commented by: Staylow

    I disagree completely – I personally think this sounds like a band re-energized. Over the 10 days, since I first heard the album, I’ve had nearly all the songs stuck in my head at point or another, and that makes me want to hear it more. There’s a hunger to it that they haven’t had in a long time.

    This is not an album that should be judged on just a couple listens – a little more time is needed to really let songs reveal themselves. Just my opinion though.

  15. Commented by: crotchrot

    I feel the same way. Maybe this doesnt hold up to a critical eye on every front, it sounds like they are hungry, this seems like an album that finds them testing the waters before they take the real plunge. Every song has at least a couple memorable riffs though, despite the misfires.

  16. Commented by: Dimaension X

    I agree with the idea that it is conceptually a cross between “And Justice…” and “The Black Album” – and I hoped Rick Rubin’s production would help things – the album is certainly “clearer” than “St. Anger”, but is just over-compressed and digital clipping occurs a lot.

    From now on, Rick Rubin will be known as The Great Pumpkin (a BIG SQUASH!!)

    The songs, though pretty good, are just a bit too long.

  17. Commented by: Mike

    This sucks, worst thing since St. Anger. This band died after The black album and with the exception of S&M everything since has been shit IMO. To call this “Thrash” is an insult to the genre.

  18. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    If TESTAMENT can release The Formation Of Damnation 20+ years on, and MEGADETH can release Endgame 20+ years on, then surely the once-Kings of the field can get up off thier butts a little more than they did on Death Magnetic…they’re underachieving, IMO.

  19. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    What people don’t seem to understand is there will NEVER be another Master Of Puppets. Another …And Justice For All. Another Black Album. Those albums are masterpieces. But their like will never be seen again in this dimension. If you try to compare Death Magnetic to, say, Master Of Puppets…then of course it’ll look inferior. Instead of seeing what it is not. Try seeing what it is. Namely, a thousand hundred times better than St. Anger. Or that “Broken, Beat And Scarred” is the best song they’ve written in 15 years.

    No, DM is not in the league Metallica was in 20 years ago. But they are still damn good. And hopefully, they’ll get better.

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