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Metallica - Death Magnetic CD (album) cover




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3.34 | 392 ratings

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1 stars METALLICA becomes METALLICA again - unfortunately.

This will not be a pleasant review. Despite being a huge BLACK SABBATH fan, I must make clear I never took to METALLICA. I detested this band in the 1980s, considering them bereft of any real musical merit, and this album does nothing to change my mind. I'm extremely disappointed in myself. I pride myself on pastoring a broad musical church, and I usually find something to love in any honest effort, irrespective of genre.

Not here, despite a desperate and thorough search.

I've tried very hard to think about why I find this album so very disappointing, and what follows is as close as I can get to the hollow emptiness this record induces in me. My sincere apologies to those who love this band: I am not setting out to offend. There's no spite in this review, and I do not object to this band being included in ProgArchives as 'Prog Related', for the way they defined their genre in the 1980s.

The root of my problem with this album is the narrowness of the music. The trouble with using such a limited palette as this to create music is that the end product is almost always monotonous. I use that word advisedly: mono-tone. The guitar tone hardly ever varies, and this leaves the only trick to be played a speeding up of the pace - hence 'thrash'. So fast are the riffs that the guitar becomes a de facto percussion instrument. This further limits any melodic or tonal quality of the music.

Song after song on this album utilises the same narrow tonal palette. With the vast breadth of sound available to musicians, I have a great deal of trouble considering a band innovative if they limit themselves to such a small portion of the vast breadth of sound available. Unless, of course, they create something intriguing with it. Fact is, these lads simply aren't talented enough to deny themselves 95% of the aural gamut.

Listening to this album is like scaling a cliff and discovering an endless plateau. All the drama is contained in the first minute of the record, and after that it's all dead level. OPETH have it right: if your tonal palette is limited, then employ dynamics (variation in volume) and diverse instrumentation (acoustic guitar, keyboard, growls and sung vocals) to give the music depth. Use guest singers, Incorporate other genres, like psychedelica. This METALLICA album, by contrast, is about as shallow as music gets.

The production doesn't help. The volume is pushed well into the red, leaving the music nowhere to go. So we get loud, loud or loud, and all the finer aspects of the music (I'm assuming there were some) are lost in the mix.

Here's METALLICA for the deaf. Guitar: ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. Drums: boom-cha-boom-cha-boom-cha-boom-cha. Bass: * silence * (Do they actually have a bassist? And to think Les Claypool tried out for this band - and was rejected!) Vocals: la-la-la-la-la-laaa.


And could someone tell me if LARS ULRICH is really as bad a drummer as he sounds? Couldn't he get a young session musician in to play for him? I hear RINGO STARR is looking for work. And why, oh why, is he mixed so high?

Any semblance of 'progressiveness' comes from the frantic attempts to add variations to this restrictive formula. Nonsensical chord changes and tempo shifts are the equivalent of change-ups in baseball: get a slow or fast one past the batter as he's likely gone to sleep. If you're a one-trick pony, you've got to learn to do something different or it's out of the circus and down to the knacker's yard. This one comes straight from the glue factory.

At least there are solos to relieve the monotony of the percussion-like riffing. Well, I suppose they are solos. They sound like desperate, out of control shredfests, again employing a limited range, purposeless, unmemorable. They are not prepared for (PINK FLOYD does this best, leading the listener into a solo), nor are they given any context. They could appear anywhere in any of the songs and make as much - or little - sense as they do currently. Not a single solo is in any way necessary in the structure of the song.

And this is the single biggest tragedy. METALLICA is about the sound of the music, not the structure of the music. People are impressed by the speed and volume of the sound, but (a few 1980s efforts excepted) the results are unmemorable. These 'mini-epics' would benefit from a good dose of compositional values. They have no shape. The progressive listener derives no pleasure from the form the sound takes.

I have in front of me the Official METALLICA Song Building Kit. I'll just put aside the t-shirt, and let's have a look at what's in the box. Hmmm. Here's the contents sheet. Verse (x3). Chorus (x2). Instrumental jam (x2). Guitar solo. Instructions: select elements at random. How easy is that?

And the lyrics. Are you kidding me? 'Venom of a life insane/Bites into your fragile vein' might be considered meaningful by the MANOWAR crowd, but such asinine stuff is not really suitable for adults. I suppose I'm a better person for surviving the lyrics: after all, as Hetfield says, 'What don't kill ya makes ya more strong'. What an original and innovative lyric. Urk.

Try this at home. Take any METALLICA lyric from any song on any album, and insert it into any other song on any other album. Do it randomly. Guess what: it fits! Now, ask yourself the question: why is that?

I thought this band's 1980s albums were rather poor, but honest (if limited) work like 'Ride the Lightning' and 'Master of Puppets' are veritable feasts of sonic bliss compared to this. Perhaps 'Death Magnetic' is not the worst thing METALLICA have ever done; I don't know. I've never listened to 'St. Anger', and I'm dreading the exercise.

Professional reviews of this album are largely positive, but largely consist of variations on the theme of "hearing Metallica sound like Metallica again" ( So far is this band from the progressive spirit, reviewers who panned every 90s attempt to break free from their monolithical 80s sound now rejoice at this regressive album. "Just like the 80s! Best thing since '.And Justice For All'!" This, fellow proggers, ought to send you a clear message. METALLICA is not a progressive band in any sense of the word.

Best song is the instrumental 'Suicide and Redemption'. The first two minutes of 'All Nightmare Long' is rather tasty, until the thrash reappears. Sounds like I don't like thrash, eh. The odd thing is, I adore DREAM THEATER's take on METALLICA ('Train of Thought'). This is because the thrash is set in a far more meaningful context, and the music has true dynamic range. Makes this stuff sound very poor indeed, as if it needed any help.

Irrelevant and one-dimensional music that serves only one purpose: as a revenue-gathering exercise. Run a mile.

russellk | 1/5 |


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