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Music Review: Metallica – Death Magnetic

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OK, downloaded the new Metallica disc tonight. I am listening to it now as I clean the garage and take a break from hurricane coverage. Quick thought: it is exactly how I expected it to be.

That is a loaded statement, and comes with both good and bad. The good? It is produced by Rick Rubin, which is already really good news. In addition, it is already a million times better than St Anger. There is a dash more melody, and somewhat more attempt of a chorus. Also, the senseless and utterly melody-less solos of Hammett are back. Listen, I love Kirk. However, his solos often sound more like a dare of how many notes he can a play than an actual communication of thought or heart.

In the last album, though, there was virtually no Kirk Hammett. He's back, but it's just pointless solo breaks. The album is a sonic assault, but kind of a pointless one. Loud and fast strictly for the sake of being loud and fast (reference the last Pumpkins album, Zeitgeist for that). All speed and not much soul. The boys are older, as are we. I grew up with them. In Jr High I was raised by them.

To me, they make the same mistake of working super hard to show they haven't gone soft. Yeah, it's power chords deluxe. That's about it. Since I put the disc in, I have turned it down much more than turned it up. Every song clocks in well over seven minutes. There is a reason rock radio only plays three minute songs. We don't have all day. I don't have all day. Okay… I do.

Normally, the way I review records is to set aside a few hours to listen to it over and over again. This is why my garage has become my listening studio (where I am now). I am getting all the shit out of the garage floor from summer projects to make room for the wife's car to be in here for the winter. I can barely finish this CD, though, Every single song sounds identical. There was a brief bout of forced pathos for "Unforgiven 3", but frankly it damages the franchise in my eyes. This from a guy who saw the Dead perform "The Unforgiven" live. Yup, and Warren Haynes nailed it. Better read that again. The Dead (known formerly as the Grateful Dead before Jerry died) actually covered Metallica. Wrap your head around that one.

Don't worry, Hetfield hasn't gone soft on lyrics with his new sobriety. Witness:

Crushing metal, Ripping Skin
Tossing body mannequin
Spilling Blood, Bleeding Gas

Mangle flesh, Snapping spine
Dripping bloody valentine
Shattered face, spitting glass

I ain't saying I want to hear ballads. That isn't what put them on the map. However, let's look at some of their great mellow tunes: "Sanitarium," "Hero of the Day," "One," "Fade to Black." You get the idea. They can write pathos, could anyway. It's easy to play, too. Everything they do is in E. It's super simple. Lars once explained in a bitter Playboy interview that James can only sing in 'E'. Even though I sing and play guitar, I have no idea what that means. But, I can pick up most Metallica songs in a few minutes by simply placing my hands in an open E (for ballads) or a barred E chord at the 7th fret for the rocking tunes.

Also, they have a new bassist, Robert Trujillo. I can't hear a thing he is doing. I was raised on Cliff Burton, who was serious about his melody. I was confident he would bring fresh soulful goodness to the band's somewhat tired sound. Yet, I find myself missing the soulless pick work of Jason Newstead. How is that possible? It would be like you voting McCain, racist, and missing the days of Bush.

So, where is the heart? I get more joy and satisfaction hearing Beatallica. Have you heard them? You need to, immediately. Go here. If you want to hear Metallica's best stuff in the last ten years, your best bet is them.

Though I have tickets to see the band in November here in Denver (at $120 after fees, thank you very little), I can't see that I will ever listen to this disc again. I checked Amazon, and it has four and a half stars. I guess I am missing the boat here. That's fair. I am old by rock standards, but know what the band was. Many called them the "Led Zeppelin of our generation" for years and I couldn't argue. I guess now I am.

Please join in. Tell me, where I am wrong. Tell me what I missed, and I'll give it another shot. Maybe. I could be wrong. Lord knows, it may be 'my thing'.

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About Lono

  • Swinny

    In regards to the obvious dichotomy between the name of your music site and what you know about Metal which is apparently, not much, you’re wrong. The new Metallica CD, while not perfect, is one of the finest metal CD’s that has come out in the past couple of years…..

    And if you are a metalhead, answer this one for me…the lead singer of what legendary metal band was named Cronus??? And if you really are a Metallica fan, you’d better know this one…cuz Metallica wouldn’t exist without them

  • herbalthought

    i just finished listening to “Death Magnetic” and these i can only say “I like it.”

  • Jordan Richardson

    I guess I am missing the boat here.

    Yep, you sure did.

    ;)

  • Tony C.

    I just say, listen to it again and again.

    Then you’ll appreciate what it is.

    The first few times I listened to Cyanide, I didn’t like it, but it’s grown on me.

    The album as a whole, has an underlying theme, and of course the songs flow well together and sound similar, but in fact are completely different. =) Enter: Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, And Justice for All.

    I agree with you about the bass, though . . . it’s sad that two of the great bassists of all time have been followed by this Trujillo dude.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com lono

    Swinny,

    Thank you for your feedback, honestly. To answer your question about Cronus, I have absolutely no idea. I mean, I could have googled it and pretended to know… but that would be weak. I absolutely consider myself a metalhead, and I absolutely consider this album boring and redundant.

    As far as the birth of Metallica, I know they got Cliff from a San Fran band… and part of the deal of Cliff joining the band meant they had to move from LA to San Fran. I know their original lead guitarist was Mustaine, who they fired in NYC while prepping Kill em All, and sent him home on a bus. Of the top of my head, I believe they got Hammett from Exodus.

    In addition, I believe they were sharing an apartment with Anthrax. I was raised on Metallica, and I remember the day Cliff died. I had heard they were going to play the state fair as headliners in Phx that tour on their return, so I was stoked. Their only Phx show on ‘Master’ had been opening for Ozzy.

    Yeah, I know Metallica well. I know metal well, i have seen every band from that era, Metal Church, Anthrax, Megadeth, and more club shows than I can shake a stick at. Fact is, I am truly biased. I see all Metallica as with Cliff, and post cliff. I was listening to Ride the Lightning probably before you were born.

    I wouldn’t dare slight the new disc if I weren’t positive of what their capabilities were. Did you know Lars was raised a dutch tennis star? growing up in Phoenix, I was seeing Flotsam and Jetsam long before he was in the band. They played VFW shows, because I was too young for bars. It was well known even back then that Newstead was the driving force behind the band, and a big songwriter for ‘Doomsday for the Deceiver’.

    You referenced my website as a pun about me being wrong. To be fair, that was my main site (I am Correct.com). My music site is actually called Maybe I am wrong.com

    To be fair, since absolutely no one agrees with me, I will give it another chance. I got a 40 minute drive in the morning before football, each way. So, I will give the whole thing at least one more shot. fair?

    Again, I appreciate all y’all reading and being passionate about music. Now, go out and get Master of Puppets and shut yer pie holes! :)

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com lono

    clarification: I jumped quickly from speaking of Lars (the tennnis reference) to speaking off Jason Newstead (Flotsam and Jetsam reference, his band before he joined Metallica). I jammed it all into one paragraph trying to be succinct.

  • dm

    You are not qualified

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    The Grateful Dead covering the worst Metallica song in Metal History is like Sheryl Crow’s cover of Sweet Child... It’s weak & lame all at the same time. Maybe if “The Dead” covered Dyers Eve I might be impressed but,imho, “The Dead” just really f*cking suck (and I could give two shits about their drug fests aka Live shows) AND I’m Grateful that their f*cking Dead!!

    As for your review on Death Magnetic… I can’t knock you on it. It sounds honest, which is a great thing,though, to me it also sounds like you can’t remember who they were.

    However, his[Hammett’s] solos often sound more like a dare of how many notes he can a play than an actual communication of thought or heart.

    Holy Shit!! Are we supposed to always have these dull blues influenced f*cking solos like Clapton?? It’s METAL man! I’m so tired of hearing how speed doesn’t equate to heart & soul. That’s f*cking bullshit! Hell, Malmsteen must not have any heart at all. The only problem I have with Hammett’s playing is that he hasn’t done a real METAL solo in 15 years and you can hear it. He needs to get rid of that lame wah-wah pedal! BUT, if he can nail super quick notes like he used to, then that would be awesome!

    it’s sad that two of the great bassists of all time have been followed by this Trujillo dude.

    Hey Tony..Stop smoking the crank! It’s not Robert’s fault that Mr.Rubin doesn’t know how to mix f*cking bass. Or that Hetfield probably didn’t let him write a single line!! Mr. Trujilo played in Suicidal Tendencies & Infectious Grooves. Talk ’bout some serious bass duties! If you haven’t listened to either band than you need to rent a clue! Infectious not only nailed a Zeppelin tune but smoke the shit outta Fame[David Bowie]

    BTW, I don’t know how Newstead ever survived in Flotsam & Jetsam because he f*cking sucks!!

    Sure, the new Metallica album could never be Master… but if they could get with some fresh Thrash minds and lose the whole decade after And Justice, their next album would f*cking crush!!

  • Kevin B

    I like the new CD a lot. I have listened to ‘over and over’ again. And the more I do, the more I like it. I expecially like to crank it in my car and disturb Americans that live in ‘la de da’ land (which is most of them). The album cover is basically an omen for the way the US as a whole is going (thank you baby boomers). At least I now have Metallica to listen to while the country around me goes to crap. Long live Metallica! My fav song: The Judas Kiss.

  • MetHet

    Is it just me, or does Metallica take several cues from Slayer on this album? Some of the riffage is similar and of course we have the abrupt tempo changes etc.

    Master of Puppets it is not, but it’s still a damn good metal album. It’s not as pop-sensible as the last few Metallica albums so it actually requires closer listening. It’s more like a progressive album in many ways.

    I’d say it’s analogous to Pink Floyd’s “Animals.” At first it seems all over the place and it takes a few listens before it really grows on you.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    t’s not as pop-sensible as the last few Metallica albums so it actually requires closer listening. It’s more like a progressive album in many ways.

    [F*ck it… I’m just gonna say it.]

    You mean kinda like And Justice… without the technical ferocity and tightness?!
    Yes, this album is damn good for Metallica but that is only saying enough for them. They really need to lose the whole 90’s history & work from where they left off in the late 80’s!

  • Publius Tigerias

    I like it, not in the immortal catagory that Ride-Justice was, yet good.

  • Meshuviel

    First of all, Lars is Danish (not Dutch). Jason’s last name is spelled “Newsted”. Metallica do write many songs in E minor, however there are also many songs that are in different keys. Just off the top of my head, “Fade to Black” begins in B minor and then modulates to A minor after the intro solo. “The Unforgiven” is in A minor. Those are just two examples.

    As for the new album, there’s no doubt Metallica have set the bar for themselves very high right from the beginning or their career. That was decades ago. They will never write another Ride the Lightning or Master of Puppets, nor should we expect them to. For better or worse, bands evolve over the course of time. All of their albums since Metallica have had at least a couple of songs that I don’t care to listen to, but this one is sheer pleasure from beginning to end. In my opinion, they haven’t sounded this good in a LONG time, and this block of music stands as a masterpiece in its own right.

  • CHRIS GODWIN

    YOUR OPINION IS CRITICAL AND WEAK. HAVE SOME APPRECIATION FOR METALLICA WHO IS OBVIOUSLY OLDER BUT THEY CAN STILL KICK SOME ASS!!! GREAT CD FOR THEIR AGE AND THEY GIVE IT THEIR ALL ON THIS CD!!! METALLICA LIVE ON!!! ITS CRITICS LIKE THIS THAT RUIN THE SPIRIT OF PEOPLE!!! HEY PUT YOURSELF IN METALLICA’S SHOES WHO HAVE LOST SO MANY BASS PLAYERS.. EVEN ONE WHO DIED!!! GIVE THEM A BREAK!!! DAMN!!! LET THEM ENJOY THEIR JOBS BECAUSE THEY DO A DAMN GOOD JOB AT WHAT THEY DO!!!

  • Jake Beckett

    I don’t care if you post this comment. I just want you to know that you are the single most idiotic music critic I have ever read. I’m an old Metallica fan from the 80s too, and I hated the Load era, but your review of Death Magnetic makes it sound like you didn’t even listen to it. Your paragraph on Trujillo and Newsted is so mindless, I can’t think of where to begin with someone like you. Who pays you? I don’t need you to like the music I like, but I need to feel like you actually listened to the music, and that you back up your opinion with examples. Isn’t that your job? “I get more joy and satisfaction hearing Beartallica” doesn’t count as an example. The good news is that most reviewers have seen this album for the masterpiece it is, and while Metallica will go down as legends, your attempt at criticism will never be so much as a cipher on the history of music.

  • WD 40

    It pains me to hear people bash this band. This album is great, but I want more time to digest it.
    I was raised on Black, Load and Reload and to me MetallicA was never ONLY their “old shit” it was the great diversity and ability and talent.

    Unforgiven III… I like it alot… And will become a Bleeding Me favorite… This Is Just Your Life… AMAZING

  • fan

    If you think that every single song sounds identical , I think you should get your ears checked by a doctor. That’s what my mom would tell if she listened a metallica album :)))

  • xcmhx

    I personally think that Metallica has gotten better with each album they produce. Kill’em all was ok. It sounded like talented amateurs. Ride the Lightning was an improvement but it had that stuck in the 80’s vibe and the band still sounded young and green. Master of Puppets is a good album for what it is: growing up a little bit and honing the craft. …And Justice For All is the end result of perfection of 80’s trash metal and also the end of it. Metallica was an album where a talented and road hardened band decided to move into a new era and continue setting trends. Load and Reload were experimental albums where the band was no longer trying to prove anything. At this stage it seems they are now fully confident in their abilities as a band and have nothing to prove. They are now only doing as they please and what will garner more buck. Garage Inc. was purely for commercial gain as was S&M. Now St. Anger seems like a band who has decided to change direction yet again but is facing a huge growing pain. They are good at what they do, and they can do alot, but are they a jack of all trades and a master of none? This is where they fall apart. Their pride kicks in and they realize they want to be the best metal band. They realize they’ve been riding on commercial success and that their name METALlica has sort of bound them to one genre and that they should probably be king of that. Now Death Magnetic. I’d say for everything they have done this is the total amalgamation and culmination of more than 20 years of performing music. They have pulled out all of the stops and brought everything they know to the table. The sonics of this new record range from start to finish of the complete Metallica discography and tonal spectrum. There are vibes all the way through Kill’em All to St. Anger here. I hear a little bit of everything and that is what I like. That is why I own all of their albums, and this one is like the melting pot.

    If you look at the big picture it all makes sense. They signed a contract long ago and Death Magnetic is the album that completes that deal. So what better way to end the contract than with an album that reaches from start all the way to finish and still adds something new and a glimmer of hope for the future… just to keep fans interested and waiting for the next record deal.

    Get it? It’s always been about Marketing people. Since before the day the Beatles were brought to America to today. It’s always been around and it always will be. Any band that you hear of, unless they are a local band, is being marketed in some shape or form like it or not. Everyone is a sellout if you want to be technical. What is the appeal of being in a band anyway? The fame. The wealth. If you are into music for just kicks and grins then why not just keep it in the garage? That way nobody will ever hear of you and you will never be rewarded for your talents, abilities, hardwork, and dedication. That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. I think it would be much more appealing to have your messages and efforts spread as far and as wide as possible and to gain the most money you can from it.

    That’s all from me! Thank you for reading my opinion.

  • xcmhx

    P.S. That is what I consider artistic vision… like what Danzig did with Danzig I through Danzig 7. Metallica is no different in my eyes.

  • J DUB

    Metallica should just give up they made some of the greatest albums ever in th 80s and then died, Listen to the testament or death angel albums released this year and you will hear real Metal

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    XCMHX,

    Your last paragraph just shows how much you really don’t “Get it”!!

    There is a difference between promotion & marketing.

    Marketing deals with trying to fit your “product” into a demographic. Promotion is utilizing media type tools to make your music more accessible.

    If you are in it for the wealth & fame, you make your band sound like the growing trend,like Metallica did in the 90’s because they sounded very similar to C.O.C., and then you “Market” it to the masses via popular channels.

    If your in it for the music & you actually have some f*cking talent, you create a sound based on a vision & passion for your art. Ex: Chuck Shuldiner pioneered Death Metal & promoted an accurate portrait of where his genre would ultimately end up! His “Promotion” was through a label that supported aggressive music & wasn’t confined to media outlets based on financial success!

    The difference: Die-Hard Metalheads will remember DEATH for the music they have created on their own terms & that they made a living with music but didn’t sell-out their legacy just to have their name on a f*cking lunchbox!!

    Metallica in the 90’s is a poor f*cking excuse for the American Metal scene. Anyone who thinks they were the emperors of Metal then obviously missed the boat. I suggest you listen to:

    Dream Theater “Metropolis Pt.2″
    Opeth “Still Life”
    Atheist “Unquestionable Presence”
    DEATH “Individual Thought Patterns”
    Cynic “Focus”
    Blind Guardian (quite a few albums)
    Morgana Lefay

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    JDUB,

    I agree 100%!!!

  • Sean

    I started listening to Metallica in Jr. High School as well, but i’m only 19 years old. However, I didn’t start by listening to Black, Load, or anything after that. I started with “One”, i bought Ride, Master, And Justice, and then Kill ‘Em All, and I must honestly say, even though i’m young compared to a lot of Metallica fans, like yourself Lono, i’m in absolute awe of this album.

    I partly agree with XCMHX, this album really does sound like a melting pot of all the sounds in their previous albums. And in a way, i think maybe the guys just got pissed off from receiving so much flak for Napster, St. Anger, and Some Kind of Monster, that they just said “fuck it, let’s make metal again.” Thank God for Rick Rubin, because ever since Bob Rock was the producer Metallica has been in a world of shit, and in my eyes this album redeems them 100%.

    Maybe i wouldn’t be so impressed with this ablum if St. Anger had never happened, which to me has to be one of the most pathetic excuses for a metal album ever, but you know what? Go ahead and knock the ablum because you can’t go back and live in the 80’s, but dammit, what i hear on this, is what i’ve been waiting for since i first heard Metallica, and that is to be alive when Metallica releases the “…And Justice” of my generation.

    With all the faggot bands getting a label as easy as picking up a two dollar whore, there is finally an album by which i can judge the musical taste of my peers, and i have to tell you, last night i got together with my friends, and listened to the entire album all the way through and the entire time we were headbanging and screaming “fuck yeah”, because finally a real metal album has been released for the first time in two decades. :)

  • duffman

    how about you stop cleaning the garage and actually sit and listen to the album. about the melodies kirk “doesnt play” and that he tries to fit too many notes into a solo. listen to unforgiven III & suicide & redemption for starters. read the first sentence over and rewrite your column

  • J DUB

    “because finally a real metal album has been released for the first time in two decades. :)” If you really believe this Sean then you are missing a hell of alot of a good albums and bands.
    This album is better then st anger but that dosen’t mean shit, check out your local underground scene and you most likely will find bands playing some stuff which blows metallica these days out of the water.

  • http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=463156 JC Mosquito

    A band can’t be 20 years older and expect to sound like they did when they first started. So, enjoy Puppets and DM and all of their albums for what they are, not what you think they should be. I bought this album – it’s decent, and it’s better than a lot of what passes for rock and roll these days.