Metallica – Death Magnetic

Birth. School. Metallica. Death. It’s this attitude that makes many Mets fans devoted, almost insatiable, sometimes angry and even disaffected; but there now may be a time arriving when they can dig the t-shirt emblazoned with this belief up, and again worship at the altar of the ‘tallica.

What you have to remember here is the unerring devotion that fans have, back in the ‘Justice for all…’ days they released their first video (‘One’) and were lambasted for ‘Selling out’ and as the band grew out of the pockets of their initial fan-base the outrage was tangible.

Later on the ‘Black album’ divided audiences and split fans with it’s production and simplified song structure-again as they went past the 10 million mark fans claimed they had left their roots.

Stuck in a place between having to top the ‘Black album’ and struggling to find their initial influences ‘Load’ could never have succeeded and resulted in confusing all parties and was only salvaged by a live touring show that was genuinely inventive.

Then came ‘Reload’ the sister to ‘Load’s big brother which served only to muddy the water and bands direction even further, to the point that they rarely play anything from it live.

With ‘St Anger’ and it’s tuned down southern rock riffs and ‘Garage’ production Metallica seemingly lost their way completely-indeed Hetfield considered himself so in need of help he checked into rehab.

There could not have been a bigger weight on ‘Death magnetic’-many claiming they would turn their back on the band if it wasn’t anything short of the next coming of the (leper) messiah. Seen as the conscious of metal, with nothing to lose, not in it for the money, with almost limitless resources and the weight of the world on them Metallica had to deliver, for themselves and for the fans.

You have to remember the history, it’s impossible not to-Metallica have released two long form films of the making of albums and almost every facet of their musical spats and falling outs are laid bare for all to see-You have to remember, but you then have to forget.

It’s a different time now, many things have happened since ‘Kill em all’ trends, styles and musicians have changed, and this has to be reflected-this has to be alluded to.

You feel all this as you press play and hear the heart beat of ‘That was just your life’ there is life, there is hope. You want the youthful thrash, you want-as did Kirk-the solos, you want the speed-and you get it. Your soul breathes a sigh of relief as the albums opener serves as a settler of many arguments-harking back to ‘Justice’ and a little before ‘Black’ it’s every thing you want it to be.

But we’ve been here before, ‘St Anger’ seemed to be the right direction until the sound got confused almost by the second song. It’s a relief therefore that with the first four songs you have difficulty getting a credit card between them and represent some of the best work they have done in some time-there someone said it.

Lets get rid of the relief though, it works-but what are the songs like?. It’s clear Metallica have taken a long hard look at themselves as the tunes get the point quickly, with no gristle-even ‘End of the line’ seemingly goes in one direction and then comes back after an introverted middle declaring ‘The slave becomes the master’.

References to the ill’s of fame are littered throughout and if there is any kind of theme its that death, or the fear of can be a tremendous driving force-it’s something covered before with St anger but only hinted at here.

It’s clear Rick Rubin’s touch has been applied as the production perfectly holds the Metallica sound, allowing it to simultaneously sound both new and fresh whilst maintaining the reckless ‘We don’t give a fuck’ feel that personifies the band.

Rick’s instance on removing the drum click, something Lars has used for several albums has allowed the Hetfield/Ulrich partnership to thaw and become again the Lennon/McCartney of metal, you can feel the musical conversation between the two working, counting in, changing tempo, working as a unit.

All the best parts of their backcataloge are present-as though someone has forced them to go back and listen to their old stuff and realize that nothing was broken in the first place. There are long ‘jam’ sections, unconventional structures and twists on virtually every song-the single ‘The day that never comes’ proves an excellent introduction as it contains all the elements which are scattered over the album together.

And what of the Robert Trujillo?-the long standing new boy bass position finally seems to have settled with Rob-seemingly the band have put the past behind them, sorted their internal difficulties and ushered in a new bassist after all the problems have been resolved, it feels fresh but a nod to the old days. Rob plays with his fingers ala Cliff and has that laid back reconcilary vibe that Kirk maintained and possibly stepped between Hetfield and Ulrich during the more incendiary arguments. During ‘Cyanide’ the bass is again allowed to be there to stand alone and drive the song, but not take over; it’s a shame that Jason Newstead couldn’t have stayed as he would have truly appreciated the bands direction.

It’s these changes to line-up, to the vibe, to the outlook that have facilitated the sound on Death Magnetic, it’s the years of history, of evolution that have brought them here. Maybe we couldn’t have ‘Broken, beat & scarred’ if we hadn’t already had the previous excursions.

What rings true is that Metallica have stopped or at the absolute worst slowed to a crawl the criticism levelled against them that they have lost the plot and are unable to make the music that the rabid fans want. In just trying to make the best album they could, forgetting the bullshit and just being Metallica, they have weathered the storm and achieved what they wanted all along; and all this, the mistakes, the indulgences, the arguments and the resulting album simply add to the legend that is Metallica.

Mark cooper.

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