Metallica - Death magnetic 1.5/5

Reviewed: 10-10-08


1. That was just your life
2. The end of the line
3. Broken, beat & scarred
4. The day that never comes
5. All nightmare long
6. Cyanide
7. The unforgivn III
8. THe judas kiss
9. Suicide & Redemption
10. My apocalypse

As you can tell by the rating, I am not in love with the new Metallica CD for reasons I will detail below. Having said that, you may be delighted with it. If you've been waiting for Metallica to return to its roots and release an honest to goodness speed metal CD, then your wait is finally over. This is a 100% speed metal CD that probably most resembles 'Kill 'em all' in style if not in quality. So for many bitter, angry Metallica fans, this CD could be a revelation for you. As for me? Well, I certainly loved Metallica back in high school. I still have warm, fuzzy feelings in my heart for their first 3 CDs - in particular their opus 'Master of puppets' and 'Kill 'em all'. (Oddly enough I find that 'Ride the lightning' hasn't aged all that well, but I am sure that's just my warped opinion.) After Cliff Burton died, I thought a lot of the magic went out of the band. I liked some of 'And justice for all', but found the vast majority of it to be dull with overly long songs that sounded more sterile than the cleanest laboratory. As for the 'Black' CD, well I thought it was a brilliant CD for the genre it was in and was unsurprised it took them to new heights of popularity. It wasn't something I was keen to listen to myself however, so I sort of stopped paying attention to Metallica after that. Since then I have heard bits and pieces of most if not all of their CDs and never felt overly compelled to return to their material. With the word that 'Death magnetic' was back to their speed metal origins, curiosity got the better of me, so I checked it out.

Let's get what I don't like out of the way first and my reasoning for ranking this slightly below average. First off, the songs on this CD are just ridiculously too long. Of the 10 tracks on this CD, exactly one is under 6 minutes. 7 of the tracks clock in at over 7 minutes. I just don't have the patience to sit through that many long songs - unless the songs are just amazingly awesome, which is sadly not the case here. Secondly, James Hetfield is an atrocious vocalist who tries to sing way beyond his capabilities. Somewhere over the years, James took some voice lessons and started being told he was a really good singer. Well, he's not. Sadly, while during plenty of the CD he provides the simpler vocals reminiscent of the old days, there are still times where he tries to sing far beyond his capabilities and the results are often painful. Thankfully, there are no Bob Seger or Lynyrd Skynyrd songs on here so I don't need to flee from the room in terror when I hear him, but suffice it to say, he needs to stick with far simpler vocal melodies than he is doing in places here. In fact, his voice seems so different today from how it sounded in the 80s that I am confident hearing him sing "Fade to black" would be painful as well. Finally, the production on this CD is not very good. There aren't any tin can snare drums here (Hello 'St. Anger'!), but there are times the recording level sounds way too high and some hideous distortion is the result.

As for the songs, they are veer generally from the "OK" level to the "Hey, that's pretty good" area. The only genuinely bad songs are "The unforgiven III" which is slow, boring, and plods on for nearly 8 minutes, and the tedious 10-minute instrumental "Suicide & redemption", which does not bring back memories of the classic "Orion". The rest of the CD is surprisingly enough filled with honest to goodness speed metal. Some of the riffs are even quite compelling. The guitar tone here doesn't have the razor sharp tone that slayed us all on 'Master of puppets', so everything comes off a bit more raw here. My favorites are 'My apocalypse' (the only 5 minute long song), 'The end of the line' (which has some killer riffs), and 'The day that never comes' (a poor man's "Fade to black"). You'll here a lot of classic Metallica elements on this CD: quick drum tempos, speedy guitar riffs, even some honest to goodness harmony guitars. However, a lot of time has gone by so it's hard to say this sounds a lot like old Metallica. But, it's nice of them to try.

Ultimately, this CD doesn't do a whole lot for me, but it's a good effort at the classic sound. I am not sure if this was motivated by money or an honest desire to play this or not, but I think a lot of Metallica fans of yore should enjoy this. To me, it just feels more like an old band going through the motions. Much like with Iron Maiden, Metallica is not likely to recapture the magic of the 80s. Also much like Iron Maiden, we instead get something trying desperately to recapture that magic which for some reason is loaded with overly long songs. However, some people love the last few Iron Maiden CDs, so I am sure 'Death magnetic' should find its share of devotees too.




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