On September 12, 2008, Metallica released their 9th studio record “Death Magnetic.” The album was produced by Rick Rubin and was the first album to feature bassist Robert Trujillo.
So, in honour of the release of “Death Magnetic” here is my track-by-track review.
That Was Just Your Life
I feel the heartbeat intro on “Life” not only symbolizes the rebirth of Metallica but also ushers in the Robert Trujillo era of the band. The cut is one of the finest examples of building an emotional connection with a song before a single syllable is spat out. I find each new passage on the way to the main riff and verse builds the anticipation and once things get rolling the song is almost unstoppable.
The song is a tad over-jammed with riffs, a theme that will repeat throughout the rest of the album, but let us give Metallica credit when they commit to something, the band sees it all the way through.
The End Of The Line
“Line” carries all the momentum from track one over to its opening and continues the all-out assault on our ears literally and figuratively. Aside from the razor-sharp riffs in this one, James Hetfield delivers some of my favourite lyrics “Drop the hourglass of time, spinning sand we will not find,” and “Time, choke the clock, steal another day” are just two examples of the lines on the record that continue the blatant self-reflective lyrical approach that began on “St. Anger.”
Broken, Beat & Scarred
“Scarred” was the third single off the record, and harkens back to the early days with its anthemic appeal to join the “Cause.” The message of the “Metal Militia” has shifted from inviting listeners to don the leathers to a more mature approach and asking the audience to “Show your scars.” It shows a deeper maturity within the band post-Phil Towel sessions.
Throw this one on if you need a shot of motivation. The main and verse riff are the stars on this one, and remember: “What don’t kill ya, makes you more strong”
The Day That Never Comes
“Day” was the obvious first single from the record and reintroduced fans to a proven Metallica formula. An epic ballad placed at the number four spot in the album sequencing.
The intro sounds angelic-like, and the clean verses are reminiscent of “Fade to Black.” The band tried to emulate the classic “one” with its military theme and harmonic guitars in the back half of the song.
While it does not reach the heights that “One” had it is still a beast of a song and should be played live more often.
All Nightmare Long
The first two minutes of “Nightmare” are a masterclass in songwriting, everything is perfection.
A lacklustre verse melody gives way to a thunderous chorus that contains a phenomenal riff, the vocals work so well with it. This is one of the most underrated songs in the Metallica catalogue.
Do yourself a favour and watch the music video, alien spores, and zombies, it is fantastic.
“Cyanide” is my favourite cut from the album. It sounds uniquely different from the other songs on “Death” but still distinctly Metallica. The Chorus riff is nice and chuggy and the clean section before the solo has a great feel.
Aside from the great lyrics, “You’re just the funeral I’ve been waiting for,” and “Death won’t you let me stay.” The song packs the best solo on the record from Kirk Hammett, it has some great tonal shifts and enough variation to keep it interesting.
The Unforgiven III
“3” is the song where the band took the biggest risk on the record, with the horn and piano playing an integral part in the song’s journey. The intro stretches a bit too long, but the sheer emotion that it invokes is hard to argue with.
This one is my favourite of the unforgiven trilogy, with the buildup to the solo being one of my all-time favourites.
Hetfield delivers some of the most personal lyrics to date, which take on significant meaning when you consider some of the turmoil he has faced in recent years, “Why can’t I forgive me?” is such a powerful line.
You might need a box of tissues nearby if you are the introspective type.
The Judas Kiss
“Kiss” is another one of those songs that has so much going for it but gets muddied up with everything the band tries to cram into it. Metallica could have easily trimmed some of the access away, but that “access” fits into the concept of the record.
The good news is the intro and chorus riff are some of the strongest on the album, and I think it should have been the record’s closer.
Suicide & Redemption
“Suicide” is the fourth instrumental Metallica has recorded, and it is not as captivating emotionally or musically as the other songs. It serves its purpose nicely, but with many other long songs on the album, the impact of the track is lessened. This one is good for background noise.
“Apocalypse” has a great title but is my least favourite song on the album. Something about the main riff and vocal line sounds awkward to me and I find them to be the weakest on the record.
The ending section of the song has a great riff but is buried under Hetfield’s screaming which distracts from its impact. I find the abrupt ending to have shades of “Kill ‘em All” written all over it, just not with the same gusto the band had in 1981. I usually skip this one.
While not as polarizing as other Metallica releases, Death Magnetic certainly has its fair share of detractors out there and for good reason. Sure, some of the songs are too long and compressed (Thanks Rubin) but to me, the album represents a culmination of a decade of turmoil that stands as a proper reintroduction to a genre Metallica helped bring to the masses.