Review Summary: After being largely irrelevant for the past decade, Metallica returns with their best original effort in nearly twenty years.
Imagine my surprise when I was walking down the street last week to find a CD case lying on the ground. I picked it up and noticed that it was Metallica’s latest effort, Death Magentic
, and the CD inside looked virtually new. After originally putting off listening to this album when it first came out, I felt this was some sort of message from the metal gods, so I took it home and gave it a spin. While not expecting them to match or exceed their classic 80s material, how does Death Magentic
fare in Metallica long and storied discography?
The absolute first thing I notice about Death Magentic
is the thrashy riffs that are more reminiscent of Metallica’s yester years. It’s obvious that Metallica tried to tap into their wild, unconventional youth, and the end result is a variety of heavy riffs that wheel in and out of several unique grooves. It’s also refreshing to hear James Hetfield’s vocal performance is as strong as ever, while Lars Ulrich’s frantic drumming is tasteful and very fitting of the music. These are some of the best songs that Metallica have written in decades, and thanks to more the complex and varied structures, any metal fan is sure to find several wicked riffs and head banging sessions during the album’s lengthy runtime.
Another notable thing about Death Magentic
comes courtesy of song lengths. While their previous effort, St. Anger
, recycled riffs needlessly, the song lengths of Death Magentic
are more justified this time around. The majority of songs on the album are over seven minutes, but all the riffs sound very inspired and the structures are creative enough to hold your attention throughout. My only real problem with the long song lengths is that, while some songs sound more cohesive, some songs just sound like a string of riffs that were thrown together (notably the instrumental track “Suicide and Redemption”). While there really isn’t a bad song on the entire album, some songs just sound more natural than others, and sometimes the feeling of authenticity is lost during certain stretches of some certain songs.
And while Death Magentic
as a whole is a spectacular, grandiose effort, there are a lot of elements that dampen the quality of the music. First off, I’m glad that Metallica has decided to reintroduce solos back into their sound, but can someone please take that goddamn wah-wah pedal away from Mr. Hammett? While his soloing is par for the course and occasionally surprises me (“My Apocalypse”, “Unforgiven III”), he needs that thing taken away from him. The production, while towering and dominant, sounds a bit too unrefined and the bass guitar is largely buried in the mix. And while the lengthy songs aren’t too cumbersome to listen to individually, listening to this album in one sitting can be very overbearing given the long, long runtime.
So while Death Magentic
doesn’t quite live up to Metallica’s classic material, it is a very impressive effort. In the end, Death Magentic
turns out to be very fun, enjoyable listen and the boys in the band sound like they really put their absolute best efforts into it. So thank you, metal gods, for finally giving me the one final push I needed to actually listen to this album. And while I have your attention, I still haven’t gotten around to Megadeth’s new album…