Death Magnetic by Metallica
Release date : September 2008
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
On November 29th, 2005 in the San Francisco area, rehearsals began in support of Metallica's ninth studio album. Despite the fact that Lars Ulrich asserted that Bob Rock would always produce future Metallica material in a September interview with fanclub magazine So What!, by mid February 2006 it was confirmed that Rick Rubin (Slayer, Slipknot, System of A Down) would produce the group's next album. In mid March, Rolling Stone reported that Metallica would spend six months penning material prior to the commencement of recording sessions, whereas a mid April update unveiled by Kerrang! magazine disclosed the fact that Ulrich felt six to seven songs had been completed, albeit minus vocals. On June 6th at Waldbuhne in Berlin, Germany, Metallica debuted a new track, appropriately dubbed “The New Song”. At a headline appearance on August 12th at the Summer Sonic Festival in Tokyo, Japan, Metallica debuted another new track, also suitably christened, taking the moniker “The Other New Song”. Neither track figured amongst the album's track listings, though both “The End of the Line” and “All Nightmare Long” contained elements of “The New Song”. Launch Radio Networks reported in early December that Metallica had authored twenty-five tracks, and were in the process of whittling the number down in preparation for projected January 2007 recording sessions.
On March 2nd, Ulrich stated that fourteen tracks would be laid down. On March 12th, Metallica began recording sessions at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys within the greater Los Angeles area - the first time the group had recorded outside of San Francisco since sessions in support of The Black Album at One On One Studios. Other recording locations proved to be Shangri La Studios in Malibu, California, and HQ in San Rafael, California. As part of the Sick Of The Studio '07 tour, Metallica planned the following European dates; June 28th at Lisbon, Portugal's Super Bock Super Rock Festival, 29th at Bilbao, Spain's Bilbao BBK Live Festival, July 1st at Werchter, Belgium's Rock Werchter Festival, 3rd at Athens, Greece's Rockwave Festival, 5th at Vienna, Austria's Rotundenplatz, 8th at London, England's Wembley Stadium, 10th at Oslo, Norway's Valle Hovin Stadion, 12th at Stockholm, Sweden's Stadion, 13th at Aarhus, Denmark's Vestereng, 15th at Helsinki, Finland's Olympic Stadium, and 18th at Moscow, Russia's Lushniki Stadium. On May 12th 2008, Metallica launched MissionMetallica.com which boasted a plethora of exclusive content, and sound clips of new tracks. By mid May, it was announced Greg Fidelman (Audioslave, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slipknot, System Of A Down) had been recruited to mix the album. Meanwhile, Sterling Sound Studios' Ted Jensen mastered the full length. Ulrich revealed this same month that Metallica had entered the studio with fourteen penned compositions, a number whittled down to eleven. Due to length issues, only ten made the final track listing. The eleventh track, christened “Shine”, was a Hetfield written tune based upon a Rock 'N' Roll martyr in the vein of deceased Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley. In London on June 4th, a listening session was held for noted journalists, and several tracks from the album were previewed.
Metallica's tour itinerary from May to August contained another slew of dates, more specifically; May 16th at Tucson, Arizona for KFMA Day, 28th at Chorzow, Poland's Slaski Stadium, 30th at Landgraaf, Netherlands' Pinkpop Festival, 31st at Getafe, Spain's Electric Weekend, June 3 at Prague, Czech Republic's Slavia Stadium, 5th at Lisbon, Portugal's Rock In Rio, 7th at Nurburgring, Germany's Rock Am Ring, 8th at Nurnburg, Germany's Rock Im Park, 13th at Manchester, Tennessee's Bonnaroo, July 16th at Bergen, Norway's Bergenhus Castle, 18th at St. Petersburg , Russia's SKK Hall, 20th at Riga, Latvia's Skonto Stadium, 22th at Bologna, Italy's Parco Nord, 23rd at Bucharest, Romania's Cotroceni Football Stadium, 25th at Sofia, Bulgaria's Levski Stadium, August 14th at Arras, France's Grand d'Arras, 15th at Hasselt, Belgium's Pukkelpop Festival, 17th at Wil/Jonschwil, Switzerland's Degenaupark, 20th at Dublin, Ireland's Marlay Park (with Tenacious D), 22th at Leeds, England's Leeds Festival, and on the 24th at Reading, England's Reading Festival.
Originally appearing on the group's website on June 10th under the headline “???”, a finalised, complete version of an image revealed the title Death Magnetic, the moniker of Metallica's ninth studio album. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett had brought a photograph of Layne Staley to the studio, inspiring Hetfield in writing the aforementioned track. Beginning as a tribute to those who had fallen in the music business, the title Death Magnetic began to refer to how some are drawn towards death, whereas others feel quite the opposite way. Later, Hammett revealed that Songs of Suicide and Forgiveness was one name considered for the album. Design company Turner Duckworth was hired to create the album's artwork, an entity better known as having received commissions from such brands as Coca-Cola and Amazon.com.
By August 1st, Death Magnetic worldwide release date was set for September 12th. During a live performance at Ozzfest, held at Pizza Hut Park in Dallas, Texas on August 9th, new track “Cyanide” was debuted. By August 10th, Fidelman completed his mixing duties. Starting August 16th, XM Radio launched Mandatory Metallica (XM 51), which featured music from the outfit's back catalogue, rare live recordings from the group's personal archives, and extensive interviews.
Filmed outside Los Angeles in Acton, California and directed by Denmark's Thomas Vinterberg, a video was recorded on July 31st in support of inaugural single “The Day That Never Comes”. Via BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe on August 21st, the single received its radio premiere. That same day, the track was made available for streaming via Metallica's official website. The following day, the track underwent an inaugural live airing courtesy of the group's performance at Leeds Festival in the UK. In its first week of release, the track debuted at number thirty-one upon the Billboard Hot 100. In addition, the single charted at number one in Finland, number six in Sweden, number eleven in Norway, and number fourteen in Ireland. By September 2nd, the group's website began streaming its video. “My Apocalypse” began streaming through the group's website on August 26th, whereas "Cyanide" began streaming at that location on September 2nd. By the 5th, they (alongside “The Day That Never Comes”) had been joined by the following tracks; “All Nightmare Long”, “Broken, Beat & Scarred”, and “The Judas Kiss”.
A record store based in Paris, France sold several album copies a fortnight ahead of its release, and the album was leaked online within a few hours. To combat this, Vertigo Records allowed all retailers to sell Death Magnetic on the 10th - two days ahead of its planned release date. In North America, Death Magnetic was released in several different packages. The first package contained the following; a digital version of the album, delivered at midnight on the street date at 320 kbit/s, the ability to download two summer 2008 Metallica shows, nearly two hours of additional and exclusive fly-on-the-wall footage, two-hundred and fifty additional exclusive photos, ringtones of riffs from the album, the ability to enter exclusive contests, and ten dollars discount off merchandise or membership at Metallica.com or MetClub.com. Another package additionally featured Death Magnetic in CD format, whereas yet another featured the aforementioned addition, a Mission: Metallica lithograph, and a five LP 180 gram box with five individual sleeves. Another package was dubbed the “Coffin Box”, and contained; Death Magnetic, a ten track CD with demos culled from Death Magnetic, a making of Death Magnetic DVD featuring previously unseen material, an exclusive Death Magnetic T-shirt, a set of Death Magnetic guitar picks, a fold-out poster featuring members of the group, and a USB memory stick replete with the Death Magnetic logo. NewburyComics.com made the album available to pre-order, and those amongst the first 1,500 to do so would receive a limited-edition pint glass. On the day of release, each track was available for download to perform via console game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Those who ordered the album via Best Buy received eleven exclusive bonus tracks for the game, playable via the Xbox 360. This eleventh track emerged as an exclusive rendition of the instrumental track “Suicide & Redemption”.
Finally, the time is upon us. Ever since Death Magnetic's imminent issue, Metallica's longtime admirers have collectively hailed; “Thank God this isn’t St. Anger II!”. Albeit not comparable to 1988's ...And Justice For All and 1984's Ride the Lightning, Death Magnetic is a vital step towards an appropriate direction. Had it been penned following the release of 1991's The Black Album (officially referred to Metallica) , and issued prior to 1996's Load and 1997's ReLoad, this album would've proved more timely. In numerous respects, Death Magnetic is a logical bridge between those respective albums.
A hard, heavy trio of compositions inaugurate Death Magnetic, striving to rapidly affirm that Metallica has returned to the group's musical roots. Whilst none of these introductory cuts quite achieve that central goal, all collectively form Metallica's heaviest material since the early nineties. The sole genuine connection to the Punk infused St. Anger, Ulrich contributes little more to these three respective tunes than maintaining the beat - mirroring much of the Dane's drum contributions towards that aforementioned full length. The greatest of the three, “Broken, Beat, & Scarred” is an irrefutable highlight which boasts a massively aggressive chorus. Towards the conclusion of the number's initial verse, Hetfield's lyrical spewing should cause longtime admirers to drool profusely.
Possessing a more epic structure, inaugural single “The Day That Never Comes” breaks the triumvirate's actual momentum. Not representative of Death Magnetic's overall aggression, its selection as lead single is mildly surprising. However, “The Day That Never Comes” comprises one of four tracks (alongside “Cyanide”, “All Nightmare Long”, and “The Unforgiven III”) which suggest that Death Magnetic could've formed an aforementioned bridge record between both The Black Album, and Load / ReLoad Each of these respective cuts may have comfortably featured amongst Load's or ReLoad's specific track listings, and lent those albums much strength. A tribute to days gone by, an instrumental composition finds inclusion. Guitar solos were exempt from St. Anger, so its very inclusion likely forms an unspoken apology to guitarist Kirk Hammett. Entitled “Suicide & Redemption”, Hammett wholly shreds upon this specific track. Let's pray to the Metal gods that Metallica adopt this instrumental as an introductory passage at live concerts, such is its worth.
In addition, Death Magnetic's production has been the subject of intense discussion. To quote U2's vocalist Bono, Death Magnetic's production has been the subject of “Maybe…maybe too much talk…”. In actual honesty, Death Magnetic is sonically great. Indeed, the tracks possess excessive high end, and insufficient bass. However, when hasn't such a complaint been registered in critiquing a Metallica full length? Since the untimely passing of Cliff Burton, the bass has been an inaudible instrument. Furthermore, Burton's contributions weren't wholly audible to begin with (the reason largely being that Burton performed upon the bass in the vein of a guitar). Admittedly, an issue exists when listening to Death Magnetic via headphones. Musicians dub this phenomenon “clip”, meaning that the audio simply overloads the headphones. Therefore, the album is rendered practically unlistenable. With the aid of headphones, Death Magnetic isn't an album you'd want to listen to.
By all accounts, Metallica self-produced Death Magnetic. Therefore, using the phrase “Produced by Rick Rubin” could be possibly deemed exaggeration. Irrelevant of how Rubin's contribution is defined, that contribution unquestionably aided Metallica in returning to form. Whilst not their greatest full length, Death Magnetic is Metallica's greatest in quite some time, and will likely be fully embraced by admirers both young, and middle-aged. The album's overall quality is a pleasant surprise, and the inclusion of both old and new school elements proves uplifting. This reviewer is a Metallica fan once more.