Just got my hands on this 2CD set... and here is my initial song-by-song reaction. Expect a more detailed breakdown in a podcast at some point.
1. Brandenburg Gate - Lou Reed sounds like he is trying to old-man shout over Metallica. He and Hetfield keep telling me that they are small town girls. This is like when my mom tells me metal is just noise... because that is what this is to me. Holy fuck this is awful... and it just goes on and on and on and on... one fuckin note bullshit. The opening is the only good thing.
2. The View - Compared to the first track, this fucker is fuckin' genius. I apologize for everything I ever said about it. Brandenburg Gate has shown me the error of my ways. The View has won me over. I am starting to worry that this is the best track.
3. Pumping Blood - Thumpthumpthump and Lou Reed old-man barking "PUMPING BLOOD" with the beat. Suddenly the noise ends and Lou Reed talks over a clean guitar. This isn't horrible, something that surprises me. But Lars loves hitting that crash for no reason. Suddenly, as it is getting good, Lou yells at James to "come on" which takes me out of the narrative. Though, Lars' random drumming probably has something to do with that too. There are actually some kind of cool things going on musically here. The thing is, Lou Reed's monotone yammering isn't adding any weight to it... he just brings the shit down, making Metallica's sometimes cool riffs sound less constructed and more jammy, like these guys are writing it on the spot. The track ends with some Metallica jamming that will make people wish it was the opening of their next real song.
4. Mistress Dread - HOLY FUCK METALLICA IS PLAYING SUPER FUCKIN FAST AND THIS IS AWEohshit here comes fuckin' Lou Reed ruining it all. It is a pretty cool riff, sounding a bit like a riff from Disposable Heroes. I guess this is a good sign that the guys are still somewhere within that head space (finish writing your next album before you lose it!). The riff changes a tad but not much, sounding like Battery during those brief moments. Lou Reed sounds so fuckin' out of place it is painful listening to him. Around the 5 minute mark it slows down briefly before galloping off again. For this brief period Lou's rambling almost fits. Metallica ends the track 5 times or some shit for no reason whatsoever. Perhaps they are practicing for the next album.
5. Iced Honey - This sounds like a pure Lou Reed construct. As such, it is probably the first track on the album that kind of works as a song. Lou Reed's voice is still killing me but at least it doesn't sound totally out of place here. If you have seen Metallica and Lou Reed playing together at the Hall of Fame concert, then this should remind you of that.
6. Cheat On Me - It sounds kind of pretty... and then some old dude starts talking. But this kind of works. However, Reed's insistence on repeating lyrics, followed by James aping the same in a horrific pitchy whine... nearly brings the track down. This could likely have fit right on Reloadier, Metallica's third in the Load albums. I do kind of appreciate the quality in this one. But why did it need to go on for ELEVEN FUCKIN MINUTES?!
7. Frustration - Noise... noise... noise... Black Sabbath jumps in. The riffs in this aren't complex but there is a heavy coolness about them that reminds me that I wouldn't mind if the next Metallica album was some heavy Sad But True type shit with a more Sabbathy edge. Anyway, Lou Reed is probably the most annoying on this track during lulls in the music. I want to stab out my ears! Thankfully, Metallica saves this one with their heaviness. I fuckin' hate Lou Reed's voice, did I mention that? "I wish that I could kill you!" he says, and I shout it back at him! Then Metallica kicks in with a faster version of the riff with some differences and it is pretty fuckin' cool and I have never wished for the "Delete Lou" option more.
8. Little Dog - Clean open with Lou Reed's old-man breathing. Seriously, you hear him breathing right into the mic and I don't know if he means to do it for effect or if he is just so fuckin' old and unaware that he doesn't know he is BREATHING INTO THE FUCKIN MIC IN A CREEPY GROSS OLD FUCK KIND OF WAY! Funnily enough, as delivered, I could totally see this track working in a movie, TV show, or even as a music video. There is a true quality of concept here. But for 8 minutes? Come on. Still, so far The View and Little Dog are the only tracks I feel work from concept to execution into narrative.
9. Dragon - For nearly the first 3 minutes, Lou Reed is back to his annoying ways and then Metallica kicks in and it makes you sad again that this riff, or at least the idea of it, was wasted on this album. If you put the three really good riffs that have been heard so far into a new Metallica song, it would be pretty badass. In any event, outside of the first 3 minutes of this ELEVEN MINUTE track, this one isn't terrible and the riff is worth hearing. Lou Reed's rambling almost fits. This would probably have made a better single if not for the holy-shit-too-long running time.
10. Junior Dad - The track that made James and Kirk cry. It is OK, I guess. I am sleepy now. It feels like the most thought out of the songs, with respect to achieving some kind of artsy, avant garde quality. Perhaps had Lou Reed and Metallica spent more time working these songs out, the album would work better from both concept and execution.
If I had to rate this, based on my initial listen, the album gets:
65 out of 100
Not as shitty as I expected but nowhere near as good as Metallica and Lou Reed apologists, in their respective delusional camps, will proclaim it to be.
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