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A different kind of not quite there. - 65%

hells_unicorn, July 17th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, Digital, Blackened Recordings

Metallica has very forgiving fans, despite the widespread condemnation of their many massive career mistakes in the name of misguided commercialism. If the average fan of this band wasn't forgiving, they wouldn't have any left to market to at this point. To dispense with the obvious, the first studio outing since the horrid abortion that was Lulu is an attempt to remedy yet another massive blunder and make good with the legions of battered spouses that make up Metallica's core audience. It comes in the form of a single with a sub-title of "First Pass Version" which would seem to suggest the band's keen awareness of how badly they've alienated their fans and are testing the waters to see whether or not they stand to be eaten alive by a legion of proverbial pissed off piranhas.

Suffice to say, "Lords Of Summer" is not a let down in the same sense of previous attempts at sneaking back into the metal medium, although it still leaves a good bit to be desired. After about 20 years of missing the mark, Lars has finally gotten it though his thick gnome skull that he needs to ease off the tension on the snare drum and also level out the mixing of his kit, almost to the point of at least getting things back to they were when "The Black Album" was put together. Similarly, the guitar sound has managed to regain at least some level of clarity and crunch, though it sounds a bit too warm and smooth for a thrash album. James Hetfield has likewise attempted to gruff up his voice a bit so that he doesn't quite sound like a depressed country & western hack, though at its grittiest it just manages to pass for how he sounded just before he blew his voice out in the mid 90s.

Where this song both succeeds to an extent but still comes up short is the songwriting department, and in a very similar fashion to the better moments heard on Death Magnetic. In a clear attempt to resurrect the long and repetitive character of ...And Justice For All, this thing coasts along for over 8 minutes while being stuck in the same tempo and feel. The riff work doesn't come off as terribly inspired and relies far too much on repetition, a problem that has dogged this band to varying degrees since the late 80s. The silver lining is that Kirk Hammett has been allotted a decent guitar solo section, though it sort of stands alone in what is otherwise a very contrived and redundant song. In essence, take any one of the leftover tracks from the 2012 Beyond Magnetic EP and give them a slightly better production and you have "Lords Of Summer".

This isn't a song that is necessarily worthy of the metal scrapheap, but if this is only a first draft of this song, Lars and company would do well to shave about 2 minutes worth of needless repetition off of this thing and Hetfield could do with a guitar tone with just a little more bite to it. Kicking the tempo up a bit might also be nice given that everybody is under the impression that this is supposed to be a return to thrash metal, despite it feeling like a slowed down version of a late 70s Judas Priest song. In other words, this is Metallica trying to be thrash again, but as the great Yoda quote goes, "Do or do not, there is not try".