Magnetic songs revive Metallica

Greg Kot

1 Min Read

Stadium-level bands inevitably wind up playing what are essentially greatest-hits tours. Whether it’s the Rolling Stones, AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses, these concert giants rarely showcase their most recent songs, instead relying on decades-old warhorses to keep their fans satisfied.

That wasn’t the case with Metallica on its three-year world tour following the release of “Death Magnetic” in 2008. It was the band’s first album in five years and the ninth of its career, but in many ways it felt like a fresh start, a renewal of the band’s origins as thrash-metal pioneers. It also marked the first album recorded with the band’s new lineup; Robert Trujillo had replaced Jason Newsted as the quartet’s full-time bassist after “St. Anger” was recorded in 2003.

That sense of the band reconnecting with its best self was affirmed during the subsequent tour, with as many as half of the 10 “Death Magnetic” songs sprinkled into the set lists. Seven of the new tracks were spread across the two shows (Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, 2009) from Quebec, Canada, documented on the “Quebec Magnetic” documentary.

Little wonder “Death Magnetic” has become for many Metallica fans the go-to album from the second half of the band’s career. Here’s a deeper look into the “Death Magnetic” songs the quartet spotlighted in its 2009 Quebec shows:

“That Was Just Your Life”
The tone-setter for “Death Magnetic” opens the album with the sound of an amplified heart beat and the tale of a soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome. In an album obsessed with mortality, echoes of the creeping “Black Album” classic “Enter Sandman” strike the appropriate note of paranoia. The fierce interplay between James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett – at times evoking the doubled guitar lines of band favorites Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest -- underlines the desperation in Hetfield’s trauma-victim vocals: “Curse the day is long, realize you don’t belong.” The song also announces Kirk Hammett’s re-emergence as a great guitar soloist; his spotlight moments were largely MIA on “St. Anger.”

Greg Kot is the editorial director of The Coda Collection. He is also the cohost of the nationally syndicated public-radio show and podcast “Sound Opinions” with Jim DeRogatis, and previously the music critic at the Chicago Tribune for 30 years. His books include acclaimed biographies of Mavis Staples (“I’ll Take You There”) and Wilco (“Learning How to Die”) and a history of the digital music revolution (“Ripped”). He also coauthored “The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Rivalry” and has written extensively for Rolling Stone, BBC Culture and Encyclopedia Britannica. When he takes off the headphones, Kot coaches in his Chicago-based youth travel basketball program ( In addition, he has coauthored two best-selling editions of the book “Survival Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball.”

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