It was Friday 12th September 2008 and I was up to my neck at work. Even so, I had one mission to fulfil and that was to get out to the shops to buy Metallica’s new album which had just hit the shelves. It’s a sign of how far Metallica have come from their early thrash metal days that on bringing the CD to the shop counter, I was told that I could also buy a Metallica T-shirt for an additional 8. Metallica are now a huge money making venture but the key question was could they still produce a killer album?
The jury was out, to some extent, after the mixed reviews that had accompanied their previous studio album, St Anger. That album had been hamstrung by the terrible drum sound and, thankfully, that problem has been rectified on Death Magnetic. Metal music fans have also been wondering what musical direction Metallica would go with this album? Whilst the early Metallica albums were all out thrash Metal affairs, the emergence of their black album in 1991 saw a subtle shift towards more radio-friendly material. Songs such as Nothing else matters’ and Enter Sandman’ helped to bring the band to a much wider audience and they became arguably the biggest rock band on the planet. This commercialism, however, did disillusion some of Metallica’s hardcore fans and the St Anger album was a first step back towards a sound more reminiscent of their early albums. Death Magnetic continues in this retro vein.
The opening track, That was just your life’, begins with the sound of heartbeats and then come the guitars and heavy drumming, laying down a marker that the listener is in for an aural onslaught. The album feels like a typical early Metallica album but with better production values and I think the fans who have been with the band from the very start will be delighted. There aren’t too many songs, though, that I can see getting radio play, even on rock stations. The day that never comes’ is probably the exception. It’s not exactly am all-out ballad but it has a lighter touch than most of its bedfellows on this album and carries the listener along nicely. It’s probably my favourite song on the album.
James Hetfield’s voice is as strong as ever and the album has a consistent feel to it. Overall, I think the album is certainly worth four out of five stars and will be spending some time in my CD player. It’s the kind of album that is best played with the volume turned up and it also benefits from being listened to as a whole entity. Indeed, it’s the kind of music that I like having on in the background when writing. There aren’t too many catchy sing-along choruses to distract and the tempo of it is inspiring. If daydreaming to it, I think you’d be a warrior in a Lord of the rings type story, about to face the evil hordes!
– That was just your life
– The end of the line
– Broken, beat & scarred
– The day that never comes
– All nightmare long
– The Unforgiven III
– The Judas kiss
– Suicide & Redemption
– My Apocalypse
One final thing that’s perhaps worth commenting on. The artwork for the CD is very nice, featuring a coffin. When you open the sleeve notes, however, you’ll see that the coffin shape has been cut into each page of the notes. This creates the nice layered effect on the cover. However, it cuts off some of the lyric sheets, which is a shame for those who like to read the lyrics. Small gripe, I know, but frustrating.