Sunday, February 26, 2012

Metallica - Beyond Magnetic

Beyond Magnetic
Vertigo Records/Universal Music Australia

In celebration of the band’s thirtieth anniversary (Which was marked by four intimate shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco in December 2011), Metallica have released a new E.P. entitled ‘Beyond Magnetic’. As the title suggests, ‘Beyond Magnetic’ is somewhat of a companion release to their 2008 full-length release ‘Death Magnetic’, with the four tracks on the E.P. written and recorded from the same sessions that produced the said studio album.
Not surprisingly, ‘Beyond Magnetic’ doesn’t stray too far from the sound and direction heard on ‘Death Magnetic’, with the opening track ‘Hate Train’ sounding very much like it could have slotted easily onto the album without sounding out of place. Given the familiarity of sound and direction, the issues that plagued ‘Death Magnetic’ are still evident within ‘Hate Train’ – most notably Rick Rubin’s soul sucking/dry production sound, Lars Ulrich’s clunky and overbearing drum sound and vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield’s rather uninspired lyrics. But despite the song’s inherent flaws, ‘Hate Train’ is a solid track, with the band’s recent thrash-like rocking sound working more in their favour than not (Provided of course you can overlook the similarities in riffs between this effort and their 1998 single ‘Fuel’), and Kirk Hammett’s various lead breaks marking a welcome return to form for the guitarist.
In terms of genuine highlights, ‘Just A Bullet Away’ is a clear stand out with Hetfield putting in a commanding (And somewhat different) performance both vocally and lyrically, which expertly disguises the song’s striking simplicity. If there is a flaw in the song, it would have to be the pointless breakdown around the four minute mark. The abrupt end allows for an atmospheric build up that eventually bleeds into a return to the song at full speed. While it’s not the first time Metallica have tried this trick (Their classic ‘Master Of Puppets’ from 1996 is built upon the clever use of musical shades), here it sounds a little too forced and unnecessary, and ultimately leaves the song feeling a little too padded and stretched out for the sake of it.
If you overlook the overly repetitive chorus, ‘Hell And Back’ is an effective track that showcases the band’s ability to mix both rock and aggression within their song writing without sounding like they’re rehashing their past too much, while the closer ‘Rebel Of Babylon’ shows that the band still have plenty of thrash left in them. But despite its strong thrash elements and some great lead work from Hammett, Hetfield’s lyrics and the overall inconsistency of flow in the song writing department (There’s great riffs, but a rather tacked on chorus) hinders the song as a whole.
The prospect of a new E.P. from Metallica that contains leftover material from the ‘Death Magnetic’ sessions isn’t the most enticing of prospects for some fans (Especially for those who were disappointed with ‘Death Magnetic’). But despite this, ‘Beyond Magnetic’ is a solid enough release, and something that can easily be placed alongside ‘Death Magnetic’ in every conceivable way. And provided you’re a fan of that album, you’ll get something out of this release.

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© Justin Donnelly