Metallica rewarms ‘Death’

Other than the occasional cover, Metallica has never really been known for their b-sides. That’s one of the many things that makes “Beyond Magnetic” such an interesting listen.

With the album “Death Magnetic,” released in 2008, Metallica offered “Mission: Metallica,” which was an opportunity for fans online to witness a complete “fly-on-the-wall” experience of the recording of their latest album. Fourteen songs were recorded, but only 10 made their way to the final “Death Magnetic.”

Various clips and snippets of the other four songs could be heard throughout the “Mission: Metallica” production and were given titles like “Shine” and “Hellbound” by fans worldwide.

Those final four songs were recently released as the “Beyond Magnetic” EP. During a four-day festival for the band’s 30th anniversary in December, one of those lost songs was premiered each night.

“Beyond Magnetic” collects the studio rough mixes of “Hate Train,” “Just a Bullet Away,” “Hell and Back” and “Rebel of Babylon” into nearly 30 minutes of special Metallica goodness.

Rather than sounding like the collection of leftovers that it is, “Beyond Magnetic” sounds like a solid, tight group of songs, all of which could have easily made it on an album by themselves.

“Death Magnetic” revolved around an individual who comes to the realization that, as Neil Young wrote, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” That individual’s name was Layne Staley.

Staley, former Alice in Chains singer, was found dead April 20, 2002, roughly three weeks after the Seattle singer died from a drug overdose. Metallica and Alicce in Chains have a long history together. Metallica has teased portions of Alice in Chains songs live in concert and Alice in Chains famously teased the intro to “Enter Sandman” and wrote “Friends don’t let friends get ‘Friends’ haircuts” on their guitars during their taping of MTV Unplugged.

References to Staley can be found in lyrics of “Hate Train”:

“You took away tomorrow, still I stand. Straight down into the sorrow, still I stand.”

“Just a Bullet Away”

“Redemption purify, will nothing satisfy? The scars just multiply.”

“Hell and Back”

“When they turn out all their lights, and I’m left to brood at night, always return to Hell and back.”

“Rebel of Babylon”

“He takes the poison ink, signing life away. Then takes the dirty spoon and digs his grave.”

Each of these songs takes us through Staley’s final years, which he spent as a virtual recluse after dropping out of the music scene in 1996. “Beyond Magnetic” reflects a man who has given up all hope and is destined to die alone.

The EP works as both a coda to Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” and as a tribute to the late Layne Staley..