Metallica Back on the Horse, So They Say

By Peter Kimmich 2008-09-10 23:20:52
The album reviews of metal bossmen Metallica’s upcoming Death Magnetic are coming in, and it’s looking a little more positive than might have been thought – maybe longtime fans can start sporting their band shirts again.

The album, out this Friday, is not here for me to officially review (that, I’m sure, will happen sometime). But a general scouring of the reviews and news stories, plus test runs of some of the tracks on YouTube and a critical observation of the comments therein, reveal that the band may have indeed stumbled back in time a couple of decades. May have.

I hesitate because this is similar to what people were saying about 2003’s St. Anger when that album was released under the “So Raw It’s Cool” flag. Nearly every major review defended the sound as an inspired, if poorly mixed, outlet of rage stemming from the band’s personal problems. “They’re back,” everyone said. “Look, they’re fast again.” Dissent only came from smaller, more metal-centric reviews and of course loud, offended Internet commenters – and there were a lot of those.

This time, though, seems a little different. The reviews are ecstatic as usual, but the comments under the reviews actually match the reviews.

One touted difference is the unleashing of Kirk Hammett. The lead guitarist, formerly Metallica’s flagship, was paradoxically tied down in the previous release, tossing guitar noise back and forth with Hetfield in what Pitchfork (the only major review that was profoundly negative) compared to the sound of a kicked-in practice amp. What the new reviews reveal in its place is the true-dirt Metallica structure of a frantic Hetfield rhythm, a face-raking Hammett lead, and 8-plus minutes of this on nearly every track. Fans are talking about thrash again.

The tracks available on YouTube (every one of them, thanks to what appear to be three or four diligent posters) more or less confirm this. Not taking the time to become intimate with the material (I’m on a schedule here), I can’t comment on what the music feels like. But with the frantic rhythm and wild lead guitars, and the old, snapping snare, what it sounds like is …And Justice For All with new Hetfield vocals.

The commenters? They seem happy, not angry. There’s no divide, one side defending, the other hurling text expletives. They seem to be in unison, like the band. And like the band, it seems like they will be excited, not disappointed, come Friday. Maybe they’ll be getting some Justice, finally.
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