Friday, 19 September 2008

Album review: Death Magnetic by Metallica

Metallica, Death Magnetic (Vertigo, 2008)

Metallica didn't have to do this. After their last album—the hugely disappointing St. Anger (2003), which was itself far less noteworthy than the Spinal Tap-esque making-of documentary Some Kind of Monster accompanying it—they could have happily called it a day and lived off the proceeds of the many tens of millions of album sales to date stretching back to before I was born, and the rock kudos of, well, every album except St. Anger.

Not a bit of it. After a five-year gap they are back, with an album that is being hyped as "a throwback to the band's pre-1990s style" (Amazon). While the term "throwback" might imply disapproval, more sympathetic sources were also indicating that this effort would be more thrash than anything for quite a while. So, in order to prepare myself to be able to accurately judge that claim, I listened to Ride The Lightning (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986) before buying this disk, all the while mildly concerned at the new album having a name only slightly less silly than the previous one.

I really can't give Death Magnetic any higher praise than to say that it holds its own next to the two aforementioned masterpieces. Not that it's an album quite like those, mind. There are thrash moments throughout, particularly on the opening track That Was Just Your Life and the closing track My Apocalypse (which has a galloping riff which rather reminds me of The Four Horsemen off Kill 'Em All), and it is overall fast and heavy, but these aspects are well mixed with the kind of funky licks more redolent of Metallica's 1990s albums, particularly on the tracks The End of The Line (my favourite) and The Unforgiven III. Also, ironically, while Ride The Lightning had its Fade To Black and Master of Puppets its Welcome Home (Sanitarium), this release doesn't afford the listener the space to catch breath with a quieter track. The closest we come to that is the first half of the first single The Day That Never Comes, but then the track builds to a furious crescendo with some killer guitar work. And does Kirk Hammett ever shread. Wow. I'm not one of the people who was overly bothered at St. Anger not containing any guitar solos, but still their return is welcome with Kirk playing like this.

Just one quibble, though: the lyrics. One of the most memorable parts of the Some Kind of Monster documentary (rockumentary?) , for me, was the scene of the band members laughing derisively at some truly awful proposed lyrics... which later ended up on the St. Anger album! While the lyrics here aren't quite at that level of corniness, I do wonder if there were any meetings like that during the making of this record, too. Maybe it's personal taste, but I find it surprising that a band with such pedigree at writing anti-war lyrics would pass those up, given the state of the world today, for songs which are positive about suicide and demons. I won't do a detailed analysis like I did in my last album review because I simply don't think they mean it.

All that said, this album comes recommended, at least for all heavy metal fans. And maybe not only them: Metallica's performance on Later With Jools Holland (BBC2) this week made all the other acts look stupid.

Track list:
  1. That Was Just Your Life
  2. The End of The Line
  3. Broken, Beat & Scarred
  4. The Day That Never Comes
  5. All Nightmare Long
  6. Cyanide
  7. The Unforgiven III
  8. The Judas Kiss
  9. Suicide And Redemption
  10. My Apocalypse

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Palin's ex-pastor's prophecy

So, Ed Kalnin reckons he knows that the world will end soon:
Scripture specifically mentions oil instability as a sign of the Rapture. We’re seeing more and more oil wars. The contractions of the fulfilment of prophecies are getting tighter and tighter. [...] I’m looking out the window and I can see it’s going to rain [...] I’m just looking at the turmoil of the world, Iraq, other places – everywhere people are fighting against Christ.
Well, in all my Bible reading I haven't found the bit where "Scripture specifically mentions oil instability as a sign of the Rapture". However, I did find the following passages, recording the words of Jesus:
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.
(Mark 13:32-36),
It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
(Acts 1:7) and
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
(Matthew 24:6). Look, for all I know Pastor Kalnins might be right, but he can't know that he's right, not according to the above verses. I'll just do my best to be ready whenever Jesus returns. That's what I advise everyone else to do, too.

Monday, 8 September 2008

For those about to go to university

I write this because the beginning of the academic year is around now, and many people find leaving home and going to university a time of strain for their faith. This can be for a variety of reasons which I won't go into now. What I will do is repeat the advice given to the character Alyosha by Father Paisy on the former's leaving his monastery aged 18, in Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov:
‘Remember, young one, untiringly’ – thus did Father Paisy begin, directly and without any preamble – ‘that secular learning, having united itself into a great power, has studied all the celestial things that were bequeathed to us in the Holy Books, and after the cruel analysis of the scholars of this world there remains of all the earlier holiness absolutely nothing at all. But their study was conducted piecemeal, and they missed the whole; indeed, such blindness is positively worth of marvel. Whereas the whole stands right before their eyes immovably as ever, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Has it not lived for nineteen centuries, does it not live even now in the movements of individual souls and the movements of the popular masses? Even in the souls of those very atheists who have destroyed everything it lives, as ever, immovably! For even the disavowers of Christianity and those in mutiny against it are in their essence of the same Christian mould, and such they have remained, for to this day neither their wisdom, nor the fervour of their hearts has been vigorous enough to create a higher image of man and his dignity than the one indicated of old by Christ. Such attempts as there have been to do so have resulted only in monstrosities. Make particular note of that, young one, for into the world you are appointed by your departing Elder. It may be that in remembering this great day, you will not forget my words either, words given you in cordial parting, for you are young, and the world’s temptations are heavy and it is not in your power to bear them. Well go now, orphan.’
The part I've highlighted is the part I agree the most with, and marvel that Dostoyevsky wrote it before the Russian revolution. Go, take on the world. But remember you creator.