New Releases From Metallica and Tricky

Strengths and weaknesses.

MetallicaDeath Magnetic(Warner Bros.)It's great to hear guitarist Kirk Hammett soloing again, and Lars Ulrich pounding a kit that sounds like drums instead of trash-can lids. And hey, James Hetfield's voice has ceased to crack (he's still no crooner, of course). Not to mention those riffs! The 10 long songs that make up Death Magnetic are all about Metallica playing to its strengths—not just returning to its thrash-metal roots, but infusing that classic, staccato sound with the boogie-rock roar the band explored on Load and ReLoad. The only reminders of the self-loathing, noise-besotted group that created St. Anger are the lyrics, which remain more introspective and melancholy than those of the raging, mythic early years. But when the music is as furious as album-opening volley "That Was Just Your Life," "The End of the Line," and "Broken, Beat and Scarred," it's hard to care what Hetfield's yelling about.Bassist Rob Trujillo, formerly of Suicidal Tendencies and Ozzy Osbourne's road band, gives Metallica a thicker bottom end than it's had in years. He also locks in with Ulrich, who plays with punk abandon. Aside from the piano and strings on "The Unforgiven III," Death Magnetic is the sound of four men playing very loud, very heavy metal—kudos to producer Rick Rubin for that, and for bringing this band back to life. In 2008, Metallica shows that it's confident, powerful, and ready to retake metal's throne. PHIL FREEMANTrickyKnowle West Boy(Domino)After the seething, explosive brilliance of Tricky's early albums, 1995's Maxinquaye and 1996's Pre-Millennium Tension, inspiration is spreading thin. Later releases Angels with Dirty Faces, Juxtapose, and Blowback contain a recommended song or two, but as albums they're jumbled failures.Knowle West Boy doesn't break that disappointing pattern. "Council Estate" and "Coalition" crank up the guitars and the yelling, and almost rock—but in the end they're barely convincing. And those are the standout tracks. For the most part, this disc is just more latter-day Tricky, with the claustrophobic and compelling paranoia of his early days toned down to a grumpy mutter as the music jumps among styles (barrelhouse piano and blues riffs on the opening "Puppy Toy"; post-punk guitar noise, bass throb, and one-finger synth lines on "Far Away"). Like most other post-hip-hop producer-artists, Tricky occasionally forgets that a beat is not a song, as on "Veronika," which features the titular girl singing, halfway to herself, like a young, more human Grace Jones. This Veronika (last name Coassolo, formerly of Disco Inferno and ToyTunes) is just one of many guest players here, making Tricky seem like an interloper on his own album. PHIL FREEMAN

 
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