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Metallica Album 10: Suicide or Redemption?

As Metallica post a recording-in-progress photo from the studio, what should we expect from the band’s tenth album?

In 2008, as they completed work upon their ninth studio album, Metallica took the unusual step of inviting London/San Francisco brand consultants/designers Turner Duckworth for a meeting at their San Rafael HQ in order to discuss ideas about how they might best re-engage with their audience while simultaneously refreshing the Metallica ‘brand’. Despite having little previous experience in the world of rock n’ roll – Turner Duckworth’s regular clientele includes Google, Coca-Cola and the Waitrose supermarket chain – the firm were entrusted not only with ‘modernising’ the band’s logo and collating images for a CD booklet for the quartet’s forthcoming release, but were also asked to nominate an album title from four working titles under consideration.

That this meeting was ever pencilled into the band’s diaries is a striking indication of Metallica’s state of mind as they contemplated their return with the Death Magnetic album. Still reeling from the critical mauling handed out to St. Anger, and aware just how potentially damaging the incredibly candid and bold Some Kind Of Monster documentary was in terms of tearing down their public image as untouchable metal icons, Metallica in 2008 were a band unsure of their standing in the metal world, and unsure too about where exactly they wanted to go. St. Anger might have been a mess, a desperate, panicked attempt to bind together a visibly imploding collective, but as a snapshot of the state-of-the-union in 2002/2003 it was at least painfully honest: Death Magnetic, however, though a much superior album on almost every level, would emerge as Metallica’s most self-conscious collection of songs, the sound of a superstar band second-guessing their art and their audience’s expectations, wilfully trying to recover lost ground and re-connect with their core fanbase by re-treading old ground covered on Master Of Puppets and …And Justice For All. On a business level the approach paid dividends, putting Metallica on the front foot once again, but the fact remains that Death Magnetic is the band’s most creatively dishonest release since they attempted to write a hit single with Escape on R_ide The Lightning_, a decision the band subsequently regretted so much that they wouldn’t play the song in concert until 2012.

So, where does this leave Metallica in 2015, and what can we expect from album number ten? In truth, only the four men beavering away in the studio know for sure. While there’s zero chance of the spontaneous, off-the-floor jams cultivated for Lulu informing the sound and feel of Death Magnetic’s follow-up, it’s uncertain too whether Lords Of Summer, the Hetfield/Ulrich/Trujillo composition premiered in March last year, holds any clues as to the shape of Metallica to come. 

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