Masters of Metal Return

Death Magnetic

By Hunter Embry

Nearly 30 years ago, Metallica began to cultivate and eventually pioneer its own breed of heavy metal, combining the speed of punk, the aggressiveness of metal and the attitude of classic rock [amazingly, still managing to keep the vocals understandable].

It has taken five years for the band to awake from the hangover brought on by their last album, St. Anger , which was more-or-less the sound of a band in turmoil. Most fans were quick to denounce Metallica and their soul and solo-less sound.

But Metallica's new album Death Magnetic resembles the sound of a band that once represented a torn '80s youth not content with talking dirty to bands like Poison and hadn't quite forgotten the darkening vibe of early Sabbath and Zeppelin. Unable to fit any more music on a disk, Metallica, helped by producer Rick Ruben, showcases 120 minutes of raw riffage formatted in a total of ten songs, only one of which is clocked in under six minutes.

The opening track, "That Was Just Your Life," begins with the sounds of a beating heart before exploding into a recklessly tight, audible assault loaded with huge guitars, punching drums and a gunshot-sounding snare, very reminiscent of the pre-black album days. It doesn't take long before the coffin door, which kept lead guitarist Kirk Hammett confined throughout St. Anger , is opened and he unleashed an onslaught of speaker-shredding solos.

Metallica shifts in a different direction with "The End of the Line," which unveils a Rage-type riff fueled by singer James Hetfield's classic angry shouts. Familiar guitar tones of the black album creep up from underneath the madness and cool the band into a beautiful assortment of melodic guitar riffs and vocal lines, where Hetfield regains his once lost swagger.

"Broken, Beat and Scarred," another underground screamer, introduces drummer Lars Ulrich, who is seemingly less worried about Napster and people pirating his music than he is about creating the thundering rush of toms.

The first single (still more than 7 minutes long), "The Day That Never Comes," has overtones of war throughout, which are visually captured in a big budget video of war that surprisingly ends on a good note. The track is strategically packed together, starting with a sorrowful guitar riff and followed by several tempo changes, planned rhythmic stumbles and master of puppet vocals.

Death Magnetic will become a landmark album for Metallica and is a must-have for any of the group's fans. The masters of metal are back.

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