METALLICA’S DEATH MAGNETIC (DAVID BEE ROTH’S TAKE)
It’s bad. The new Metallica album is bad. Let me explain why this shouldn’t be surprising.
This is the album that Metallica thought you wanted. This is the throwback to that classic era of the late eighties and early nineties that everyone was begging them to create. This is the album that everyone in that battered-wife fan base was hoping would come out even as the band was raking in millions while the music kept getting worse. We all sat and watched as they stumbled from failure to failure, transforming into a mainstream rock act before our eyes, holding expensive and tasteless concerts with an orchestra backing, and releasing a largely useless collection of covers before finally delivering the audio coup de grace that was St. Anger. It was the final line they had to cross. It was an output without a single redeeming factor that was only defended by the most unreasonable apologists; the sort of people who lack the ability to criticize their heroes no matter what their transgressions – and l doubt any of them have listened all the way through St. Anger in the year 2008.
So here we are at the eve of a new Metallica release and everyone’s talking about it. I bet everyone knows at least a few people who are really excited, and maybe it’s even you. It’s a false alarm though, I assure you, as this only furthers the mountain of evidence that Metallica no longer deserve an instant of our attention, appreciation or excitement outside of a live venue. Death Magnetic is more embarrassing even than their previous documentary that revealed to the world how detached and conceited they’d grown from their own creative process as well as each other. In fact, Death Magnetic is the affirmation of just that. Correction, it is the second affirmation, after St. Anger.
What is most embarrassing is that after years of trying to do nothing but put miles between themselves and their eighties reign (which continues to inspire generations of metal enthusiasts), they’ve suddenly backpedaled. Death Magnetic sees them stumbling through unimpressive thrash riffs, progressing aimlessly through seven and eight minute songs in an unintentional parody of their youthful output. For example, “The Day That Never Comes” sounds like “One” or “Sanitarium,” and “Suicide and Redemption” is a penultimate instrumental track like “Orion” and “To Live is to Die” were for their respective albums. Almost everything else is fail-to-be-catchy chorus hooks that try to invoke the Black Album or else are entirely forgettable. James Hetfield is a mewling, pitiful vocalist whose poor breathing control, and extra “ooh-ahh” syllables at the end of every fucking line are almost as cringe inducing as his lyrics. Almost.
If I have to repeat myself to make it more than clear I will: Death Magnetic is a sticky morass of rehashed, stinking shit. Had Metallica had any critical restraint they would have shown some mercy in shortening the album to an honest, well-planned 40 minutes, but clocking in at 74 minutes it becomes a director’s cut-length epic of horse shit. I have only once managed to listen to it the whole way through in one sitting before deciding to take a break to listen to a better band. You wouldn’t believe it from diehard Metallica fans, but there are other bands out there. Better bands that never needed to be given third, seventh and hundredth chances from their fans to give us something palatable to listen to.
The easiest way they could have shortened the album for me is cutting out the redundant message in “Unforgiven III.” I still haven’t forgiven them for the first sequel to this song. I still haven’t forgiven them for the last four albums, or for making up the word “unforgiven.” Even all the apologies offered by the thousands of people who will buy Death Magnetic this week won’t be enough for me to take them back.