Five years on and the metal goliaths have returned with Death Magnetic, and from the opening bars of "That Was Just Your Life", it is patently clear that Hetfield and co. have made a fair attempt at recapturing the same intensity that blessed Master of Puppets.
Having parted with long-time producer Bob Rock - who played bass on St Anger - and having given Rob Trujillo ample time to settle in on bass duties, Death Magnetic will sound fresh and energetic to Metallica diehards who, perhaps rightly, were affronted by St Anger. Rick Rubin's production on Death Magnetic is crisp and abrasive while avoiding sounding unprofessional. Altogether, a marked departure from its predecessor.
Middle Eastern vibes flirt with violent thrash metal on "The Day That Never Comes" - the first single - while "Cyanide" is Metallica through and through. What really hits home is Kirk Hammett's ability to hammer out guitar solos again. Hetfield and Hammett are diligent at rhythm and lead guitar respectively and this album is testament to that.
Time, however, has clearly taken its toll on the band and time itself is a significant weakness of this album. With tracks ranging between five and eight minutes in length, certain songs can feel strung out. If a minute or two could have been shed from each track on the album, Metallica could easily have had 14 songs on the album, as opposed to the 10 on offer. One can't help but wonder if the aging titans will manage to pull these off on the live front.
Nonetheless, those crying out for a return to form will no doubt salivate over 70-odd minutes of metal thrashing mayhem. Whilst it's perhaps cowardly of Metallica to try and emulate past glory, it looks like we have proof that they might well be incapable of anything else.