Death Magnetic

Band: Metallica
Album: Death Magnetic
Best song: Bah.
Worst song: Bah.

What is creativity?

On some level, we all think we’re creative. No one wants to be the boring banker in those Washington Mutual ads; the old white guy in the bland suit.

We all think we’re the most interesting people in the world. We all think we could be the star of the best sitcom ever, if only someone would write it about our collective lives. We all think we could be on the radio or that we should have our own blog (Hello!) or whatever.

I’m not sure that’s creativity, but it’s certainly a piece of American exceptionalism.

I used to go to a therapist in high school and I have no doubt that it helped me get through high school (mostly) intact. My therapist was also a musician and (I think) has written music for plays and commercials.

Because “therapy” to me in high school — as I remember it and I hope my parents aren’t reading this because they probably wasted their money — largely consisted of me talking more about music than my psyche, one of the things my therapist and I used to talk a lot about was the idea that an artist has a “well of creativity.” In essence, the theory says that any artist has a certain amount of good work in him/her and once that good work is used up, it’s gone.

Of course, this is nonsense, but Metallica is the poster child band for this theory. The band was awesome for four (some say five) albums. Then? Terrible.

What makes Death Magnetic so bad? There’s a lot to hate on the record, but I’ll start first with my utter disdain for James Hetfield’s vocals. Hetfield’s voice has never been the highlight of Metallica, but his vocal style fit the band’s first four records well. When he wasn’t barking, he was sneering and either style proved to fill in the nihilistic and existential holes that was the band’s early work.

On Death Magnetic, Hetfield fancies himself an actual singer. This is death-defyingly stupid and his own vocal tic — over annunciated the final syllable on everything — makes me want to stick a pen through my eardrum. A line stops being “the day that never comes,” but rather “the day that never comesssssssssssssss, ah” with the “ah” sounding like he’d just drank a cold Gatorade after playing hoop.

Building off that, the lyrics on the album are nothing short of idiotic. Metallica’s early lyrics, at least, touched on some interesting themes and topics; …And Justice For All had “One,” working from Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun and Ride the Lightning had “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

Death Magnetic has nothing like this. At best, the album has “The Judas Kiss,” but working any decent themes is not there. “Cyanide” is teenage angst and “All Nightmare Long” is just schlocky.

Finally, the song structures are awful. While Master of Puppets has “Battery” and the title track, Death Magnetic simply adds stuff like “The Day That Never Comes,” a structural ripoff of “One” and a musical ripoff of “Nothing Else Matters.”

Indeed, “The Day That Never Comes” is a decidedly pleasant song for the first four minutes, but delves into “Hey Jude” territory in that its outro is an instrumental wreck of a cheesy thrash metal number. It’s the type of thing that ended up on the cutting room floor of a Judas Priest recording session. In 1990.

Metallica was a great band. Too bad they can’t keep producing like they did in 1985.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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