After consecutively delivering five of the most definitive metal albums ever this giant started to sway with Load/Reload before falling face-first on the frantic(tick-tick-tock) mess that was St.Anger. But just when all hope seemed to be lost this metal-monolith rose to its past glory with Death Magnetic. Yes, people Metallica are back and they’re coming for you…each and every single one of you! Be it a loyal 80s thrash enthusiast who swears by Kill ‘Em All or a Black Album junkie, each Metallica fan will find something to cheer about on this record. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at Metallica’s return to form.
1) ‘That Was Just Your Life’ – 7:08
The pounding heart at the start of this track only heightens the listener’s anticipation regarding. And then slowly, the track begins with a low-tuned, haunting guitar intro reminiscent of The Black Album. At a minute-thirty however Metallica delivers a knock out punch straight from the 80’s. James Hetfield sounds mean and vicious as ever with his breakneck delivery of the catchy opening verse. Instrumentally this track couldn’t get any better either, with a trademark grinding riff courtesy Papa Het and a sick bass-line by Robert Trujillo who sounds as if he were always a part of Metallica this track moves on like an army track on steroids crushing everything in sight for the first five minutes. And that’s when Kirk Hammett is let off the leash for the first time in almost a decade. And boy does he deliver! Oh and by the way, the trash can lid from St.Anger is history!
2) ‘The End of The Line’ – 7:58
Fans first heard the intro to this track almost a year and a half ago under the working title ‘The New Song’. Back then, it was a rough, unfinished demo. In its studio avatar, this track sounds more old school than ‘new song’. With the good parts of Load/Reload thrown in and complex stop-start drumming by Lars Ulrich this track will definitely test the band when it is played live. Robert Trujillo’s bouncy bass-line gives this track an almost RATM feel while Kirk Hammett delivers yet another killer wah-solo. James Hetfield makes it two in two with a vocal performance that has shades of everything from Master of Puppets to Load/Reload.
3) ‘Broken, Beat & Scarred’ – 6:25
With a ‘Slipknot meets Enter Sandman’ intro this song is a perfect example what Rick Rubin has been able to achieve with Metallica. Featuring one of the catchiest choruses on the album this song is Metallica’s 27 year journey packed in a little over six minutes. ‘Rise/Fall Down/Rise Again‘ may sound alarmingly cheesy (Remember ‘Fuel/Fire/Desire?’) but fear not, James Hetfield’s teeth grinding vocals and the overall instrumental brutality on this track are sure to make this one a new mosh-pit favorite. Pretty soon, one will see humongous mosh-pits screaming ‘Show Your Scars’ in unision. Kudos Metallica, this one’s as good as anything you’ll ever do!
4) ‘The Day That Never Comes’ – 7:56
The fate of this album literally depended on this song. Being the first single, TDTNC faced the uphill task of once again winning over the fans who were ‘madly in anger’ with Metallica after the last album. Fortunately, it manages to do so. With a first half that sounds like ‘Fade to Black’ and ‘Bleeding Me’ rolled into one, this track totally takes the listener by surprise when Hetfield and Hammett unleash a lethal double-guitar attack towards the sixth minute. But the high-point of this song comes when Kirk Hammett launches into a furious fast-tapping solo. The song however goes wayward for just a wee bit in the middle, but none-the-less, faith restored!
5) ‘All Nightmare Long’ – 7:58
From the title this song sounds more goth than Metallica and even the first minute of this song shows no clear direction, until a brief stop after which James Hetfield starts off with his classic speed-thrash riffage. Until minute number two, this sounds like St.Anger done right. That is only until Papa Het unleashes yet another catchy hook ‘LUCK-RUNS-OUT‘. After that it’s five-odd minutes of stop-start-solo madness. Kirk Hammett really blows the listener away this time around with mind-boggling shredding on an almost Iron Maiden meets Joe Satriani solo. . Lars shows us once again on this album that he can handle complex time-signatures and God-alone knows how Robert Trujillo must have finger-picked to this song. Overall, weak title, but rock-solid in all other departments.
6) ‘Cyanide’ – 6:39
For a band that has a history of burying the bassist deep beneath a mountain of riffage and solos, this one is a breath of fresh air. Early reviews tagged this song as the weakest on the album, but even this is head and shoulders above most of their material post-The Black Album. The verse lyrics may not be the best on the album but the chorus more than makes up for this flaw. I, like most other fans, first heard the Ozzfest soundboard version of this song and I must admit that on some parts I prefer the live version. Somehow this song holds back just a little bit, but then again I say that because the five songs before this one threw everything including the kitchen sink at the listener. That aside, the band sounds very tight despite the unusual song structure.
7) ‘The Unforgiven III’ – 7:46
‘The Unforgiven’ was epic, ‘The Unforgiven II’ didn’t disappoint either, but would Metallica be third-time-lucky? Surprisingly, YES! For the third straight time, Metallica succeeds in giving a new angle to an old theme. The melodic piano intro backed subtly by violins and trumpets pay homage to S&M without losing track of the task at hand. ‘The Unforgiven III’ features what this reviewer considers the strongest lyrics on this album. ‘How can I blame you/ When it’s me I can’t forgive?’ sings James Hetfield on a note which most fans thought he couldn’t hold no more. Two-thumbs up to Metallica for daring to meddle with an already epic song and not screwing it up. And once again, take a bow Mr.Hammett!
8 ) ‘The Judas Kiss’ – 8:00
Listening to ‘The Judas Kiss’ for the first time felt a lot like the first time I heard ‘Master of Puppets’. I may have to eat these words later, but for now all I can say is that the chorus of this song has knocked me senseless. I don’t know about you but for me ‘Bow Down/Sell your soul to me‘ evoked the same feeling in my heart as ‘Master! Master!’ or ‘Die!, by my hand…’ As Kirk Hammett begins to solo again with the solid backing of Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo, I get the feeling that I may not have to eat my words after all. You simply ‘Cannot resist The Judas Kiss!’
9) ‘Suicide & Redemption’ – 9:57
I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the song lengths next to the titles, but this one is just 3 seconds short of a full 10 minutes and is officially the longest Metallica song to be released. This is one song where James Hetfield gives no one a chance to complain about his vocals. Brilliant vocal performance, you may wonder? Well actually, this is an instrumental the likes of which Metallica haven’t done since ...And Justice For All. While AJFAs ‘To Live is To Die’ is best remembered for the memorable lines written by the late Cliff Burton, this one will certainly be remembered for the current bassist Robert Trujillo’s performance. If the fans don’t accept him after this, I don’t know what it will take to convince them. All I can say is ‘Jason Who?’
10) ‘My Apocalypse’ – 5:01
The last and the shortest track from Death Magnetic is an absolute, class-A, thrash-fest! Heck it’s so fast that Metallica couldn’t slow down for a chorus on this one. This song proves that in Metallica’s case ‘What didn’t kill ’em, made ’em stronger!’ At the same time I have no clue how the guys will manage to pull this one off live! Oh well, who cares! Head bang away for now!
All said and done Death Magnetic is destined to be one of the biggest albums of the year as well as one of the biggest Metallica albums of all times. May I daresay this is the best album the band has done in over 15 years (or 20 depending on what you consider their last good record). Welcome back Metallica!
Overall Album Rating: 4.5 out of 5