After an extremely tiresome and disappointing excuse for an album called “St. Anger” in 2005, Metallica vanished from the studios for a good amount of time. And when in early 2008, drummer Lars Ulrich said the next album would be the missing link between “…And Justice For All” in 1988 and “The Black Album” in 1991, every one sat up and took note, hoping, and believing that hell, as we knew it, was about to break loose.
Now back in the Eighties, thrash metal wasn’t a scene, it was an arms race: riffs kept speeding up, drum kits got bigger. But with “The Black Album”, Metallica sounded the horn of a unilateral disarmament – shortened their songs, and replacing power solos with the soft playing of the tin can, the final result of which was the inane and out-of-place – “St. Anger”. But like all good things, all bad things come to an end too. Metallica, as was expected, are back to being Metallica again.
Ladies and gentlemen, “Death Magnetic” is Metallica’s proverbial eight course, sumptuous meal offering to their loyal fans after a disappointing treat at the local paan shop. The chugging sound of James Hetfield’s guitar going toe to toe with Lars Ulrich’s octuple-time double-bass-and-snare smashing are reminders of a time gone by, and are ominous signs of aggression from a giant that many of us thought dead.
A marked shift in Metallica’s music has been the doing of new producer Rick Rubin, co-head of Columbia Records, who has also worked with System of A Down and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rubin shoves Metallica in the right direction, and the result is an album where more than half the songs are longer than 7 minutes in duration, and unlike the boring Verse-Chorus-Verse sequence, they play out more like “Intro-Random Jam-Verse-Heavy Random Jam-Chorus-Solo-Outro”, leaving the listener more satisfied.
Lars Ulrich once again shows you why he really is the Devil behind the drums. After the dustbin lid sound that prevailed in “St. Anger”, he brings back the crash and the splash that he probably lost on tour during “Master of Puppets” and on tracks like My Apocalypse and Broken, Beat & Scarred. He is Satan unleashed.
Many said, after Jason Newsted left Metallica, that Robert Trujillo would have some large shoes to fill (RIP Cliff Burton). Well, the baby has grown up and filled out his father’s boots. Trujillo shows remarkable skill, and the space afforded to him on this album lets him show us what he is worth.
About Kirk Hammett. Well, to be honest, I never really liked Hammett’s work on the solos, and once again he disappoints. Sounding like an amateur who has just bought a new wah-wah pedal, Hammett goes crazy up and down the scales, playing the same old licks and riffs, as if he is practicing for Guitar Hero.
Now for all you people who thought that Hetfield’s song writing days are numbered, here is a tip – change your mind. Keeping in the mind the fact that these are four 40-something dudes with lifestyles that you and I can only dream of, Hetfield comes up with some brilliant lyrics – dark, sarcastic, witty and powerful, all at the same time. Songs that you must not miss even if it is time for a feast on a sappy Wednesday evening – The Day That Never Comes and The Unforgiven III.
All in all, Metallica’s efforts at redemption are successful, and it turns a hater of metal (like me) into a believer. “Death Magnetic” sounds like the music you would want to play when something is coming back to life.