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Metallica, "Death Magnetic" (Warner Bros.) [2 STARS]

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"You rise, you fall, you're down, then you rise again," James Hetfield yowls in "Broken, Beat & Scarred," an attempt to recap the trials and tribulations of the best-selling mainstream metal band in history on its much-hyped ninth album. "What don't kill you, make you more strong."

Ah, yes: Though they now live in suburban mansions, travel to concerts in separate SUV limos and are unapologetically photographed shopping at Armani, Hetfield and his mates would have us believe that after the dreadful, beyond-self-parody of "St. Anger" (2003), they've traded the New Age self-help psychobabble of "performance-enhancing coach" Phil Towle for the good, ol'-fashioned nihilism of Friedrich Nietzsche, the official philosopher of all great heavy metal. Producer Rick Rubin, rock's master of resuscitating trashed careers, gave the group its marching orders: Forget everything starting with the mascara-wearing sell-out of the so-called "Black Album" (1991) and reconnect with your garage-band roots (if not the unhealthy habits) of the old Alcoholica, then go write the "second half" of the masterful "Master of Puppets" (1986).

It doesn't work--how could it?--but "Death Magnetic" does offer a little more of a rush than anything else the band's given us in the last two decades. Lars Ulrich will never be anything but a shadow of the best thrash drummers--the guys in Nachtmystium, Disfear and Mastodon could eat him for breakfast, to name but a few of many new underground metal heroes--but at least he keeps things moving under Hetfield's rote but quick-moving riffs and the welcome return of Kirk Hammett's unoriginal but quick-moving solos, and things only really fly horribly off the rails during the soggy grand piano and French horn opening of "The Unforgiven III."

Alas, every time you start to lose yourself in the sturm und drang, you run into the album's two biggest problems. The first is the much-publicized sound: As numerous metal and techie blogs have pointed out, this disc sets a new record for the amount of digital audio compression, a technical enhancement that basically makes the music sound loud at any volume, but at the expense of harsh digital clipping and distortion on many of the instruments, notably the drums. Then there's obstacle numero uno: Hetfield can sing--or try to, replacing the old sandpaper growl with an attempt at melody--about death, suicide, torture and other similar festivities all that he wants. But the angst just ain't there anymore, and would-be explosions of anger, dread and self-loathing such as "All Nightmare Long," "The Day That Never Comes" and "The Judas Kiss" ultimately sound as genuine as the latest from the Jonas Brothers.

"How can I be lost/If I've got nowhere to go," Hetfield asks. Good question, James. Good question.

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23 Comments

HAHAHAHAHAHA. You just stated that Hetfield lacks angst and "would-be explosions of anger" in the song "Suicide & Redemption." Have you even listened to this record? The reason there is no angst in his voice it because THERE IS NO VOICE! "Suicide & Redemption" is the first instrumental Metallica has done in 20 years. I have spoken to many of my friends who long ago wrote MetallicA off as dead and buried, and the general consensus is that "Death Magnetic" is the first Metallica album that sounded like Metallica since "...And Justice For All." For the fans that have hated the the band since the days of "Enter Sandman", this album is for you!

Strange review considering the almost universal acceptance that this is Metallica's finest work since ...Justice. I wonder exactly how many times the reviewer listened to the album before writing that.
This album is a grower. It takes a good 10 listens to start absorbing all that's on it. This isn't some pop rubbish with instantly catchy tunes with no substance.

Still, nice work for actually mentioning the sound problems. This is the worst sounding CD I've ever heard, and I've heard a lot.

Great music completely ruined by the ridiculous "loudness war"

cĀ“mon, in Suicide & Redemption there`s no voice, please stop making this dumb reviews

For those who care about Metallica and Death Magnetic, please sign the petition below :

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/re-mix-or-remaster-death-magnetic/sign.html

Hate to say it Jim but your credibility is out the door. Who said you have to be poor and play in a garage to write good Metal? Shop at Armani all you want, Oh and most americans drive SUV's these days. Your right most of those drummers can out play him, too bad their technical skills leave no room for feeling. I'll give you the sound quality is poor. Who cares they just out did most of the wus metal from the past few years!

This is the single-most idiotic review I've read. Death Magnetic is a masterpiece, and the fans have clearly shown they agree. I've been a fan since 85, and I rank DM above Puppets. It offers everything that is great about Metallica. The speed of their thrash days, the weight of Black, and the raw emotion of Anger. Metallica has secured their place as the greatest metal band in history with this album. Jim DeRogatis is clearly a hater with an axe to grind. Nobody who has listened to Death Magnetic can deny what a great record it is. By the way, Jim, "UNO is Spanish for "one." Two comes after one, but I wouldn't expect the writer of this review to know that. And, as has already been pointed out, there are no lyric in Suicide and Redemption--it's an instrumental, you complete, daft moron! SEE YOU ALL AT THE CONCERT, FOLKS!!! BOW DOWN!!!

If you hate Metallica, don't review them!

Oh, they got famous! Oh, they have money! Oh, they actually care about their families!

"Nachtmystium, Disfear and Mastodon" are three of the worse bands in the world, and worse, they wouldn't exist without Metallica.

You know, if you don't have anything good or anything productive to say...

As for Metallica, here's what a real, critical, meaningful review looks like:

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.

I am all for opinions, but you are either a metallica fan or not. I have grown up with this music and I am dedicated fan and while St Anger was an interesting cd I admire these musicians for having the balls to try different sounds, styles - from Load, re-load to st Anger, irrespective of the crap they have gone through. Enough blabbing..... Death Magnetic - quite simply is frigging AWESOME.

"In my cross-eyed squint at the scribbled song titles on the disc I burned from the net because the label provided no review copies, I wrote "Suicide & Redemption" instead of "The Judas Kiss."

Nice coverup... did you even listen to the album?

I usually agree with you Jim, but here you've done a great band wrong.

As someone who's defended the Strokes from people who insist that their privileged backgrounds deprive them of their authenticity, I'd think that you'd be forgiving of a band that became rich after selling millions of records, concert tickets and t-shirts. Also, a paparazzi photo of James Hetfield standing outside a building with an Armani bag is completely irrelevant to the music on "Death Magnetic."

I don't think that the lyrics in "Broken, Beat & Scarred" are meant to be lessons or revelations. They're well-established mantras that people repeat to themselves in times of crisis. The band is now undeniably rich and privileged, but damned if they don't work their asses off to make the best music that they think they can make, when it would be easy (and reasonable) for them to retire with their families and wealth.

Almost two decades after the "Black Album," is still one of the most disputed albums in modern music. You can call it a sell-out (although the mascara came around "Load,") but it's as much of a sell-out as "Bringing it all Back Home"--a fearless, audacious career-risk that alienated old fans but grabbed the rest of the world by the ears. Critics may give all the credit to "Nevermind," but the "Black Album" played a bigger role in demolishing the hair metal craze by actually making an authentic, and really heavy, mainstream metal album.

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett are rote and unoriginal? Come on. I really like the new Nachtmystium and Disfear CDs, but I think that the new Metallica is more memorable, original and just better than either of those albums. I also think that the three bands that you mentioned all have alt-rock tinges that make them more palatable to music critics than bands like Metallica.

I agree that "Unforgiven III" is filler, but my biggest complaint is the title, when the song sounds nothing like the first two. I also agree that the mix is subpar, but don't we overlook that for "Raw Power," "Exile on Main St." and of course "...And Justice for All?" The songs are there even when the sound isn't, and "This Was Just Your Life," "All Nightmare Long," "Suicide & Redemption" and "My Apocalypse" are almost everything that's great about metal.

"Anger, dread and self-loathing" go with fame and fortune? Ever heard of Kurt Cobain?

Also, if this CD in any conceivable way reminded you of the Jonas Brothers, I really can't believe that you heard the same album I heard.

The Jay Mariotti of the music world strikes again.

Let's talk about St. Anger, therapy, and Hetfield being rich.
Yeah. That will get em..

Funny when a failed musician throws those comments in a Metallica review in which he claims THEY'RE the unoriginal ones...

Metallica has pretty much become a joke. This is a tired attempt at making a comeback. They should probably break up. Sweet review.

HA! What a tool.

This guy won't give a band any cred unless they sell less than 20,000, wear all black, and play 1000 notes/minute. You know, those wanna be tough guy "I'm so evil" bands that spend their free time playing Dungeons & Dragons and wondering when they'll finally get a girl to agree to go out with them. This review fits right in that picture. Total loser.

So let me get this straight. You're listening to a song in which Hetfield screams "THE JUDAS KISS!" at the end of every chorus. You look at the tracklist and see one that is actually called "The Judas Kiss." You, however, believe that the song you're listening to is actually entitled "Suicide & Redemption," and it's just a plain old coincidence that another song on the album happens to have a title that bears the same three words that end every chorus of the song you're currently listening to.

Did I get that right?

Just another useless review by a frustrated music snob hack journalist who never made it. Its amusing that the SunTimes still has him reviewing albums and concerts the rest of the city knows hes going to hate and rip on. Why bother? "Objectivity", look it up. OOOHH...DeRo mentioned Nachtmystium, Disfear and Mastodon..Im impressed. Seriously, no one cares Dero about the 1000 crappy bands out there that you feel somehow have more musical integrity than the band you are "reviewing". How about some journalistic integrity and actually "reviewing" something for its own merits just once, or ever. You knew you had to review Metallica, and had your mind made up of how much you hated it before you even heard it, just like you've done with more of your assignments than one can count. The fact that Metallica actually has had success does not automatically eliminate them from making good music ever again. Load, Reload, St., Anger, all major missteps. Death Magnetic is the sound of a band having fun again, and bless em for it. Tony, your dead on with the Jay Mariotti comment.

SLAYER!

This guy shouldn't review any real music. If he is comparing metallica to Jonas Brother's he needs to be shot in the forehead at point blank. Advice for you, get off your fat ass and suck your little hip hop boy bands d---s, leave the real musicians to do what they do best, make a washed up critc whine.

So you have enough time to surf the internet for pictures of James shopping at Armani but you don't to go to Metallica's website (or countless others) and verify a track title? The full track listing was posted on Metallica's website on August 10, a full month before the album was released and 6.5 weeks before this review was posted. Pretty pathetic. I wish it was a one time thing, but this is pretty common-place for the reviews I read from you. Maybe it's time you hang up your jaded and grudge-filled pen...

What, Jim did you hear their last CD. It was produced by Bob Rock. Bob Rock produced Bon Jovi. Why don't you listen to that Cd for let's say a day in an enclosed room. That Cd was horrible!! It had some moments, the songs didn't connect. This CD is sooooooo much better. It's going to be a pleasure to hear this stuff live. Your not a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal guy, so what do you know about this Cd. Metallica is back, sure they are older, and there sound may seem the same, but this Cd Rocks. I don't care where they shop, or eat, or what cars they drive.

I truly respect your music journalism, Jim, but I wish you had put a little more care into this review.

Metallica didn't start wearing mascara until Load. I'm not in love with Death Magnetic either, but at least try to give a fair, critical review of the music without succumbing to bitter taunts. It's as bad as the fanboy tongue baths. Whether Hetfield shops at Armani is irrelevant to the album's merits or lack thereof.

And please, please no more hipster metal name dropping. It doesn't help your case. Just because Pitchfork likes them doesn't mean Nachtmystium, Disfear and Mastodon are all that exceptional.

Okay, have all you metalheads taken your stupid pills? Death Magnetic is an absolute mess of a record, saved only by... well, actually, nothing. It sucks. It's awful. Metallica simply has not put out a good record since the '80s. There have been a couple of one-off tracks here and there (notably the cover of Seeger's "Turn the Page"), but this is not a "return to form."

I'm with everybody who doesn't really give a damn what cars they drive or clothes they wear -- I care about the music. And as far as the music goes, this is more of the Metallica dribble we've been hearing for, unfortunately, the better part of their entire existence (frankly, they should've broken up after ...And Justice for All).

You want metal? Give me Slayer. Give me Mayhem. Give me Neurosis. So far as Metallica is concerned, they haven't been a metal band in ages, and they haven't been a good band in almost as long.

And by the way, let's not forget that this is a two-star review. He didn't slam the record; two stars is average. In fact, I think that's about a star and a half too many for this schlock.

the reviewer Jim ,let me ask you a questiom..what the hell do you know about music? are you freaking insane to compare james to jonas brothers??
james' voice has matured and is sounding brilliant especially in unforgiven 3.kirk hammets fast whammy solos are back. rob gives new depth to the bands sound, his solid bass completes d crunchy rhythm guitar riffs of james.though lars sticks to his signature beats his work is brilliant, especially the way he builds up momentum of the song before breaking it in.
this is the new metallica we want to hear and the metallica album closest to the ones dear to our hearts ie 'master' 'justice' n 'black'
hats off to metallica for their new instrumental
1000000 times better than st anger's 'frantic'
takes you back to the 'ktulu' and 'orion' days.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on September 24, 2008 2:07 PM.

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