by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Death Magnetic (Warner)

Pretty interesting how Death Magnetic is not a complete dismissal of St. Anger. And what's retained from that record is pretty much the only negative I see among a raft of inspiring positives, that being the insistence on nearly every song to be very long and stuffed with riffs. I mean, I'd rather there be a couple 12-minutiers and a bunch of three's, than this sort of inexorable march of six, seven, eight, nine minuters, which sort of puts out the message that each has been cut off at a uniform length as it comes out of a sausage grinder. But that's where any comparisons fall off, in turn, Justice becoming the closer comparative - namely very good use of excess, rather than timeless and great address of excess circa the long ones on Lightning or Puppets. But, if you can handle learning it - and what I propose is spending a lot of time with each song furtively until you can predict the next (sometimes logical, sometimes not) twist - one very cool thing that falls out is that James (and it is mostly James, with a bit of Kirk and a bit of Robert) has conjured the most extensive array of top-flight riffs ever assembled on one album, let alone, oh, four or five. And they're all so damn accessible and hooky. Weirdly as well, they are, on paper, quite heavy and squarely metal, although they rarely feel that way because there is so much buoyant energy surrounding them. That energy comes from the fact that the band rehearsed the hell out of these songs before they started recording them, the guys on the same page even though each song is a fat yellow pages. The energy, like I say, over-rides the heaviness, as does a certain garagey, almost casualness to the recording. It sounds like something is missing in terms of being able to call it expensive, and that would be a sense that the guitars aren't terribly multi-tracked. They sort of sear and drill into you real electric-like. Robert's bass is neither too loud nor quiet and not weird - appropriately fat and massaged in. But Lars' drums mirror the approach to guitars - the cymbals sizzle almost to the point of red-lined distortion and he rattles off a lot of snare. In fact, Justice again: this is a great drum performance from Ulrich, great in two ways - it's very musical and it substantially adds to the case of Lars having his own sound, one where the fills are full band participation events of riding stop/start rhythms (which of course adds to the complication, as if there wasn't enough). There's a lot of old school thrash in here as well, but it's charged with punk rock violence, more Garage Days than coagulated Ride The Lightning, and it's in like 50 brief spots rather than... here's 'Trapped Under Ice'.


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