403 of 450 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Many Metallica fans have thought of them as sellouts ever since they released their first music video to "One" back in 1989. After they enlisted producer Bob Rock for "The Black" album, Metallica became "radio friendly" with many songs coming in at around five minutes or less. Load and Reload did little to reverse this, and St. Anger was easily the worst CD that Metallica ever released. So it is with good reason that many have been sceptical about what to expect from Metallica's latest offering Death Magnetic.
Some significant things have changed since St. Anger. This is the first release from Metallica on their new record label, Warner Bros. Many will cheer that producer Bob Rock is also gone having been replaced by renowned career resurrector Rick Rubin. All of this is somewhat academic, though, unless the music also changed as a result.
I'm pleased to report that Death Magnetic is somewhat of a Renaissance for Metallica. While it will not be mistaken for what many consider to be the best trio of metal CDs made (Ride The Lightening, Master Of Puppets, and ...And Justice For All), it is a marked improvement over what Metallica has had to offer over the past 15 years. Much of what you will hear falls somewhere between Justice and The Black Album.
Right out of the gate on "That Was Just Your Life" many of the signs of old school Metallica are on display. This song starts with a simple, bare, and undistorted guitar line, but it builds to full on thrash as we see that Lars Ulrich has remembered what drums on a Metallica album are supposed to sound like. Before the first verse starts, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett remind us what the dual guitar lines can sound like. And yes, Kirk Hammett's soloing is also back, and he does not disappoint. The next two tracks continue to crunch along, but some will lose heart when "The Day That Never Comes" come up. However, it manages to finish much stronger than it starts. As if sensing that they needed to dial it back up, "All Nightmare Long" returns to full on shredding and goes from there. The combined guitar lines and drum line create a tempo that feels like it could match the speed of helicopter blades. This song also finds Metallica on the familiar theme of mental stability heard on "Welcome Home Sanitarium" and "The Frayed Ends Of Sanity" from days of old.
When I looked at the track listing before hearing any of the songs, I had concern when I saw "The Unforgiven III". My first thought was, "Do we really need another rehash of the radio hit 'Unforgiven'?" However listening to the song showed me that my concern was in vane. While "The Unforgiven" and "The Unforgiven II" are fairly straightforward, "The Unforgiven III" is more metaphoric as it relates life's torment to sea adventures in search of gold gone awry. The lyrics actually don't include the word "unforgiven" making the title choice a bit puzzling, but I think that "The Unforgiven III" is better than either of its namesakes.
All in all, Death Magnetic is solid heavy metal CD, but I expect reaction to it to be very mixed. The part of the Metallica fan base who will enjoy this the most are those who liked ...And Justice For All and The Black Album. They don't reach far enough back for the oldest of old school fans while those looking for Load or Reload will also likely be disappointed. Hopefully having a better idea of where this fits in the Metallica spectrum will help you decide if it is for you or not.
Download this: All Nightmare Long
151 of 173 people found the following review helpful
Going from my review of the CD version, I will say that these tracks are the closest Metallica has gotten to pre-Metallica/Black Album days since ...And Justice for All. The tracks are all really good.
However, there is a huge problem. There is clipping on the CD version. What this means is that you will hear distortion and popping on the CD version, along with a muddying of the instruments, that isn't intentional. They also turned the volume on the CD all the way up on the authoring side, so the CD is also overly LOUD.
So you think to yourself, "I can avoid all those digitally introduced problems; I can just buy the vinyl." Well here's where the problem arises. These tracks were recorded digitally from start to finish so there is no original analog master. The problem isn't that it's digital, it is that Metallica allowed the producers to record their instrument/vocal tracks at or very close to the 0 db level. This means that when mixed for the final stereo mix, the music is already maxed out on the volume side. This means all the clipping they recorded while in the studio made its way into the final mix. This INCLUDES the vinyl mixes as they went with the final mix tapes/files for the vinyl.
So if you are buying this to avoid the horrible authoring on the CD, save your money as the quality, for all intents and purposes, is just as ruined as it is on the CD.
168 of 202 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2008
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I remember when "Master of Puppets" was the new album, I had played my cassette of "Whiplash EP" to the point where it was worn and wobbled. I won't say "Master" wasn't awesome, but I was always partial to "Ride the Lightning." So when every new Metallica has come out in the last 22 years and people keep comparing them to "Master" I just say, chill out and let it stand on its merit.
What's hard is that Metallica will admit that "Load" "Re-Load" and "St. Anger" where not high-points in their career. Infighting, bickering, the firing / quitting of J. Newkid left the band "Broken, beaten and Scarred" Unfortunately with the exception of the exceptional "Symphony" disks and "Garage Inc." those three records represent in years, over half of Metallica's career. Is it any wonder then, that with Uber-Producer Rick Ruben at the helm "Death Magnetic" has become the single most anticipated Metallica Album ever?
As for the album, those of us who grew up with "Ride" "Master" and "Justice" will recognize the song pattern. While "Death Magnetic" has two more tracks (being it was recorded for 80min CD world, not the 45min vinyl one) the placement of the songs is very telling and familiar to those older records. The first track "That was just your life" starts quiet (heart beat, wobling guitar) and then suddenly burst in your face. The second track is about addiction and death (master = addiction, ride = death). The third track slows it down and is more grinding and heavy ("Bells" "Thing" Sad but True") and the fourth track is a ballad with a heavy second half ("Fade" "Sanitarium" "One") The second to last track is an instrumental ("Orion" "to live is to die") The last song is a ripper ("damage inc." "Dyers Eve").
Unlike "Load" and "Reload", "Death Magnetic" avoids the bluesy, dirty grinding songs, and unlike "St. Anger" this one aims for strong hooks, harmonies structure and flow.
"Death Magnetic" is not a new "Master" but rather a culmination of everything these guys have every done. While many songs will remind listeners of "Justice" "Broken, Beat and Scarred" is reminiscent of "St. Anger" with its chants of "what don't kill ya, makes ya more strong" and riffing rather than solos. "Unforgiven III" is far closer to "Unforgiven II" on re-load than the original. The Guitar has that same bluesy, flowing feel and the eastern influence that gave the original its greatest strengths are completely washed away by familiar metal riffing. Not to say the song isn't good, but without the late Michael Kamen the orchestration just doesn't life the song the way it should and the chorus builds and builds but doesn't crest, it keeps feeling like there should be more, some kind of heavy release that never comes. "My Apocalypse" closes the album by channeling "Slayer" as Metallica tries and fails to go back to "Kill `em All." Not that the song doesn't rock, it's heavy, fast and awesome closer, but the feel is forced and the song feels tacked on to a mostly mid to fast-mid tempo album.
The biggest shocker here may be the 10 min (and longest song) "Suicide and Redemption" the bands first instrumental in 20 years. This is the best they've done since "Ktulu", it's got more energy than "Orion" or "To live is to Die" but lacks the kind of expressionist solos you'd expect from such an epic. However, the ten minutes goes by fast! I had listened to the CD four or five times before I realized the song had no lyrics!!!
If there's one thing missing in all these loooooooooooooooooooong songs (only one song under 6 min) is a true epic. Yes, "All Nightmare Long" "The Day that Never Comes" and "The Judas Kiss" are all brilliant (so is the Black Sabbath inspired "Cyanide") but nothing comes close here to the epic feel of "master of puppets" "Just for all" "Outlaw torn" or "Fixxxer." those songs had such a deep, complex feel with so many ups and downs and such a perfect flow (ok, "justice" is the least of the four) that nothing on "Magnetic" quite get's there.
I am not in love with packaging, it looks cool with the coffin cut-out but the cut the lyrics out. That's annoying.
In the end "Death Magnetic" is just what it needs to be. It's everything Metallica's done better than anyone else for over 25 years, it's most of the best parts of all the albums to date and it's 100X better almost anything out there. Plus, these guys are in their 40's, and are harder, faster and more intricate and intelligent than anything these Kids half their age are putting out there. Buy this CD.
It's been confirmed by several sources that the Guitar Hero III version of this album has not suffered from the brick-wall compression of the CD / Vinyl release. Apparently someone decided MP3's sound better mixed as loud as possible and then clipped of the highest and lowest ranges. So, the retail CD / Vinyl of DM have been mixed with heavy dynamic range compression (meaning they've eliminated the difference between soft sound and loud sound) the album now sounds like a wall of noise. This is a too common recording industry practice, it ruins the experience and removes the subtleties of the music. You may notice this CD suffers from a lack of bass guitar, that the guitar is flat, the drums do not resonate, the cymbols are thin and the vocals are often drowning in the music mix. Also, there is a lot of noise, you can not only hear distortion in the music, but their is noise at the beginning and end of every track, which, a CD should not have.
There are multiple petitions and blogs as well as thousands on Metallica's own website begging for an uncompressed re-release.
If you hear the GHIII versions, you may never go back.
78 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2008
Format: Audio CD
...about the butchering job that is the production on this album, and on an increasing number of other records nowadays.
To be clear: I think this is a GREAT comeback by James, Lars, and Co. Probably a 4.5-star effort on the merits of the musical content. Highlights for me include "All Nightmare Long," "Unforgiven III," and "The Judas Kiss."
What isn't a highlight for me is having my speakers sound like they're falling apart during all but the quietest portions of this record. It's completely unacceptable. For anyone reading this who has listened to either RHCP's "Californication" or Rush's "Vapor Trails," you probably noticed an oddly dissatisfying sound quality on those; lots of crackling and distortion where it shouldn't be. Well, "Death Magnetic" takes that phenomenon to a whole new level. As others have suggested, look up "loudness war" on Wikipedia if you want to learn more about why this album (and several others released from about 1999 onward) sounds so abysmal.
On the incredibly heavy, addictive and adrenaline-pumping chorus of "All Nightmare Long," when I should be banging my head in euphoria, I'm instead trying to keep my lunch down because I'm hearing more crackles and pops than I am actual guitar tones.
If you enjoy this record, that's great; as I already stated, I love the music on it too. So please, don't just casually dismiss this because I gave 1 star. I'm doing it because the only hope we have of preventing future albums from Metallica and other artists from being similarly butchered is to speak out against it, and let the music industry know that this practice is NOT going to increase sales, as they seem to believe.
81 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I -want- to like this album so much, but I can't. I just listened to the previews on iTunes, and this HAS to be the clippiest album to date. Especially on the bass drum.
Ok, let me back up here:
Back in the late 70s, when Engineers were designing the specification for audio CDs (now known as the "Red Book" standard because of its cover), they were going great. They made everything which was the de faco for digital audio up until the late 90s, but there was just one design flaw. One such design flaw which has been getting worse and worse as the years go by. This fatal flaw, which admittedly they couldn't imagine in their wildest nightmares, was the maximum loudness that CDs could handle. So, right now, you're thinking "Well what's wrong with that?" See, the problem is that most people like listening to music loudly. CDs can only be so loud too, and clips when it reaches the so called "brick wall" loudness limit that CDs can handle (I'll get to that later in my review).
In the late 80s/early 90s, the record companies completely dumped vinyl and ran wild with CD. This also meant they could run wild with how loud the music was without worrying about vinyl releases (vinyl, when the music gets too loud, is simply not playable). They started doing something called "dynamic compression", which makes it so that the drums are distorted, and everything else is louder. Therefor the drums get more lost in everything while being distorted. The level of distortion depends on how much the team behind the mix compresses the music, which wasn't really that bad until about 1994-1996. In that limbo period, the dynamic compression depended on who was involved in the mastering process (and to an extant, is still applicable today). The latest uncompressed CD that I have, which is NOT an audiophile release, is the 1996 remaster of the Saturday Night Life OST (which is kind of weird IMO).
There is also another huge problem: clipping. Clipping happens when the signal becomes -too- loud for CDs to handle, and the peak (or top & bottom of the sound wave) is cut off. Here's an example you can do to find out what I mean: Get a piece of paper, and a pencil. Draw one long wavy line across the paper, while once in a while making big waves that stand out from all of the others. Then take the eraser, and erase the tops & bottoms of the big waves at about the same level. Then draw strait lines across the gaps created, and they should connect the separated pieces. That's what clipping is.
Those strait lines are a kind of "click" that is created in the sound wave, and is becoming more noticeable as the years go by. I know some audiophiles will disagree with me, but clipping hasn't been that much of a problem. Until now, at least. I've had a pair of Koss PortaPro headphones for almost a year now, and have not been able to pick up any clips on any recording (besides the infamous Californication and Raw Power masters) until Prince's Planet Earth (released 2007). Why? Because most clipping has only been a couple of samples long (aka a couple hundred milliseconds). Clicks that short can't even be reproduced unless you are willing to spend usually a $1000 or more on audio setups. Plus there's the fact that it's -slowly- getting louder over the years since the mid 90s. The mid 90s is the only time when the loudness level overall jumped dramatically.
But Death Magnetic must have the longest clips on any album ever made to date. That high pitched noise you hear on the drums (specifically on the bass drum) is not part of the drums set. That is a clip in the sound wave, reeking havoc on your ears.
So, is there anyway to decompress or de-clip music? The former, sadly, is a no, but the latter is a yes. There are such things as de-clipping software, but from what I've heard, a lot of the free ones aren't very good (they need to guess what the sound wave would be like de-clipped, and that's complected). The ones you pay for usually are a lot better at de-clipping than the free ones, but of course you need to PAY for those. Most people (including me) won't pay for de-clipping software. Also, don't ask me "what's the best de-clipping software?", because I haven't even bothered looking at de-clipping software. It's just never been a problem for me, up until now (and is still not that noticeable on some CDs released even this year, like Viva la Vida by Coldplay).
There are two paths we can take for CD mastering at this point. We can keep it at it's current level or reduce it, and keep most people happy. Death Magnetic is the alternative future for digital music. This future, though, is one lost under a layer of distortion that ultimately ruins music.
Update: I was sent a message about my review, and it discredited me for using iTunes previews. He/She went even so far as to compare it to cassette, which is totally not true. Here's my response before anyone says anything here too:
"No, iTunes is not the digital equivalent to Cassette. The only processing they do is encode the audio to AAC @ 128 kbp/s (both for streaming previews & downloading). That is not the same kind of compression, and does not effect the post-processing effects done at the mixing studio. And don't use the "It's at 128 kbp/s !" argument either, because by this point (11 years after AAC was first drafted) encoders have gotten WAY better at determining what humans will and won't hear."
Update 2: Some people I'm also getting messages from seem to not like me for not actually reviewing the songs on this album. The reason I didn't comment on the songs is because I didn't buy the album. I didn't buy the album because I don't want to support this kind of extremely bad mastering, and I don't pirate music unlike most people I know. I wouldn't have made this review in the first place if so many people didn't have trouble understanding what a lot of other people are upset about with this album. Like I stated above, clipping does not bother me most of the time, nor does dynamic compression (though I would obviously prefer it to be unclippy/uncompressed), but Death Magnetic is where I draw the line.
Death Magnetic seems like it would be a great album, and I'm sure it is, but I just can't stand listening to it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I've taken an almost inordinate amount of time to let this album linger, as much to get the deluge of reviews out of the way as anything else. Not that I'll have anything new or insightful to offer outside simply another opinion, but humor me. Oh and also time taken to learn the record just a bit, of course, a luxury not afforded to paid reviewers. And in the weeks following the release of Metallica's Death Magnetic it's been a hailstorm of buzz, of which only a portion is due to the distortion in your headphones. (rim shot) For the most part the album has been well-received, the most scathing and pointed comments usually directed at the quality of the final mix. I'm simply going to ignore this aspect and not because it's unimportant (as I both possess and prefer the more soothing Guitar Hero III mix myself), but because it's been talked about to death by people far more knowledgeable of, interested in, and affected by this aspect than myself. I simply recommend you procure for yourself a GH3 copy (as it's called) and save yourself the aggravation up front so you can get onto the songs, which is what I plan to do.
Well this album really had the potential to be a train wreck. You know in some ways it was a bit like the Palin-Biden debate where Gov. Palin had set the bar so low in the previous weeks that anything short of putting a gun in her mouth and blowing her brains all over Senator Biden and Gwen Ifill on national TV might be construed as a bit of a victory. So too had Metallica set the bar down a notch or ten in the minds of many. (I apologize to the seven or so folks still madly smitten with St. Anger). It's my opinion that outside some confident charm, and not my kind of charm at that, Palin still failed miserably despite not managing to implode. Question remained, would Metallica's latest effort similarly be equal parts improvement while still remaining mostly substance less?
Let's immediately throw out the historic comparisons, shall we? No, it's not Master Of Puppets. It can never and will never be a record of historical importance on that level. That ship sailed in '86 and was miles at sea even just a couple years later. It can be said for most bands lucky enough to survive into a third decade that the expiration date on their continued impact and relevance (if a band is lucky enough to have the latter...some don't) has probably expired. That's not a knock, it simply...is. Few bands are able to constantly reinvent themselves so as to be the impetus behind movement after movement. In fact, I can't think of a single band that's managed to do that past about 8 years, let alone 25. So what we're left with are a lot of bands who continue to do what they do with varying degrees of success or not, both in terms of sales (an antiquated notion) and fan satisfaction (much more palpable) for as long as they can. You really have to put yourself in the mindset of getting past that direct comparison mode because it's both ridiculous and irrelevant, as well as a complete disservice to the music. Doing so only sets up a band and another album for failure after failure. In that case, Rush, Iron Maiden, Metallica...they're all failures. And yet, clearly they're not.
In my mind, music is more rightly observed as an evolutionary process rather than one of direct comparison anyhow. You don't judge Van Gogh by how the next painting compares to The Starry Night. Or if Picasso's Rose Period lived up to his Blue Period and how much of a success or failure one is relative to the other. It is a success or failure unto itself, which is, of course, also subjective. Snobs will tell you there is a quantifiable precedent, but I don't prescribe to that notion.
Death Magnetic finally veers the Metallica ship (Hindenburg?) away from electrical storm clouds after the tumultuous event that was and surrounded St. Anger. Necessary as that album might've been towards getting the band from that point to this, it was at best inconsistent and at its worst, directionless, poorly constructed, meandering, self-important, and in places downright awful. The two albums (and thirteen years) preceding St. Anger were both the height of Metallica experimenting and breaking their own mold, to mixed success and, unarguably, mixed fan reaction as well. If you're so inclined to criticize the band for their 1991 self-titled release for spawning hit singles and popularity unprecedented for a thrash metal band, you have to go back to 1988 to find the band resembling "their old selves." Well the new album definitely is a return home of sorts, blending the speed and energy of ...And Justice For All with some of the plod and melody of "The Black Album," all while managing to be in-the-moment too.
There are also other eras of Metallica present here. The dry vocals by Hetfield (I'd have liked some reverb myself) are indeed tonally reminiscent of the band's dubious last go `round, although it's safe to say there's a lot more intestinal fortitude and a lot less cringe-inducing emotional whine (re: chorus of Invisible Kid). You'll also hear remnants of Load-era melody or chug and some catchy melodies that bring "The Black Album" to mind. I think the biggest difference is that there's a much-needed sense of urgency in the new songs than most of what's come lately (and with Metallica, "lately" means the last 17 or so years, suggesting they work on God's clock instead of normal time). Many of the songs on Load and Reload are high on atmosphere, but low on energy because they're intentionally deliberate and, clearly, the band was experimenting at this point. Some of St. Anger is high on verve at times, but there's also a tendency to plod and aimlessly riff in a murky soup of drop C-tuning that offers little in the way of coherent or vibrant transitions between bits and pieces.
Like an effective film experience, the story in music is often told in the editing process. It's about the marriage of imagery and movement and how those things correlate and weave in and out of one another. You don't linger too long on any one shot. You create tension and atmosphere though movement and inter-cutting. I think that's been one of Metallica's weakest links the last few albums; knowing what's good and what isn't, and how to maneuver within that. The result has been a lot of wankery.
That's a problem they've mostly corrected on Death Magnetic.
There's a lot of music in these ten songs and at first it seems a bit overwhelming, but after a few listens, the pieces make good sense and, better still, the songs flow well, despite their muscular running times. You begin to anticipate the change and realize the coming riff. You might argue there are a bit too many transitions and musical cues abounding at times (thus the album's most notable similarity to 88's Justice LP), and if the songs have a slight fault it might be that there's a bit over-indulging going on in spots, but overall there's a coherency that's married to the energy and it works well, so that's a small distraction I can easily live with. The songs are journeys, mini-epics with discernable beginnings, middles and endings. They have transitory elements that make sense and, yes, guitar solos to help accomplish this.
The songs simply move and while that sounds fundamental, I can't say that about a lot of the songs from the previous three albums.
It doesn't take long to realize, too, that there's a concerted effort to get back to the riffage and speed that dominated earlier albums. Don't be mistaken, this isn't Ride The Lightning II here, but the supple-wristed Hetfield has some fine flashes we haven't heard for some time on songs like All Nightmare Long, which, to me, harkens back to Puppets-era writing, execution and skull-thumping delivery. Thrashier numbers like the bookend opening and closing tracks have a raw punk-metal flavor to them, not unlike the verve found on their debut album. I wouldn't call this mimicry though. This is clearly 2008 Metallica having fun tapping old veins with the best and - let's face it -- most smile-evoking intentions.
Sure there are the more cynical fans who see this as the band desperately trying to be 20-years-old again, feebly trying to garner lost respect by saying "we can still play fast, see?" I don't get this impression at all because I don't think that urge ever left the band. I think, rather, Metallica spent nearly 20 years doing something else, evolving as I mentioned earlier. That doesn't mean it's necessarily successful growth, because that comes down to taste, but it is something they deemed necessary at the time, for better or worse. To return to their roots to me isn't some kind of self-denial or denial of growth, but instead it reads as a band coming to terms with and embracing its past. But to some who loved the early days and fought the change as it happened, it might be an attempt at feeble apology. To some of the newer fans, it might be a Neandrathalic and unnecessary step backward. To most everyone else it might best described as a proper melding of all eras of the band, which is how I hear it.
"The Black Album," for instance, is here, present in the most literal sense with the inclusion of The Unforgiven III, but also in terms of the string section, vocal melody with the heavy verse - soft chorus formula established with the first Unforgiven entry, etc. It's felt on a song like Broken, Beat & Scarred with the middle eastern flavored riffing, as well as in the infectious choral melodies and relentless chuggings of tunes like Cyanide and The Judas Kiss. ...And Justice For All rings true in the complex arrangements and lengths of many songs, as well as the welcomed-return to many of the dual-guitar harmonies present on that record. The middle break in the instrumental song Suicide And Redemption has a true Justice feel to it.
And so it goes.
It's a rather unpleasant position Metallica find themselves in. Not so much from their insulated perspective, but really from the fan's perspective, watching both critics and other fans lend their take on Death Magnetic. It's a position that they've put themselves in, having spent enough time doing their own thing that they've managed to infuriate and isolate one part of their fan base while gaining a whole new crowd altogether. Most of the rest bob around somewhere between pleased and disappointed, having the opportunity to be one or the other only about every five years or so, the dreadfully-prolonged pause between albums being perhaps the biggest sticking point of all. What you're left with is a bickering assortment of fans eager to pounce on whatever turn they take at this point. On one hand the band experiments more and people cry, "Why can't they just do music like they used to?" Tread too far back into the past and it's condemned as being pathetic mimicry.
In the vast pool that is "can't please everyone" comes Death Magnetic, which is nothing short of an energetic, enthused, competent and invigorated return to the spirit that previously compelled them. Nothing will ever be Master Of Puppets and nothing should ever have to be, nor could it. But what is past is also prologue and Death Magnetic seems more the beginning of a new chapter of self-discovery than a nostalgic thumbing through of faded memories and dusty picture albums.
4.5 stars of 5
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2008
Format: Audio CD
First of all Metallica really outdid themselves on Death Magnetic in more ways than one. The songs are a visit to the bands past with heavy guitar riffs and solos which had been lacking over recent years. The retail version of Death Magnetic is recorded too loud, and compressed beyond belief (and by me saying too loud, I am not referring to the volume which I listen to my music)! I love to CRANK the volume up and I simply can't do it with this cd without it sounding horrible. It sounds as if I blew my speakers with all the distorted high end mess. Sonically it takes away, and covers up the dynamics of the songs they worked so long and hard on over the past 3 years. Something interesting was discovered within a few days of this cd's release though. Some of the cd's were special versions that you paid more money for and you could get the songs for your Guitar Hero game. The funny thing was the SONGS SOUNDED BETTER ON THE GUITAR HERO 3 GAME! WHY! If you want to see for yourself how bad the sound actually is, check on youtube for Metallica and GH3 (guitar hero 3) versions. You can compare the different versions, and hold off until they re-release this thing, or make a remix remaster! It is too bad, because the music on this cd is pretty damn good!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Death Magnetic was released on September 12, 2008. The album is Metallica's ninth studio album of original material. The album features Lars Ulrich on drums, James Hetfield on vocals/rhythm guitar, Kirk Hammett on lead guitar, and Robert Trujillo on bass (making his first appearance on a Metallica album.) The album was produced by Rick Rubin.
Metallica's post-80s career has been filled with highs and lows. For every triumph like S and M, there has been a disastrous misstep like St. Anger to drag the band's name back into the mud. Following a decade of albums filled with hits and misses alike, and the utter horror that was St. Anger, I thought these once-great men of metal were beyond redemption....
....And then I heard Death Magnetic..
My friends, Metallica is BACK.
Easily the band's strongest studio effort since the Black Album, Death Magnetic takes the band back where they belong - their 80s thrash metal roots. It's not entirely a return to form; many of the songs do indeed have a modern edge to them. But it's far closer to the band's 80s albums than anything that has come out since the decade of decadence ended. Death Magnetic is Metallica's long-awaited rebirth. There are some minor flaws here and there, but they don't keep this from being Metallica's best album in nearly two decades.
Oh, and you'll be happy to know that, unlike St. Anger, this one has guitar solos. Damn good ones, too.
-That Was Just Your Life - Don't let that acoustic intro throw you off. Like Battery from the days of old, that deceptive intro jumps right into a tune that rocks fast and rocks hard. The first track on an album should always be one that grabs the listener and keeps them interested - and Metallica succeeds in that department on this album.
-The End of the Line - This song is a bit of an oddity, combining elements of the bands 80s and 90s sound alike. There are moments that will bring Load and Reload to mind, and a melodic interlude that is reminiscent of the title track from Master of Puppets, both in melody and lyric. And yet, the song doesn't feel out of place. It's actually a damn good song.
-Broken, Beat & Scarred - One of the album's straight-up thrashers. This is the band's hard and heavy sound at its finest. It won't fail to please.
-The Day That Never Comes - For its first half, the song is a melodic ballad, but in the latter half quickly evolves into fast-paced series of Kirk Hammett guitar solos. The song has drawn many comparisons to the classic One, and I have to go along with them. Absolutely incredible song, an instant classic for the band.
-All Nightmare Long - Fast and heavy and the two of the things Metallica does best, and perhaps no track on Death Magnetic demonstrates that better than this one does. The band doesn't fail to please on this cut. And once again, we get some incredible soloing from Kirk. Great song.
-Cyanide - Again, a track that emphasizes the hard and heavy stuff. Great melodies and a terrific instrumental interlude keep it from being "just another Metallica song."
-The Unforgiven III - The "Unforgiven" saga continues. Easily the most melodic piece on the album (some parts of the song even use orchestral backing instrumentation) - and yet it still has moments that rock hard. This track instantly won me over, becoming not only one of my favorite cuts on the album, but also my favorite of the 3 "Unforgiven" songs. And that says a lot considering the last two were Metallica classics in their own right!
-The Judas Kiss - Again, the band gives a straight up fast-paced, hard-rocking thrash tune. Kirk's soloing here is some of the best guitar playing on the album. The melodies are great, and everything comes together nicely, making this one of the album's strongest songs.
-Suicide & Redemption - Metallica serves up their first instrumental in over 2 decades. The musical style is all over the place, so the thing stays interesting throughout its entire duration. Not quite a worthy heir to the crown left vacant by classics like The Call of Ktulu and Orion, but a damn good song nonetheless.
-My Apocalypse - What better way to finish the album then to pull out all the stops and give listeners a no-nonsense, balls-to-the-wall tune that rocks and thrashes like no other? A great way to finish things off.
10 tracks, all of them excellent. Metallica has officially won back this former fan. As much as I like the album, though, I have a few minor complaints that keep me from giving it a perfect score:
-The songs are too long. I'm all for having maybe 3 or so lengthy epics on an album, but this is overkill. Most of the songs on here could have been trimmed by a good 2-3 minutes, and they would probably have benefited from the editing. Of course, I'm not saying I don't like the songs as they are. It's not like St. Anger, where the band dragged half an hour of music out to 80 minutes.
-James' voice shows its age. He sounds better here than he did on St. Anger, but it's clear that the years have taken a toll on the frontman's vocal chords. As far as recapturing the band's 80s sound and their former glory, the vocals are the one aspect that never quite reach "Classic Metallica" territory. But I DO give the guy credit for sounding better than he did on the last album.
-This isn't really a complaint about the album itself, but is worth mentioning here. The band's recent cover of Iron Maiden's Remember Tomorrow, which you probably heard on rock radio in recent months, IS NOT ON THE ALBUM (it was recorded for an Iron Maiden tribute CD for a guitar magazine.) I wish the band had included it here on a bonus disc, but no such luck.
Please, DO NOT judge this album by those very minor criticisms I just made. This is the best Metallica has sounded in nearly two decades. At long last, we get the band's long-awaited return to greatness (which many former fans, myself included, thought would never happen!) Throughout the entire album, the band is on fire, at the top of their game. Even if you vowed never to buy another Metallica album after the disaster that was St. Anger, bend your vow and check out Death Magnetic. If you're a fan of the band's classic sound, you'll be glad you did.
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2008
Format: Audio CD
[EDIT- 9/2/10: Originally in 2008, I had rated this CD "only" 4 stars, as for whatever reason, it felt sort of off to give Death Magnetic a full 5 star review, given a few issues I had with it. Even though I still stand by my assessment of those flaws, the fact that almost 2 years later, the songs still consistently find their way into my playlist (for a while, it was the semi-regular soundtrack to my commute a year after its release) requires me to change this to a "5 stars with a qualification" rating!]
There's no doubt that Metallica is one of the most influential metal bands out there, along with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and a handful of others. Starting with the raw, street-level thrash/speed metal of "Kill 'Em All", Metallica raised the stakes with the more epic and polished "Ride the Lightning", and created a bona fide masterpiece with "Master of Puppets", which managed to be incredibly brutal yet melodic. 1988's ".....And Justice For All" saw the band attempt to merge the ambitions of progressive rock with a sort of ultra-technical brand of thrash, and surprisingly enough, yielded their first hit single. When they released their self-titled 1991 album, Metallica made a conscious break from the frantic and dense structures of their prior efforts in favor of a much more radio-friendly, arena-metal sound. While it made the band incredibly successful and popular, it also was the first sign of trouble for many fans. While "Metallica" (aka the Black Album)could boast great production and tight (if somewhat mainstream) songwriting, 1996's "Load" was, for many, a kick in the gut. While the album was promoted as containing as much music as a CD could hold, too much of it was filler, and the music itself was often incredibly unambitious. Songs that started as promising would end up flogging the same 2 riffs to death for far too long, while other songs were filler tracks that were dead on arrival. The new "bluesy hard rock" twist on Metallica's approach to metal was applied in a rather sloppy and undeveloped fashion, something that continued in "Reload", 1997's companion piece to "Load". While both albums did have some decent singles fodder and some "experimental" songs that were not half-bad (yes, I did actually like "Mama Said"), the overall results weren't good. Metallica continued to buy time with their "Garage, Inc." covers compilation, and the live orchestral "S&M" CD, until 2003, when "St. Anger" was released amidst promises of a "return to form". The energy was there, but everything else went painfully and horribly wrong, and the CD has been gathering dust in my collection since the first couple of listens. Suffice it to say that after St. Anger, I would no longer buy a Metallica CD on pure faith.
Lars and those other guys must have been reading my mind, because they actually put up the full songs in streaming format on their website right before the launch of "Death Magnetic", allowing me to judge for myself. And you know what? I bought it as soon as I could, because "Death Magnetic" is their best album in years, finally following up on the tease of a return to form I heard in their 1998 "Mercyful Fate" medley (on "Garage Inc."). While the end result shows that Metallica wasn't lying this time about the quality of their new release, it does show them to be liars in a different way. Namely, Metallica tried to justify their mid-90's direction by claiming they were "playing more naturally", thus requiring them to be much more simplistic and sloppy.
The thing is that "Death Magnetic" shows that they could've been more organic than "...Justice", yet still interesting and ambitious. On songs like "End of the Line", "Load"-era groove and swagger will inundate one riff, only to have the band suddenly kick into a "Master of Puppets"-inspired tight and heavy barking gallop. Indeed, vocals that are reminiscent of 1990s Metallica (and occasionally "St. Anger"), but more energetic, can be found layered on top of song structures that recall past songs such as "No Remorse" and "One". Guitar harmonies simply abound throughout this album, sometimes even evoking Iron Maiden. "Cyanide" rides on a groovy flow that would be at home on "Load", with a "Black"-album catchy melody, but seemlessly incorporates a much more complex song-structure midway through. And while other reviews indicated that "Suicide and Redemption", Metallica's first new instrumental since 1988, was disappointing and repetitive, I'm not sure which song they were listening to, as it has plenty of variety, and hits hard. The whole CD exudes a shockingly effortless and unlabored feel in general, given how hard Metallica tried to disassociate themselves from metal in general.
That being said, "Death Magnetic" occasionally stumbles, making what could've been a masterpiece merely a very good album. The production is too dry for my tastes, and there are times when James Hetfield's voice is strained beyond capacity (such as the mid-point of "The Day That Never Comes"). While "The Unforgiven 3" is a good enough song (with a nice piano intro), a questionable "emotive" lyrical decision midway through the song reeks of cheesiness. In addition, while the constantly shifting and syncopated riffs and beats keep things from becoming too repetitive, there are times when putting in a total shift in key for a few moments could've taken the music to a higher level. The truth is that other bands, such as Rage and Blind Guardian, have been filling in admirably in Metallica's "absence", and have raised the bar (even if Metallica innovated first). As a result, Metallica is at a bit of a disadvantage, despite the obvious effort they put forth. But that's like complaining that the pretty Asian girl next door isn't Helen of Troy. While "Death Magnetic" can't rise to the level of "Master of Puppets" (few bands ever can top their truly definitive album), it may well knock "...And Justice For All" or "The Black Album" out of their current spots, being less stiff and stilted than "Justice", and more complex and aggressive than "Black".
In the end, I can't help but recommend this album. For the first time in a long while, my first listen to a new Metallica album was actually a fairly pure joy, where I didn't feel I had to self-justify enjoying any of it, or where I didn't cringe that often. Get the album, crank "My Apocalypse", and you may actually find your head bobbing. Sometimes people do deserve a second chance, and Metallica has re-earned my faith, at least for the time being. Go buy yourself a Jaegerbomb, Lars.....you've earned it.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Close your eyes...
Pretend that the Black album, Load, St. Anger, etc. never happened.
Pretend that after "...And Justice For All" came out that Metallica broke up, they laid low for 20 years, then came back together for a reunion album.
They announce the news in a press conference where they tell the world that Rick Rubin (famed producer of such gigantic heavy metal luminaries as Weezer and the Beastie Boys, and also that one other band that did that "Raining Blood" song for Guitar Hero 3) will produce the thing.
They announce that their new comeback album, 5th studio effort overall, will be called "Ride The Lightning, Part III: Master Of Justice For All" and will be similar in sound to the last 3 albums.
Rick Rubin convinces them that the album name is too long and they change it to "Death Magnetic."
That is how you should view this album.
Metallica is kickin' it old school again and guess what??? THEY... STILL... HAVE IT!!!!
This album is EVERYTHING fans of the early Metallica could hope it to be, long songs, aggressive lyrics, deeply intricate riff structures that change and weave into many parts during the course of several minutes, and lots of loud guitars going "jiggajiggajiggajigga" all over the place.
Simply put, this album features the Metallica that dealt in thrash, and they still do it VERY VERY WELL...
Is it perfect? No, Hetfield's vocals ARE showing their age just a bit, and any album over 70 minutes long is bound to have SOME lesser parts, but except for "Unforgiven III" and just a few, once-in-a-great-while weak riffs, the album is quite a stunner.
The production could be just a bit heavier (I miss those LOUD Metallica drums) but praise can be given to the crisp, organic sound found on this album. It sounds like the guys are playing these songs live, together in a studio, and that's honestly pretty darn cool.
Grab a copy, turn it up loud, and bang your head. Metallica still has it!!! Let's hope it doesn't take them another 20 years for an album this good!