Thursday, October 30, 2008

Metallica - Death Magnetic

Got this as a present from C&C -way kewl.

This album represents a return to a Metallica which fits stylistically somewhere between "..And Justice For All" and the "Black Album", with Jimbo Hetfield's vocals being more melodic and "clean" than on the aforementioned albums, but (almost) free of the insufferable "Heey-Ey" whining of the "Load" and "Reload" era. However, I should just come clean and admit that with Metallica, I don't listen to the vocals or lyrics at all, so take any comment on the vocal performance of Jimbo H with a grain of salt - the only times I notice his vocals are if dude sings out of tune. Otherwise, it's just white noise to me, unlike bands or artists with proficient singers and/or where they can actually write awesome lyrics, beyond the cliché "Dark Desire - Funeral Pyre" style heavy metal thesaurus rhymes.

Guitars, on the other hand, I notice. "Death Magnetic" is full of awesome riffs and harmonized themes, and the ease with which Hetfield transitions between tempos and riff structures is something to be admired. Truth be told, I didn't notice that "Suicide & Redemption" was an instrumental until the second time I listened to it, which tells you that a) Metallica vocals really are white noise to me, b) that the instrumental is really well constructed, and c) I'd actually prefer it if Metallica had put a countermelody or harmonized riff in the place of the vocals. The only exceptions to the "vocals = white noise" for me on this album are "The Day That Never Comes" and "All Nightmare Long". Riff-wise, it's obvious that Hetfield has returned to the thrash formula that made them famous in the first place, and sometimes the rifs lean heavily towards something Dave Mustaine might have done on "So Far So Good...So What", except when Hetfield picks fast, it comes out more like tremolo picking than the machine-gun precision of Mustaine. Still, this album is riff fiesta.

Also on the plus side, the guitar solos are back. The bad news is that the lead guitarist still is Kirk Hammett. Which means that the guitar solos consist of either (i) sloppy fast runs with wah-wah thrown in for nauseating effect, and (ii) stock blues licks drenched in wah-wah. Dude plays way too fast for his skill level, and his note choices are very limited. Bottom line; Hammett ain't that good of a player.

While this is a way cool thrash throwback from Metallica, the problem is that instead of being trailblazers, they step back into their own history to face the myriad of bands which are heavily influenced by this era of Metallica, but are way better. Especially with respect to lead guitar and drums, but you'll also find many bands within the same genre with better vocals. Then again, would it be Metallica without Ulrich on drums and Hetfield's vocals?

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