1 hour ago
Friday, September 05, 2008
Welcome Home, Welcome Back (New Metallica)
Music critics had it hard in the 90s, watching Metallica die. After five fantastic, groundbreaking albums in a row (with one of the greatest live albums of all time serving as the cherry on top) , Metallica seemed to lose the muse. Companion discs Load & Reload had a few good tracks between them, but even the subversity of Andres Serrano's off-color cover art (which would have received more commentary if parents had known just what they were looking at) couldn't change the fact that Metallica was losing their creative edge.
It wasn't just a matter of Metallica's shift from straight-up riffs, vocal yelps and the art of metal progression (which Robert Christgau dismisses, bless his heart, as mere "composition"). Nope - every album Metallica did after 1991's Metallica (the Black Album to you and me) seemed destined for a sort of semi-listenability, a half-hearted public and critical acclaim that, while accompanied by massive record sales, just didn't seem like the Metallica we loved. 1999's S&M live album had talent behind it, but subverted songs we loved by turning them all into overwrought, orchestrated affairs. "No Leaf Clover" kicked, and "Enter Sandman" was already cartoony enough that a few violins and trumpets couldn't have hurt it, but neutering "Battery" was unconscionable. Unconscionable.
So you'll excuse me for being a little downbeat over Metallica's new album, especially after hearing the title, Death Magnetic. The cover itself should be lauded for depicting the title literally (a coffin encased in a magnetic field), but subtlety has never been Metallica's forte so I'd like to suggest the following:
Photoshoppers: Always copy images from the first page of Google Image Search.
So - how does the album stack up? We could be forgiven for having low expectations after the 30-second sound samples the band posted awhile back failed to blow us away. Thankfully, after listening to most of the album in streaming form and online after the sucker leaked, I'm pleased to repeat that it's more than listenable. As in, you might feel like listening to it a few times. It's easily the best Metallica album since Metallica, mostly because the band doesn't try to do anything new.
And what do you expect? Metallica hasn't had a great album for seventeen years, or a classic album for more than two decades. And since Death Magnetic is perfectly serviceable it's no surprise that it's getting rave reviews.
There's really nothing to say about this album - it's pretty much a homogenous heap of good old-fashioned ". . . And Justice For All"-style metal with perfectly serviceable riffs and perfectly-serviceable vocals. And there's not a vocal hook in sight, further carrying the comparison to 1988's Justice. In fact, Death Magnetic is pretty much a carbon copy of the essence of that album, about eighty percent as good as that album, barring the fact that there isn't a song to match "Blackened" or "One".
(Keep in mind that, though I've heard all of the songs on the album, much of what I heard was streamed directly from their site and thus not CD quality. From the finished tracks I've heard I don't think my opinion would change much if I heard the final album, which I liked okay but probably won't make into a purchase.)
Pre-Order Death Magnetic on Amazon