Long story short: Beyond Magnetic is a collection of four tracks recorded for, and left off of, Metallica's 2008 album Death Magnetic. Dull description? Yes. Dull music? Not as much.
Like Death Magnetic, there are a lot of great song ideas here, and I for one appreciate the return to their more complex thrash metal roots. All the songs here feature numerous thrashy riffs, interesting arrangements, tastefully dirty production, and absolutely insipid lyrics. So: pretty much exactly what we had on Death Magentic, except more of it. That's not a bad thing, mind you. I really enjoyed that album, and I actually find the songs on Beyond Magnetic to be quite better than some of the cuts that actually made it onto Death Magnetic.
"Hate Train" starts out promisingly enough, featuring some pretty solid lead playing before the vocals even kick in, not to mention a ton of different riff changes. It also features a pretty awesome atonal solo around 2/3 of the way through. "Rebel of Babylon" is another standout track, featuring such intricate songwriting detail that hasn't been seen since ...And Justice for All. "Just a Bullet Away", however, is the highlight of the album, and it really threw me off at first--maybe it's just me, but I can't recall Metallica using such a blatantly bouncy 6/8 on any of their other pieces from recent memory. And then halfway through, out of nowhere, the song drops out, pauses, and the band come back in with a largo waltz. They then slowly build back up into the heavier sound with a pretty sick solo. It was certainly an unexpected, and welcome, surprise.
Okay, I am harping on this a bit, but I can't get over is how completely uninspired the lyrics are. That's the one thing that's really been preventing me from truly loving most of Metallica's new material. Maybe some of that is me being unreasonable--...And Justice for All was such a lyrical delight that it's hard to fairly compare the rest of their catalogue to it. But I know they're capable of better, and I can't help but feel that, if they'd just take the time for it, they really could've kicked these pieces up a few notches by improving their lyrics. Or, better yet, drop them entirely. If you're not saying anything that's worth it, why bother? The instrumental arrangements of these songs are pretty top-notch; they could easily stand on their own.
It'll be really easy to tell if you like this one: did you like Death Magnetic? Because this is more of the exact same stuff, which, to be fair, is exactly what it says on the tin. Honestly, I don't mind it; I appreciated the attempt Metallica made to return to their original sound with that album, and I certainly don't mind a few more tastes of it, especially after they've stated they're going back to the shorter, accessible heavy metal/arena rock sound with their next album. If you didn't care for that album, though, you don't need to hear this one.
And one thing we can all agree on: it's still better than Lulu.
Posted Dec. 16, 2012, 7:08 a.m.
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