Review: Metallica – Beyond Magnetic EP [2.25 out of 10]

Average Rating: 2.25/10

1. By Andrew Bansal

Metallica recently played four unreleased songs from the Death Magnetic sessions during their 30th anniversary celebration at the Fillmore in San Francisco. The songs were sent to Fan Club members for free, and subsequently made available for the general public to purchase digitally on iTunes and other outlets, as the “Beyond Magnetic EP”. And now, the band has decided to release this EP on CD format.

As a longtime Metallica fan I was excited when Death Magnetic was released, but upon being objective about it, I came to the conclusion that it’s a mediocre album. So I wasn’t really expecting anything great from this “Beyond Magnetic” release either. And sadly, I wasn’t wrong, because there really is nothing great about this 4-song EP.

“Hate Train” is the first song on it. To me it sounds like a re-hash of “Fuel”, and the similarities are pretty clear. The main guitar riff is exactly the same, and the rhythm is identical. The combination of the title and music is quite weird, because there is absolutely no aggression in the music or the vocals, and quite honestly there is nothing here that screams “Hate Train” to the listener’s. A 7-minute long track, this one drags on for way too long, and offers nothing new or original.

“Just A Bullet Away” is the next track. Once again, the riffs are extremely generic and don’t excite me even one bit. About half-way through, it goes into a really slow, mellow interlude which doesn’t really fit in with the song very well. I find that sad, because they used to be the masters of writing interludes on their old albums. It’s rather amusing that Hetfield’s vocal delivery sounds a lot like that of Michael Poulsen from Volbeat, and is a huge departure from the singing style he has always been known for. And to make things even more laughable, he belches out ridiculous lyrics like “Suck On The Barrel, Suck It Till It’s Gone Dry”.

“Hell And Back” follows, and ensures the continuation of yet more generic riffs and re-hashed music. It’s very similar in structure to songs like “One” and “The Day That Never Comes”, starting with an extended downtempo segment and gradually picking up pace in its second half. I’m glad it didn’t end up on Death Magnetic, because in essence it’s a bad, sub-standard version of the aforementioned songs.

“Rebel Of Babylon” is the final song on this EP, the final nail in the coffin. Ironically and fittingly, its lyrics consist of the words “Dig Your Grave”. This 8-minute track is unnecessarily drawn out, and would have been more tolerable if it was around 5 minutes in length. I’m all for long songs. I listen to bands like Opeth, Dream Theater, Symphony X, and love them. But in this case, Metallica is not doing anything that justifies the length of the song. I will say though, that the final 2 minutes of the song are decent, but it takes too much time to get there.

Besides the music itself, the fact that these songs are rough mixes left as they were in March 2008 makes it even harder to listen to this EP (although Tyler below disagrees on this point). There are certain segments in the music that would have surely sounded better if they had undergone proper mixing. But this is how the band has chosen to release this EP, so I can’t help but review it based on how I’m hearing it. I love Metallica as much as anybody else, but sorry, this set of songs is a far cry from the band that wrote iconic albums like Ride The Lightning, Master Of Puppets and Kill ‘Em All. If the next album has any resemblance to “Beyond Magnetic” or “Death Magnetic”, I’m afraid to say I’d rather they stop ruining their legacy.

With that said, I am still holding out hope for a good Metallica album whenever they decide to write new material, but as for “Beyond Magnetic”, it’s a hugely mediocre and unoriginal set of songs, and it doesn’t surprise me that none of them ended up on Death Magnetic, because they really are worse than the ones that made it on the album. It’s cool that they are releasing this on CD for the sake of the collectors, but I would suggest fans to keep the money safe in their pockets and just wait for the next Metallica album. But with the kind of blind fanboyism this band enjoys, I wouldn’t be surprised if this EP goes platinum. On the other hand, if you’re not a Metallica fan, this release isn’t going to change your mind.

Andrew’s Rating: 3/10

2. By Tyler Crooks

I began listening to the new Metallica EP, Beyond Magnetic, with an open mind, and a sense of hope that Metallica would write something new that could be remotely considered thrash; I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried.

The EP opens with the track “Hate Train,” which opens heavy enough, but takes a drastic turn into corporate metal territory. The riffs are just repetitive and catchy enough for a mainstream audience, James’s vocals are so typical, it’s cringe-worthy, and structurally, I think this may be the worst song Metallica has ever written in their 30 year career. The solo around 5 minutes, 30 seconds in, is literally the WORST attempt at a solo I’ve ever heard. I don’t have much else to say about this song other than as a Metallica fan, I am terribly, terribly ashamed.

The next track, “Hell and Back,” seems a lot heavier, and much more listenable than its predecessor, but that heaviness is short lived, as the verses are mostly clean guitars, with heavy bass in the background. Honestly, this song takes so many twists and turns, I don’t know how to make heads or tails of it. The switching between clean and distorted really throws me off, and makes the entire song sound very unorganized. There’s no real melody to this song, nor is there any riff that makes the song pop out. Following “Hate Train,” this track is incredibly repetitive, and offers absolutely nothing in terms of musical progression.

The next track up, “Just a Bullet Away,” sounds like an unholy cross between metalcore and St. Anger, with a hint of Hot Topic eyeliner thrown in for good measure. The chug riffs and lyrics are enough to resonate with any 13 year old outcast, but for real Metallica fans, this is definitely a song to stay away from. With an 8 minute run time, this would be a perfect song to piss your neighbors off with…Other than that, I can’t say much. It really speaks for itself.

Truth be told, I honestly can’t find anything at all to say about the last track, “Rebel of Babylon,” that I haven’t already said about the other songs. It’s bland, repetitive, and simply boring.

The one redeeming quality about this EP is the high quality mix. The sound is nice and clear, which would be nice, had the music actually been tolerable.

To all the readers out there who love Metallica, please know, I’m not bashing the band, only what the band has become. I love what Metallica used to be, but this EP is the final nail in the Metallica coffin for me. Truth be told, I’d rather listen to LuLu.

Tyler’s Rating: 1.5/10

US Release Date: January 31st 2012
Label: Warner Bros.

Track Listing:
1. Hate Train
2. Just A Bullet Away
3. Hell And Back
4. Rebel Of Babylon