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Metallica "Death Magnetic" Album Review: Metallica Returns to Their Roots

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

With This Album Metallica shows that they still have what it takes to be a great band

After the release of St. Anger, I'm sure many metal fans were wondering whether Metallica was done as a band or whether they would release something better. Well, they answered that question with the release of Death Magnetic in 2008.

The album's producer is Rick Rubin, famous for his work with Slayer. Gone is the tin can sounding drums and we hear drums the way that they should be played. The album is a really long one clocking in at over 74 minutes and ten songs. If you don’t have the patience to sit and listen to this album, then I wouldn’t recommend this album. Death Magnetic marks the return of Metallica to the kind of style that made them famous. Of course this is not an exact copy of ...And Justice For All or a Master of Puppets. In fact, I would say that Death Magnetic is a quality album and easily their best since 1988. Yes, this album is that good believe me. Death Magnetic is an album that is sure to excite many of Metallica’s veteran fan base that is used to hearing their thrash metal classics such as Kill Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets. This album marks the first time that Robert Trujillo actually plays bass guitar on a Metallica album. Bob Rock handled the bass guitar duties on the previous album St. Anger. It was a five year wait for fans of this band between albums but we can say that the wait was worth it as Death Magnetic is a fine release of the decade of the 2000’s. Metallica certainly should get credit for being one of the best US metal bands ever. After their experimentation with albums such as Load, Re-Load, and St. Anger, the true style of Metallica is back in full force with this album! After releasing an album with a raw sound and ferocity that was not seen from Metallica in years, they return to write an even better album.

If you did not enjoy St. Anger, Death Magnetic is nothing like that album and is completely different in the sense that the songs are more creative, there are guitar solos, and the album has an even better ending than that one.

The Album Death Magnetic Starts With the Great Song "That Was Just Your Life"

I ended up buying this great album back in 2011 at a local Barnes and Noble store and I was definitely not disappointed and I hope that you will enjoy a listen through this long but awesome release by one of the finest metal bands in the history of the genre. How does Death Magnetic sound as an album more than 12 years later? The answer is that it sounds just as mature, heavy, and technical as it did back in 2008. So With that stated, Death Magnetic has one of the best album starts ever.

The opener "That Was Just Your Life" starts out with a slow part just like in a few of their earlier songs years ago before becoming an aggressive and thrash metal type of song. Kirk Hammett uses the wah pedal when he plays the solo in this song. Yes, there are guitar solos in this album, thank goodness! I love this one and it’s a great way to open the album. In this song to start this album, James Hetfield showed that he could be a great show man even in his 40’s. Cliff Burton would have loved the beginning to this album as much as he had enjoyed the start of the Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets albums. "That Was Just Your Life" has a beginning that gradually gets heavier as the song builds. This is in a way similar to how the songs Fight Fire With Fire and Battery both started out softer only to become heavy favorites.

Review of the Songs The End of the Line, Broken, Beat, & Scarred and The Unforgiven 3

"The End of the Line" is another solid song and it features a nice and soft section later in the song. The song called Master of Puppets had a style similar to this where it would be heavy and then switch to a softer part. This second song in Death Magnetic in terms of length is similar to Master of Puppets. "Broken, Beat and Scarred" is another heavy song that tries to get across that message that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Most of us have heard this before. Whatever may happen to us in our lives can either make or break us. James Hetfield uses his voice to his advantage in that part. I especially like how Hetfield does the vocal parts in "The Unforgiven 3." That song starts out with an excellent piano part before the vocals start. It is one of the best ballads that I have heard. It beats The Unforgiven (1991) and The Unforgiven 2 (1997).

All Nightmare Long Song Analysis

"All Nightmare Long" is just a really, really heavy song with a lot of picking and it shows a return to 1983. If the song called Hunter Killer is a masterpiece on the album called Carnival Diablos by Canadian metal band Annihilator, then All Nightmare Long is outstanding on Death Magnetic. I have always loved the fast and heavy stuff and this song is no exception! This is one of those songs worth listening to over and over. You will not be disappointed.

Is "All Nightmare Long" a classic in the musical sense? There are times in life where we get trapped in this sort of vicious cycle where our luck runs out. All Nightmare Long is a great song but not quite a classic compared to some songs earlier in Metallica’s career. The song builds up into a thrash metal song that is memorable similar to the song Hunter Killer by Canadian thrash metal band Annihilator.

"All Nightmare Long"

Why is the Song Cyanide a Significant Song?

"Cyanide" is another great song and once again, this one has a section with softer vocals. The song is about someone who has died and he feels at bliss because of that. Life is precious so if you are feeling down and want to end it there is a better alternative, life!

Unfortunately suicide is a leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24. The song is rather groovy and may not get the attention that it deserves.

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"My Apocalypse" is One of the Best Metallica Songs Ever

"Suicide and Redemption" is an instrumental song lasting almost ten minutes. But it is not as good as Orion or The Call of Ktulu. It would be hard to top those songs. "My Apocalypse" is now one of my absolute favorite tracks on the album. But it features solid and aggressive vocals. This song reminds me of Damage Inc. because of the fast guitar picking, fast drumming and overall fast pace of this song. If you don't like long albums then you will be disappointed as there is no song under five minutes. You really have to be patient. Death Magnetic is a solid comeback by these US heavy metal veterans and it is much better than St. Anger. In fact, I would say that in some ways, it beats Master of Puppets. Yes, I know many will disagree but that is my opinion. Is Death Magnetic the best album by Metallica? No, but it has speed, aggression, melody and even a ballad style song. Death Magnetic has variety in the songs and that’s a good thing for sure.

Favorite Metallica Album

"My Apocalypse"

Death Magnetic Is an Album That a Heavy Metal Fan Should Have

For a 2008 album this is one of the best that I have heard. Any metal fan must get this album. Metallica really redeemed themselves after St. Anger and they are showing on this album what their true talent is. I will admit that this is the way that I felt when I first wrote this review. But much time has passed since then and I have changed my opinion. I have grown to really enjoy some of the songs on St. Anger but Death Magnetic is superior to that album in pretty much every way. Recommended songs on this album include "That Was Just Your Life," "All Nightmare Long," "Cyanide," "The Unforgiven 3," "The Judas Kiss," and the excellent last thrash metal song "My Apocalypse." Cliff Burton would have been really proud of an album like this had he lived to see the greatness that Metallica has achieved. Metallica along with Testament and Slayer stand out to me as the three finest US thrash metal bands of all time. I am sure that even after Metallica calls it quits as a band the people that really appreciate fine music will see that Death Magnetic is a solid release. The final score for Death Magnetic is a 92 out of 100 points!

"That Was Just Your Life"

Rate Metallica's 2008 Album Death Magnetic

Favorite Song on the Album Death Magnetic


Additional Perspective on Death Magnetic

It is time to provide some additional perspective on how Death Magnetic has aged. I know it is now 12 years old but how do others look at Death Magnetic as an album? Author Cosmo Lee of Pitchfork magazine offers a rather critical and bleak perspective on Death Magnetic when he says: “To hear them so bereft of new ideas is disheartening,” (Lee, 2008). What is this person’s definition of new ideas? To make matters worse, he says: “Death Magnetic is essentially St. Anger with better riffs,” (Lee, 2008). That’s a very lurid and nonsensical claim. Death Magnetic is not like the raw and heavy sounding St. Anger but a more mature and professional effort from the best United States heavy metal band. What does this author expect? Metallica has to adapt with the times and they have done so. They cannot go back to 1986 production levels because the technology has really advanced since then. The bottom line is that Metallica has returned to their thrash metal roots with Death Magnetic and they have put a more modern twist to the album and the result is an album that is even better than Megadeth’s Rust in Peace album, an album that so many like to claim is Megadeth’s best. Dave Mustaine should move over because he has company that can challenge him in terms of guitar play and songwriting!

However, there is also at least one other person that shared my sentiments about the greatness of Death Magnetic as an album. That person is Eduardo Rivadavia of the website Ultimate Classic Rock. He credits Metallica’s resurgence partly because of the guidance and direction of producer Rick Rubin. He (the author) describes how Metallica reinvented themselves saying: “Metallica duly emerged with a set of 10 new songs, stripped of all funny business and overflowing, instead, with virtually inexhaustible reserves of monster riffs, familiarly oblique lyrical themes, and even guitar solos,” (Rivadavia, 2015). Death Magnetic is most definitely a return to their roots for Metallica and many of their fans were more than likely thrilled for this.

Death Magnetic may be the best album for Metallica in the modern era of heavy metal, that is if Hardwired...To Self-Destruct isn't better and even that's a tough call because both of these albums are solid.


Lee, C. (2008, September 9). Metallica Death Magnetic. Pitchfork Magazine.

Rivadavia, E. (2015, September 12). How Metallica Returned to Thrash on ‘Death Magnetic. Retrieved from Ultimate Classic Rock:

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Ara Vahanian

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