Metallica - Beyond Magnetic - EP Review

Review by Mike Bax

Originally released digitally to members of Metallica's fan club in 2011, the four-song Beyond Magnetic EP by Metallica has appreciated a number of 'soft' releases over the past few months. The four mp3 files eventually leaked to torrent sites around the world and were then 'officially' released on iTunes (where I bought mine) late last year. The EP was cut to CD and commercially released in an old-school retail fashion on January 31st, selling 36,000 units it's first week of release and placing it at #32 on the BIllboard charts with virtually no promotion whatsoever. Not too shabby for a quad of B-sides.

There is speculation that Beyond Magnetic was released to quell the distaste that LuLu left in the mouths of fans - LuLu being Metallica's almost unanimously hated commercial album of music with Lou Reed, released in the last quarter of 2011. I'm not a fan of the LuLu album, but at the same time I can't really dispute its release. I think that if I was Metallica and a veteran musician like Lou Reed suggested jamming together, I'd feel like it would be criminal NOT to pursue the opportunity. Who wouldn't want to jam with someone as revered as Lou Reed, right? I'm sure the band knew it would meet with some very poisonous reviews and they STILL put it out.

Shortly afterwards, these four B-sides started to trickle around in their various forms of viral marketing.

The four songs on Beyond Magnetic; "Hate Train", "Just a Bullet Away", "Hell and Back" and "Rebel of Babylon" are all very much worth a listen. The songs are to be listened to with an understanding that they were originally not going to see release. They are not polished up to the same standards as the ten tracks on Death Magnetic. The songs are rough mixes, but are still very much quality Metallica songs. The longest offering on the EP, "Rebel of Babylon", contains some very intricate guitar work and seems to be the fan favourite of the bunch.  But personally, I like all of the songs on Beyond Magnetic. They are queued up now as songs eleven through fourteen and tagged as such in my Death Magnetic folder on my computer, and I tend to play them as a part of the entire album experience.

Very recently, Metallica announced that Beyond Magnetic will see a vinyl release on Record Store Day this April 21st. The EP will be pressed on silver vinyl to be on shelves at independent record stores all over North America.

Metallica has capped off thirty years as a band, playing a series of intimate shows at the end of 2011, committing to four nights of lengthy set lists at the Fillmore in San Francisco, CA. These performances were exclusively for members of their fan club, the Metallica Club, and tickets for each night were sold for $19.81. Metallica went to great lengths to make each evening’s set list something different, and had a stunning array of guest musicians join them onstage for assorted songs; musicians ranging from past alumni like Jason Newsted and Dave Mustaine through to musicians like Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Rob Halford, Kid Rock, Lou Reed and Marianne Faithful. Metallica rehearsed their assorted set lists like you or I might cram for an exam, committing to delivering a birthday experience like no other. In all of music history, I doubt there has been anything like these shows, nor will there be anything like them again. Each evening, Metallica played for almost three hours, showcasing different stuff each night. Most bands will attest to how hard it would be to pull off something like this - Metallica pulled it off in top form. Some of the songs on Beyond Magnetic were played at these thirtieth anniversary shows, and the fact that poor quality YouTube footage of the songs were making their way online after the performances; I'm sure it was at this point the band made the decision to release the REAL rough mixes to their audience as Beyond Magnetic.

It is of note that this summer Metallica will launch and headline headline Orion Music + More in Atlantic City, NJ at Bader Field. This may be the closest the general populace will get to witnessing something akin to their thirtieth anniversary shows in San Francisco. Metallica will perform Ride The Lightning and The Black Album in their entirety over the two nights, and I would imagine they will vary the rest of their live sets up as much as possible for the patrons paying for two days at the festival. The line-up for Orion Music + More will span many musical genres - everything from punk to country. So far, over 20 bands will perform, including: Arctic Monkeys, Avenged Sevenfold, Modest Mouse, The Gaslight Anthem, Cage The Elephant, Fucked Up, Best Coast, Hot Snakes, Titus Andronicus, Gary Clark Jr., Lucero, Roky Erickson, The Black Angels, The Sword, Liturgy, and more to be announced in the coming weeks. It could become one of the most diversified festivals in America if fans are willing to partake.