There's not really much else one can say about Metallica. Early pioneers of Thrash Metal, they built up a rabid fan-base throughout the 80's before doing an about-turn in the 90's and making records that showcased influences that were more akin to Hard Rock. This didn't sit well with some of their fanbase - me included - as accusations of "sell out" were thrown at them. In hindsight, they actually did a brave thing as they managed to get a new set of fans who may have ended up listening to heavier stuff as a result. Besides, it would probably have been more of a sell-out to go back and do what was expected of them, another spit-and-sawdust Thrash album. Further experiments with orchestras and whatever the fuck St Anger was soon followed (tbh, I didn't mind St Anger) before they found a slight return to form with Death Magnetic. Will this album once again put them into the Metal Stratosphere? Probably not, as they're already there. These days, Metallica are like The Rolling Stones or U2 of metal = they've got enough back catalogue out there to not only keep the coin coming in but also to keep on playing live without the need to release new albums - albums which usually get praised as a "return of form" but are nowhere near that. And that's not even before we go into the Napster shit and Some Kind Of Monster, but they're already well documented so we'll give them a miss. Onward to new Metallica album with the shit album cover that even KoRn would have turned down back when they were still relevant...
Disc One (Yup, it's a double album).
1) Hardwired - Well, this sounds promising enough. classic old-school Thrash Metal riffs in the opening and Hetfield's vocals kick in like it's 1988 again! I mean that as a compliment - it's the best he's sounded in years. Especially as there's none of those fucking awful YEY-UHHHH!!! vocal tics that have been so prevalent since '93, though I suspect they're to come. Nice solo from Hammet too and a decent reminder of how Metallica can still write a decent Thrash song now and again.
2) Atlas, Rise! - Nice brisk number with a decent solo. Strangely catchy vocal melodies in the chorus. A great song and no mistake. Lyrics are a bit patchy, but the vocals are still great. Also, as with the first song, this is also a slight reminder of Metallica's 80's stuff too. Well, things like Jump In The Fire and Escape...
3) Now That We're Dead - Mean and moody intro which sets the tone. Almost like the verse riffs to Seek And Destroy. I'm sensing a thing here...have Metallica done a Star Wars and essentially copied bits here and there from the first one in order to act as a base for the new? Is J.J Abrams the producer for this? Probably not - and I'm kidding before all you Star Wars nerds come over to my house with your flaming torches and pitchforks...the weird thing about this song is that the choruses bring to mind the Metallica/Load/Reload-era with an ever-so-slight hard rock influence.
4) Moth Into Flame - Another good one, nice Thrash Metal riffs for the intro and opening. Fast choruses too. You know, I do believe I'm starting to enjoy this album. I was a bit sceptical I'd like this as recent Metallica albums haven't been as musically interesting recently. And can multi-millionaires still write and play the kind of Thrash Metal they could over thirty years ago? Well, they're giving it a go here. And it's certainly a commendable effort.
5) Dream No More - The kind of slow intro that Sad But True had, this takes longer to get started but rather than move like a steamroller, this has quite a slick riff which leads into a smouldering demon of a song. Vocals are awesome as well. Yup, this was an excellent song.
6) Halo On Fire - Another one that takes a while to get the intro out of the way, it then seques into something that sounds like some mad cross between The Thing That Should Not Be and Welcome Home (Sanitarium). A quite haunting song, things get a bit more pacy towards the end, another good solo from Kirk Hammet as well. The song then sounds like it's going to finish before going on for another two minutes. All in all, not too bad.
1) Confusion - Opening sounds very much like Am I Evil?, the song by British Heavy Metal band Diamond Head. A song that may as well be Metallica's given that most people only know their version of it. Then afterwards, we go into a mid-paced treat of a song which has a series of tidy riffs all the way through it. The interlude riffs are very good, especially.
2) Manunkind - Nice bass intro. Not too sure of the slightly swing-like riff though. In fact, despite being over six minutes long, this song doesn't really go anywhere. Probably would have been best to leave this one on the cutting room floor, I reckon.
3) Here Comes Revenge - This song sounds awfully familiar. I've just realised - it's like all the different sounds of the band from down the years have became manifest in this song. The biting Thrash riffs of the 80's have combined with the hard rock sensibilities of the 90's. It's a decent mix that should keep everyone happy.
4) Am I Savage? - Clean intro which then goes into loud crescendo and then a rather plodding arrangement. But it's good. Quite atmopheric too. A nice solo too. Plenty of crunchy palm-mute riffs which go thud whilst said solo snakes it's way over them. It's not too bad, although we've had much better on this album thus far.
5) Murder One - Intro alternates between clean and distorted guitars soon leads to a mid-paced song which acts as a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, the late Motorhead frontman. Indeed, the lyrics do mention various Motorhead songs from down the years. This is especially touching as Motorhead were one of Metallica's biggest influences. As far as songs go, it's very good.
6) Spit Out The Bone - Fucking hell, this is cool! Fast as fuck opening and main riffs, it harks back to the days of awesome Thrash Metal. Great solo too. Nice time-change towards the end, where things start to slow down and the riffs get more solid and the guitar melodies more intricate. Another solo towards the end which also gives the song another lease of life as it speeds up again. Yes, this is awesome.
And there we have it, the best Metallica album in twenty-five years. Now whilst it may be tempting to say "that's not hard", bear in mind that both Load and Reload would have made a good album if the good tracks off both were combined onto one disc and the filler was discarded. St Anger had a shit production and was also the sound of a band in a bad place - and not all of it was channelled into good songs as there was definitely some stinkers on that album. Death Magnetic was a step in the right direction, a direction that was fully realised on this album. So despite the crap that the band has endured over the last twenty years or so - some of it justified - they can still write some decent tunes. The only drawbacks to this album are that some of the songs are about two minutes too long, and there is an ever-so-slight dip in quality on disc 2. But other than that, excellent.
8/10 - Oh you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
Top Track: Atlas, Rise.
This album is available on iTunes.