24 September 2008
Metallica - Death Magnetic
This work was a long time coming. People everywhere (that care) have been all up-in-arms saying, "Metallica is BACK!" and then making minor qualifying statements about certain elements of the album. I have to agree to an extent, this is far closer to pre-Black Album Metallica than anything they've released in the 20 years since ...And Justice For All. The guitars are thrashy, punchy, crunchily distorted with none of whatever garbage that Bob Rock threw into all of the mixes when they joined forces with him. Hetfield's "bark" is back, or as back as it could be since his long locks are long gone. The lyrics are adolescent, but that was predictable since they've never been that interesting to begin with. Kirk lays down some serious riffage and has brought back the "late '80s thrash solo" which merely means, "I'm solely going to play a ton 32nd and 64th notes right here so deal with it." And while there will never be another Cliff, Robert Trujillo is more than capable of making himself heard and seems to have been allowed a far greater role in writing than Jason Newsted ever was.
As far as any of the above go, it's really what most people have already written. Amazing, really, because the reviews have been so consistent to point out the exact same things while each review exclaims, "Yeah, Metallica is Back!" Well, here's the problem; as much as I agree with all of them that this is a little bit exciting and that this is way better than anything since '88...Lars is still the drummer. Let's face it Lars sucks. He's the shittiest drummer in any notable metal band and has been since Metallica charged out. He got away with his weaknesses for a while but by the time ...And Justice... dropped it was clear that he had no chops. It's unfortunate that at the same time that they lost Cliff they also had to try and cover up for the fact that their drummer had run out of ideas and had been holding them back. We'll never know what Metallica could really have become because of these two factors, but it's clear on this album that there was a ceiling and they hit it by '88. Some of Lars' drum parts are so juvenile and simplistic that anybody familiar with a drumkit has to acknowledge that he's just not a good drummer; there are some beats in here that are not there for any effect other than, "Shit, I can't actually do anything awesome here, so I'll just play this."
But whatever, in the final observation all that anybody cares about is that this is the first Metallica album in 20 years that's worth cranking. Somebody should have stoned Bob Rock to death long ago, but I guess none of us understood that he was the major issue in their album construction because of the several other glaring issues present. Rick Rubin has brought out the good old Metallica, so proper gratitude must be floated his way. Death Magnetic doesn't get super high marks, but it's definitely worth picking up...er, downloading. Definitely download it. Do it for Lars.