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Beyond Magnetic

Vertigo (2012)
Rating: 6/10

The mighty Metallica return with a release full of songs that didn’t make the cut on their “comeback” album, Death Magnetic. This collection was originally made available to their fan club members and then released to the rest of us digitally. Finally, it has been made available as a physical release to most major retailers. The EP comes nipping on the heels of the band’s poorly received collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu.

Beyond Magnetic opens with a wallop. ‘Hate Train’ hits the ground running and is the closest thing to “old Metallica” we have heard since ‘The Black Album’ (Metallica). That said, it still has a lot of groove, ala ‘The Black Album’ and Load, but just hits a little harder and grinds a little faster during the main verses (especially from the rhythm section). ‘Just A Bullet Away’ is up next and sounds more in line with what the band reached out with on Death Magnetic. It’s got some galloping guitars, some nice lead work, and plenty of quick fills that keep you engulfed in the song. Hetfield’s vocals here are pretty exceptional. While he’s certainly not the same vocalist he was in the 80s, he plays to his strengths more on this song than he does on the whole of Death Magnetic. ‘Hell And Back’ is the most notable cast away here, sounding very similar to the cuts that made the album proper but lacking any sort of bite and having a heavy alternative rock edge that likely will have haters of Load up in arms quickly. ‘Rebel Of Babylon’ is a sort of an epic, rock ’n’ roll ride that is pretty unique for Metallica. The band’s penchant for The Misfits and Danzig really rears its head here, especially in the crunchy guitar work and Hetfield’s swift and overtly aggressive vocals. This song obviously doesn’t fit into any kind of Metallica context and I kinda like that about it. It’s one of those songs that definitely grows on you over repeated listens.

While I’m guessing the release of these four songs has long been in the works, you can’t help but notice that this seems an awful lot like damage control from the release of Lulu. All four songs here are, at a minimum, solid songs. The production wasn’t completely finished and the raw sound actually elevates them in my opinion. It’s a nice treat for fans anxiously awaiting the elusive next album but there isn’t really anything on here that will make you stop and wonder why it didn’t make Death Magnetic.

Mark Fisher