Album Reviews

Metallica – Death Magnetic

(Vertigo) UK release date: 12 September 2008

What next. The great mystery which has pervaded every Metallica albumsince Master Of Puppets.

Their last answer, the raw, combustive and underrated St Anger in retrospect hangs like a dirtyjacket in a large wardrobe. Opening the door five years on, Metallica mayafford it a glance, if only as a reminder before dusting off an older numberwhich hasn’t been worn in a while but fits with firmness and comfortablefamiliarity.

St Anger was of course not a happy time for Metallica. With DeathMagnetic, long time producer Bob Rock is gone. In his place is Rick Rubin, and with that a return to service for Lars Ulrich’s snare (no longersounding like he’s walloping a pot), while Kirk Hammett gets the green lightto play solos again.

The production is thicker and more rounded, and what the Black Albumwould sound like recorded in these times – a respectful nod back to BobRock’s finest moment from Rubin.

If St Anger’s songs were the fruits of too many hangovers, fights andsleepless nights, Death Magnetic, despite its morbid concept, picks over theeight years from Kill ‘Em All to the Black Album like a diary whichchronicled the period. Indeed, as That Was Your Life and The End Of The Linecanon the album to life you can’t help but muse, this isMetallica.

The Day That Never Comes winds its way round your ears like a son of One,with the hegemony plain to see, right down to the classic styled solos thattrail up to big choruses and an epic climax.

All Nightmare Long’s eight minutes could have cropped up on Ride TheLightning with its thrashy, sloping octaves of tempo changes, balls to thefloor solos, double bass smatterings and ritual chugathons. It’s a morealluding sign too that instead of singing about staring into mirrors and outof windows, James Hetfield is back to barking, snarling and growling verseslike “Hallucination, Heresy, Still you run, what’s to come? What’stoday?”

If the desire to read over pages of the past has somehow managed to missyou by this point, The Unforgiven III effectively picks up the book andchucks it at you face on.

Which brings us to the nub of what makes Death Magnetic such a resoundingsuccess. Death Magnetic could have dropped 15 years ago and been a logicalconclusion to the Black album. Today, it emphatically brings Metallica fullcircle to an intriguing afterthought: what next?

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