Metallica are a band used to dealing with crisis points. The departure of Dave Mustaine, the death of Cliff Burton, Jason Newsted, Napster, James Hetfield disappearing into rehab – what hasn’t killed this band has only made them stronger. Their own music has presented them with a few problems too. Since the Metallica album launched them to megastar status they have seemed unsure where to go next. There have been recordings with orchestras, a lot of compilations, remixes and the experimentation too far of the Load album; none of which left them in an invincible situation. That they manage to record St Anger at all was a miracle, yet it was hardly a triumph in anyone’s terms.
Yet still we flock back to Metallica, like we do to Oasis, hoping that this time they’ll get it right again. Tellingly, they have looked backwards to move forward, revisiting the thrash metal sound of their youth. Not a bad idea, but one that throws them up against other extreme young bucks such as Slipknot. And while it can’t be denied that they can still play hard and fast for a bunch of 45 year olds, it does feel as though they’re backing themselves back into exactly the same corner that Load was designed to break them out of. At their height – ‘Ride The Lightning’, ‘Master Of Puppets’ – Metallica were able to combine brutal power with a sense of melody. In short they wrote great songs and then fucked them up. Too often Death Magnetic sounds like a collection of riffs, solos, drum fills and not a lot else.
Exactly like the last album it’s a record to admire rather than one to love, no disaster certainly and nothing to threaten their status. Yet neither will it enhance it a whole lot. It’s good, it’s fine but that’s it.