Album: Death Magnetic
Label: Warner Bros.
For some this album is like a second coming. The gradual build up of expectancy and hype, which saw Metallica fans straining their eyes across the internet at poor quality phone footage of new songs eagerly setting online forums ablaze with questions, with doubts, with fears and with a childlike innocence that suggested to all these worried fans: “It’s ok children, Uncle Metallica won’t let you down again.”
Unfortunately, I’m a cynic. Since the album has been released, I’ve done nothing but wince when, on every occasion, I hear someone say “METALLICA ARE BACK! ST. ANGER NEVER HAPPENED!” I never found St. Anger that bad – ok, a lot was disposable, but then again that’s the case with pretty much every Metallica album. The only real problem with it was the band’s inability to take a step back from their work to realise that, whilst they had written some great riffs, repeating them for over seven minutes does not make a good album. Christ, I even quite liked Ulrich’s snare sound, at least it was different. But y’know, Metallica fans live in the one-dimensional world where Metallica should only ever sound like Metallica, and any attempt to change that sound is sacrilege punishable by declining sales and worldwide mockery. So yes, Death Magnetic was only ever going to be one thing – a tribute to the glory years of a band that have lost their relevance among today’s society.
But the overwhelming question remains – is Death Magnetic a good album? The solos are back with passion and fury, and sucessfully inject a blaze of fire and excitement into the most mundane of songs turning current radio friendly unit shifter ‘Cyanide’ into something other than a terrible mess of dodgy lyrics, (‘Suicide/I’ve already died‘ stands out as one of the worst things I’ve ever heard, and they repeat it thrice!) vocals, bass solos and a lazy repitive song structure that harks back to the St. Anger problem.
Furthermore, intros have been given some serious thought. The opener of the album, ‘That Was the End of Your Life’ is a wall of classic, kick arse Metallica that is wonderfully catchy and heavy at the same time. It immediately gets you pumped up for more, as the next couple of tracks speed along at the same bouncy pace, rarely letting up.
That is until we reach the first stall in an otherwise fairly luxurious ride – ‘The Day That Never Comes’. Its intro kills off that pace like Charles Manson was all up in its face, and the nigh on eight minute running time is just one big, long, MTV2 friendly turd being stretched out with a steamroller driven by Ulrich’s manically smiling face, cackling at the thought of all that beautiful green money falling into his pockets. It literally sounds as if, before recording, the band heard Staind on the radio and said “huh…so these guys are really heart wrenching and deep man…” and took if from there.
After you’ve skipped that though, things improve drastically with ‘All Nightmare Long’. Shite name aside, the introduction to this song is almost a crazy mish-mash of Metallica and Aladdin, sounding fantastically Arabian and funky it just can’t help but get you in the mood for some hook waving partying. Sandwiched inbetween two of the worst songs of the album, it makes up for the mouldy, wholemeal bread by having a succulent juicy filling.
For the most part Hetfield’s voice returns in a full blaze of glory, recapturing that that fond trademark sneering authority, which makes it all the more difficult to believe that just a few years ago this was a man whose only solace was to be found at the bottom of a bottle. Ulrich on the other hand still remains utterly unbearable – his drums are CONSTANTLY there, exacerbating the fact that he remains under the impression that Metallia is him, and he is Metallica. There is never a moment on this album where the repetitive bang of his snare isn’t driving into your brain, most notably on ‘My Apocalypse’ where it’s like a battle between Hetfield and Ulrich to see who can be more like the ape in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The trouble is with all this, is that when you consider the brilliance of Master of Puppets, …and Justice for All and Ride the Lightening and how Death Magnetic is trying to replicate the sounds and success of these albums, you have to wonder whether, a year down the road, you’re even going to bother spinning Death Magnetic. YeAH, it’s ok, but when you stand it next to the examples it longs so badly to compare to, it comes off all the worse. At least St. Anger was different, and at least it inspired people to debate and form an opinion. But after a few listens Death Magnetic becomes humdrum, and inevitably you’ll always finish it wanting to listen to the glory years. Like a tribute band, Death Magnetic can be pretty fun, but it’ll never compare to the real thing. Perhaps it’s time to save face and hang in that towel once and for all boys?