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It’s hard to say who detests Metallica more: the post–“Black Album”/post-therapy bandmembers themselves (if their lyrics are to be believed), or their fans, whose twisted hate of their idols could be said to exceed the self-hate of the men in black. Since Metallica’s albums tend to be spaced apart by half a decade, each new record has been, for the faithful, a frustrating game of Lucy-pulling-the-football-away-from-Charlie-Brown: first the agony-inducing bummer that was the double dose of Load and ReLoad, then the quizzical ugliness of group-therapy by-product St. Anger. Well, listening to this new Rick Rubin–produced record in all its glory, I can only say, “Huzzah!” (or rather, “Huzzah-ahhh!”, as James Hetfield might put it). First and foremost: anyone who saw the Some Kind of Monster documentary and remembers the debate on whether there should be guitar solos will be pleased to hear that Mssrs. Hammett and Hetfield finally decided to change their votes to “yes”: the lead break that comes in at 5:33 of “The Unforgiven III” might be the most face-melting moment in the Metallica discography. Of special note is the 10-minute instrumental “Suicide and Redemption”: listening to it, you almost forget that there are supposed to be words in rock songs, since it’s filled with building riffs, escalating volleys of tension and release, and moments of frantic drum abandon from Lars Ulrich that should do a lot to redeem his standing in Modern Drummer’s Drummer of the Year polls. In summation: I give this one FOUR STARZ-AHH!!

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