Monday, October 06, 2008

You Dig Metal and Melody? Get New Metallica and Disturbed CDs

I like my metal with melody. That is why I preferred Maiden and Priest over pre-Black Album Metallica in the 80s, and why I am not a giant fan of anything to do with rap, death metal or screamo. But there are lots of examples of bands that go super-duper heavy metal while retaining a strong sense of musical and vocal melody. Two new CDs that fall into this category are Indestructible by Disturbed (their fourth album), and the new Metallica album, Death Magnetic.

I don’t know a lot about Disturbed. Just got turned onto them last month but have been digging them enormously. They have the kind of intricate heavy music I like so much (a la Tool, Metallica, Sevendust, etc) but with great vocal melodies and catchy choruses. Kind of the best of both worlds in my book.

The title track (Indestructible) is a great indicator of the rest of this CD. It has a razor tight heavy groove with highly melodic vocals. In general, these guys combine a lot of elements. Razor heavy rock a la Sevendust, rhythmic, almost rap-like vocals, but somehow with loads of great melody and syncopation. This is very singable heavy rock. And it also has a groove to a lot of it, much like the Black Album had. The drummer plays behind the beat instead of on top of it, and when he does that in the speed metal parts, that makes for a very interesting groove.

I may be crazy but I almost sensed a Steve Perry-esque rasp on some of the high notes of the third track, Deceiver and especially the choruses of seventh track, Enough. The Night and Perfect Insanity take a page right out of the Metallica songbook, with complex sections and machine gun syncopation between all instruments. But then they break into totally melodic choruses that could be out of a Nickelback song (in a good way, though), then into a dual guitar solo parts right off of Powerslave. Speaking of, there is also plenty of Middle East touches, from the scales used to some of the background vocals.

The influences are pretty clear – Metallica, Sabbath, 80s metal like Maiden and Priest, and even 90s bands like Sevendust, like I said. But they do make it their own and the influences only serve as a reference point, not a distraction. You probably ought to be a fan of heavy music if you want to check this out, but all in all, the album is full of surprises and is one of the best recommendations I have received in a long time. Thanks to Kevin for this!

Death Magnetic
Then there is the new Metallica album. What can I say that has not already been said in countless blogs, the Rolling Stone cover story, and the fact that the band’s tour is selling out as we speak? Metallica is back to their true form, which is the proggy speed metal of the three albums before the Black Album.

Most of the songs clock in at six, seven, eight minutes, and they don’t stick with one tempo or arrangement for very long. The rat-a-tat speed triplet guitar chug is back in full force right from the get go and the whole band is playing like they are in their 20s again, but maybe all the experience since those days has made the band tighter and more focused. It’s a little like hearing Rush play Natural Science now. It’s the same song, but they play it much different. More maturely and dare I say with even more abandon and power.

From the first song, That Was Just Your Life, you can hear the sound of millions of 40-somethings who grew up on the first three albums in the 80s breath a collective sigh of relief and joy. This is the Metallica we have been waiting to get back to us since the Black Album.

The band hasn’t been in a vacuum all these years either. The songs here and there lean a bit on other bands that influenced Metallica in the first place or came along since. For example, the second song, The End of The Line, starts out like Pearl Jam’s Evenflow’s distant cousin. But of course it doesn’t stay there for more an a few seconds before transforming into head spinning speed. Around four minutes into the same song, we get a dual guitar harmony speed churn that sounds like it was snipped from Genghis Kahn off the first Maiden album.

The third tune, Broken Beat & Scarred has the closest thing to a sing-along chorus with the “What don’t kill ya, make ya more strong” refrain. This is my favorite song on the album. It has everything I like in a heavy tune - a great heavy groove, tremendous unison guitar-bass interplay and harmonies, singable sections, weird musical interludes etc. This song is a grand slam.

And on the album goes. I am still dissecting this thing, a month after getting it. Pay special attention to the almost 10 minute instrumental Suicide & Redemption. Epic & crushing!

Reports that the production is sloppy are exaggerated. It is a dense sounding album, but it sounds pretty raw to my ears. The production does not bother me – it’s supposed to be an aural onslaught. It’s Metallica’s fer God’s sake! I only wish you could hear the bass, but that seems to be the complaint around every Metallica album. I have no question that ‘new’ bass played Rob Trujillo is no small part of the band’s return to form. He is a monster. This will be a hell of a live show. In the meantime, get the album.


Huey Mungus said...

Thanks for the Disturbed review. Checking it out on iTunes, so the next time I start to download stuff, I think that it will be in that pile. I did check out their website and found that they will be in Spokane on Nov 29th. Closest they will get to PDX. They also are hitting Great Falls, Mt. I find that whole leg of the trip odd. I would think they would swing down to PDX/Seattle then head to Canada? Maybe they know the Gorge will be closed due to a winter storm during that time.

Also, I did get Metallica's new one. Very cool. My wife found my iPod that I thought I had stolen. So I loaded it up and playing it in the car as I drive around seeing clients!

Take Care

Adam Cox (Bart's Webguy)

Dr. John said...

Isorski - I agree with you on the Death Magnetic. I also share your one complaint about not hearing the bass. Wish they could be a little more maidenesque in that respect.

harmolodic said...

I don't take issue with the production of Death Magnetic so much as the fidelity of the mastering. The digital download I have is clipped to the point of sounding like it was mastered with the needles buried way too far *past* the red, and the vinyl LP is similarly over-mastered so that it gives off static fairly consistently. I acquired a rip of the mixes used for the Guitar Hero game, and that one definitely sounded like it was properly mastered. Plus the bass was slightly more audible than in the other versions. Other than the runaround of trying to get a listenable version of the album, I love it!

Chris said...

I like the new Metallica. I can't bring myself to look into the new Disturbed, though. I will never get past "Oooo . . . WHA - AH - AH - HA!" with that band.