Review Summary: Is it as good as Master of Puppets? Maybe, maybe not. Is it any good? It's great.
So Metallica have been bashed with every single stick imaginable by people. They've been hated for deviating into country influenced alternative rock in the 90s, and of course they've been loved by their legions of fans for the part they played in perfecting Thrash as we know it today. I have wondered however if it was the resurgence in Heavy Metal that resulted in them doing this or just the plain fact that they realised Heavy Metal is what they do best.
It destroys recent efforts by the now slightly defunct 'Big Four', counting in 'Christ Illusion'
by Slayer, 'United Abominations
by Megadeth and Anthrax's 'We've Come For You All'
, which were all more than commendable returns to form for those bands themselves, who realized like their famous colleagues have in Metallica, albeit a bit late, that Metal is where it's at. And where it always will be.
"Like a siren in my head that I was to repeat,
Like a blind man that was shoved into the speeding driver's seat,"
Beginning with a simple beating heart, which then fuses into an Among The Livingesque riff, with Rob Trujillo's bass thudding behind, 'That Was Just Your Life
' snakes into a heavy crunch morphing slowly into an undeniably thrashy riff that harkens back to the Blackened and Battery days, just overcoming any resistance that comes through.
"Almost like your fight,
And there it went,
Almost like your life.
James Hetfield is at his furious best in this song, with guitar riffs as sharp as a precision needle creeping into your skull just doing exactly what the song set out to do, thrash away to glory. His riffs, combined with Kirk Hammett's lead work simply elevate this song onto a plateau where the likes of the previously mentioned Battery and Blackened sit, just destroying everything in view.
Sliding into "The End of The Line
", with an intro riff taken from the New Song 'Death Is Not The End', this tune effortlessly moves into a groovey riff that can't stop my head from bopping. Hetfield is on form again with his vocal stylings and lyrics, and this song is monstrously amazing. Harmonies and all.
Kirk Hammett's wah laden solo threatens to derail this song a little bit, but he holds back his foot as much as he can, without sounding like a Jimi Hendrix ripoff on the pedal.
"Drop the hourglass of time
Spinning sand we will not find
As we gather here today
We bid farewell
The slave becomes the master "
With an extended clean interlude that continues to build up towards a climax with the main riff keeps coming back - akin to the fashion in which the riff from "...And Justice For All
" insisting on that making repeated visits. A great song again apart from the over-reliance my Kirk Hammett on his wah, as per usual mind you.
"Broken, Beat & Scarred
" continues the emphasis on groove and heaviness with a lead riff that is middle-eastern in it's heart, and really does wash over very well. James Hetfield's vocals really are superb once more, and he seems to have taken equal opportunities in focusing unwaveringly on nailing every nuance of his vocal melodies and guitar melodies for the songs so far. One of my favourites on the album, and one to really grow on a listener personally. Lyrics aren't the greatest but catchy as hell.
"You rise, you fall, you’re down then you rise again
What don’t kill you make you more strong
The next song is the single for the album, "The Day That Never Comes
". Strangely similar to Fade to Black in melody, this song follows a familiar strucure and pattern seen in One, which to me are arguably Metallica's best ballads to date. An excellent song, one which I disliked initially, but on hearing the rest of the album, I found a new found appreciation for since it fits seamlessly with the flow of the album, acting almost as a leveler for the rest of the heaviness that has been witnessed so far. The vocals could've have been stronger, but it seems Hetfield had intended to accentuate his crooning qualities rather than his attitude and grit in this song. Lars Ulrich excels in his drumming on this song personally, albeit with the annoying clipping of his snare.
"God I’ll make them pay
Take it back one day
I’ll end this day
I'll splatter colour on this gray
Hetfield at his best.
"Love is a four letter word
And never spoken here
Love is a four letter word
Here in the prison
Hetfield at his worst. Four letters" Really"
Ah, now comes possibly Metallica's best song since god knows in 'All Nightmare Long
'. Possibly the worst title for a song since 'Carpe Diem Baby
', this song is more classic Metallica than the parody that was the above mentioned song. Throughout this song, I had a smile on my face, becuse words cannot describe how good this song is. It's relentless in it's progressive nature, moving from one riff to another, whilst Hetfield consistently repeats possibly the most catchy chorus I've heard in a while.
"Hunt you down without mercy
Hunt you down all nightmare long
Effin brilliant song, I love it.
After this comes "Cyanide
", which is probably the least Metallica sounding track on the album. A good song, but very repetitive in it's structure. Once more a very catchy chorus, with a style of structure that harkens back to "King Nothing
", which was one of the standout tracks on Metallica's "Load"
". Doesn't quite stand out here though, but a good song nevertheless.
"The Unforgiven III
" begins with something that would fit in perfectly on an Ennio Moriccone tribute cd. An intro which consists of an orchestrally layered melody that just screams 'Epic ballad coming up'. The solo is superb has Kirk Hammett lays off the wah a fair bit on this song until the 2nd section of the solo, which seems to fit more now fortunately.
"How can I be lost
If I've got nowhere to go"
Search for seas of gold
How come it's got so cold"
How can I be lost
In remembrance I relive
So how can I blame you
When it's me I can't forgive"
Nothing can probably match up to the song that started this trilogy, but this is an absolutely momentous song. It builds and builds, then drops, then builds again and just takes the listener on a joyride that you don't ever want to end - except when the next song begins.
"The Judas Kiss
" picks up where "All Nightmare Long
" left off and proceeds to pummel into submission. A frenzy of riffs, displaying the progressive influences and intricacies seen on "...And Justice For All
", to the point that it reminds me of "The Frayed Ends of Sanity
The guitar work once more is superb and so awesomely catchy, as is Hetfield's vocals. Lars' snare is one again a bit to loud, to the point that it might not be St.Anger-esque, but it's irritating. Regardless, I love this song. From the chorus of :-
Sell your soul to me
I will set you free
Pacify your demons
Surrender unto me
Sanctify your demons
You don't exist
The Judas kiss
- to the grooveyness of the verse riff, and the melodic break that takes place within the verse, this song just makes me smile a lot. Somebody needs to break Kirk Hammett's wah pedal mind you, especially since the rhythm guitar is a tad low in the mix during the guitar solos in this album.Despite that, this song is absolutely superb. The time changes and time signatures of the song are flawlessly smooth, and there's not a thing I can say bad about the actual song itself.
Following on from "The Judas Kiss
" is the rather boring "Suicide & Redemption
". Probably the only song I can't listen to completely, this song fails to reach the heights of this album, or classic instrumental done in the past like "Orion
" or "The Call of Ktulu
", this song borders on boring, primarily because it's so long. There's no real shift in atmosphere in this song, and despite some good soloing and a fairly catchy redneck riff that is the core of this song, it fails to do anything for me personally. A decent song, but not great.
The closer of this album is the 2nd single of the album, "My Apocalypse
", which is a flat out thrash song. Going back to "Damage Inc.
" and "Dyer's Eve
keep it short and sweet by their standards. A high tempo song, concentrating on perfectly intoned lyrics by Hetfield, it's sixteenth based intro riff rips into a relatively breakneck verse riff with Hetfield taking over the reins to rope in a fair few doubters with this entertaining song, but again a tad repetitive at times. The repetition is redeemed by a blistering solo Hammett, and possibly his best on the album. An excellent way to close a satisfying album.
So far I've gushed, now what I don't I like about this album". The production really. The snare drum is too high in the mix, the rhythm tone is far too sharp, rather than concentrating on a crunch to complement the crisp lead tone that is exhibited by Hammett.
I haven't mentioned Rob Trujillo since the first song, why" Because whilst his influence on the band is evident, unless you turn the bass up and really concentrate, you cannot hear him at all, apart from the thudding when there is a snare break in any song. I know where to personally lay the blame for this.
In the words of James Hetfield :-
"When is the bass too loud""
"When you can hear it"
Musically to me, this album is very well done, the production however is left wanting. Rick Rubin needed to take a leaf out of the Black Album in terms of production, in the same way he told the band to hark back to their 80s songwriting.
However all in all, an absolutely superb to return to form, by one of my favourite bands of all time. More of the same please, chaps.
That Was Just Your Life
The End of The Line
Broken, Beat & Scarred
All Nightmare Long
The Unforgiven III
The Judas Kiss