Metallica Wiki
Death Magnetic
Death Magnetic (album).jpg
Released 12th September 2008
Recorded April 2007 – May 2008 at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles; June 2008 at Shangri La Studios in Malibu and San Rafael
Length 74:42
Number of tracks 10
Label Warner Bros. Records (USA)
Vertigo (Europe)
Formats LP, Cassette, CD, ITunes
Genre Thrash Metal, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Post Grunge, Alternative Metal
Previous Album
St. Anger
Next Album Self-Destruct

Death Magnetic was released on September 12, 2008 through Warner Bros. Records. It was the band's first album to be produced by Rick Rubin, making this Metallica's first album since 1988's ...And Justice for All that was not produced by Bob Rock. The album received mostly positive reviews upon release, with critics describing it as a return to the musical style of their early albums.

Musically, the album is a radical departure from Metallica's previous album, St. Anger, which featured no guitar solos and a more modern sound. Death Magnetic, on the other hand, features very long, technical guitar solos from both Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, marking a return to the band's thrash metal roots. The album was also the band's first album released through Warner Bros. Records, although they still remain with Warner Music Group, which also owns their previous label, Elektra Records. Outside of North America, they are distributed through Universal Music Group as they remain signed to Vertigo Records in the UK. The album is also the band's fifth consecutive studio album to debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., making Metallica the first band ever to do so.


Writing process

Early in 2004, James Hetfield revealed that the band had been playing new material during studio sessions, but that there was no mention of plans for a ninth studio album at that time. Select music from the jam sessions may be used on the album, as Ulrich stated, "I definitely look forward to sifting through some of that stuff when we get back to the studio in January". On that note, by October 2004 the band had already compiled nearly 50 hours of pre-set jamming, with hundreds of riffs, chord progressions and bass lines. On September 30, 2004, Launch Radio revealed from an interview with Hetfield that the band hoped to return to the studio in spring of 2005 to begin recording their ninth studio album for Warner Bros. Records.

On March 10, 2006, it was reported that the band was planning to use the following six months to write material for the album, in addition to the previous two months they had already been spending writing music. Lars Ulrich also stated that the band was getting along much better in the studio than they did during the recording of St. Anger. On April 6, Lars Ulrich revealed that the band had composed "six to seven" songs, (except for vocals), from their findings off the riff tapes recording during pre-sets of the Madly in Anger with the World Tour. He also said that by this point, the band's new material was reminiscent of "old school" Metallica works, and that it certainly did not feel like a St. Anger "part two".

On May 20, 2006, Kirk Hammett revealed that the band had 15 songs written and were writing on average two to three songs per week. Hetfield also praised producer Rick Rubin for his production style in giving the band their own freedom and keeping the pressure at a minimum, despite the sessions becoming sometimes briefly unfocused. On May 27, Metallica updated their website with a video featuring information regarding the album. Lars Ulrich, who spearheaded the video, said about the new album:

"If you're in the studio, everybody presumes you're recording or making a record. Last time there was no real separation between the writing process and the recording process. With St. Anger nobody brought in any pre-recorded stuff or ideas; it was just make it up on the spot, be in the moment. So this time we are doing exactly what we did on all the other albums; — first we're writing, then we're recording. The only difference is that we're writing where we record. So we're writing here at HQ because this is our home, we're writing in the studio."

Recording process

Three studios were used to produce the album, those being Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, Shangri La Studios in Malibu, California, and HQ in San Rafael, California. On January 1, 2007, Lars Ulrich stated in an interview with Revolver that the band would be conceiving the album much like they did their albums prior to working with ex-producer Bob Rock; they would sit down, write a select amount of songs, then enter the studio to record them. He also quoted Rubin by saying "Rubin didn't want them to start the recording process until every song that they were going to record was as close to 100 percent as possible."

On March 5, Ulrich revealed that the band had narrowed a potential 25 songs down to 14, and that they would begin recording those 14 songs on the following week. He also expanded on Rick Rubin's style of production, saying:

"Rick's big thing is to kind of have all these songs completely embedded in our bodies and basically next Monday, on D-Day, just go in and execute them. So you leave the creative element of the process out of the recording, so you go in and basically just record a bunch of songs that you know inside out and upside down, and you don't have to spend too much of your energy in the recording studio creating and thinking and analyzing and doing all that stuff. His whole analogy is, the recording process becomes more like a gig — just going in and playing and leaving all the thinking at the door."

On March 14, the band's official website issued a statement: "Metallica left the comfort of HQ this week to descend upon the greater Los Angeles area to begin recording their ninth original album. This is the first time they've recorded outside of the Bay Area since they spent time at One-on-One Studios recording their self titled album in '90 and '91." This was confirmed on July 24, 2008 on Mission: Metallica, as a video surfaced showing the crew moving into Sound City Studios of Nirvana fame.

On June 4, bassist Robert Trujillo revealed that only select portions of the two new songs debuted in Berlin and Tokyo respectively would be featured on the album. The band hoped to have the album finished by October or November, when the album would be mixed. He predicted the album would be out in February 2008. He also revealed that the songs they are working with are quite long.

On February 2, 2008, revealed that Ted Jensen from Sterling Sound Studios would be mastering the new record. According to and other sources, Greg Fidelman, who had served as a sound engineer, had also been tapped to mix the album.

Ulrich confirmed on May 15, 2008 that Metallica recorded 11 songs for Death Magnetic, although only 10 would appear on the album due to the constraints of the physical medium. The eleventh song, titled "Shine" (which was later retitled "Just a Bullet Away"), was a song Hetfield "based around a Layne Staley type, a rock and roll martyr magnetized by death."

Unreleased tracks

A number of unreleased songs from Death Magnetic, including "The New Song", "The Other New Song", "Just a Bullet Away", "Rebel of Babylon", "Hell and Back" and "Hate Train", were left off the album, but were rumored to be released as b-sides or on the next album. The titles were confirmed by Hammett and Ulrich on the MetOnTour video from December 20, 2008.

On December 5, 7, 9 and 10, 2011, the band played four new songs, "Hate Train", "Just a Bullet Away", "Hell and Back" and "Rebel of Babylon" respectively, at the Met Club concerts, which celebrate 30 years of Metallica. The day after each concert, Met Club members were sent an e-mail with a code for a free download of a rough mix of the song played at the show.

The songs were released officially as Beyond Magnetic on December 13, 2011. However, one song, based on "The New Song" (performed in 2006), still remains unreleased, and was seen being worked on in multiple videos.

Album title

Kirk Hammett also played a role in the inspiration of the title, when he brought a photograph of deceased Alice in Chains member Layne Staley to the studio where Metallica was recording. "That picture was there for a long time", said Hammett, "I think it pervaded James' psyche." Wondering why someone with such talent would choose this path, Hetfield started writing a song based on his questions (the song "Rebel of Babylon").

On July 16, 2008, Hetfield commented on the album's title:

"Death Magnetic, at least the title, to me started out as kind of a tribute to people that have fallen in our business, like Layne Staley and a lot of the people that have died, basically — rock and roll martyrs of sorts. And then it kind of grew from there, thinking about death... some people are drawn towards it, and just like a magnet, and other people are afraid of it and push. Also the concept that we're all gonna die sometimes is over-talked about and then a lot of times never talked about — no one wants to bring it up; it's the big white elephant in the living room. But we all have to deal with it at some point."

The title is referenced in the track "My Apocalypse". According to Hammett, another title considered for the album was Songs of Suicide and Forgiveness.


In January 2008, a statement was made by Stereo Warning that the album would be delayed until September 2008, but was quickly denied by Metallica's management since an album without a defined release date can not be "delayed". The album, which was completed on August 10, 2008, was released on September 12, 2008 and issued in a variety of different packages.

On September 2, a French record store began selling copies of Death Magnetic, nearly two weeks ahead of its scheduled worldwide release date, which resulted in the album being made prematurely available on peer-to-peer clients. This prompted the band's United Kingdom distributor, Vertigo Records, to officially release the album two days ahead of schedule, on September 10. It is currently unconfirmed whether Metallica or Warner Bros. will be taking any action against the retailer, though drummer Lars Ulrich who was questioned about the leak on a San Francisco radio station responded:

"We're ten days from release. I mean, from here, we're golden. If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days. Happy days. Trust me. Ten days out and it hasn't fallen off the truck yet? Everybody's happy. It's 2008 and it's part of how it is these days, so it's fine. We're happy."

He later told USA Today:

"By 2008 standards, that's a victory. If you'd told me six months ago that our record wouldn't leak until 10 days out, I would have signed up for that. We made a great record, and people seem to be getting off on it way more than anyone expected."

On the day of the release FMQB radio broadcast The World Premiere of Death Magnetic, which was heard on more than 175 stations across the U.S. and Canada. The live program from Metallica HQ featured all four members of Metallica talking with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins. Originally scheduled for a 90 minute broadcast, the show ended after two hours.


During their Escape from the Studio '06 tour, the band debuted two songs. "The New Song" debuted on the European leg in Berlin, Germany on June 6, 2006. The song, as performed, is approximately eight minutes long. The title was rumored to be entitled "Death Is Not the End" as Hetfield repeatedly sings the line throughout the song. This song would appear again in multiple "Fly on the Wall" videos on the "Mission: Metallica" website, showing the band partway through the song's recording, as noted by the slower tempo and lack of lyrics. "The Other New Song", (which was later named "Vulturous") debuted on August 12, 2006 in Tokyo, Japan, and is much shorter, taking just below four minutes to perform. To the surprise of fans, Metallica played "The Other New Song" once again on June 29, 2007 in Bilbao, Spain. Although neither of the "New Songs" appear on the album themselves, "The End of the Line" and "All Nightmare Long" both contain elements of "The New Song".

On August 9, 2008, Metallica debuted the first album track, "Cyanide", at Ozzfest, in Dallas, Texas and was performed again on August 20, 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. On August 22, 2008 at the Leeds Festival, they debuted the first single, "The Day That Never Comes".

On July 31, 2009 it was announced on that the band felt that the song "My Apocalypse" was in need of an introduction when played live to "set the mood". The statement on reads, "We've been enjoying playing 'My Apocalypse' out here on the road but felt like it could use something extra. We decided that it needed a cool intro to set the mood so James wrote one. Check out and enjoy this free download... and make sure you learn it for singing along at a future show!" The approximately minute-long introduction is available as a free MP3 download here. The song had originally been debuted live on March 25, 2009, at the LG Arena in Birmingham, UK.

Guitar Hero

Alongside the release of the album, it was released as downloadable content (DLC) for Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock. This content would later be optimized for external use in Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero: Metallica (although "All Nightmare Long" and "My Apocalpse" were included on the in-game setlist), Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero, and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.

The Guitar Hero DLC had two versions of the instrumental track; "Suicide and Redemption". Each version had its own solo, and were named accordingly to which solo they contained. "Suicide and Redemption J.H." had a solo played by James Hetfield. The other version, "Suicide and Redemption K.H." had the other solo, played by Kirk Hammett.

Due to technical restrictions, the Wii version of Guitar Hero: World Tour only could hold the three shortest songs of the eleven: "Broken, Beat and Scarred", "Cyanide" and "My Apocalypse". These songs also appear on the Wii and PS2 versions of Guitar Hero: Metallica as bonus songs instead of DLC. The eight remaining tracks (including both versions of "Suicide and Redemption") were released on November 24, 2009 as DLC for Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero for Wii.


"But if you ignore the lyrics, Death Magnetic sounds more like it's about coming back to life. Everything comes together on the fan-favorite-to-be "Broken, Beat and Scarred", which manages to channel the full force of Metallica behind a positive message: "What don't kill ya make ya more strong", Hetfield sings, with enough power to make the cliché feel fresh. The aphorism he paraphrases happens to come from Nietzsche's "Twilight of the Idols", which is subtitled "How to Philosophize with a Hammer". Metallica's philosophizing may get shaky — but long may that hammer strike." - Review by Rolling Stone, 2008

In a 2007 interview with Rolling Stone, Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum described his impressions of the unfinished songs:

Lars is a good friend of mine. He played me the demos from San Francisco, and I turned and looked at him and I said, 'Master that shit and put it out.' It's ridiculous. The demos were sick. Eight-minute songs, all these tempo changes, crazy fast. It's like, 'Dude, don't get slower when you get older, but don't get faster!? How are you gonna play this live?' And then me and Lars were out partying all night, and he had to go in the studio the next day and do this stupid like nine- or ten-minute song, and I was laughing at him — because he played me the demo of it, and it was [sings really fast drum part], so fast. I called him, and said, 'Dude, how are you feeling?' He was like, 'Dude, I'm hurting.' They're cutting everything to tape, no fuckin' Pro Tools — live, no clicks.

The album's first single, "The Day That Never Comes", was described as the most downbeat track on the album, and is said to be reminiscent of their 1990 Grammy-winning epic breakthrough single "One", Rock Sound has also compared it to the likes of Thin Lizzy. The band has abandoned the solo-free approach that they followed on St. Anger, returning to complex, multi-layered arrangements such as those typically found on the band's fourth album ...And Justice for All.

Death Magnetic has been praised by fans as well as critics as a comeback for Metallica after the widely panned St. Anger. Thrash Hits was one of the first websites, along with The Quietus to comment on Death Magnetic, calling "it is a vast improvement on 2003 album St Anger". Metal Hammer noted Death Magnetic's "sharp riffs" and "uncharacteristic bouncing grooves," and favorably compares the band's sound on the album to bands like Slayer, Led Zeppelin and Rage Against the Machine. Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy has praised the album, saying "Death Magnetic" is hands down the best Metallica album in 20 years. This is the CD I've been waiting for them to make since ...And Justice for All. And thumbs up to them for doing the first real Metallica instrumental in 20 years since "To Live Is to Die". Welcome back, boys."

While Metallica was on the first leg of their 2008 tour in Europe, a third party at their management Q Prime demanded that media impressions and blogs commenting on the album be taken down from their website for reasons that were not explained to the band. However, when the band learned of this, they were upset and Ulrich re-posted many of the links along with other reactions to the new album, along with an apology to those whose links had been removed from Metallica's website.

Reviews for the album have been mostly positive. Allmusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, stating that the album is like "hearing Metallica sound like Metallica again". Other positive reviews come from publications like The Guardian, who say that the album is "the strongest material the band have written in 20 years", and Uncut, declaring that "like all the best heavy rock albums, it suspends your disbelief, demands your attention and connects directly with your inner adolescent."

Criticism regarding production

The album has been criticized for having compromised sound quality, due to an overly compressed dynamic range, during a process called peak limiting leading to audible distortion. Sean Michaels of The Guardian explains that "the sound issues are a result of the "loudness war" – an ongoing industry effort to make recordings as loud as possible". A Rolling Stone article states that Rubin was "overseeing mixes in Los Angeles while the band is in Europe, headlining shows" and only communicated with him by conference calls. Fans have noted that these sonic problems are not present in the Guitar Hero version of the album, where the tracks are present separately because of the game mechanics and the tracks were sent to the game publishers before the process was made. MusicRadar and Rolling Stone attribute a quote to the album's mastering engineer Ted Jensen in which he claims that "mixes were already brick-walled before they arrived" for mastering and cite a petition from fans to remix or remaster the album.

On September 15, 2008, after a reviewer for Swedish daily Sydsvenskan admitted that he preferred the Guitar Hero mixes of Death Magnetic to the official release, a scheduled interview was duly cancelled by Universal Music Sweden. Its president, Per Sundin said:

"The reviewer is referring to a "BitTorrent" where someone has altered the original songs. The reviewer explains exactly where one should go in order to download the file that totally infringes on a copyright. It's not only an illegal file, but an altered file. The reviewer also writes that this is how the album should have sounded. File-sharing of music is illegal. Period. There's nothing to discuss. That fact – that Sydsvenskan has a writer that has downloaded this music illegally and then makes mention of an illegal site in his review – is totally unacceptable to us."

Metallica and Rubin initially declined to comment on the issue, while the band's co-manager Cliff Burnstein stated that complainers were in a minority and that response to the album had otherwise been "overwhelmingly positive". Ulrich later confirmed in an interview with Blender, that some creative control regarding the album's production had indeed been transferred to Rubin but also stressed his satisfaction with the final product.

Awards and accolades

Death Magnetic and its songs were nominated for five Grammy Awards, winning "Best Recording Package" and "Best Metal Performance" for "My Apocalypse" at the 51st Grammy Awards on February 8, 2009, on which Rick Rubin also received the award as "Producer of the Year, Non-Classical". The album was also nominated for Best Rock Album and "Suicide and Redemption" for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the 51st Grammys, and "The Unforgiven 3" was up for Best Hard Rock Performance the following year. Death Magnetic was awarded "Best Album" in the Kerrang! Awards 2009.

Chart performance

Death Magnetic debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 490,000 copies in just three days of availability. It is the band's fifth consecutive studio album to debut at number 1, making Metallica the first band to have five consecutive studio album releases to do so. The album marked the highest first week sales for the group since 1996's Load.

According to Billboard Magazine, in the September 27, 2008 issue, Death Magnetic landed at number 1 on the following ten charts: Billboard Top 200, Billboard Comprehensive Albums, Top Rock Albums, Top Hard Rock Albums, Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, Top Digital Albums, Top Internet Albums, Top European Albums, Tastemakers, and Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks ("The Day That Never Comes"). The album stayed at number one for three consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200. The album spent 50 consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 chart. Internationally, the album peaked at number 1 in 34 countries, including Ireland, UK, Canada, and Australia.

According to The Rock (a New Zealand radio station) the album became platinum on the first day of its release in New Zealand. In addition, nearly 60,000 copies were sold digitally, making it debut at number 1 on the Digital Album chart. The album debuted at number 1 in the UK albums chart after just three days of availability, selling 75,164 copies. The album remained at number 1 for two weeks and has sold over 150,000 copies to date. In Canada, Death Magnetic debuted at number 1 on the Canadian Albums Chart. The album sold 81,000 copies in its first week, making it the second best-selling debut album of 2008 in Canada. It remained the #1 album for four consecutive weeks. The album was certified 4x Platinum in Canada in October 2009.

In Australia, Death Magnetic was the fastest selling album of 2008, selling 55,877 copies in its first full week of release. Death Magnetic was Australia's highest-selling record in one week since Australian Idol winner Damien Leith's The Winner's Journey, in December 2006. The same success was repeated in Germany, where Death Magnetic has become the fastest selling album of 2008. Within the first three days of the album's release, Death Magnetic sold over 100,000 copies and has been certified platinum. According to reports, Death Magnetic is outselling competitors in Russia and Turkey, two countries which don't have an official album chart.

In Finland, during the second week of January 2009, Death Magnetic jumped eighteen spots back up to number 1 on that country's album charts within one week. As of August 2010 the album has sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide.

Death Magnetic was certified double platinum (2,000,000 units sold) by the RIAA on June 28, 2010.


Death Magnetic

No. Title Composer Length
1. That Was Just Your Life James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:07
2. The End of the Line James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:51
3. Broken, Beat & Scarred James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 6:25
4. The Day That Never Comes James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:55
5. All Nightmare Long James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:57
6. Cyanide James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 6:39
7. The Unforgiven III James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:46
8. The Judas Kiss James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 8:00
9. Suicide and Redemption James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 9:57
10. My Apocalypse James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 5:00
Total length:

Demo Magnetic

No. Title Composer Length
1. Hi Guy James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:10
2. Neinteen James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:34
3. Black Squirrel James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 6:12
4. Casper James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 8:14
5. Flamingo James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:59
6. German Soup James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 6:31
7. UN3 James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:50
8. Gymbag James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 7:55
9. K2LU James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 9:30
10. Ten James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 5:18
Total length:

Making Magnetic

No. Title Composer Length
1. Making of "That Was Just Your Life" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 12:01
2. Making of "The End of the Line" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 12:12
3. Making of "Broken, Beat & Scarred" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 13:20
4. Making of "The Day That Never Comes" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 10:48
5. Making of "All Nightmare Long" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 9:59
6. Making of "Cyanide" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 13:30
7. Making of "The Unforgiven 3" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 10:26
8. Making of "The Judas Kiss" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 12:36
9. Making of "Suicide and Redemption" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 12:12
10. Making of "My Apocalypse" James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo 11:50
Total length:


Mission: Metallica

  • Experience 2
Digital download of Death Magnetic at 320 kbit/s, ringtones, two live shows, additional two hours of exclusive "making of" footage, 250 photos. Also includes exclusive Mission: Metallica footage of the writing and recording of Death Magnetic, as well as riffs and excerpts from it, exclusive photos and live tracks.
  • Experience 3
A physical copy of Death Magnetic CD.
  • Experience 4
A box set of Death Magnetic on five 180 gram vinyl LP albums, with five individual sleeves and a Mission: Metallica lithograph. Also includes the same extras as Experience 2 and 3. This set was limited to 5,000 copies. Also released as a limited edition of 50 copies in white vinyl.
  • The Box Magnetic
A collector's edition white coffin-shaped box which includes a Death Magnetic CD in a special carton box, an additional CD with 10 demos of the songs from the album entitled "Demo Magnetic", a DVD of additional "making of" footage not seen on Mission: Metallica, an exclusive t-shirt with the Death Magnetic logo, a flag, guitar picks, a back stage pass, a fold out coffin-shaped poster with the members of Metallica and a collector's credit card with a code for a free download of a performance in Europe in September. This set was limited to 2,000 copies.


Additional musicians

  • David Campbell - orchestration on "The Unforgiven 3"


  • Rick Rubin – producer
  • Greg Fidelman – mixing, recording
  • Andrew Scheps – mixing
  • Mike Gillies – additional recording
  • Ted Jensen – mastering
  • Dan Monti – digital editing