After five long years, Metallica, one of the founding fathers of thrash metal, has finally released its much-anticipated album “Death Magnetic.” This new release marks its ninth studio album and the first album recorded since 2003’s “St. Anger.”
Upon listening to the new material, one of the first noticeable characteristics is its striking resemblance to earlier albums, circa 1983-1991. This offers a nice breath of fresh air to the bulk of Metallica’s audience who appreciate the band’s classic sound, as opposed to the previous three releases, “Load,” “Reload” and “St. Anger.” These albums displayed a different side of Metallica that never quite stood a chance. “Load” was the band’s attempt to create a new style of music which incorporated bits and pieces of southern rock style along with a very different method of drumming on the part of Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich.
In addition, “Reload” and “St. Anger” were put forth simply to show the band was still making music. However, they were not nearly as admired as earlier albums because they had a different and almost rushed sound.
“St. Anger” marked the last studio album the band recorded with its long-time producer Bob Rock. Rock had worked with the band since the “Black Album” in 1991, but after the recording of “St. Anger,” he left after feeling the band had lost its musical touch.
Metallica’s new producer Rick Rubin worked to stray from this awkward phase with “Death.”
For this album, the band brought back the style of rock its fans have been anxiously waiting for. Many of the tracks such as “That Was Just Your Life,” “The Day That Never Comes” and “All Nightmare Long” incorporate classic slow and undistorted guitar intros, followed by strong and fast-paced drum beats, verses with powerful vocals and rhythm guitar with lengthy guitar solos on the part of Kirk Hammett, the band’s lead guitarist.
In “Death,” Ulrich’s style of drumming has returned to its always-entertaining state of loud and assertive beats. A few of the tracks such as “Broken, Beat & Scarred” and “Cyanide” use the style of jumping right into the song to grab the listener’s attention. These tracks serve their purpose to supplement the album and still keep fans happy.
“Death” indeed brings back the classic sound of Metallica, but there are a fair amount of changes Rubin helped incorporate to give the band a slightly new approach.
To start, all of the tracks are between six and eight minutes long, with “My Apocalypse” being the one exception.
This provides listeners with tracks much longer than they have been used to. Well-known songs off of the band’s albums “Ride The Lightning” or “Black Album” have been significantly shorter, thus a bit more of an attention span is required to truly appreciate “Death.” Even so, the songs are entertaining enough to keep any listener satisfied.
“The Unforgiven III” is another example of the new direction the album takes. The track starts off with a slow piano intro, which Metallica has never been known to do, but it quickly jumps back into the heavy rock that gave the band its identity.
Although “Death” is a significant step up from previous efforts, there are a few negatives.
The first is lead singer James Hetfield’s voice. In his maturing age, Hetfield has been able to hold his own with the vocals, but the rasp and power his voice had in previous albums has begun to fade. It’s a struggle, but it shouldn’t be held against him. After all, 25 years of dominating the microphone with full force can take a toll.
Also, not since late bassist Cliff Burton’s time with the band has the bass guitar held a true position in Metallica’s sound.
After Burton’s death, Jason Newstead took the stand and recorded with Metallica. His bass lines may as well have been completely edited out of the music, considering their inaudibility.
He left the band before the recording of “St. Anger,” but with “Death” the band recorded for the first time with its newest member, bassist Robert Trujillo.
Despite hiring Trujillo for his tremendous talent and resemblance to Burton’s style, there is hardly a bass line to be heard in the new album. The bass riffs are more tones than anything.
These few setbacks may be significant, but they exist to prove no band that has been together for more than 20 years is perfect.
Overall, the album is the best the band has put out in over ten years and belongs in any Metallica fan’s music library. The band has remained strong together, and “Death Magnetic” is the proof.