Metallica, ‘Beyond Magnetic’ – Album Overview
Three years after Metallica released their ninth studio album, ‘Death Magnetic,’ the band decided to venture down a new and very controversial road by unleashing ‘Lulu,’ their collaboration with Lou Reed. Released to very mixed reviews, Metallica’s fan base was ready to get back to music they recognized from their favorite band. To the joy of fans around the world, and in conjunction with their four shows in San Francisco, Calif. celebrating their 30th anniversary, Metallica released ‘Beyond Magnetic,’ an EP of never-before released studio tracks from the ‘Death Magnetic’ recording sessions.
The EP dropped digitally on Dec. 13, 2011, after the band released a track a day to coincide with the 30th anniversary shows at the Fillmore just days before. It would be nearly two months for fans to get their hands on a physical copy, and on April 21, 2012 as part of Record Store Day, the EP was released on freshly pressed vinyl. In its first week, the digital EP sold 36,000 copies, premiering at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 chart.
The four songs included on ‘Beyond Magnetic’ were recorded during the same sessions as the ten tracks that appeared on ‘Death Magnetic.’ After whittling the fourteen tracks down to ten, Metallica put the remaining four tunes to the side. According to a statement released on Metallica’s official website, the songs “are the rough mixes, unfinished to their original degree of mixing from March of 2008.”
‘Beyond Magnetic’ has the same feel as those other ten tracks from ‘Death Magnetic;’ it’s a return to classic Metallica after the 2003 release of ‘St. Anger’ and was very well received by critics and fans alike.
‘Beyond Magnetic’ Track by Track
The first track from ‘Beyond Magnetic’ made its live debut on Dec. 5, 2011 at the first show for Metallica’s 30th anniversary celebration in San Francisco. With lyrics like “Hate is a train / A beast awakened by your call / And hate is a train / A beast that never slows at all,” ‘Hate Train’ might just be the angriest tune on the EP. James Hetfield uses that anger to fuel his intensity behind the microphone, and the rest of the band matches the high level of aggression. Clocking in at 6 minutes and 59 seconds, ‘Hate Train’ is the second shortest song on ‘Beyond Magnetic.
‘Just a Bullet Away’
The second track is a tribute to late Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley. In a 2008 interview, Hetfield stated in regards to ‘Death Magnetic’ as an entire album, “Lyrically, it started as a bit of a tribute to Layne Staley and all those who’ve martyred themselves in the name of rock and roll. But it grew and evolved from there.” There’s no question that ‘Just a Bullet Away’ is the culmination of that tribute and evolution, most noticeable in lyrics like “Caressing death again / Becomes the heroin / Forbidden medicine / Puts a shine on the midnight revolver.” Over halfway through the song, Metallica pauses and puts a completely different spin on it with a hauntingly beautiful, clean guitar riff, that eventually builds back up with lead guitarist Kirk Hammett’s signature soloing. ‘Just a Bullet Away’ was the eighth song in Metallica’s set on their second night at the Fillmore.
‘Hell and Back’
Making its public debut to the Metallica Fan Club on Dec. 9, 2011, the third show of the band’s 30th anniversary celebration at the Fillmore in San Francisco. ‘Hell and Back’ has a signature Metallica feel to it, especially with Hetfield’s lyrics, “I become two / We become one / Unbridled / Unequaled / Unholy / Undone.” This is the shortest track on ‘Beyond Magnetic,’ coming in a single second shorter than the opening track on the EP.
‘Rebel of Babylon’
The longest song on the release, ‘Rebel of Babylon’ runs eight minutes and two seconds. In addition to being the longest track, it might be the most classic Metallica, full of powerful dynamics, crushing complexities and dark lyrics like, “Kill me one more time / Stigmata / Kill me one more time / Neo-martyr.” It’s a tight song that showcases each bandmember’s talents, from the thrash-inspired guitar riffs to the signature Lars Ulrich rhythm to the thumping Robert Trujillo sound truly highlighted beginning around the 5:45 mark. By the end of ‘Rebel of Babylon,’ there’s no question that it was worth waiting three years to get this masterpiece of near-perfection from the world of Metallica. The song premiered on Dec. 10, 2011 at the fourth and final show of Metallica’s 30th anniversary celebration at the Fillmore.