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Metallica - Death Magnetic CD (album) cover




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3.33 | 399 ratings

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3 stars What a shame.

Death Magnetic is a return to form, Metallica's best album in twenty years, and possibly their best ever. What could have been a masterpiece is sullied by the horrible sound quality, complete lack of dynamic range and brickwalled mastering. A victim of the so-called "Loudness Wars," Death Magnetic is often listed alongside Vapor Trails (Rush) as the two worst examples of this alarming trend. In an effort to stand out and be heard above the din of life, music producers and engineers have pushed the envelope further and further until any breath has been completely sucked out of the recording. Even more unfortunate is the band's relative silence on the matter and the label's refusal to fix it. Fans have been clamoring for a re-release of DM since launch, and now five years later it seems unlikely and irrelevant. What could have been a masterpiece of Progressive Metal sounds like a one-star bootleg and the two cancel out to three stars.

Producer Rick Rubin's CV reads like a who's who of the music industry: Johnny Cash, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Neil Diamond, and Adele have all worked with Rubin. His trademark is a stripped-down, honest approach that tends to expose the artist's vulnerabilities and strengths (as well as weaknesses). After a well-publicized fallout with long-time producer Bob Rock (the inception of which is painfully chronicled in the documentary Some Kind Of Monster), Metallica reinvent themselves under the tutelage of Rubin. The producer suggested the band play in standard tuning, reversing a trend dating back to 1996 with the release of Load. Guitarist, singer and primary songwriter James Hetfield crafts some of his finest, most succinct and mortifying riffs on DM - no doubt with new-found clarity and sobriety having battled and addressed many personal crises with success. Rubin brings out the best in Hetfield, not just as a guitar player but as a singer as well; Hetfield sings with both a calm and aggression not captured properly until this point.

Death Magnetic also marked a change in the band's lineup - bassist Jason Newsted was out, and Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves) was in. Unlike ...And Justice For All, you can actually hear the bass guitar on DM. Unfortunately like everything else it is squashed and flattened beyond recognition. Drummer Lars Ulrich plays with an aggression that had been hibernating for 25 years; Kirk Hammett's guitar solos hearken back to 1991 and the wah-wah heavy Black Album. Highlights include "Broken, Beaten, and Scarred" and "Cyanide." I suggest listening to those two songs first because after fifteen minutes you will have a headache from the shrill, constant noise and will be unable to make it through the other hour of music. Listen to a couple more the next day and repeat this process until you have heard Death Magnetic in its entirety - it will take a week, but it will be worth it.

coasterzombie | 3/5 |


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