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James Hetfield Tag

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We, at the site, really do strive to bring the coolest stuff possible to the readers and I think you’d agree our commitment pays off. But sometimes things float through our transom that don’t make it to the site for one reason or another. Such was the case when your own, your very own Dirk McQuickly Jason Hare e-mailed some links to the staff. A friend of his transferred old cassettes recorded from radio broadcasts in the ’80s, complete with commercials, DJ banter and other ephemera, to MP3. Nerdlet that I am, I downloaded as many as I could and reveled in a little regressive therapy at maximum volume.

Then I recalled, “Wait a minute. I’m a notorious packrat! I might have a few tapes of my own!” I did, in fact. Recordings of the fabled WPLJ from 1980s New York actually existed in a tape box that had an inch of dust congealed atop it. I thought this would be a very cool addition to our little Internet menagerie, and it would have been – were it not for the fact I only bought the cheapest, crappy blanks back then.

Yes, friends, the tapes had stretched, warped, some even seized up into circular spools of utter uselessness, but all were rendered ruined by time. But that doesn’t stop a man on a mission, now does it? I decided to build the playlist back from the ground up, based on the information on the J-card. Also, this one particular tape was playable but it sounded horrible, warbly, drifting in azimuth alignment so that sound meandered from fuzzy and muddy to irritatingly sharp.

There are several degrees of expectation, but the key ones are low expectation, high expectation, and original Metallica fans. You’re aware of the first two, I’m sure, but number three may be a mystery to you, and for good reason, as satisfaction requires nothing less than a wormhole in time, a crate of Jagermeister, and just maybe the reanimated dead. Intrigued?

Friday marks the release of Metallica’s latest, Death Magnetic, and already the fists are flying. Some are claiming it’s a return to the sound somewhere between … And Justice for All (1988) and the eponymous “Black Album” (1991), and they’re not too far off. Balancing between the hard rock Metallica’s been working for the past decade and the guitar-solo heavy thrash of their earlier benchmarks, Death Magnetic is a study in compromises. Yes, it was produced by Rick Rubin, who made his early mark producing Slayer. (He’s also produced Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.) Yes, it has that dry, reverb-adverse sound that dogged Metallica’s previous album, St. Anger (2003). Yes, guitarist Kirk Hammett gets to wail again. No, this is not Master of Puppets II.

That last bit is key — after having been promised and teased that those young and angry lunatics had returned, we have the album you would expect to have followed the previous ones. Robert Trujillo is a fine bass player, but, to paraphrase Chevy Chase, Cliff Burton is still dead. Thank you and have a pleasant tomorrow.

This is where the divide becomes clear: those who appreciated “The Black Album” will find much to like about the new one, and not unintentionally. There’s a reason why the dominant graphic tone on the cover is a stark, blinding white and why we’re now up to “The Unforgiven III.” But to those who thought of “The Black Album” as some kind of heresy, this is another injustice (pardon the pun).