Metallica
Death Magnetic


3.5
great

Review

by Pedro B. USER (303 Reviews)
July 8th, 2009 | 27 replies | 2,423 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Better than anyone dared to expect, but by no means a classic.

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

‘Praise the Lord, Metallica is back’.

If I had written this review a few months ago, like I intended to, that would have been the tagline, and the rating a solid 4/5. However, now that the excitement of having the “old” Metallica back has dissipated a little, it’s time to evaluate Death Magnetic as a stand-alone album. The new assessment is not too different from the old one, but acknowledges a few problems that were gleefully overlooked or sugar-coated the first time around.

First of all, one must bear in mind the fact that it couldn’t have been easy for Metallica to write this album. I mean, where do you go after St. Anger? It would seem the only possible way was up, but the ascent was still pretty tricky – one slip-up and you could be in Load territory again. And that wouldn’t please the fans. And you must please the fans, because your last piece of crap of an album lost you quite a few, and an equal amount stuck around solely on the merits of your still-fiery live show. So, you’re basically stuck in a rut. What should you do?

The answer: make a conscious and premeditated effort to rejuvenate by 20 years. That’s what Death Magnetic is, and that’s what it sounds like: a group of 40-year-old men going through a second childhood. Did you ever hear about that phase in a person’s life where they (especially men) seek to recapture the carelessness and fun of their teenage years? Well, musically, that is what Metallica are doing here.

However, there are a few things keeping them from succeeding entirely. For one., James’ voice is still accusing the effects of one too many rehab sessions. In the clean parts in particular, there are some slip-ups that, while not as frequent as on St. Anger, still make the listener a little uneasy. For another, Lars still can’t drum worth a damn, and he insists on making his drums sound like sh*t on the album. The drum mixing is nowhere near as atrocious as on The Album Which Shall Not Be Named, but it’s still pretty bad. Worse, the execution itself is sloppy and uninspired, constituting one of the lowest points of this album.

And then there are the lyrics. To put it bluntly, some of them are atrocious. There are some verses that show Hetfield can still write a meaningful põem, but on others, you have to wonder what he was thinking. Take, for example, the cringe-inducing grammatical error repeated to exhaustion on Broken, Beat And Scarred. ”What don’t kill ya’ll make ya more strong” Really? ”More strong”? Aren’t Metallica supposed to have English as a first language? Even I know that’s wrong! Sadly, that’s not all. Try ”say is that rain or are they tears” for good measure. Or ”love is a four letter word”. Really!? What an astounding revelation! And then there’s All Nightmare Long, probably the worst pun I’ve heard in quite a while.

Even more puzzling is how the group manages to counter-balance these ridiculous lines with some good ones. ” Judas lives, recite this vow/I’ve become your new God now”, snarled by Hetfield, sounds amazing. Or how about “born to push you around/You better just stay down/You pull away/He hits the flesh/You hit the ground? It’s instances like these that make the bad lyrics even more intolerable.

But what of the music, you ask? Well, there’s good and there’s bad. As stated, Ulrich’s drumming is mostly bad, and in many cases confuses volume for actual aggression. On the opposite end is Kirk Hammett’s performance, with the guitarist having a handful of stellar, shredding, technical SOLOS. That’s right, Kirk’s solos are back!!! Yaaaaaay!! What’s more, over half of them are interesting, with a couple being downright awesome. I confess the first time I heard him rip on That Was Just Your Life, it put a big goofy grin on my face which refuses to leave even to this day. We needed Kirk to do this type of solo...it’s been too long. As for James, he follows along pleasantly, creating some satisfiably crunchy riffs and delivering a confident, if flawed, vocal performance. New boy Trujillo, in turn, is no Cliff Burton, but gets the job done with gusto.

The problem, then, is that the songwriting is extremely wavery. For every above-average or good moment – That Was Just Your Life, The End Of The Line, My Apocalypse, there is another which is plodding and expendable, such as Suicide and Redemption or the dreadful Broken, Beat and Scarred. The first seeks to recapture the spirit of the instrumentals of old, but contains no significant wank factor, quickly becoming plodding and overlong. The latter...well, if you like this song, you’ve just lost your right to badmouth anything by Metallica ever again. It’s worse than anything on St. Anger, and that’s saying a lot. From the unsufferably insipid lyrics to the faux-aggression, it shows Metallica falling prey to the same mistakes they made six years previously. A redeeming factor is Kirk’s awesome solo, and the subsequent riff – they don’t belong in a song like this, and deserve a better fate than the inevitable oblivion they’ll be condemned to.

Fortunately, the rest of the album fares much better, veering between the acceptably average – All Nightmare Long, Cyanide – and the outright awesome – My Apocalypse – with a few good surprises like The Judas Kiss in between. This is a complex, satisfying song with life beyond its chorus (unlike Cyanide, which gives the illusion of being a standout but isn’t) and some good vocal and instrumental work. However, the real standouts are the bookends. My Apocalypse is Metallica’s best song since the black album, a rippin’, shreddin’ slice of pure Bay Area thrash which contains the best moment in the album – look out for James belting out ”split apart, split apart, split apart, SPIT IT OUT!!!!” before Kirk launches into another one of his creaking solos. Simply awesome. A similar pattern is followed by That Was Just Your Life, which brings back the spirit of tracks such as Blackened and Battery and seems destined to become a Metallica classic. Finally, The End Of The Line is a mid-tempo track with some more good guitar work and another catchy chorus. Here, the solo is more dissonant, bringing echoes of Sad But True; it works well in context, but we can never get enough of Kirk shredding.

The remaining songs, as stated, are satisfying, but show a somewhat worrisome tendency. You see, Metallica are ripping off themselves. Lead single The Day That Never Comes is structured in the exact same way as the classic Fade To Black, except this time there are words in the chorus. And why do I keep slipping up and calling it The Day That Never Was or The Day That Should Not Be...? As for The Unforgiven III, it’s an effective but most definite rehash of Low Man’s Lyric from Re-Load. As for the cover of the album itself, it seems to be attempting to bring back the spirit of ...And Justice For All, an album with which Death Magnetic shares a few similarities, not least the fact that it debuts a new bassist in the group, just like the 1988 album did. Plus, sonically, it’s basically a mixture of AJFA and Re-Load, with a bit of everything else thrown in.

But is it a classic? Well, no. There are far too many flaws. But Metallica are left off the hook on the evidence of having presented an honest album, with some very definite standouts making do for its more than glaring deficiencies. A pass mark, but no gold stars.

Recommended Tracks
That Was Just Your Life
The End Of The Line
The Judas Kiss
My Apocalypse



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user ratings (3754)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • ImTheOnlyThugInTheBuildin (2.5)
    An album that never strives to go anywhere and feels too mixed...

    mark sammut (2.5)
    Not the final nail in the band's coffin...That comes later...

    Dishpan (4.5)
    They are well and truly back. They have removed the burden of St. Anger. Whether it's the ...

    Alec Martin (3)
    The band's best album ever since ...And Justice For All....

  • Michael B. (3.5)
    Rumours of Metallica's demise have been greatly exaggerated....

    Tom Gellatly (4.5)
    Whilst often heralded as Metallica's return to form, Death Magnetic is a fantastic album i...

    BassPlaya008 (3)
    Metallica is back. Somewhat....

    MetallicaRTL7214 (3.5)
    ...

  • Zipzop5565 (5)
    The year is 1983. One man, a bitter, broken, beat, scarred, shamed, lifeless shell of what...

    David Driver (4)
    After being largely irrelevant for the past decade, Metallica returns with their best orig...

    kabster (4)
    ...

    Mark (4)
    What took the Metal Gods so long??...

  • SeanOnFire (4)
    Metallica definately deliver the goods with a triumphant near return to old glory...

    Jorn van Schaïk (2)
    Metallica have improved from the last record. Instead of excruciatingly terrible, they are...

    pogostick1 (3)
    There is life in the old dogs yet. But how much is yet to be determined......

    HollywoodConstantine (3)
    Metallica is back to their roots. The record sounds like a combination of "...And Justice...

  • gingerfish (3.5)
    Metallica isn't back just yet, but they're on their way....

    Daniel Smith (3)
    A successful rebound effort from a band seemingly doomed to dwell forever in the realm of ...

    Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF (3.5)
    A fine album from a heavy metal juggernaut that might just be kicking back into gear....

    BadgerX (3.5)
    Is it as good as Master of Puppets? Maybe, maybe not. Is it any good? It's great....

  • Kit Brown (3.5)
    Metallica fuses Master of Puppets with The Black Album and finally starts kicking ass agai...


Comments:Add a Comment 
ReturnToRock
July 8th 2009



3448 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sorry for the biggish review.

i was going to post this tomorrow, when i will be seeing Metallica live in concert, but i just got tired of listening to the album, so i posted it today instead :D

PuddlesPuddles
July 8th 2009



4668 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is HUGE it must be good

jk i read it, it was great

Phantom
July 8th 2009



8930 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I haven't listened to this in months, it got old pretty fast.

KILL
July 8th 2009



67023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

agreed, good review

Digging: Picchio dal Pozzo - Picchio dal Pozzo

ReturnToRock
July 8th 2009



3448 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

whoa. it is huge. sorry to make you plow through that. guess i have lenght issues...

Phantom
July 8th 2009



8930 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It's not the longest review I've ever seen on here, but it is pretty big.

KILL
July 8th 2009



67023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Si1v3RfaNgs Ride the lightning review is the longest i've seen

Phantom
July 8th 2009



8930 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

That was the one of the ones I was thinking of, haha. There's another one that I still can't remember though...

PuddlesPuddles
July 8th 2009



4668 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

guess i have lenght issues...



i know how you feel ;)

Waior
July 8th 2009



11420 Comments


Definitely one of your better reviews.

ninjuice
July 8th 2009



6758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

There's another one that I still can't remember though...

MM8's Master of Puppets review?


RTR you pretty much lost me after the third paragraph but I kept reading anyways and it's a good review.

KILL
July 8th 2009



67023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hahha i forgot about that mop review

Poet
July 8th 2009



5910 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

All Nightmare Long is not average =(

ReturnToRock
July 8th 2009



3448 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yes it is. come on.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2009



8221 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

very good review Pedro, it was a really good read and the length didn't bother me at all, nice job! As for the album, I pretty much agree with most of what you say, but I don't find anything all that special in The Judas Kiss, and you know what, I like "Broken, beat & scarred". It's a good thing I have never listened to st.anger haha so I can't flame it. So yes, pretty much i agree with you, I would just swap Judas Kiss with All Nightmare Long in the rec'd songs section.

Digging: Metsatoll - Karjajuht

ReturnToRock
July 8th 2009



3448 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

well that fourth spot WAS coveted. i had cyanide in there, then the day that never comes, THEN unforgiven, but they all lost for some reason (the first one is crap apart from the chorus, the other two are self-rip-offs). and judas kiss was the best of the rest, so...

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2009



8221 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

naah i would have put "All Nightmare Long", "Cyanide" or "The Day That Never Comes" in there. Unforgiven III just plain sucks and Judas Kiss is generic in my eyes

Nihilum
July 8th 2009



5 Comments


This pretty much sums up my thoughts on Death Magnetic, with the few exceptions that I like Suicide and Redemption - though it isn't near the quality of Cthulu or Orion, it's still damn cool that Met is back to instrumentals. And I thought UF3 was pure crap.

ReturnToRock
July 8th 2009



3448 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i liked S&R the first time, i even commented it with a friend. doesn't hold up though.

and the album is a chore to listen to, i barely made three listens.

oh, and i liked UF3 because i'm one of the few who actually likes low man's lyric, and since they're basically the same song...

ScorpionStan
July 8th 2009



1797 Comments


nice review, i don't think it's too long at all.

however, there are now officially WAY too many reviews for this. 14!?!?!



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