11.18.2008

Metallica --- Death Magnetic Album Review

Let me start off by saying that I am not one of those hardcore Metallica fans who poo-poo anything the band released after "And Justice for All." These are the "self-proclaimed" fans who were with the band from the beginning. For some reason they think their manifest destiny stakes claim to being a true fan of Metallica. Not so.
Metallica is one of the few bands in music history to have fans from almost all genres of music.
I admit that I didn't "discover" Metallica until I pumped "The black album" into a couple of 12-inch subs in the back of my Hyundai hatch-back in high school. In fact, I think this album and Pearl Jam's "Ten" received equal play through those years. A musical highlight of my life.

I quickly absorbed the past music of Metallica, and they remain a main-stay in my regular rotation of listening pleasure at work.
I remember in college, it was always a toss-up which video on MTV we'd rather see--"One" from "And Justice for all," or "Any man of mine" from Shania Twain. Both videos led to jubilation from the room of college freshman.





Metallica's last album (Saint Anger) was like Rocky 5. We'll just pretend it didn't happen. It was terrible. Terribly terrible.
I think that they tried to "return to their roots" with their latest release "Death Magnetic." The hard, repeating bass riffs from years' past are present, and Hetfield sounds as good as ever.
This is a fairly long album. Only one song is shorter that 6 minutes.

I've identified things I expect from a kick-ass Metallica album:

Gut-thumping songs--The album starts right off with a doozy in "That was just your life." You won't be disappointed in your 1991 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 with $2500 dollars of stereo equipment. The bass will hit hard and often in many songs on this album.

Rocking slow ones--In the tradition of "the black album," "Load," and "Reload," there are good songs that you might have expected to get some radio play. "The day that never comes" and the latest of installment of "Unforgiven (III)" have that radio-esque quality. Perhaps the length of the songs have kept them from visiting the FM dial.

Unexpected favorite--"Suicide and Redemption" is a 10 minute instrumental that is possibly my favorite song of the entire album. It's definitely worth a listen.

One missing thing--This album lacks the "knockout punch." There is no song that knocks my socks off, to be remembered in the archives of the great Metallica songs.

Take 90 minutes to listen to this album in its entirety. Easily the best Metallica album in some time.




I am a true dirt ball. My luscious mullet thrived in the early 90's and my T-top trans Am with outrageously amplified speakers screamed Metallica for three years straight during high school. The black album had just come out and I listened to it and the previous albums in continual succession pausing only for an brief interlude of Motley Crue or Ozzy. I have always considered myself a Metallica die-hard, so this review comes with some mixed emotions. I am the Metallica's biggest fan and toughest critic, precisely as Matt mentions above.

Everyone knows St. Anger sucked major rhino, with a sound mix that could only come from recording in someone's bathroom. I had to get that out of the way right off. Load and Reload had a couple of ok songs, but really, I don't even consider those albums Metallica (see review above). I mean, I loved GnR but "The Spaghetti Incident"? that wasn't a GnR album, I don't care what the cover said. So I will only compare "Death Magnetic" to the early, real, Metallica albums, because compared to the later ones it would get 5 stars, no problem.

Always psych'd to see something new from my idols, I grab the album, slap it in and hit play, hoping, praying for something good. Boom...nice intro, speed picking, hammer-ons, pull-offs, guitar solos that are virtually dead in today's music, it is really all about the guitar again. Nice. James hits me with some lyrics and yeah, he is trying to go back in time, me too.

So I keep listening and find that there are some great riffs and pounding bass drums, my head starts bounce involuntarily just like the old days. Then we hit an awkward bridge and my confused rhythm makes me stop and re-listen. That was weird, but whatever, then we hit another bridge and the rhythm changes again to something completely different, and then again. I listen to several songs and this is a continual theme. On some, even the intros have bridges.
I have some other complaints too. In "Judas Kiss", the guitar solo is blazin' but then toward the end, Kirk tries to put in a few too many notes it seems, or just got tired because he falls on his face right at the climax. James does the same thing with many of the lyrics, making it seem like he is trying to fit way too many words in way too little time.

Then we get to my biggest complaint. Suicide and Redemption is 10 min. long. Wow, I have no complaints about long songs, but this isn't one song, it seems like five smashed together. I assume they meant this to be an instrumental journey of sorts, but I am apparently not sophisticated enough for this kind of Butt-rock. This one song has several guitar solos intermixed with a virtual cornucopia of rhythms....and I don't reference the "horn of plenty" in a good way here. The first solo blows…second one is pretty good, but as a whole this song needs some serious Ritalin because it is all over the place. By the end, you just want it to end…..then it loops back. You won't be able to find the "next song" button quick enough. So if their journey’s destination is frustration, then job well done. They got me there in just under 3 min…didn’t really need to circle the block for the other 7.

Song after song I found myself thinking the same things. Nice riff, keep it going..crap James shut up. Is this the same song? Click, let's try the next song. This is good, hmm, ehhh, it's ok.
As for "Unforgiven III", I thought it was a great second sequel right up until James opens his mouth again, then the whole feel changes. I don't know exactly what it is but the vocals seem out of place until the chorus. Am I nuts here?

I really wanted to like this album so I've listened to it about 10 times. My thinking is that I will like it more with repetition. The point may be, however, that good music shouldn't require you to listen to it over and over trying to convince yourself that it is good. Maybe the music really did change after "The Black Album". Maybe my vision of these guys changed when I watched "Some Kind of Monster". These kick ass muthas were reduced to over-pampered Prima donnas. Maybe all of the private jets and lifetime awards made it difficult to write with the passion and anger of a "Garage Days" dirt ball. Then again, maybe it isn't the music at all, but really the time in my life that I am listening. I wish I could listen to this with my 1992 ears, but I am stuck in the now and this seems mediocre at best. I give this 3 stars, but just barely.




4 comments:

Dwayne from Probably Sucks Blog said...

I don't agree. The album was quite good, however there were some bad things.

1.) The sound quality was shit.
2.) It sounds like Lars is hitting glass bottles instead of cymbals.
3.) The guitar is so distorted due to over-compression.

I would not advise you listen to this album through your $2500 dollars of stereo equipment. Why? Because it'll make your $2500 worth of equipment sound like $10 dollars worth of yard sale stereo equipment from the 80's.

There were no memorable songs. Although, Unforgiven III is easily the best track on the album, period.

Unforgiven III has one of the best damn guitar solos I've ever heard come out of Kirks instrument.

If anyone wants to know where to get a good quality version, Google for the Guitar Hero version of Death Magnetic. It's good quality and sounds way better.

I give this:

(minus)100000 stars our of 10: for sound quality.

4 out of 10: for lyrics.

8 out of 10: for the excellent solos.

7 out of 10: for the vocals. The vocals were pretty much spot on.

Dwayne.
http://probablysucks.com

Matt said...

Thanks for the input Dwayne. Just a note, your average score for this album out of 10 is -2500 out of 10. Slightly higher than the average ranking for the most recent New Kids on the block album.

Casey said...

Just dropped in from Entrecard. I love that you have Tobias on your widget, that dude is the most hilarious never nude I've ever seen. I went through the Metallica phase and even saw them a few times but these days I can't blast it too loud or I'll wake my kids. My husband had the awesome mullet too, I have the blackmail pictures to prove it.

MeatWad said...

Mark my words, mullets will make a comeback, and when they do....I will be first in line.

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