Metallica – Beyond Magnetic EP Review
An apology cake, prepared and delivered straight to the fans from the Metallica ovens
Well they’re calling it an ‘EP’, but it’s really a gift wrapped ‘big-bow-on-top-and-it-sparkles-so-you-forget-what-we-did’ apology cake, prepared and delivered straight to the fans from the Metallica ovens. After the DIABOLICAL excuse for an album that was the Lou Reed collaboration ‘Lulu’, we all felt a bit betrayed and abused. Metallica have never been one to bow to any public demand, or any semblance of peer pressure, but I think when the feedback from Lulu was GLOBALLY hated, even drummer Lars ‘My favourite band are the Arctic Monkeys’ Ulrich thought maybe they’d put a foot wrong with the core fanbase. Thus it was that potential ‘maybe’ that birthed the ‘Beyond Magnetic EP’, a collection of four unreleased bonus tracks from Death Magnetic’s recording session. I don’t think I was the only fan craving ANYTHING the band could put out, just to make sure they did care about us, just a little. Like an injection of the purest nitrous oxide to the critically ravaged Metallica machine, they are instantly back in top reputable form on this EP.
I’m more than happy to report that even though these tracks are in their raw unpolished form, all four of these are brilliant additions to Metallica’s already very varied discography.
The songs are all ‘unfinished’ in a way, as they were never used on the final album. So expect longer running times and an ‘everything-including-the-kitchen-sink’ mentality in terms of seeing what felt good to include at the time. In saying that, there’s only 4 songs, so let’s break ‘em down shall we?
1. Hate Train – This is the track that a lot of the fans immediately recognised as the one that fronted the majority of the bands backstage videos from the last couple of years. Opening extremely strongly with Metallica’s signature onslaught of thick meaty power chords backed solidly by Lars’ drumming, it feeds nicely into Kirk Hammett’s instantly recognisable wah tone. His lightning fast first solo then proceeds to rip your face clean off with no apologies. This is how it’s done. The song has a great groove throughout, with a cool dynamic chorus showing Hetfield’s range as a vocalist. Actually it’s worth noting he’s on top form throughout this EP, his voice sounding better than ever! Also on stellar form is Kirk ‘The Ripper’ Hammett. The main solo is fantastically frenetic but retains a great sense of rhythm, flying all over the higher end of the fretboard. Business as usual for Kirkster, but add in some neat whammy bar tricks and a mid-solo duel breakdown with Hetfield, and it rounds this performance off nicely.
2. Just A Bullet Away – Another stellar track that finds its footing after a rather strange intro. What you’ll find about these songs is that Load era ‘Tallica is much more notable, these songs are a great meld of the two Metallica eras both thrash and bluesy hard rock. Bullet has a brilliant chin nodding feel, but also has a great mid-tempo stomping pace to keep things moving. There is also a FANTASTIC mid-section where the song stops completely, only for an acoustic bridge to build up. Overlay with a brilliantly harmonised melodic piece over the top and you have, for me, the best bit on the entire EP. It’s immediately captivating, and a stellar piece of musicianship.
3. Hell And Back – One of the most memorable of the four, this is the perfect example of the groovy, cigar-chompin’ Tallica from the 90′s mixed in with the heavier tone they developed on Death Magnetic, but combined to great effect. The chorus is brilliantly memorable; the lyrics are typically genius Hetfield, dealing with addiction and alcoholism along with the comfort the bottom of the bottle offers the lonely soul. “When she starts her calling/I feel my darkness growing from within/I become two, we become one/Unbridled, unequal, unholy, undone”. Top it off with a nice solo from Kirk that extends through the closing moments of the song, and this can’t help but stay etched in your memory.
4. Rebel of Babylon – The most experimental of the 4 tunes. A slow opener with a much heavier focus on Hetfield and his lyrics, however this very quickly gives way to one of the fastest riffs I’ve heard on a Metallica record since Damage Inc. or Dyers Eve. Yeah we’re talkin’ THAT level of eyeball-melting guitar abuse. This final track carries a fantastic pace throughout the verses, but changes up for the chorus. I’ve already mentioned Hetfield’s vocals, but it’s here that he truly excels. Remember that bit just before the solo in Unforgiven III where he broke straight through the Ozone layer and slapped the moon across the face? Well he returns to that awesome level of cosmic kickassery when singing a part of the chorus, and it.is.GLORIOUS.
So there you have it, a quality set of songs throughout. Check it out if you were a fan of Death Magnetic’s core sound and fancy a little bit more, or if you were in need of some soothing balm for the burning irritation Lou Reed’s vocals left in the back of your brain.
Amazing performance from Hetfield, cool solos from Kirk, Lars’ drumming is even on top form, and Trujillo is holding his own as always. Aside from one naff lyric in Just A Bullet Away (you’ll know when you hear it) this is great effort. All is most definitely forgiven!