There are two things in my mind as I approach my Death Magnetic review. One is that such a record cannot be compared to a classic (Master Of Puppets) that has been part of our lives for over twenty years.
The second thing is guilt. Yes, guilt. After the critical roasting they got for St Anger, Metallica went back to their roots. Is it even remotely right for us fans to insist on ‘more of the same’ from a band? Surely artistic growth alone suggests that Metallica should have been allowed to shape their musical style instead of returning to the sound that launched them?
Something about this “sounds like a cross between Puppets and Justice For All” move reeks of desperation to please the fans, rather than a majestic opus the band are 100% proud of. Sure, as I write this, Metallica have been more or less restored to their position as rock overlords.
And rightly so, I must say. A few years ago, I would have led the charge of Metallica haters after the Napster debacle. I have to admit – the only album I bought after Load was S&M, as close as the band have ever come to releasing a greatest hits album.
But the hype for this album has hit all the right spots for me – getting me excited about a new Metallica album for the first time since… Well, since the Black Album. And Death Magnetic delivers on the promise.
The opening track, The Was Just Your Life kicks things off with a moody minor arpeggio before bursting into a majestic riff, and suddenly you’re back in thrashville, being led through this massive thundering anthem. Yes, anthem. Great riffing, brutal bass drum work from Lars, and Hetfield doing a very close approximation of spitting his lyrics out with the fervour he used to before he discovered ‘singing’.
I don’t intend to go through each and every song, but Death Magnetic is an impressive platter, worthy of every single bit of hype that it garnered over the summer. I don’t know if it’s the influence of bassist Robert Trujilo, but many of the songs have a real groove to them.
But if I recall correctly, the best way to road test a Metallica album is to listen to it when you’re angry. I took Death Magnetic out for a walk when I was in a strop, and within 10 minutes I was walking with that Hetfield stride – legs cowboy width apart.
When Death Magnetic arrived through my door, it came at the same time as CDs by Extreme and Black Stone Cherry. Without a shadow of a doubt, Metallica’s is the album of choice. And if I could go back on my earlier assertion that we shouldn’t compare this album to their earlier works – Death Magnetic is a stunning tour de force. It’s definitely going to be regarded as one of their best in a long, long time.