Reportedly, the band made a conscious effort produce music as successful as their Master Of Puppets (MOP) record. And not surprisingly, the art produced by the conscious calculated effort isn’t nearly as amazing as the original.
The sound of Death Magnetic (DM) does have some similarity to MOP. And thankfully, the music is perhaps some of the best since, umm, since… well, the Black Album. But as was the case on St. Anger, James Hetfield’s voice is much too prominent in the mix. So while he was screaming on MOP, it worked better. I don’t know if it was just the mix, but listening to the song “Master Of Puppets”, you can hear Hetfield screaming musically. And when you listen to most of the tracks on DM, Hetfield’s voice is just too in your face and definitely not musical. The DM track named “The Unforgiven III” is easily the best on the record – Hetfield sings. It’s that simple.
For anyone who saw “Some Kind of Monster”, you know what goes on behind the scenes. And it is hard to believe that they could approach the creation of any new music without some kind of awareness that was probably not present when they did their best work. And that kind of awareness is not, I suspect, conducive to good kick-ass metal (though maybe it works for other genres!).
I’ve already listened to DM more than I have to St. Anger (maybe 3 listens total). But I have a feeling it won’t be long until DM disappears into the Metallica library along with Load and St. Anger – even though it is better than both, it’s not nearly as good as And Justice For All, The Black Album, Ride the Lightning, or Master Of Puppets.
Also, strangely, there appear to be digital artifacts when listening to the CD in my car. But listening to the ripped MP3s, the sound is better. Also, Hetfield’s voice presence is less annoying in the ripped MP3s. Again, like Madonna’s Hard Candy, I wonder if CDs are being mixed with the expectation of MP3 encoding. That’d be a real shame.