You can be forgiven for thinking they were washed up after three mediocre albums they thought as much themselves. But a few months with Rick Rubin and a return to their thrash roots produced the best album in Metallica's catalog. What brought them back is simple: speed and length. Metallica has never played as fast or made songs that last as long. Case in point: Death Magnetic's best track, "Broken, Beat & Scarred," which has a chaotic, minute-long intro and a melody-line that bobs and weaves until the 3:30 mark, when, just after James Hetfield barks the career-defining Metallica lyric, "What don't kill ya make ya more strong," all four band members start playing as hard and as fast as they can without sacrificing a single note for another two minutes. After all these years, Metallica still has the capacity to make you bang your head. Now they just make you do it faster and longer.
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