Death Magnetic is Metallica's ninth studio album. It was released September 10, 2008, but it already circulated on the Internet before 1. Like most metalheads from my generation, I grew up with Metallica, and they were my gateway into the world of heavy metal. Metallica is a gateway in the sense that it is definetely real-deal metal, but still close enough to mainstream to learn to love metal.

I don't claim this review is unbiased. My personal preference is melodic and symphonic death and black metal. Hence, I didn't think Load and Reload were particularly bad, just different (Okay, that is being kind). St. Anger felt like someone dug up the grave of a great band to desercrate the corpse (And that, too, is being kind). So, I was quite anxious to listen to this album-is this the revival, or the final insult to the memory of perhaps the greatest metal band ever?

1. That was just your life

Slow, instrumental start. After this, the fast, aggressive guitar riffs are married to some of James Hetfield's most aggressive singing so far. It reminds of Metallica's very first album, Kill 'm all, only perhaps slightly faster. It really catches almost the exact same sound, which, given the way Metallica changed through Load, Reload and St. Anger , is quite a feat in itself.

2. The End of the Line

Hm, I can think of two other metal bands with a track with the same name. It starts with a long instrumental intro, and then, several short, aggressive twoliners by Hetfield. They sound good, if you are able to forget just how much sheer power Hetfield could put behind them in Metallica's earlier work. It just falls slightly short of what it should be. Then, there is regular singing, with some quite clever tempo changes. The end of this song is really well done, with vocals and music blending together perfectly.

At this point, I also noticed these songs are *long* -both 7 minutes. Metal in general and Metallica in particular are known for their long songs. On this album, the song are all between 5 and 10 minutes long, averaging at around 7:30, which is really, really long, more than two times a normal pop song.

3. The Broken, Beat & Scarred

Very melodic and fluent, unlike the previous two songs, which sound like hammers pounding. Really catchy, nice guitar solo, this really is a gem. It combines the raw, powerful anger of their earlier albums with the more clever and "smooth" stuff on Load and Reload

4. The Day that Never Comes

The intro of this song is beautiful, slow, subtle... Hetfield's clean singing here reminds more of Load and Reload, only, well, better more subtle, hitting it just right.

5. All Nightmare long

Fast, jittery intro, and we are back from the late 90s to the roots of Metallica. Power and fury are the waves on which Hetfield's vocals ride. The song again feels a bit long, although it's roughly as long as all the other songs on the album (7:58).

6. Cyanide

This track blends well with the previous track, with clever riffs and a very high pace. Not too much vocal violence in this one. Then, a short intermezzo, and the song continues in a much more languid pace-relatively speaking that is!

7. The Unforgiven III

The Unforgiven I and II were easily among Metallica's best songs, and one would hope this song would live up to that legacy. The intro almost sounds like a classical music piece, and offers a gentle start to what is to come. The song is beautiful, sad, like the other two Unforgivens. Great contrast with the previous two songs, too. It's also surprisingly like "I disappear". The song builds up towards a massive climax. Nice lyrics, too.

8. The Judas kiss

Fast, aggressive, powerful guitar riffs. Quite a contrast with the previous song James Hetfield's singing does drown a bit in the powerful guitar. This is a bit disappointing, as the other songs on the album prove he still has "it". The song is a bit monotonous, which doesn't help as it is also quite long at 8:01.

9. Suicide and redemption

9:58 of instrumental goodness. Now, the only thing about this album that very occasionally reminds you that this band may be past their prime is Hetfield's singing. There is no singing in this track, and this is simply among their best work ever.

10. My Apocalypse

Hm, I've heard this title before. Fast, very fast, aggressive. True trash metal. This is the shortest track (5:01) on the album, and it sounds like their "normal" 7 minute song was just compressed into 5 minutes, without dropping any content. In short, it lets the album go out with a bang!

My overall opinion

Metallica succeeds in bringing back their old sound, and that is perhaps the greatest compliment one can give. This is a very good album, maybe even a great album, and certainly a recommended buy. It may not be their greatest ever, but at least we can look forward to new work by this legendary band instead of fearing for the worst. If you have never listened to metal, this by the way wouldn't be a bad place to start at all.

  1. Gazet van Antwerpen, September 4th.

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