Did the world really need another Metallica album?
Think back to what made those first four albums so great. It was energy, vitality, absolute killer fucking riffs, speed, power, thought provoking lyrics (if you don’t count a couple of misfires on “Kill ‘Em All”), and a fuck-you-we’re-doing-it-our-way attitude. So many bands either aspired to be Metallica, or realised they couldn’t match Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett/Burton/Newsted and so took different directions.
Like an erupting volcano, Metallica got too big to stay underground. The black album came along, which had huge riffs and huge sales, and has since been followed by some of the most frustratingly inconsistent music in all of metaldom. For every “Hero of the Day” or “The Day That Never Comes” there have been too many songs like “Frantic”, “Thorn Within”, “Devil’s Dance”, “Where The Wild Things Are” and “St. Anger”. There is also the issue of the well-intentioned, but over-ambitious and badly received Lou Reed collaboration “LuLu”.
Like a clumsy proctologist, this album is an exercise in simply going through the motions. The songs are long and pointless, and the album is long and pointless. The killer riff cupboard is simply empty now. It has been more than a quarter of a century since anything as memorable as “Blackened”, “Master of Puppets”, “Fight Fire With Fire” or even “The God That Failed”.
There are no highlights, nor many low lights. It’s all just at the same mediocre level. It has flashes of the once vital band, back when they were young, hungry and angry, but sounds like old, rich and slightly befuddled geezers trotting out the dinosaur rock they once railed against. There is the odd flash of inspiration though. There is a bit of actual thrash here and there. You can hear Kirk again, who went missing in action somewhere around 2001, and he no longer seems to need to be the shredding speed demon he once was, preferring to swagger and wail in a blues-y style. Lars rediscovered his second kick drum too. James’ singing voice is more tuneful than ever before. Robert is still Robert, his incredible bass playing skills underused as ever in this band, but still rock solid as fuck. These men in their 50s are still competent musicians, but have none of the fire of their early-20s selves.
The most telling factor though, is that this album is a chore to listen to. It is hard going, even on a first listen, and improves little on subsequent passes. The only song which really stands out is final track “Spit Out The Bone”, and it seems like an effort to reach it. It is an attempt to recapture the hard-and-fast finish to a Metallica album, like “Damage Inc.”, “Metal Militia” and “Dyer’s Eve”, and succeeds on its own merits, but probably benefits from being the strongest track in a 12 song trudge.
So, to answer the initial question, did the world really need another Metallica album? No, the world did not need another Metallica album, but we got one anyway. Ho hum.