Death Magnetic


Warner Brothers, 2008

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Apparently, it only takes a minute and a half these days to erase approximately two decades of bad blood, infighting, and uninspired songcraft. Because within ninety seconds after Death Magnetic begins, San Francisco’s original bad boys prove they are back to reclaim their spot atop the metal world.

If anything, the misguided intentions displayed during the making of St. Anger and its subsequent documentary Some Kind Of Monster are realized here with Death Magnetic. Metallica is no longer a band furious at each other, lashing out wildly and missing the mark. No, the Metallica of 2008 is a band that is focused and ready to lay waste to anyone in their path who doubted they still “had it.”

The elements that constituted some of the greatest records of all time in Master Of Puppets, Ride The Lightning, and …And Justice For All, and went missing during the 1990s have returned to the musical fold with a vengeance. The absurd “no-solo” rule in place during St. Anger has been tossed aside, and Kirk Hammett responds with some of his most impressive work to date. James Hetfield has transformed into an effective vocalist, not merely a necessary tool to deliver lyrics. New bassist Robert Trujillo takes advantage of his first opportunity to be heard on a Metallica record by providing a solid foundation not heard since Cliff Burton passed. And yes, Lars Ulrich still remains the force holding everything together.

Producer Rick Rubin proved to be a godsend for Metallica, bringing a completely new viewpoint and perspective. Anyone paying attention to Some Kind Of Monster saw a band aimlessly tossing off lyrics and riffs, recording with their gut and instinct. Both proved to be mistakes; and that is where Rubin brought his expertise. He instructed the band to essentially know the songs inside and out before bringing them into the studio, and the result is a record that is tight from start to finish. The endless choruses of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 St. Anger and the sonic experiments of Load and ReLoad are gone, replaced with massive riffs and complex song structure.

The lyrical depth and quality of Metallica has never been held up as a shining example of poetry set to music; however, to deny the lyrics to “Ride The Lightning” perfectly encapsulated what metal was about would be absurd and asinine. One listen to Death Magnetic further highlights the return-to-roots method Hetfield pursued; the sheer ferocity and anger with which he screams “Suffer unto my apocalypse,” or “Judas Kiss recite this vow, I’ve become your new God now” not only terrify the listener, but hark back to the glory days.

Advance word of Death Magnetic claimed the record was the missing link between …And Justice For All and Metallica. Those boasts are not far from the mark, as the sound and style of the album very much remind one of the best moments from those albums. “The Day That Never Comes,” is more than up to the task of reminding fans of the classic “One.” While lacking the conceptual brilliance of the latter, it displays some of Hetfield’s best work as a vocalist and guitarist; the opening melody, while soft when compared to the rest of the album, is genuinely beautiful. For the first time since …And Justice, there is an instrumental number, “Suicide & Redemption.” Clocking at 9:56, it is now the longest song in the Metallica discography and more than worthy of that title.

The centerpiece of the record is the soon-to-be classic “All Nightmare Long.” Those unwilling to believe Metallica was capable of playing speed metal past 40 will eat their words; the guitar work is as fast as it has ever been. With Hetfield’s persistent cries that “Your luck runs out” and that “We’ll hunt you down all nightmare long,” and Ulrich’s absolute destruction of his kit in the background, one slowly begins to understand that something big is coming. When Hammet leads in with his wah-wah pedal wrenching forth, the tension is almost unbearable. And then, BOOM! The explosion that takes place directly channels Master Of Puppets era Metallica; speed building upon speed, riff upon riff, fill upon fill, barreling through your speakers with reckless abandon until there is nothing left.

“My Apocalypse” takes the place of such classics such as “Battery” or “Blackened,” except instead of opening the record, it servers as the closing number. Were Metallica to never record another note of music, this song would serve as the most fitting cap to their career. The thrash metal that brought the band to the forefront in the early 80s, and was delivered on Kill ‘Em All, returns en force, literally ending the album with a bang. And with that, 73 minutes later after the opening, lurking notes, Metallica serves note to all who oppose them; they are back.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.