Metallica reminds me of a talented professional football team who are consistently their own worse enemies. When they are on, they are hard to beat. First of all and almost after the band’s birth, one of the founding members Dave Mustaine was kicked out of the band for substance abuse. Then in 1986 bassist Cliff Burton was killed when the band’s tour bus flipped over during their European tour. Over the past eight years the band has also had a love / hate relationship with their fans. In 2001 they filed a lawsuit against the peer-to-peer file sharing company Napster for sharing their copyrighted material. This began the alienation of their fan base who had already considered Metallica sellouts to the mainstream after their fanatically high powered album “…And Justice For All”. For many fans “Justice” was their last “trash-metal” genre influencing album. Then with the highly anticipated June, 2003 release of “St. Anger” fans found or didn’t find any guitar solos on the album, and gone for good were the long, addrenaline charged, thrash-metal songs. This was a total disappointment for their dwindling number of fans. The guitar soloing of Kirk Hammett had become a staple with this heavy metal band. Needless to say this latest effort by Metallica has not been as anticipated from the hard core Metallica fan as some of the past releases. They did release three songs early to iTunes prior to the album release. In an effort to try and win back their fan base Metallica, mainly Lars Ulrich, released a YouTube channel and a dedicated album website “Mission:Metallica” to personally plug into those fans once again. The anticipation of the new album release has gathered some momentum as of late. Many fans and critics alike consider the three songs that were released that of the “old school” nature. This has created a frenzy among fans to hear more. But in an effort to squelch the early sharing of their new music Metallica leaked false song names and fake recordings to the public. Again with the ped-execution.
With all of that said, the new and ninth Metallica album “Death Magnetic” was released this past Friday, September 12th, 2008. The album, according to guitarist and lead vocalist James Hetfield, is named as a tribute of sorts for those who have “fallen” in the music biz, and the weird attraction or magnet to death people have. This is the first studio album for new bassist Robert Trujillo. Right from the first heart beat on “That Was Just Your Life”, the first album track, the signs of “old school” Metallica are shining bright. Along with the beating heart at the beginning of this song a slow and dreadful clean guitar drones into the track. The song slowly progresses into the long gone, once typical, speed trashing sound. The drumming is heavy and drives this album entry track to a fevered pitch. The second song “End of the Line” presents rapid fire lyrics that pound along with Ulrich’s drums, and a killer wah effect guitar solo by Kirk Hammet. The next track “Broken, Beat, & Scarred” is probably the closet thing to an uplifting Metallica song. The song is about rising up when you get beaten down, pulling yourself up, and dying hard. I don’t know if this is the author’s real outlook on life. But if you are living this life without Christ and His promises of the life to come, you are living the life in vain. Because no matter how hard life is and how many times you try to rise above it, if you don’t trust Him, life is but a brief flash in the pan of eternity. (Matt. 10:39) The following verse is typical Metallica.
Breaking your teeth on the hard life coming
Show your scars
Cutting your feet on the hard earth running
Show your scars
Breaking your life, broken beat and scarred
But we die hard
The fourth song “The Day That Never Comes” is the first single release and video release of the album. It is also a bit of a return to the polished mainstream sound after the first three killer thrashes. The song resembles their anthem “One” which has made it to the video game Guitar Hero I might mention.
Now I will mention the many album highlights. The first four previously mentioned songs, “All Nightmare Long” begins with a neat bluesy riff that builds into a full throttle machine gun speed-metal tempo. The song has a couple of fantastic guitar solos by the solo genius Kirk Hammett. My first reaction to the “The Unforgiven III” was to think “is this a re-hash to the previous ‘The Unforgiven’ and ‘The Unforgiven II'”? But I was pleasantly surprised with a well composed song. The song enters with a single piano, then brass instruments, and then the droning clean guitar building to a monster crescendo. The song is about a man who finds himself a castaway lost at sea while searching for gold. The lyrics sing:
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
And how can I blame you
When it’s me I can’t forgive?
“Suicide & Redemption” is a return to an instrumental song which has been absent since the “…And Justice For All” album. The song is almost ten minutes long and displays four musicians showing off their talents that come together as the tight band they have always been. It is a great piece of work, and I say that in the most admiring sense.
I have to enthusiastically say that this new album is most definitely a return to the tools which brought ’em for Metallica. The album does not really have any weak points unless you count the radio friendly “Cyanide”. They have reached down deep to make the kind of record they have been capable of since the fantastic days of “Ride the Lightning“, “Master of Puppets“, and my favorite “…And Justice For All” I give “Death Magnetic” five “guitars” out five guitars. (ht to Rob Rockitt @ hardrockhideout for the guitar idea)
Please check out their video release for “The Day That Never Comes”.