Top positive review
11 of 13 people found this helpful
What's not to like?
on 13 January 2014
I was a huge Metallica fan in the mid-80s Ride the lightning/Master of puppets era. I did buy 'Justice' and 'Black' but had drifted away into other things by then, to be honest and didn't pay them that much attention. Haven't heard anything by them since.
This, though, is immense and deserves close attention.
Track 1 Brandenburg Gate got my immediate attention, from the first few urgently strummed acoustic chords and Reed's spoken lyrics, but the album gets much better from there on.
2. The View features an immensely heavy riff, reminiscent of early Black Sabbath to my ears. Surely this must satisfy any metal fan and the purchase price was worth it for this song alone?
3. Pumping Blood is a bit variable. A simple riff with a wonderful whining lead guitar and Lou Reed screaming all through it but doesn't seem to be going anywhere really. With a minute to go it suddenly explodes into classic early 80s thrash. Great.
4. Mistress Dread starts off with what can only be described as a manic, breathless, relentless, thrash assault. Lou is speaking something but quite honestly who cares? It just adds to the mix. Towards the end the riffing dies down then starts again several times. Quite superb.
5. Iced Honey starts off quite poorly - just a real dirge of a plodding riff. Doesn't really go anywhere. Fairly forgettable and arguably the worst track on the album.
5. Cheat On Me slows things down with a lovely quiet intro and Lou repeating 'Why do you cheat on me?' over the top. Gradually the piece picks up pace and volume and turns into a really classy, mature piece of hard rock. Excellent.
6. Frustration. Awesome. A massive riff that my speakers can barely handle. Just a really heavy song, again with obvious Black Sabbath influences. The song pauses at times for Reed to deliver some dark poetry and the tension is almost unbearable, like the band are straining to be let loose before reintroducing the riff again. Awesome.
7. Little Dog provides a nice contrast to the heaviness of Frustration with a picked and strummed acoustic guitar and that wonderful winding/ whining drone of lead guitar in the background again. Excellent.
9. Dragon. Another slightly off-kilter track (the droning lead appears again, which is great). After a while what I would describe as the classic Metallica sound features, with those almost squeeky-clean chugging guitar riffs that they used to have.
10. Junior Dad. For me the clear standout track on the album. Reed singing softly over a beautiful melody for the first 10-11 minutes followed by 8-9 minutes of ambient style strings reminiscent of early Anathaema to my ears. Music for driving through the mountains at dusk. Just achingly beautiful.
Overall, a really interesting collection of edgy songs. Interesting to note the polarity of views on this. People seem to either love it or hate it, with relatively few people who are indifferent and giving 2-3 stars. You simply cannot be indifferent to art. Great art should force you to actually make a decision, one way or the other.
Initially I gave this a five but changed it, the reason being that I felt I had to reserve that rating for the truly exceptional, I.e. the top 5 records I've heard in my life, but nevertheless probably the most exciting record I've heard in over a decade. I'll probably come back and change to to 5 again in a couple of months. I read other reviewers saying bin this and listen to 'Master' again. But we can't simply play old stuff over and over again.
Metallica's best album anyone? To me this sounds like a band at or close to the peak of their powers, just relaxed and enjoying themselves. Reed's rich voice just blends in perfectly. I can't help feeling that 20 years from now critics will return to this and start writing how it was a classic and much underrated release.