Metallica. The worlds biggest metal band, a driving force in the music world and a multi million dollar business in their own right. A band that has always done exactly what they want when they want to do it, but a band that has also seemed scared to show the cracks in their façade.
Well, not so much it would seem. It’s a strange thing that in Metallica‘s 30 year history I have never known the band to release a single b-side (I could be wrong, that is just my knowledge of things) sure they have released live versions and albums worth of cover songs but never things that they themselves believed to be less than A material (say what you will about “Load,” “Reload,” “St. Anger” and “Lulu”) but the band has never released anything they personally felt to be inferior regardless of whether that was the popular opinion or not. Knowing this makes what I am about to review seem even stranger, as Metallica have allowed four b-sides from the “Death Magnetic” recording sessions to be released as digital EP entitled “Beyond Magnetic.”
Now, if I were a cynical man, and allowed myself to speculate on the reasons behind this release, I could say they did it to wash the taste of “Lulu” out of people’s mouths and have at least one release in 2011 that people will claim was worthy of their name.
I could also speculate that these are actually new recordings that the band is releasing under the guise of b-sides to test the waters on new material, I mean after all “Death Magnetic” is now 3 years old and this is the first we are hearing about these songs, why wait until now to release them?
Or maybe, it is as advertised, just a little treat for the fans to help celebrate the bands 30th anniversary. Whatever the case may be it is definitely out of character for a band that is so precise about what the allow people to hear from them.
The EP itself clocks in at about 30 minutes and features the tracks ‘Hate Train,’ ‘Just A Bullet Away,’ ‘Hell and Back’ and ‘Rebel Of Babylon.’
‘Hate Train’ is a typical Metallica rager and reminds me of ‘Fuel’ somewhat in the main riff, it’s fast and aggressive but also shorter than some of the bands recent output. ‘Hate Train’ feels instantly like a “Death Magnetic” track, it has all the hallmarks of the opening few tracks on that album and its a shame that it didn’t make it on to the main album as it would have added a nice break in pace to “Death Magnetic” and some of the longer songs that album has to offer.
‘Just A Bullet Away’ is a typical James Hetfield track, not a Metallica one, but a Hetfield one, the chorus and vocals on this are so distinctive that they could have only been written and sung by one man, this is the one song on this EP that when I heard it, I thought it would find its way nicely into a live set as it has that live appeal to it and the live footage that I saw of it proved my point.
‘Hell and Back’ is the one track on here that I really don’t like all that much and that is more to do with pacing than anything else, it’s just far too flabby and drawn out and the moment in the middle where it goes quiet and you think its ended only for it to start back up again and carry on really didn’t do anything for me and caused the song to drag even further in my opinion. In saying that, I am surprised this wasn’t an album track given how long winded most of “Death Magnetic” is.
The last track on the EP ‘Rebel Of Babylon’ is my favourite track here and is a somewhat mid paced affair with lyrics about an outcast, possibly Christ like figure and shows Metallica crafting a song with stark imagery in a similar vein to ‘One,’ and sees something a little different to the three tracks that are elsewhere on here, it is another song that could have quite easily been released as a Metallica single and gone on to become a fan favourite, and hopefully now it will get that chance.
Overall, “Beyond Magnetic” is a nice little stop gap release for Metallica and goes a little way to clearing the taste of “Lulu” out of people’s mouths but also gives us something to look forward to as we prepare for the bands next full length release.