Thursday, January 8, 2009

Metallica - Death Magnetic ...or how the mighty have fallen - again

Even though I'm not especially fond of anything that good old Metallica rolled out post '91, I've tried for quite some time to keep an open mind and restrain myself from jumping on the "bash them sellouts" bandwagon (well, except for the occasions when I poked ruthless fun on some of my friends who are also devoted fans - mea culpa, but how can one resist the temptation?). So I gave a spin to all the 'Load'/'Reload'/'S&M' efforts, found them lacking in originality, shrugged and went on to more interesting bands. I felt like we achieved some mutually beneficial deal - they recorded whatever they liked, I didn't give a shit and everyone was happy. This state of uneasy truce was broken unilaterally - first with the border clashes around Napster (as much as piracy is a controversial subject, trying to root it out by brute force approach will only create more back-lash... actually it lead to the advent of torrents and the legal swamp surrounding them - now beat this, RIAA), then by the monstrosity labeled 'St. Banger' - my guess is, after Lars and his snare. Needless to say, that last lump of shit did it (to this day I still haven't managed to listen to the whole CD in one go), so I gave them all the twenty fingers I could scramble and declared a full out "take no prisoners" war.

With all of the above it's quite natural I held my expectations for 'Death Magnetic' under the freezing point, but I must admit I was secretly hoping to be proven wrong, that there might be still some flare and skill left and that they might be able to redeem themselves. Well, without further ado - I managed to listen to it in one go. That alone makes it better than 'St. Banger', but then again, what isn't? And sadly these are the warmest words I can come up with, the fucking piece of shit should be named 'Shit Pathetic'. What really pisses me off is that there are many great ideas and riffs spread out around the album, sometimes several in the same song ('All nightmare long' held some promise), but apparently no one took the time to polish and link them into a well thought out and fully developed song - no, they're just mindlessly glued together with no effort put into transition. We're just getting guitar harmonics in thirds (oh yeah, that worked so well in the 80's, why not now), boring long and slow 'drama queen' parts ('Unforgiven 3' - or maybe 4, I lost track in this particular soap-opera episode count ), occasional out-of-the-blue blast beats (wake up, motherfucker, and see how heavy we are) and the overall impression is that they try oh so hard to make another '...And justice for all'. Often changes in tempo and dynamics are randomly and pointlessly thrown in, adding to the chaos which seems to dominate the record as a whole, the only thing consistent being the lack of ideas - 'The day that never comes' seems as the best example with its emphasis put on the "culmination" (selection of the worst riffs in the CD) towards the end of the song, but 'Cyanide' is plenty chaotic as well. The production (although better this time) also sounds quite strange, vocals are sinking in the muddy background noise from the over-compressed guitars, the drums are stiff and muffled (well, that's still better than ringing as garbage cans) and the bass is missing again. Exactly what did Rick Rubin get paid for? It's a crime to have one of the best bass players in the hard'n'heavy world and to strangle him this way - although I can easily imagine Trujillo shrugging and saying "Yeah, man, but it pays the rent". James seems at the lowest of his vocal abilities (leaving aside the prepubescent squeals on 'Kill'em all') which were never that great to begin with, but that's ok as there are no lyrics worth mentioning to listen to anyway (or you will grow a disgust towards them from constant ad nausea repeating of the same chorus). Kirk is his usual talentless self, but the fanboy squad will be happy there are solos at all - like that would make the songs bearable.

Verdict: sucks balls. While immensely better than anything labeled Metallica for over 10 years, this record is still boredom incarnate. I wish they hired Pepper Keenan (of Corrosion of Conformity/Down fame) when they had a chance, but I guess they recognized him as better singer/songwriter/lyricist than anyone of them. So I don't know about you, but I'm done with giving this band second, third and so on chances. Next time I try to listen to them, they better hire back Fleming Rasmussen.
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