AOTY 2023
Metallica - Death Magnetic
Feb 7, 2022
This record has some great tracks, fun riffs, and catchy tunes, but it's marred by two HUGE flaws: the production and the sheer length of it all.

The Good:
This album was a massive return to form for Metallica after St. Anger, going back to their thrashier roots with a little bit of 90's Metallica thrown in for good measure. These songs are energetic, frantic, and solidly constructed. My personal standouts include The Day That Never Comes, All Nightmare Long, and My Apocalypse. The whole thing has a sort of dissonant feel to it that not any other Metallica albums do, making it a little unique in their catalog in that regard. I also think the prechorus of Cyanide is one of the best sections of any of their songs. "EEEEEEEEMMPTY THEY SAY" love it.

The Production:
This thing sounds like ass. There's no reverb in sight, making this an INCREDIBLY dry listen with little to no character at all. It sounds dull, compressed, and above all, blown out. Lars' snare here is almost less listenable than what it was on St. Anger. At least that snare had artistic intent and character, this is just pummeling your eardrums for the sake of being loud. The guitars have no dynamics, the bass is almost nonexistent and turns to mush in the mix, and the vocals are...well, dry. It sounds worse than any other Metallica record (minus St. Anger) and it ultimately ruins the experience. Just goes to show the pointlessness of the "loudness wars" of the 2000s. Aged like milk.

The Length:
This thing is WAY too long. Not in terms of how many tracks there are - it's actually a little difficult to pinpoint one track that is an obvious decision to cut. I'm talking in terms of the lengths of the songs. It's like they were trying to make a Creeping Death or Fixxxer-style epic with every single song, and it just wears out to be a very thin formula by the end of each track. Every song still goes verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, but the real culprit is just Metallica seeing how long they can drag out the bridges until the song falls apart by the final chorus. Each riff goes on for maybe twice as long as it should, and a few of these songs become grating listens by the end of it. I'd like to single out Broken, Beat & Scarred for this, as well as Suicide & Redemption (perhaps the most overlong song in their catalog). I've seen fan edits that cut the tracks down to more manageable lengths, and honestly these are just better.

Overall, this thing feels like it skipped the editing process. Nobody bothered to go through the tracks and cut them down where necessary and fix up the production. It's like they barely finished before their deadline, and didn't have time to make it...good.

I'd like to clarify, I like this album. Just listen to the Guitar Hero mix and you'll have a good time. Hardwired is better, though.

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