Death Magnetic is the ninth studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on September 12, 2008 through Warner Bros. Records. It was the band's first album to be produced by Rick Rubin, making this their first album since ...And Justice For All (1988) not to be produced by Bob Rock. The album was the first by the band to feature bass guitarist Robert Trujillo.
Musically, Death Magnetic is a radical departure from Metallica's previous album, St. Anger (2003), which featured simple instrumentation, downtuned guitars, stripped-down production, and an absence of guitar solos. This album, on the other hand, features more complex musical compositions and long, technical guitar solos from both Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, and standard guitar tuning in most songs, marking a return to the band's thrash metal roots. The album received mostly positive reviews upon release, with critics describing it as a return to the musical style of their early albums. Despite its praise, there was much criticism aimed at the album's production, which featured an overly compressed dynamic range that caused some songs to feature poor sound quality.
Death Magnetic was the band's first album released through Warner Bros., although they still remain with Warner Music Group, which also owns their previous label, Elektra Records. Outside of North America, they are distributed through Universal Music Group as they remain signed to Vertigo Records in the UK. The album was also Metallica's fifth consecutive studio album to debut at number 1 on the US Billboard 200, making them the first band ever to do so. In support of the album, Metallica commenced on the World Magnetic Tour from 2008 until 2010. All of Death Magnetic was made available as downloadable content in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
Early in 2004, lead singer James Hetfield revealed that Metallica had been playing new material during studio sessions, but that there was no mention of plans for a ninth studio album at that time. Select music from the jam sessions may be used on the album, as Lars Ulrich stated, "I definitely look forward to sifting through some of that stuff when we get back to the studio in January." On that note, by October 2004, the band had already compiled nearly 50 hours of pre-set jamming, with hundreds of riffs, chord progressions and bass lines. On September 30, 2004, Launch Radio revealed from an interview with Hetfield that the band hoped to return to the studio in spring of 2005 to begin recording their ninth studio album for Warner Bros. Records.
On March 10, 2006, it was reported that Metallica was planning to use the following six months to write material for the album, in addition to the previous two months they had already been spending writing music. Ulrich also stated that the band was getting along much better in the studio than they did during the recording of St. Anger. On April 6, he revealed that the band had composed "six to seven" songs (except for vocals) from their findings off the riff tapes recording during pre-sets of the Madly in Anger with the World Tour. He also said that by this point, the band's new material was reminiscent of "old school" Metallica works, and that it certainly did not feel like a St. Anger "part two".
On May 20, 2006, Kirk Hammett revealed that the band had fifteen songs written and were writing on average two to three songs per week. Hetfield also praised producer Rick Rubin for his production style in giving the band their own freedom and keeping the pressure at a minimum, despite the sessions becoming sometimes briefly unfocused. On May 27, Metallica updated their website with a video featuring information regarding the album.
Three studios were used to produce the album, those being Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, Shangri La Studios in Malibu, California, and HQ in San Rafael, California. On January 1, 2007, Ulrich stated in an interview with Revolver that the band would be conceiving the album much like they did their albums prior to working with ex-producer Bob Rock; they would sit down, write a select amount of songs, then enter the studio to record them. He also quoted Rubin by saying "Rubin didn't want them to start the recording process until every song that they were going to record was as close to 100 percent as possible."
On March 5, Ulrich revealed that the band had narrowed a potential 25 songs down to fourteen, and that they would begin recording those fourteen on the following week. He also expanded on Rubin's style of production, saying,
Rick's big thing is to kind of have all these songs completely embedded in our bodies and basically next Monday, on D-Day, just go in and execute them. So you leave the creative element of the process out of the recording, so you go in and basically just record a bunch of songs that you know inside out and upside down, and you don't have to spend too much of your energy in the recording studio creating and thinking and analyzing and doing all that stuff. His whole analogy is, the recording process becomes more like a gig — just going in and playing and leaving all the thinking at the door.
On March 14, the band's official website issued a statement: "Metallica left the comfort of HQ this week to descend upon the greater Los Angeles area to begin recording their ninth original album. This is the first time they've recorded outside of the Bay Area since they spent time at One-on-One Studios recording their self titled album in 1990 and '91." This was confirmed on July 24, 2008 on Mission: Metallica, as a video surfaced showing the crew moving into Sound City Studios of Nirvana fame.
On June 4, Robert Trujillo revealed that only select portions of the two new songs debuted in Berlin and Tokyo respectively would be featured on the album. The band hoped to have the album finished by October or November, when the album would be mixed. He predicted the album would be out in February 2008, and revealed that the songs they were working with were quite long.
On February 2, 2008, Sterlingsound.com revealed that Ted Jensen from Sterling Sound Studios would be mastering the new record. According to Blabbermouth.net and other sources, Greg Fidelman, who had served as a sound engineer, had also been tapped to mix the album.
Ulrich confirmed on May 15, 2008 that Metallica recorded eleven songs for Death Magnetic, although only ten would appear on the album due to the constraints of the physical medium. The eleventh song, titled "Shine" (which was later retitled "Just a Bullet Away"), was a song Hetfield "based around a Layne Staley type, a rock & roll martyr magnetized by death."
A number of unreleased songs from Death Magnetic, including the above-mentioned "Just A Bullet Away", but also "Hell and Back", "Hate Train" and "Rebel of Babylon" were left off the album, but were rumored to be released as b-sides or on the next album. The titles were confirmed by Hammett and Ulrich on the MetOnTour video from December 20, 2008. On December 5, 7, 9 and 10, 2011, the band played four new songs, "Hate Train", "Just a Bullet Away", "Hell and Back" and "Rebel of Babylon", at the band's 30th Anniversary concerts. The day after each concert, MetClub members were sent an e-mail with a code for a free download of a rough mix of the song played at the show. The songs were released officially on the Beyond Magnetic EP, released on December 13, 2011. Two other songs recorded during Death Magnetic, based on "The New Song" (performed in 2006) and "The Other New Song" (performed in 2006 and 2007), have not been released, though parts of "The New Song" can be found in the recorded songs "The End of the Line" and "All Nightmare Long".
Kirk Hammett played a role in inspiring the album title by bringing a photograph of deceased Alice in Chains member Layne Staley to the studio where Metallica was recording. "That picture was there for a long time", said Hammett, "I think it pervaded James' psyche." Wondering why someone with Staley's talent would choose to use drugs so heavily and die so young, Hetfield started writing a song based on his questions (the song "Rebel of Babylon").
On July 16, 2008, Hetfield commented on the album's title:
Death Magnetic, at least the title, to me started out as kind of a tribute to people that have fallen in our business, like Layne Staley and a lot of the people that have died, basically — rock and roll martyrs of sorts. And then it kind of grew from there, thinking about death… some people are drawn towards it, and just like a magnet, and other people are afraid of it and push. Also the concept that we're all gonna die sometimes is over-talked about and then a lot of times never talked about — no one wants to bring it up; it's the big white elephant in the living room. But we all have to deal with it at some point.
The title is referenced in the track "My Apocalypse". According to Hammett, another title considered for the album was Songs of Suicide and Forgiveness. Death Magnetic was eventually picked out of four working titles when Hetfield met with creative agency Turner Duckworth, who were brought to deal with the album's visual identity, and as he discussed the songs "it was clear that they were all linked to death, facing up to the nature of death, and the fear and attraction that surrounds death."
In January 2008, a statement was made by Stereo Warning that the album would be delayed until September 2008, The album, which was completed on August 10, 2008, was released on September 12 in the United States and issued in a variety of different packages.
On September 2, a French record store began selling copies of Death Magnetic, nearly two weeks ahead of its scheduled worldwide release date, which resulted in the album being made prematurely available on peer-to-peer clients. This prompted the band's UK distributor, Vertigo Records, to officially release the album two days ahead of schedule, on September 12. Ulrich, who was questioned about the leak on a San Francisco radio station, responded,
We're ten days from release. I mean, from here, we're golden. If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days. Happy days. Trust me. Ten days out and it hasn't fallen off the truck yet? Everybody's happy. It's 2008 and it's part of how it is these days, so it's fine. We're happy.
He later told USA Today,
By 2008 standards, that's a victory. If you'd told me six months ago that our record wouldn't leak until 10 days out, I would have signed up for that. We made a great record, and people seem to be getting off on it way more than anyone expected.
During their Escape from the Studio '06 tour, Metallica debuted two songs. "The New Song" debuted on the European leg in Berlin, Germany on June 6, 2006. The song, as performed, is approximately eight minutes long. The title was rumored to be "Death Is Not the End" as Hetfield repeatedly sings the line throughout the song. This song would appear again in multiple Fly on the Wall videos on the Mission: Metallica website, showing the band partway through the song's recording, as noted by the slower tempo and lack of lyrics. "The Other New Song", (which was later named "Vulturous") debuted on August 12, 2006 in Tokyo, Japan, and is much shorter, taking just below four minutes to perform. To the surprise of fans, Metallica played "The Other New Song" once again on June 29, 2007 in Bilbao, Spain. Although neither of the "New Songs" appear on the album themselves, "The End of the Line" and "All Nightmare Long" both contain elements of "The New Song".
On August 9, 2008, Metallica debuted the first album track, "Cyanide", at Ozzfest, in Dallas, Texas and was performed again on August 20, 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. On August 22, at the Leeds Festival, they debuted the first single, "The Day That Never Comes".
On July 31, 2009 it was announced on Metallica.com that the band felt that the song "My Apocalypse" was in need of an introduction when played live to "set the mood". The statement on Metallica.com reads, "We've been enjoying playing 'My Apocalypse' out here on the road but felt like it could use something extra. We decided that it needed a cool intro to set the mood so James wrote one. Check out and enjoy this free download... and make sure you learn it for singing along at a future show!" The approximately minute-long introduction is available as a free MP3 download. The song had originally been debuted live on March 25, 2009, at the LG Arena in Birmingham, UK.
On the day of the release FMQB radio broadcast The World Premiere of Death Magnetic, which was heard on more than 175 stations across the US and Canada. The live program from Metallica HQ featured all four members of Metallica talking with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins. Originally scheduled for a 90-minute broadcast, the show ended after two hours.
Ulrich brought the agency Turner Duckworth, co-owned by his personal friend David Turner, as he wanted someone that "would bring fresh ideas", and commanded respect in branding but were not jaded by the music business". While Turner and his partner Bruce Duckworth played with the two elements from the title, they emerged with the cover that combined a white coffin, a grave, and a magnetic field, depicted by a model made and photographed by Andy Grimshaw. Turner added the image was "simple and literal but at the same time open to all sorts of interpretations", saying that Hetfield considered the coffin shaped as "a door, to another experience, or consciousness". Duckworth stated that the cover fit their intention of something that would also be recognizable in a digital format, "small icons that go on your phone or iPod".
Turner compared the Metallica project with a campaign they did for Coca-Cola, as both approaches went down to "stripping things back down to what the brand was originally and the other part was adding a fresh new approach." The original Metallica logo was brought back to demonstrate how the band was trying to restore their old identity, while the cover was primarily white to contrast how the color is hardly used in the metal genre. Given the band wanted the physical release to be memorable to ensure it still had valuable in an age where audiences were purchasing more digital music, the original digipak featuring a layered die cut, where each page of the booklet resembled a layer of dirt being thrown on the coffin. Death Magnetic was issued on vinyl in a special box set, and also had a deluxe edition shaped like a coffin, bundled along with an additional disc full of demos, a making-of DVD, an exclusive T-shirt, guitar picks, a flag and a fold-out poster.
Alongside the release of the album, it was released as downloadable content (DLC) for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. This content would later be optimized for external use in Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero: Metallica (although "All Nightmare Long" was included on the in-game setlist), Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero, and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.
The Guitar Hero DLC had two versions of the instrumental track "Suicide & Redemption." The versions differed by the guitar solo performed on the song: one version had a solo performed by Hetfield, the other a solo by Hammett. The tracks were titled according to the solo they contained, with the Hetfield version named "Suicide & Redemption J.H." and the Hammett version named "Suicide & Redemption K.H."
Due to technical restrictions, the Wii version of Guitar Hero: World Tour only could hold the three shortest songs of the eleven: "Broken, Beat & Scarred", "Cyanide" and "My Apocalypse". These songs also appear on the Wii and PS2 versions of Guitar Hero: Metallica as bonus songs instead of DLC. The eight remaining tracks (including both versions of "Suicide & Redemption") were released on November 24, 2009 as DLC for Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero for Wii.
Metallica promoted Death Magnetic with the World Magnetic Tour, which started on October 21, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona. The North American leg finished on February 2009 and was followed by European concerts, interrupted only by a surprise gig at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas to promote the video game Guitar Hero: Metallica. A second North American leg, prioritizing markets missed by the original concerts, begun on September. The tour returned to both continents while also extending to Latin America, Israel, Japan and Oceania in 2010, ending on November 21 in Melbourne, Australia. The 2010 Sonisphere Festival headlined by Metallica had them for the first time accompanied by the rest of the "Big Four of thrash metal", Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, and the concert where all bands played together for one song was released theatrically and on home video as The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria. Metallica also released in November 2009 two video albums out of World Magnetic Tour performances that year, Orgullo, Pasión, y Gloria: Tres Noches en la Ciudad de México featuring three Mexico City concerts in June, and Français Pour une Nuit with a concert in the French town of Nîmes in July.
Lars is a good friend of mine. He played me the demos from San Francisco, and I turned and looked at him and I said, 'Master that shit and put it out.' It's ridiculous. The demos were sick. Eight-minute songs, all these tempo changes, crazy fast. It's like, 'Dude, don't get slower when you get older, but don't get faster!? How are you gonna play this live?' And then me and Lars were out partying all night, and he had to go in the studio the next day and do this stupid like nine- or ten-minute song, and I was laughing at him — because he played me the demo of it, and it was [sings really fast drum part], so fast. I called him, and said, 'Dude, how are you feeling?' He was like, 'Dude, I'm hurting.' They're cutting everything to tape, no fuckin' Pro Tools — live, no clicks.
The album's first single, "The Day That Never Comes", was described by BBC Music as the closest thing to a ballad on the album. Rock Sound has also compared it to the likes of Thin Lizzy. The band has abandoned the solo-free approach that they followed on St. Anger, returning to complex, multi-layered arrangements such as those typically found on the band's fourth album ...And Justice for All.
Death Magnetic has been praised by fans as well as critics as a comeback for Metallica after the widely panned St. Anger. Thrash Hits was one of the first websites, along with The Quietus to comment on Death Magnetic, claiming "it is a vast improvement on 2003 album St Anger." Metal Hammer noted Death Magnetic's "sharp riffs" and "uncharacteristic bouncing grooves", and favorably compares the band's sound on the album to bands like Slayer, Led Zeppelin and Rage Against the Machine. Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy has praised the album, saying "Death Magnetic is hands down the best Metallica album in 20 years. This is the CD I've been waiting for them to make since …And Justice for All. And thumbs up to them for doing the first real Metallica instrumental in 20 years since 'To Live Is to Die'. Welcome back, boys."
While Metallica was on the first leg of their 2008 tour in Europe, a third party at their management Q Prime demanded that media impressions and blogs commenting on the album be taken down from their website for reasons that were not explained to the band. However, when the band learned of this, they were upset and Ulrich re-posted many of the links along with other reactions to the new album, along with an apology to those whose links had been removed from Metallica's website.
Reviews for the album have been mostly positive. Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine stated the album was like "hearing Metallica sound like Metallica again". Other positive reviews come from publications like The Guardian, who say that the album is "the strongest material the band have written in 20 years", and Uncut, declaring that "like all the best heavy rock albums, it suspends your disbelief, demands your attention and connects directly with your inner adolescent." BBC Music's Chris Jones felt that Hetfield's lyrics had become "the channel of his post-therapy angst". The Observer stated "...it's a joy to have these gnarled veterans back to reinforce the sheer visceral thrill of timeless heavy metal".
On September 15, 2008, after a reviewer for Swedish daily Sydsvenskan admitted that he preferred a shortened mix of Death Magnetic to the official release, a scheduled interview was duly cancelled by Universal Music Sweden. Its president, Per Sundin said:
The reviewer is referring to a BitTorrent where someone has altered the original songs. The reviewer explains exactly where one should go in order to download the file that totally infringes on a copyright. It's not only an illegal file, but an altered file. The reviewer also writes that this is how the album should have sounded. File-sharing of music is illegal. Period. There's nothing to discuss. That fact – that Sydsvenskan has a writer that has downloaded this music illegally and then makes mention of an illegal site in his review – is totally unacceptable to us.
The album has been criticized for having compromised sound quality, due to an overly compressed dynamic range, during a process called peak limiting leading to audible distortion. Sean Michaels of The Guardian explains that "the sound issues are a result of the 'loudness war' – an ongoing industry effort to make recordings as loud as possible". A Rolling Stone article states that Rubin was "overseeing mixes in Los Angeles while the band is in Europe, headlining shows" and only communicated with him by conference calls. Fans have noted that these sonic problems are not present in the Guitar Hero version of the album, where the tracks are presented separately because of the game mechanics and the tracks were sent to the game publishers before the process was made. MusicRadar and Rolling Stone attribute a quote to the album's mastering engineer Ted Jensen in which he claims that "mixes were already brick-walled before they arrived" for mastering and cite a petition from fans to remix or remaster the album.
Metallica and Rubin initially declined to comment on the issue, while the band's co-manager Cliff Burnstein stated that complainers were in a minority and that response to the album had otherwise been "overwhelmingly positive". Ulrich later confirmed in an interview with Blender, that some creative control regarding the album's production had indeed been transferred to Rubin but also stressed his satisfaction with the final product.
Death Magnetic and its songs were nominated for five Grammy Awards at the 51st Grammy Awards on February 8, 2009, including Best Rock Album and Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Suicide & Redemption", winning Best Metal Performance for "My Apocalypse". Rick Rubin also received the award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, and art directors Bruce Duckworth, David Turner & Sarah Moffat were awarded Best Recording Package. "The Unforgiven III" was also nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 52nd Grammy Awards. Death Magnetic was awarded Best Album in the 2009 Kerrang! Awards.
|Q||UK||50 Best Albums of the Year||2008||#25|
|Uncut||UK||50 Best Albums of 2008||2008||#44|
|TIME||U.S.||Top 10 Albums of 2008||2008||#3|
|Revolver||U.S.||The 20 Best Albums of 2008||2008||#1|
|Rolling Stone||U.S.||Best Albums of 2008||2008||#9|
|Metal Edge||U.S.||50 Best Albums of 2008||2008||#2|
|Metal Hammer||UK||Critics' 50 Top Albums of 2008||2008||#1|
|Kerrang!||UK||Albums of the Year 2008||2008||#1|
|Metal Maniacs||U.S.||20 Metal Albums of 2008||2008||#20|
Death Magnetic debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling 490,000 copies in just three days of availability. It is the band's fifth consecutive studio album to debut at #1, making Metallica the first and, to date, only band to have five consecutive studio album releases to do so. The album marked the highest first week sales for the group since 1996's Load.
According to Billboard Magazine, in the September 27, 2008 issue, Death Magnetic landed at #1 on the following ten charts: Billboard Top 200, Billboard Comprehensive Albums, Top Rock Albums, Top Hard Rock Albums, Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, Top Digital Albums, Top Internet Albums, Top European Albums, Tastemakers, and Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks ("The Day That Never Comes"). The album stayed at #1 for three consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200, and spent 50 consecutive weeks on said chart. Internationally, it peaked at #1 in 34 countries, including Ireland, the UK, Canada and Australia.
According to The Rock (a New Zealand radio station) the album became platinum on the first day of its release in New Zealand. In addition, nearly 60,000 copies were sold digitally, making it debut at #1 on the Digital Album chart. The album debuted at #1 on the UK albums chart after just three days of availability, selling 75,164 copies. It remained at #1 for two weeks and has sold over 150,000 copies to date. In Canada, Death Magnetic debuted at #1 on the Canadian Albums Chart. It sold 81,000 copies in its first week, making it the second best-selling debut album of 2008 in Canada. It remained the #1 album for four consecutive weeks. The album was certified 4x platinum in Canada in October 2009.
In Australia, Death Magnetic was the fastest selling album of 2008, selling 55,877 copies in its first full week of release. Death Magnetic was Australia's highest-selling record in one week since Australian Idol winner Damien Leith's The Winner's Journey, in December 2006. The same success was repeated in Germany, where Death Magnetic has become the fastest selling album of 2008. Within the first three days of the album's release, Death Magnetic sold over 100,000 copies and has been certified platinum. According to reports, Death Magnetic is outselling competitors in Russia and Turkey, two countries which do not have an official album chart.
In Finland, during the second week of January 2009, Death Magnetic jumped eighteen spots back up to #1 on that country's album charts within one week.
Death Magnetic was certified 2x platinum (two million units sold) by the RIAA on June 28, 2010.
|1.||"That Was Just Your Life"||7:08|
|2.||"The End of the Line"||7:52|
|3.||"Broken, Beat & Scarred"||6:25|
|4.||"The Day That Never Comes"||7:56|
|5.||"All Nightmare Long"||7:58|
|7.||"The Unforgiven III"||7:46|
|8.||"The Judas Kiss"||8:00|
|9.||"Suicide & Redemption" (Instrumental)||9:58|
|Deluxe edition bonus DVD – a documentary film Making Magnetic|
|1.||"That Was Just Your Life"||12:01|
|2.||"The End of the Line"||12:12|
|3.||"Broken, Beat & Scarred"||13:20|
|4.||"The Day That Never Comes"||10:48|
|5.||"All Nightmare Long"||9:59|
|7.||"The Unforgiven III"||10:26|
|8.||"The Judas Kiss"||12:36|
|9.||"Suicide & Redemption" (Instrumental)||12:12|
|Deluxe edition bonus CD – Demo Magnetic Demo versions of tracks from the standard album with working titles but a parallel order|
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Gold||30,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||4× Platinum||320,000^|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||2× Platinum||60,000^|
|Finland (Musiikkituottajat)||3× Platinum||79,415|
|Germany (BVMI)||2× Platinum||400,000^|
|Greece (IFPI Greece)||Platinum||15,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Platinum||15,000^|
|Sweden (GLF)||2× Platinum||80,000^|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||30,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||330,398|
|United States (RIAA)||2× Platinum||2,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
|United Kingdom||September 12, 2008||Vertigo Records||Compact Disc, digipak, deluxe carton box, 2LP (33 rpm), 5LP box (45 rpm 180-gram vinyl)||1773726|
|Mexico||Universal Music||Compact Disc, Super Jewel Case|
|Colombia||Vertigo Records||Compact Disc||602517840201|
|Finland||Universal Music||Compact Disc, digipak, deluxe carton box||—|
|Japan||Compact Disc, deluxe carton box||UICR-1077|
|United States||Warner Bros. Records||Compact Disc, deluxe carton box, 2LP (33 rpm), 5LP box (45 rpm 180-gram vinyl)||508732-2|
|Canada||Warner Music||Compact Disc, digipak||2-508732|
|Poland||Universal Music||Compact Disc, deluxe carton box||—|
|Portugal||Compact Disc, deluxe carton box||00602517737280|
|Switzerland||Compact Disc, deluxe carton box||—|
|Europe||Compact Disc, Coffin Box Set, Deluxe CD Carton Case||00602517737280|
|India||Compact Disc, digipak, coffin box set||602517737266|
|Australia||September 13, 2008||Compact Disc, limited edition die-cut deluxe digipak||00602517737280|
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