Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Luols Dong Arts and Entertainment: Metallica

Nothing says "It's been 5 years since the last Metallica album" quite like another Metallica album. If you're like me, you've spent the time since 2003's horrid St. Anger watching porno, sitting in traffic court, and generally not giving 1/16 of a fuck about anything this band does. But the band's new album Death Magnetic -- produced by bearded genius Rick Rubin and being hyped as a return to "old school Metallica" -- has been the subject of much speculation here at Luol's Dong.

Surprisingly, the hype is mostly warranted. Magnetic comes off as the logical sequel to 1988's And Justice For All, arguably the band's last "great" album. These songs are long as fuck (10 tracks in 74 minuntes?!?!) and musically complex, possibly even more so than the band's Justice-era compositions. Rubin's super-dry production also harkens back to that album. All the excesses of Bob Rock-era Metallica -- lame harmony vocals, keyboards, tambourines, bongos, etc. -- are nowhere to be found here. Instead, there is a focus on twisted thrash riffing and convoluted structures that honestly, nobody thought they still had in them.

James Hetfield is in much-improved form vocally, soundling less like the drunken hick who yodeled his way through "Turn The Page" and slightly more like the guy who sang "Blackened" 20 years ago. The guitar riffs tend to be thrash-based and executed with precision, and I'm assuming we have him to thank for that as well. Guitarist Kirk Hammett rises from the grave after a 10-year-absence, playing the solo from "Whiplash" in every song (hey, it's better than nothing). New-ish bassist Rob Trujillo makes his studio debut on this record, but in true Metallica fashion, you can't hear him for shit. Lars Ulrich actually bothered to tune his drums this time around (thanks buddy!) and manages to not suck too badly throughout the album.

But what about the songs, you ask? For the most part, they combine elements of classic Metallica work (thrash riffs, double bass drumming, complex arrangements) with a couple new elements along the way. Opener "That Was Just Your Life" begins with a soft-to-loud intro in the vein of "Battery" or "Fight Fire with Fire," and then kicks out some rapid-fire riffs that almost make me forgive them for their last 3 albums. The other tracks mostly follow suit, with "All Nightmare Long" and "Broken, Beat & Scarred" being particularly furious.

The album does take a few unfortunate detours into ballad territory -- "Day That Never Comes" is a half-assed rewrite of "One", and "Unforgiven III" proves that there's no good Part III's ever, except for Die Hard: With A Vengeance. However, they redeem themselves with album closer "My Apocalypse," by far the thrashiest (and shortest) track on the album -- I shit you not, this song alone has some of the best riffs of the band's career, and the section in the middle of it makes me want to smash my copy of ReLoad. With my forehead.

Could the production have been better? Yeah. Does some of the material sound contrived? Sure. Does it seem "convenient" that Metallica returns to thrash metal, just as that style is enjoying some retro popularity? You bet your ass. But regardless of all that, this record still blows away any and all expectations anyone could have had. These guys are easily 90 years old and this could be their last album, but if you've got to go, Death Magnetic is not a bad way to go out.

And until Hetfield grows back the mustache, I refuse to call this a comeback.


Gepetto said...

Has anyone else noticed that Unforgiven III sounds almost exactly like the single they did for Mission Impossible ("I Disappear")?

Keggers said...

All Nightmare Long is a nut- crushing festival of aural orgasmitude.

The last song is also a riveting ballad of whoop ass.

I've been a hater for a long time now but I think this album spells redemption for these old fuckers. Rock on.

Brad said...

Also cool is that the opening of "Cyanide" is the musical equivalent to morse code for "SOS." no joke

Fisting Andrew Golota said...

Really? That's actually kind of cool.... If that's the case, then "Frantic" is morse code for "mind if I push in your stool?"

Henry said...

Great review Mark! Very descriptive with the songs being, "long as fuck." I really enjoyed this album. My favorite part about it is that they really let kirk cut loose and shred on some sweet solos.

Fisting Andrew Golota said...

The original line was "almost as long as my cock," but I know some of you are reading this at the office. And while my reviewing style is a bit harsh by nature, I enjoyed the album too.

Anonymous said...

A: You left out your own personal Metallica connection which I wished I would have done after I posted it.
B: Who fucking has tickets to the show Monday, January 26th?????
C: I think your review was a little more thought out then mine, but at the same time I doubt Gepetto and Keggers spent as much time as I did on Metallica.com waiting for all the new shit to come out, hence why I gave the first album preview on Thursday.

With that said, I award myself no points, and my god take mercy on my soul.

PPS: I've have not been blogging because I've been busy perfecting this album on guitar. That said: WE BETTER GO ON A SERIOUS FUCKIN WINNING STREAK OTHERWISE WE'RE FUCKED GOING INTO A 3-GAME SET AT THE HHH DOME.

Fisting Andrew Golota said...

"Personal Metallica connection?" Are you referring to when Jason Newsted touched me improperly in 1997?

Nice work on your review, BTW. I dug it. Clearly you are even more old-school than I am.