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Nobody seems to be able to approach this album without an obvious biais in favor or disfavor to Metallica's most recent work. It seems that we all need to refer to their previous work to try and analyze this. We see it in many various forms. Some say this is Metallica's comeback or not, while others say this is a failed attempt to try and go back to their roots. Generaly speaking, people disliked St.Anger. Some people however loved the album and have defended it through all the shitstorm it went through. My case is particular. I was not huge on metal music back when I first heard the album and I wasn'd displeased with what I heard. It's later that I've digged more into metal and got around to actually listening to the early albums of the band. So if St.Anger isn't one of my favorite albums, it never dropped on my head like a brick like it did to the fans who saw this un-Metallica record released.
Consequently, I didn't approach Death Magnetic thinking "Will it be a comeback or will it fail ?" or maybe "Will they be able to return to their roots ?" I picked up the album like any album I came across. Not pretending to be a hundred percent unbiased or objective here. But I approached the album without trying to find the old-Metallica in it or ways to perceive elements of St.Anger in it.
And with that approach I must say I kind of like the album. It's no thrash metal masterpiece, but it's definitely enjoyable. Sadly though, all the tracks don't share the same quality. Metallica tried with this album to experiment with longer songs, maybe somewhat like they did with ...And Justice for All but with a very forward and straight to the point feel like on Kill 'Em All or Ride the Lightning. Which is cool. But some of the tracks just come out as generic. It doesn't mean they aren't enjoyable, but kind of forgettable. I'm talking about tracks like My Apocalypse, Suicide & Redemption or The Judas Kiss. All of these have well-built riffs, cool thrashy solos, nice vocals, etc. But they do seem to come out as very standard thrash metal tracks. On the other hand tracks like All Nightmare Long, Cyanide and especially That Was Just Your Life and The Day That Never Comes have all the right hooks at the right places, solid riffs, good choruses and manage to be memorable mostly becaue of this.
In the end, the album is kind of too long, but this is because of very lenghty songs. It wouldn't seem to long if the longer tracks would have stood out more. The Judas Kiss and Suicide & Redemption for instance are the two longest tracks on Death Magnetic, and they feel like fillers to me. The good tracks however are just perfect when in the lenght department. There is also a good use of slower tracks on this record. As all the tracks except for two are straigh-forward tracks with a pretty similar formula, having two slower-paced tracks on the album kind of help to change the mood. The first one comes kind of late on the record, maybe a little too late for my state, but it's a very good track... I'm talking about the single The Day That Never Comes. Very solid track. The second track comes at the end of the album and is supposed to be the third part of The Unforgiven. I don't see much connections between this The Unforgiven III track and The Unforgiven, but whatever. The track has a slow build, reminding of One, but it's never has good as One was. The track in itself is ok. Just ok. I don't particularly like it and it will most likely not end up on my top 10 Metallica tracks list, but it's pretty cool to have a slower track on there to close the whole album and it helps keeping a little variety on the record.
Bottom line : I enjoyed the record. It's a good album if you look at it as a whole. Yes, there are too much fillers on Death Magnetic, but some tracks manage to be quite memorable and very thrashy. If Metallica had to build on something for the future, I think it would be Death Magnetic. No point in trying to recreate the early albums, and no point into digging any deeper in the kind of strange rock/heavy metal genre they attempted with Lou Reed. We have with Death Magnetic solid roots to try something new.