Metallica, "Death Magnetic" (Warner Bros.)

Metallica regresses in the best way on this highly anticipated CD. Following 2003's painfully weak "St. Anger" and a self-obsessed documentary ("Some Kind of Monster"), James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Company are more metal here than they've been since 1988's "And Justice for All." Parting with producer Bob Rock, who took them mainstream, helps; Rick Rubin has breathed new life into the band. "Death Magnetic" is not on par with Metallica's classics, but this is as close as it'll ever come to the epic songs it once churned out with ease -- only two of the 10 tracks on "Death Magnetic" clock in at under seven minutes. "That Was Just Your Life" kicks off softly with shades of "(Welcome Home) Sanitarium" before exploding with a trademark Hetfield staccato riff. Then, the thrash and complex arrangements just keep coming in waves. "The End of the Line" is a bit political, but blisters the ears throughout. The band showcases its 1990s persona with "The Unforgiven III" and "The Day That Never Comes" and overpowers with a long instrumental, "Suicide and Redemption." Kirk Hammett's lead guitar was subdued on "St. Anger," but here his shredding, dynamic solos remain otherworldly. And then there's Ulrich, whose drums are once again thunderous. The lyrical scope attempts a backward leap to Hetfield's cryptic 1980s approach, but meanders a bit and doesn't contain one truly soaring moment. However, with an assault unlike any Metallica has offered in 20 years, complaining about that seems like crying over spilled milk.

JOHN KOSIK, Associated Press


Patty Loveless, "Sleepless Nights" (Saguardo Road)

Loveless applies her pure Appalachian voice to 14 covers of stone country songs originated by George Jones, Webb Pierce, Ray Price and others. The only problem is that at 14 cuts, this disc winds up to be a bit too much of a good thing. Loveless' powerful voice starts to feel like wailing over the long haul. Approach "Sleepless Nights" the way you'd consume a box of Godiva chocolates -- some now, some later -- and you'll be in for a rich treat.