"St. Anger", Metallica was ready to move on. First on the agenda, recruit a new bassist, and after a three month long search, the band settled down on Robert Trujillo, who at that time was most known from Suicidal Tendencies and being the touring bassist for Ozzy Osbourne. Looking back at it, I think most of us are happy the band chose Trujillo, he is a fantastic showman on stage, and did bring some extra energy to the band, which was certainly displayed on their 9th studio effort, "Death Magnetic".
To help out the band in the recording process, they reached out to Rick Rubin to produce the record. Rick ordered the band to go back and listen to their older stuff, to be inspired when the time for writing was nigh. The result ended up being kind of a direct opposite to the primal nature of "St. Anger". Instead of simple, angry songs with no solos, "Death Magnetic" offers a style that is more like "...And Justie For All", long and complex songs with riffs to the absolute brim.
So all is well, right? Wrong, because everyone started to find new ways to complain. The songs are too long, they all sound the same, the production is way too clean. Out of those three main complaints, I can only really agree with the last one. Sure, Rick Rubin did a nice job on the production, but just like with most of his recent productions, the cleanliness takes away the soul and personality of the album, turning it into a sparkling clean machine, something that certainly does not fit Metallica. It does not bother me that much though, but I would have liked it even more if it had some dirt under its nails.
As for the two other complaints, I can only agree to disagree. Sure, the songs are long, and so is the album (1 hour and 14 minutes), but unlike "Load" and "Reload", there is a pace to the songs that makes that time go by much more smoothly. Instead of getting bored to death, you fly by at the speed of sound, so while the "Load" brothers might feel like 1 and a half hours, "Death Magnetic" feels more like it sits just around the hour mark. And while I do understand that there are similarities between the songs in structure, they still have their own personalities thanks to the riffs, solos, and choruses being as strong as they are. Songs like "End of The Line", "That Was Just Your Life", and "The Judas Kiss" certainly have a similar feel, but are still strong, catchy efforts.
This is certainly no flatline record, and one song that definitely shows that is "All Nightmare Long", a riff fest that transitions smoothly from segment to segment, turning out one of the heavier performances from the band in several albums. Also, that second solo gives me the goosebumps every time, makes we wanna live this nightmare over and over again. Then we have "The Unforgiven III" as another stand out, and it is pretty clear that the "Unforgiven" series are sort of like the "Toy Story" movies. The first one was good, second one was arguably better, and the third one is the best, but both number two and three are completely unnecessary. I do like though that there is a new structure to this song, even if the opening piano intro is overstaying its welcome.
Unfortunately, we also do have some lows in here. Besides the production, I feel like the song "Cyanide" could do better with a tougher chorus, the current one is really lame. It is not as lame as the instrumental track though, because "Suicide & Redemption" is literally all suicide. This is a 10 minute instrumental that repeats itself a couple times too many, and never really seems to go anywhere. There is no real emotion to the song, so it becomes an agonizing slog. Worst part is that it might have the best solo in the entire album, buried 6 minutes into the song, with Kirk taking the first half and James the second, creating a sort of guitarist duel that is cool to see. Two guys, same segment, two completely different solos.
Despite those issues, I still love this album to death. This is an extremely consistent record that knows what it is, and knows what it want to accomplish. After a bunch of bad and boring records, "Death Magnetic" was the fun pill that not only the band needed, but that the fans needed as well. It is not a full on back track to the glory days (I consider this to be more of a straight up heavy metal record than a thrash one), and it might be one of the less experimental albums from the band in a while, but there is one simple fact it has going for it, it kicks ass, a lot of it. That is good enough for me, time to take it for another spin (minus the instrumental).
Songs worthy of recognition: All Nightmare Long, The End of The Line, The Unforgiven III, The Judas Kiss
Rating: 8,5/10 Cyanides
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