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Metallica - Death Magnetic Review

A Partial Return to Form By The Former Masters Of Thrash

How long has it been since there was even a glimmer of hope to be had that the former masters of metal, one of the vaunted big four, would release not a great album, but even just a good album? How long has it been since metal fans of a certain age could relish the latest Metallica release? Almost twenty years? Yea, that's a long, long time for the once great metal outfit to languish in a purgatory of mediocrity and irrelevance. I would have never guessed I would be writing these words when I caught them as a young man on the Damaged Justice tour with Queensryche oh so many years ago, but as my teens passed me by, so did the quality output that we were used to getting from Metallica.


The sad truth is, my favorite Metallica albums were all put out before the nineties began, and I have little use for anything that came after the Black album. It pained me to see one of my favorite bands go from trailblazer to sheep following the herd, but it was something I dealt with long ago, and put aside. What else could I do? I found it pathetic to watch Metallica and its members flounder with ridiculous stances on issues that had made them initially, and even worse, releasing music that would have embarrassed a "me too" hard rock outfit. It seemed as if they would never get it together.


But I always hoped. To such end, it was with great interest that I followed the hype around St. Anger, and the rumors of a much awaited return to form, only for my hopes to be once again dashed upon the rocks of disappointment by what can only be seen as a bad, bad mistake. There was nothing about St. Anger that even hinted at the promised return to form, only a misguided attempt to gain some sort of relevance by gravy training on to what they thought would be popular. Once again, Metallica was very wrong.


Needless to say, I was less than enthusiastic when I heard that Metallica was back working on a new album. After all the disappointments over the years, I really had very little faith that they would ever be able to put anything out that would be worth anything. It seemed to me they had passed their sell by date and would be lucky if they could avoid being mocked as they put out some heap of shit, god only knows what album in a bid to find some sort of praise and success. To attempt to capture lightning in a bottle by any means necessary. So imagine my surprise when it came to my attention that long time producer Bob Rock had been set aside for Rick Ruben. Interesting. The architect of their demise sent packing? This was an interesting turn of events. So I followed along.


And then the day came that it was finally released upon the unsuspecting public. Ok, not exactly unsuspecting, but skeptical I would venture to say. I didn't run right out and buy it the first day. Despite the chances in producer, and a lot of the hype that had been building from previews and such, I wasn't quite ready to put in my money without a bit more evidence. Then I heard a couple of tracks. That was all it took. I went down to my local Best Buy and ponied up my hard earned money for a Metallica album. Something I had said I would never do again. So, was it worth it?


The simple answer would be for me to just say: yes. But it isn't quite that easy. Is it worth buying? Yes, overall, with a couple of caveats:


First, there are a few tracks on this album that will remind you why you haven't bought a Metallica album for twenty years. They really stick out like a sore thumb on Death Magnetic because of everything that is so right with the album.


Secondly, the mastering on this CD is god awful. The songs may be great, but the mastering really makes it hard to listen to sometimes. It has been compressed to an inch of it's life. It clips. It distorts. Overall, the sound quality is very low, sacrificed on the altar of loudness.


As to the pluses, some of the songs represented here are the best that have appeared on a Metallica album since And Justice For All. That Was Just Your Life, The End Of The Line, All Nightmare Long and My Apocalypse all hearken back to the glory days of late eighties. There really is enough good and great material here to forgive the trespasses of things like Unforgiven III and Day That Never Comes. So we can almost forget the last twenty years ever happened for them. Almost.

So the question remains, is this a must have CD? The answer is it depends. Each lover of metal must decide for themselves if there is enough positive to over come twenty years of negative. For me, at the end of the day, there is. I enjoy most of the album, and that was a nice change. There was a time, long ago, when Metallica was unequivocally one of my favorite bands, and although that day has long since passed, it was nice to take a nostalgic trip back there, via new material that could very well have stepped off of And Justice, or at the least some lost album that could have been released between And Justice and the Black Album. Bottom line is, check it out, and you'll find something to enjoy, but be aware that nothing that has come before has been truly set aside.

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