Death Magnetic (Warner)
I can't see this album getting too many bad reviews, because that major gripe is so overshuadowed by this huge tsunami of killer music - the challenge is to succumb to your ADD and then calmly try piece the life of the thing together. And speaking of piecing together a life, James' lyrics are pretty dark and of one mind - his. There isn't a lot of defined subject matter or storytelling here, and he's risen to the challenge of sticking with one sort of thing by being really poetic, abstract and universal with it, and avoiding sound bites that stick out like they did on St. Anger. Highlights are everywhere, but I'd go with 'Broken, Beat & Scarred', which rides super-smart, almost System Of A Down-style riffs and twangy tones, but when that band gathers their faculties and gets dead serious. 'The Judas Kiss' is novel with a lot of stops and starts. 'The End Of The Line' is irresistibly groovy. Heck, even 'Suicide & Redemption' (a proposed title for the album) is a ten minute instrumental that isn't hard on the ears. 'The Unforgiven III' is intelligently proggy and textured, 'My Apocalypse' fast and the most cohesive at 5:00, and the few passages of mellow stuff anywhere on the album... they have that time-honoured Maiden-meets-'Turn The Page' dark southerny vibe, so perfect for Hetfield's rich singing voice. Damn, I'd even venture that 'One'-alike 'The Day That Never Comes' has a more emotional mellow verse melody than that old boxed-up classic. Ha ha, I'm resisting the urge to call this album a 10, because people are going to want to gripe and they will find their reasons. But man, Death Magnetic is just, right away, so full up with good music. If you can get past the fact that it's in 367 short folios, and take the 284 of them that easily make sense together, you'll get a ton of summery butt-shakin' metal value out of this thing. And yes, part of the problem is that this band is so big, it's hard to feel intimacy with the album - there's so much baggage; you feel like you're surrounded by people while listening to it. But Metallica has done such a good job of making 100% of this thing squarely heavy metal AND commercial, the job of digesting it is actually quite the pleasure.