Metallica – [Album]

Friday, 10 October 2008

When Metallica emerged in the 80s, it was written in the blood of Kill 'Em All that their legacy would be built on defining an entire musical genre. Rolling though the late 80s and early 90s they cut a path of destruction releasing Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, …And Justice For All and Metallica (aka, The Black Album). Unfortunately, the band had started to loose their way through a series of unfortunate attempts to build a bigger, better sound as they headed into the turn of the century.

For a band that has conquered the world selling over 90 million albums, the fall from grace has been a sordid one. Metallica didn’t exactly fall from grace overnight, but rather took a spiraling downward turn over the course of 6-plus years. It probably began with Lars Ulrich’s vigorous pursuit of the peer-to-peer filesharing site Napster via the U.S. District Court for copyright violations. Their demo for the song “I Disappear” (from the Mission Impossible 2 sound track) was released in 2000 on the website making it available to all to download for free. This caused a dedicated fan base to really question Metallica’s means to an end while the media portrayed them as the bad guy. Shortly after, it was announced that Jason Newstead would be leaving the band in 2001 due to “creative differences.” When in reality the band’s tension created by a controlling and substance-abusing James Hetfield was the driving factor. This became the focal point of 2004’s rockumentary Some Kind of Monster which came off like an overblown, VH1ish version of Behind The Music.

One of the most defining missteps for the band came with the release of St. Anger in 2003. This attempt to get back to the raw roots of the band produced weak sales and mixed reviews from critics alike signaling the end of a 17-year run with producer Bob Rock. When Rick Ruben was announced as the producer for Metallica’s new Death Magnetic in 2006, it got me particularly excited. Rick Ruben has been responsible for a ridiculously long list of turning points and resurrections for bands including Slayer, Danzig, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash and Audioslave, just to name a few. In short, most of what Rick has laid his hands on in the not-so-distant past resulted in some of my favorite artists producing their best work.

Rick’s influence on Death Magnetic reverberates through the ten tracks of bone-crunching rhythm hooks, blistering solos and arm breaking drum work. The band took Rick’s no nonsense approach of writing the tracks to near completion and then heading into the studio to record tracks that will blend into a live like experience. “That Was Just Your Life” kicks off Death Magnetic with murky guitar plucking, which then quickly descends into the Metallica of yesteryear with a barrage of head spinning riffs and angry lyrics about how your life could have turned out courtesy of Mr. Hetfield. “The End of The Line” continues the flow of headbanging glory and then smooths out to “The Day That Never Comes,” which is very polished and somewhat reminiscent of many tracks from Metallica with very reflective lyrics and Metallica’s ballad like approach.

This ballad, which for reasons unknown to me is one of the first few singles, is followed up by one of the best works by Metallica in years, “All Nightmare Long.” This song rips at the fabric of what has been tearing the band apart for years and turns it on itself. I can’t even describe this track in words. If you’re even remotely a fan of old-school Metallica, go listen to this right now. “Cyanide” is the next suicide-metal beating that follows what I think is the best track off Death Magnetic. This track is a close second incorporating unorthodox rhythm changes and lyrics that burn images into the brain. During the Death Magnetic session writing, Kirk Hammett apparently brought in a picture of Lane Staley of Alice In Chains and posted it in the studio. This had a hand in Hetfield writing lyrical themes of death, suicide and the rock star fascination of pushing life to the limit. The final five tracks that finish Death Magnetic are more of the same masterful work by a band that has come to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. “Broken, Beat & “Scarred,” “The Unforgiven III,” “The Judas Kiss,” “Suicide and Redemption” and “My Apocalypse” are all solid tracks that have left Death Magnetic with not one throw away track.

Metallica has been compared to many bands over the years from different genres. Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones are two of the more recent comparisons that I have read in various reviews as they crossed over the 25-year mark as a band. I can’t argue with the impact their legacy has had when stacking them up to such well-respected greats. It’s also obvious Metallica is doing what they’ve always done; doing things on their own terms, which is what puts them up for comparison to the great names in rock. I’m not sure how long Metallica can continue playing their brand of break-neck metal knowing the toll it must be taking on them as they get older. I can confidently tell you with the release of Death Magnetic that Metallica is back where they should be: taking no prisoners and making no apologies.


Death Magnetic is out now on Warner Bros. Buy it on here

Comments are closed.