The other major problem here is “Suicide and Redemption,” a 10-minute dirge offered in the game as two separate tracks: James’ part and Kirk’s part. The former is painfully dull; the latter is painfully dull for seven minutes, and then suddenly gets incredibly fucking hard. Endless blistering triplets that shut you down and get your ass booed offstage instantly. The third time I slogged through what seemed like a half-hour of quasi-melodic farting just to get abruptly vaporized and subsequently informed that I’d only made it through 70 percent of the song was awfully demoralizing. How can I accurately review this record without hearing that last 30 percent? What if there’s a Balkan brass breakdown or a Lil Wayne cameo or something? You mean I have to downgrade and go through this bullshit on medium difficulty? That’s even more boring and demoralizing! But finally, just once, with artfully deployed star power and an inelegant, button-mashing, hail-Mary fusillade, I emerged victorious on the other side . . . and endured another unremarkable three minutes of quasi-melodic farting. I’ve got a great idea for the plot of “The Unforgiven IV.”

Early-onset arthritis is the new headbanging
Early-onset arthritis is the new headbanging

But Death Magnetic—and this truly bizarre way to experience it—is all about redemption, and for that, we’ve got “Cyanide”: a terse main riff, repetitive enough to get really good at but not tired of, coupled to James’ typically dopey lyrics (“Cyanide! Living dead inside! Break this empty shell forevermore!”). It’s maudlin high-school poetry as always, but perfect in this context—every note assigned a candy-colored button, band and audience alike rendered as goofy cartoons. It’s a toy, a cheap thrill, and oddly perfect. When the loopy solo hits, tilt that plastic axe upward, deploy star power and pray for the best. If you can’t ride the lightning, maybe you can ride it out.

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