Metallica's Death Magnetic: Early Impressions

As a longtime, diehard Metallica fan, I get very excited when they release new music (despite not truly enjoying a Metallica record, save for a few songs here and there, since the Black Album).With that in mind, I've spent the last few days listening to Death Magnetic more intently than I do with just about any new release, so I figured I would convey some of my impressions to you here.• All things considered, the record is a tremendous improvement over St. Anger, Load and Re-load. The Rick Rubin production is loud and fairly monstrous-sounding, gone is that ridiculous snare sound from St. Anger. Throughout the 10 songs, Hetfield and Hammett get back to what made them such a great team in the early Eighties: chugging, galloping, fast riffs and blazing solos. It's really nice to see those guys shine again from a guitar perspective.• Most of the songs clock in at just above or under the seven-minute mark, with the instrumental "Suicide & Redemption" coming in at close to 10 minutes and "My Apocalypse" almost reaching five minutes. But other than those two, it's seven minutes per song.• The highlights are the opening track, "That Was Just Your Life" (which features some fantastic galloping riffs and a wicked Hammett solo, and does what many of the songs here do, which is kick into high gear at around the five-minute mark and end on a strong, ferocious note), "My Apocalypse" (the album closer), and what is definitely the best song on the record, "All Nightmare Long." When you get the album, pay close attention to that particular song...even if you don't like anything else on the record, an old-school Metallica fan will surely eat that one up.• All complements aside, the album definitely has some less-than-stellar moments (but again, not nearly as many as the last three records). "Cyanide" is a plodding, go-nowhere throwaway, and some songs like "Broken, Beat and Scarred" and "The End of the Line" are decent, but just can't compete with some of the album's finer moments. And "The Unforgiven III" is certainly a "nice" song, but feels a little out of place on an otherwise mostly head-crushing album.•I have a slight problem with James' vocals this time around. I've always been a huge fan of his singing, but these vocals are a little too clean, a little too pure. There doesn't seem to be much of the gruff, raw, angry Hetfield from years past. It's still James, just not quite guttural enough for my tastes.• In conclusion, I'm very happy with the record overall...and pleasantly surprised on some level. I wasn't sure if they still had it in them! Some weak moments for sure, but that's to be expected on any record...and this one has more far more killer parts than bad parts. The chugging speed-metal riffs showcase Hetfield at his best, and Hammett is ripping up a storm again.If you consider yourself a fan, definitely pick up the album...regardless of what you thought of the last three records, I think you'll be impressed by what you hear.JK