By STEVE JOHNSON
Metallica has been labeled many things, from America’s great heavy metal band, to whiny rock stars who fought against illegal downloading of their music through Napster.?No matter how you feel about Metallica, there is no denying that the band remains an influential and relevant force in modern metal and hard rock. ?
After a five year hiatus, Metallica is back with their ninth studio album and their best work since 1988’s …And Justice For All.?Death Magnetic, a heavily promoted album since May on Mission: Metallica, is the product of a band in dire need of reconnecting to a fan base that has felt let down by many of the band’s past efforts.?Fans are rabid for the glory days and their heroes’ thrash metal roots.?Death Magnetic is the album these fans have been waiting for and represents an end to Metallica’s attempt to reinvent itself. ?
Bob Rock, who produced Metallica’s last five albums, is gone and has been replaced by Rick Rubin.?Rubin’s presence and his history with producing thrash metal records is a much needed change for Metallica.?He pushes the band away from their recent foray into hard rock and back to their thrash metal roots.?Another example of progression that we see with the band is that for the first time in their history, every member has had input into each song.?Even new bassist Robert Trujillo has input into the album, which is a huge step for a band that has been seemingly anti-bassist for the past 20 years.
Death Magnetic is pure Metallica.?Musically, this album takes on the personality of a caged beast released for the first time, tearing and ripping at anything that moves.?Quite simply, the album rocks.?All of the old aggression remains and the band is tight.?Songs such as ?All Nightmare Long? and ?My Apocalypse? exhibit the band’s ability to still hammer out good thrash metal, while ?The Unforgiven III? and ?Cyanide? give us the feel of ’90s-era Metallica.?Though we are given a few tracks that sound more like Load/Reload-era Metallica, the majority of the album is fast and reminiscent of their earlier work. ?
One marked improvement over St. Anger is the sound of the drums.?Ulrich’s drums sound more like the booming drums of Metallica and not St. Anger’s annoying ?tin can? sound.?On Death Magnetic, it is also clear Kirk Hammett fought hard for the return of guitar solos and broke through the brick wall that is Ulrich and James Hetfield.?Hammett tears through the album at a frantic pace, delivering searing riffs and solos.?Trujillo appears on his first album with the band but unfortunately falls victim to Metallica’s tradition of downplaying the bass track.?While the music is the strength of this album, Hetfield remains a great frontman who growls and howls his way through each track.? All of the tracks featured on the album are over five minutes long and epic in scope. Death Magnetic even features an instrumental track, which has been missing from a Metallica album since …And Justice For All.? ?The Unforgiven III? is the only song that doesn’t fit in with the feel of the album and could have been left out.? ? ?
Metallica may never give us another album on par with Master of Puppets, but Death Magnetic is a step in the right direction for an iconic band that has long been marred by mediocrity.?It is easily one of the best metal albums of the year, so run out and pick it up or legally download it.?Highlights are ?That Was Just Your Life,? ?Broken, Beat, and Scarred,? ?All Nightmare Long? and ?My Apocalypse.?
THE VERDICT: 5/5