METALLICA’S DEATH MAGNETIC (THE OLD FART’S TAKE)
If anyone around here has the right to dissect Metallica, it’s me – the Old Fart.
My full conversion to extreme metal came in January 1985 when I read an issue of Metal Forces magazine. Inside was a two- or three- paragraph review of a little album on the British Music for Nations label called Ride the Lightning, by some band I had never heard of, named Metallica.
I went out to the “cool” indie record store on The Drag at the University of Texas, Sound Exchange, and purchased the only copy of RTL, in LP form, of course. I immediately went back to my dorm room (on the intensive study floor, ha!), sliced open the plastic on the right side of the sleeve, unsheathed the black vinyl disc, and popped it onto my record player, and was immediately appalled by what I heard – the full-on thrash attack of “Fight Fire with Fire.” After several years of being raised on glam metal, James Hetfield’s harsh vocals, the twin guitar attack of Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, the rumbling, thunderous bass of Cliff Burton, and the propulsive drumming of Lars Ulrich scared me.
I was not impressed.
But then, something happened. The fourth track, “Fade to Black” came on. It was palatable, easier on the ears, and devastating. I liked what I heard and flipped the record over to listen to the second side. I was instantly more into the flip side, but mainly because I was digging on “Fade to Black.” I went back and listened to the entire album again and was forever hooked on extreme metal.
This led to a six-year obsession with Metallica that I felt would never end.
I was never a casual listener of the band. I was one of those freaky obsessive types that dissected every note, every lyric, and every sound on each and every recording. I collected every magazine that the band was featured in. I had posters, silk banners, rare imported singles, every version on LP, cassette, and later, CD.
Of course, I caught the band every time they came through Austin, Houston, or San Antonio. In fact, the second time I saw the band was at Cardi’s, a small bar in Houston, along with only eight other people. I remember banging my head against the stage and Hetfield grabbing my hair to help me along. I remember pulling on Cliff Burton’s bell-bottoms and screaming like a little school girl when I snatched one of Kirk Hammett’s lime-green guitar picks. But the coolest was hanging out with James and Lars after the show for more than two hours, drinking beers, and shooting the shit.
Hell, I even incorporated the band into my college education. I wrote a paper on Metallica for an English class – remember, this is back in 1985 when the band was not popular outside of metal circles, received no radio airplay whatsoever, and, of course, had not even entertained the thought of making a music video. In 1986, I gave a speech about the band in a Business Speaking course while playing “Orion” in the background. To this day, I still crack up thinking about the blank stares that came from my classmates who were comprised of frat boys, business majors, and Austin hippies. I also wrote an article about the band’s groundbreaking “Cliff ‘Em All” video in a Radio-TV-Film course, and at least two more times for various classes. Hell, I’ve listed the band in several of my books in the “acknowledgements” sections and have even listed James Hetfield on the top of my list of major influences in a recent interview with the Discovery Channel’s Investigation Discovery blog.
Metallica was the band that could do nothing wrong in my eyes.
And then came Metallica, the dreaded “Black Album.” Metallica’s bid for expansion of their audience left me cold and my favorite band ever was suddenly knocked down several pegs. I still went to see the band play live, but the damage was done.
Of course, the less said about Load/Reload the better.
Hell, I am probably one of the only people here at MetalSucks that actually liked St. Anger. Probably one of the only people on the entire planet, for that matter. Of course, I think that had more to do with shitty timing in my life (the unexpected death of my first wife) than my actual appreciation for the music.
So, why the hell should you care?
Mainly, because as a seasoned long-time fan of Metallica, I am here to tell you that their newest album, Death Magnetic, is the biggest pile of crap to be unfurled upon the metal public this entire year.
I really wanted to like this album. All the rumors of the so-called reversion back to the “First 4” albums-era had me excited beyond belief. I was less-than-thrilled about the inclusion of Rick Rubin, whom I have NEVER believed has made a single difference in anything he has ever “recorded.” Nonetheless, I was excited to hear the new Metallica.
Conveniently, the new album has ten tracks. MetalSucks ranks on a 1-5 Horns basis, so I figured the best way to go about this is to give you a track-by-track rundown with my thoughts from the first listen. If I like the song, that’s equivalent to ½ a horn.
1. “That Was Just Your Life”– Cool mid-paced guitar that turns into a decent thrasher. This sounds encouraging and gives me hope for the rest of the album. There are tinges of “Blackened” guitar riffs, which is cool. The bass drums, however, sound like tin cans strung behind a “Just Married” couple’s getaway car. Hetfield’s going for that higher-pitched TBA/Load style vocals that I am not a fan of. Despite the shortcomings, I dig this song so: ½ Horn!
2. “The End of the Line” – First verse reminds me of “No Remorse.” That is followed by a section that sounds like the “Creeping Death” chanted vocals refrain (“Die! Die! Die!”). That is followed by yet another section that sounds lifted straight from the title track to …And Justice For All. It seems weird that they are pilfering so many of their own riffs, but I guess it’s cool that they are stealing from their four best albums. Unfortunately, the guitars sound like gnats buzzing around a person’s head. The lyrics are cringe-worthy and self-referential. Cheesy enough to make me not like this song: 0 Horns.
3. “Broken, Beat & Scarred”– Horrible drum sound. Hetfield’s higher-pitched vocals suck and are really annoying me. The guitar sound is interesting; however, the mid-paced tempo simply drags and drags. Then comes the big solo! Or, the rip-off solo from “No Remorse.” Ulrich’s drumming always sounds out of the pocket, at least a half beat behind. The vocals are buried too far in the mix. Horrible, horrible song: 0 Horns.
4. “The Day That Never Comes”– “Unforgiven” rip-off in the beginning. Again, Hetfield’s vocals sound terrible. The chorus is a blatant rip-off of the “Fade to Black” outro. The transition at around 4:30 is another blatant rip-off, this time from “Orion.” Then Hetfield whips up such brilliant lyrics as “Love is a four-letter word.” Uggghhh!! Then a minute later, the metal kicks in!! I’m not digging the wah-wah guitar sound and suddenly, it sounds like Judas Priest’s “Freewheel Burning,” a great song, but where’s the originality? The guitars sound tinny and as if they were recorded underwater. The drum roll at the end is horrible: 0 Horns.
5. “All Nightmare Long”– Yet another old-school Metallica rip-off riff. This time it’s “Hit the Lights.” Good galloping part leads into an “Enter Sandman” croaking voiceover speaking part. Again, Hetfield’s high-pitched vocals continue to grate on my nerves. He almost sounds like Sebastian Bach circa Gone Country 2 on the high notes. Kirk Hammett’s solo rocks but the vocals suck, suck, suck!! Song is way too long, boring, and goes nowhere: 0 Horns.
6. “Cyanide”– Intro sounds like Dokken’s “Breaking the Chains.” Yet another “Enter Sandman” talking part reminiscent of that song’s “Now I lay me down to sleep…” lullaby section. Tailor-made for cheesy “crowd interaction.” Vocals suck. This song is horrible: 0 Horns.
7. “The Unforgiven III” – Nice try with the piano intro. Lyrics are horrible – a sample: “By the light of the golden treasure” – Blah! I hated the original song and have no interest in this Godfather III version. This sounds like a lame attempt at being an MOR alt. rock band ala Creed. Vocals are horrid and lyrics are even worse: 0 Horns.
8. “The Judas Kiss” – The transitional riff in the beginning is a direct rip-off of Queen’s “The Prophet’s Song” from A Night at the Opera. It is later used during the entire mid-section. Guitar solo ripped off from “Trapped Under Ice.” The silly “Enter Sandman” voice is used again. Decent song that is ruined by incredibly lame lyrics such as, “Sell your soul to me, I will set you free.” 0 Horns.
9. “Suicide & Redemption” – Intro ripped off from “Whiplash” intro. Bass sounds lazy in the drop-out section. So much for Rick Rubin’s “expertise.” This instrumental sounds like a bad Pelican song. It sounds like a bad practice pad jam during the first half of the song. The second half sounds like a jingle for a beer commercial. This is a horrible attempt to sound like Isis or Godspeed! You Black Emperor. Horrid!! 0 Horns.
10. “My Apocalypse” – By this time I am completely spent, disappointed, and I just don’t care. This sounds like another “Blackened” rip-off. Vocals are weak, the drums are behind the beat. It has turned into a silly game of Name That Tune: The Metallica Home Version. The lyrics have only gotten worse, “Into the crypt, total eclipse.” 0 Horns.
This is easily the biggest disappointment of the year for me. If you have never listened to Metallica or heavy metal for that matter, you will probably like this album. Of course, for the other 99.99% of you, avoid this one at all costs.
(½ horn out of 5)
There goes my shot at writing that Cliff Burton bio I always wanted to pen. Oh, well.