What a conundrum. Things have been tough for the definitive heavy metal band of the last 25 years. Accusations of selling out have plagued the band since the black album in 1991, the curtain was pulled way back in the image-destroying Some Kind of Monster documentary, and they were written off as has-beens over the sloppy and confusing St. Anger album. What was Metallica to do?
Don't call Death Magnetic a comeback, but for all practical purposes it is a powerful return to form. It is not, however, a return to pre-1991 form – which will only fortify complaints of early era fans. But the "mainstream" Metallica is back – Hetfield's growling, dark lyrics, Hammett's screaming and intricate guitar solos, and Ulrich and Trujillo laying a hard, fast bottom to hold it all up. If any other band had released this album, it would be considered a masterpiece. But this is Metallica. What a conundrum. Four stars.