Death Magnetic

Written by: AP on 16/09/2008 17:23:52

"Holy fucking shit." I spammed those three words to anyone within my cyber-vicinity throughout last Friday. Seventy fives minutes prior to that I'd set my hungry fingers on the most anticipated release this year, the record that most of us had prepared to hate for the past five years, while still clinging to a faint hope that things could finally be different this time. I still remember John Henry's sardonic comments at Malmö Festival, when he alluded his band's sound problems to "St. Anger". That was it, rock bottom for Metallica. An album that sounds like sound problems. From such low there's only one way out, up, but even the most optimistic of us couldn't have anticipated more than for the band to gradually restore what they'd lost. Well, miracles do happen. Metallica exploded from the depths of that well with unforeseen power, unleashing a follow-up to "St. Anger" that frankly brushes the floor with every other candidate for this year's album of the year, and strengthens the band's position as the undisputed kings of heavy metal.

I appreciate that Metallica once stood by Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth as one of the "Big Four" of thrash metal, and that some of the band's fans will never forgive them for exploring other directions, let alone for the commercial success that followed. Fans with that mindset decided long ago that any further Metallica release would automatically suck unless it'd be a remastered version of "Kill 'Em All". But shoot me if it's a coincidence that Metallica self-titled the album that saw their music expand into a more mainstream sound that's best described as hard rock rather than thrash or heavy metal. It's here that the band feels at home. Having said that, and although "Death Magnetic" fits better next to "The Black Album" than "Kill 'Em All", it does chronicle the entire musical history of Metallica.

While there's a distinct lack of all-out thrash assaults like "Damage Inc.", most of the album's ten tracks pay homage to them. With tracks averaging at seven and a half minutes, there's room to show off, and show off is exactly what Metallica do. From start to finish, each individual song showcases the best of Metallica, from extensive instrumental passages to no bullshit rock n' roll to some of the best solos Hammett has written. But perhaps most significantly, Metallica have largely abandoned ballads. With the exception of "The Unforgiven III", a stunningly beautiful piece, which culminates in solo that will leave you speechless, there are no strictly balladic songs, just one intense heavy metal barrage after the other.

When I've listened to Metallica's discography, I've always pieced together a kind of best of Metallica compilation, feeling that no album alone captured what I expected of them, but with "Death Magnetic" the band has accomplished just that. This is what Metallica is supposed to sound like. Ten distinguished songs, each with a slightly different approach than the other; ten monstrously epic rock songs that should satisfy even the most hardened leather-vest veteran. And it feels good. An album this hard-rocking isn't simply a success, it's a redemption. It's an album with no shortcomings; where everything's been fine-tuned to perfection, be it the highest note of one of Hammett's solos, the superior audio quality or the masterful song structures. "Death Magnetic" is the album that nobody expected, and it may just be the comeback of all time. Not convinced by my praising words? Listen to "All Nightmare Long", and then join me in spamming "holy fucking shit".


Download: The End of the Line, All Nightmare Long, Cyanide, The Unforgiven III
For the fans of: Metallica
Listen: Myspace

Release date 12.09.2008

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