It has been three years since Metallica released Death Magnetic, the combo’s ninth studio album and a bit of a callback to their earlier incarnation as a shred first, ask questions later juggernaut. Much of the credit for that album probably belongs to Rick Rubin, who produced Death Magnetic after four straight albums with Bob Rock behind the decks.
In news that will thrill some, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo confirmed to a radio station that the band was headed back into the studio with Rubin for another album. They’ll have to wait until they’re finished with Big 4 business, which means they’ll have time to consider what they’re doing.
Because no matter what you thought of Death Magnetic (and I’ll put it out there right now that I was not a fan at all, though plenty of people thought it was great), there were some definite problems embedded within. So here are five things the band and Rubin should keep in mind while working on a new project.
1. Be heavy, not hard
Like U2 before them, Metallica used the turn of the century to go back to their old school. They have produced two straight albums (Death Magnetic and 2003’s St. Anger) that focus more on lean jackhammer riffs than the sort of extra-loud ZZ Top vibe they had found on Load and ReLoad. But here’s the thing: Even 25 years later, they’re still not as hard as Slayer, so they should really focus more on being heavy. The difference is subtle, but the group is way better at the latter than the former (at one time it was reversed, but no matter how good you thought Death Magnetic was, it was no Ride the Lightning).
2. Keep track of the volume knob
If there’s one thing that everybody could agree on regarding Death Magnetic, it’s that it was loud. In fact, it triggered an entire loudness war that made everybody question the way albums were being produced. A note to everybody involved: We get it. You like the volume really high. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. Nobody is challenging your ability to split ear drums at this point. Let everybody actually hear the riffs. With that in mind…
3. Remember to ease up
Rubin has worked on plenty of albums that have nothing to do with metal, and while they probably shouldn’t get into hip-hop again, the four men in Metallica are capable of changing it up. Go ahead and break out the acoustic guitars. Let Lars get a little playful on the kit. Does Trujillo want to be funkier? They he should go for it! A little color goes a long way (though remember that your primary color is black).
4. Let Hetfield croon
Metallica frontman James Hetfield has one of the most identifiable voices in all of rock, and he’s special because he is capable of a guttural rasp, a melodic croon and a country twang (sometimes all on the same song). He should be using all of those variations on a new disc.
5. No song sequels
Even people who liked Death Magnetic agreed that “The Unforgiven III” was a weak point. Song sequels really shouldn’t be allowed by federal law, so let’s remember that as much as “Sad But True …er” might seem like a good idea, just remember that S&M also seemed like a good idea in the beginning.
Readers, do you agree? Sound off in the comments below.
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