Review Summary: Metallica isn't back just yet, but they're on their way.
Before I give this review I must give a disclaimer of sorts. The scope through which this album was perceived was that of an old school thrasher with very distinct musical preferences. When it comes to music in general I can be fairly open minded but Metallica has had so many musical transgressions that it's hard to listen to their new music without cringing or ever having the urge to blow my brains out. Now that that's out of the way let's get ***ING started.
First let's talk about the guitars on this album in all of their aspects. The guitar riff tone sounds like Hetfield dialed back the distortion and turned off the tone knob on his guitar. The whole riff sound brings the album down a level, had Metallica used heavier, thicker distortion I would have enjoyed this album twice as much, that's no exaggeration. The actual riffs scattered in the album are brilliant. I was very surprised to hear that Hetfield really took charge and brought it upon himself to create something that wasn't a complete failure. The solos: Kirk Hammett really is THE THING THAT SHOULD NOT BE on this album. He is addicted to the wah pedal. The solos were absolutely ridiculously over compensated with wah. There were very few solos that amounted to anything other than mindless wah shredding. Hammett's solo tone also sounds like it is lacking presence, distortion and tonal volume. I own a pair of Kirk Hammett EMG pickups and they sound nothing like the awful tone he has in his solos. More specifically about the solos and riffs in the song critiques.
Hetfield's vocals have come a long way on this album. The vocal melodies are raging with unadulterated badassery. Horns up for the amazing job with his vocals on this album, though I swear I heard pitch correction on End of the Line around 6:20-6:30...
I'm gonna skip the bass because who really gives a *** about Trujillo, he was predominantly playing the root of every chord throughout anyways and he's not Cliff Burton(RIP). Ulrich really didn't sound like he gave much of a *** the whole time either. He usually just kept a basic beat throughout the album without ever putting much creativity into anything. It seems like the only useful member was Hetfield, who actually did a damn decent job in the song writing.
That Was Just Your Life: The heartbeat intro isn't overdone yet, but after this song it will be. The whole intro is very heavy and bewilderingly kick ass. Then the whole band comes in and the badassery ensues. When 2:25 arrives an awesome breakdown-esque riff battles Hetfield and creates one of the sickest verses of the album. Hetfield's vocals sound preachy and throaty which creates a very dynamic sound that gives you the feeling of old school Metallica CREEPING back from DEATH . The solo at 4:55 isn't terrible, it just sounds like Hammett decided not try to construct anything meaningful, he does this for the whole album...
The End of the Line: I don't care too much for the riff that comes in at :45 but the next part at 1:07 sounds Puppets-esque with a twist. The first couple of vocal lines are refreshingly aggressive. Then at 2:19 you here one of James' ridiculous interjections (which I never cared for). It had to happen sometime I guess. 4:45 marks Hammett's gaytarded wah solo which sounds like a cat feebly screeching for help as it is being suffocated in a plastic bag. The first clean stretch comes out around 5:55, and the transition they do has a nauseating nu-metal groove.
Broken, Beat and Scarred: The melodic riff at 1:04 is as cool as it is original. When the vocals enter the riff continues as a variation. The song is pretty slow until it picks up around 3:30. The first non-wah solo comes in around 4:15 and it might as well have been a wah solo because Hammett doesn't do anything interesting. This is really one of the more average, boring songs on the album.
The Day That Never Came: Why Metallica picked this as the song for their music video I have no idea. People were expecting to hear something new and different from the band and they choose the song that sounds the most like their bad-era work. It has a few decent heavy parts but if you saw the video before you heard the album you got a preconceived notion that it was just gonna be a horrendous P.O.S. Like I did. This song actually contains a decent solo that Hammett doesn't just shred chromatically over and there isn't any wah either.
All Nightmare Long: This song has a very ominous intro after the bass diddy. It builds up to one of the better songs of the album. James comes into the song with an exotic vocal melody that grinds into the best, catchiest chorus of the album. (2:27, 4:10) Hammett comes in with another useless wah solo at 4:40 though he has brought the wah back a bit. He pushes it back up around 5:50.
Cyanide: This is one of the more boring songs on the album. Though there is a lot of melodic guitar work embedded in the song, it's just not very interesting. The vocals sound like a reprisal of pop era Metallica.
The Unforgiven 3: I refuse to write about this song. TICK TICK TICK...
The Judas Kiss: 1:45 Happens to be one of my favorite pieces of the album.
Sell your soul to me
I will set you free
Pacify your demons"
You can really feel Metallica's old vibes coming back in this song. 4:28 Kirk comes in with his wah, and it just continues for too long.
Suicide and Redemption: When it comes to instrumental standards Metallica set the bar with songs like: The Call of Ktulu, Orion and To Live Is to Die. Suicide and Redemption sounds like a song James just decided not to sing for. This song isn't melodically/rhythmically/harmonically well written enough to be an instrumental piece. The solo around 3:50 has no soul or feeling whatsoever. It doesn't feel like it goes anywhere, it feels very incomplete without any vocals. 6:24 Kirk comes to life with an amazing solo(that doesn't utilize wah until around 6:50 which kills the solo ). The ending of the song includes Metallica's attempt at a breakdown which is totally lame as ***ing hell.
My Apocalypse: The last track is short compared to the rest of the album. The first vocal melody is very Diamond Head Am I Evil-ish (there was no better way to put that). It's a heavy hitter riddled with some fantastic rhythmic riffs. Hammett has an decent solo without any wah. 3:47 feels like a California earthquake and the outro contains its' aftershocks.
Overall the entire album was way too long and could definitely have been cut shorter. As is Metallica tradition there were way too many repeated verses and riffs that made the album repetitive and static. I often found myself ignoring the music when it lacked dynamic value. What this album is is a warm up album shaking off all the rust that's been collecting on them. Hopefully one day all the members will work together as they once did to write an album that can be considered a part of their classic work. James Hetfield has proved on this album that he still has some fire left in him and if he still has it maybe the others do too.