(2 eyebrows out of 5)
Pros: Some solid solo's, a step in the right direction, a kiss and a promise
Cons: Generic, Badly mixed, lacking ambition and originality.
Metallica, my how your star has fallen.
Perhaps crashed, plummeted or defecated unto earth would be more correct.
Some point down the line, Metallica has gone from leading the current underground metal trends to merely aping the current mainstream 'nu metal' trends. Once, the small burger joint on the street living on reputation and word of mouth, Metallica is now the multinational conglomerate franchise desperate the please all there fans, and as a result, serving none.
The biggest problem facing this album isn't the craftsmanship, Lars Ulrich aside, all the members are accomplished musicians (I've heard Robert Trujillo's work outside of Metallica, I can't hear him on this album or on St. Anger) who've put together a solid metal album. Some heavy power chords, dynamic hooks and a few good solos. However, Metallica isn't your average metal band and we've come to expect more from them since the days of Ride the Lightning. The problem is like I said above: the attempt to serve everyone have castrated the once mighty Metallica. More over, the attempts of the founding members to serve themselves and there wallets.
To explain: the biggest problem with Death Magnetic is the execution. Rick Ruben is usually behind a lot of good albums, however, it's been made clear that he can only maximize potential (ex: The Limp Bizkit album he produced was still a Limp Bizkit album, thus, lame). Here, he doesn't even do that. Left in charge of the albums mix while Metallica assaulted the nation touring, this album is lacking any kinda musical cohesion. Under--I'm guessing--Ulrich's orders, the drums are turned up in the mix way to much. Normally this isn't a problem for me--I love my drums loud and heavy. However, numerous dull thuds make there way into what would be good solo's, ruining them. Rob Trujillo's bass is heard in only one track, mostly he's there to add to Lars mediocre beats. James Hetfield is losing his voice and can no longer muster the powerful chants he once could. However, he manages to keep his voice passable and he sings lyrics with more earnest than they deserve (Death angel's kiss / Bring final bliss, really?) The best song on this album is the one where he don't sing (Suicide & Redemption). The beginning is marred by weird feedback clicks. I can't tell if this is a result of the compression used on whole mix to make the album louder or the actual guitar. Which leads to my last problem with the mix: The Loudness War. I don't understand why CD's have to be louder than each other volume wise. Furthermore, why isn't Metallica competing for loudest attitude wise. I can turn my volume knob up by myself, thank you. What I don't have a knob for is heavy loud fast guitar, a business Metallica haven't been in for some time.
Every album they release they promise to create another Master of Puppets or Ride the Lightning. However, since the aforementioned albums, they have failed to create anything inspiring interesting or unique. However I will say I was happy to see a return to solo's and that this album is a step in the right direction. This is an okay album. The problem is that as far as metal goes, this CD isnt anything great. Testament have been making heavier faster louder and more passionate albums for about 10 years now.
Should Metallica wish to throw it's hat back into the underground metal scene, fire Bob Rock. Fire Rick Ruben. Quit compressing your albums and just play your fucking guitar. Mean it when you say you're trying to get back to the old school sound. When you mean it, get Steve Albini behind it. He's responsible for some of the loudest albums out, and he doesn't do it by compressing his guitars into mush.
Without margins by which to compare Death Magnetic would probably be a solid metal album but when better bands are making better product and Metallica is content to be heavier, long winded Nickleback...it makes me pine for the old days when Metallica couldn't afford to be so over produced.