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After the disaster piece "Lulu" and the overall very negative reactions, Metallica try to beg for pardon with this release and want to underline their thirtieth anniversary at the same time. During their four anniversary concerts in San Francisco, the band presented a brand new track each night and released this EP with the four tracks exclusively a few days later. What we have here are four tracks that didn't make it on Death Magnetic. They exactly sound like the overall sound of this record and have a quite mediocre production by the overrated Rick Rubin.
When we listen to the songs, it gets quite clear why they didn’t make it on the record back at the time. The tracks sound too alike to many solid tracks on Death Magnetic and desperately try to sound like the band's early thrash albums, but horribly fail. The tracks have more or less memorable riffs, always the same vocal ranges, quiet inaudible bass lines, and a mediocre drumming that sounds too loud and present once again. After a few minutes, everything is said in the songs but Metallica need to stretch them too artificially epic lengths. In fact, many old metal bands seem to think that long tracks are epic tracks but they're all wrong. I miss the band's ability to write short and sweet killer tracks like "Fight Fire With Fire", "Battery", or "Dyers Eve".
"Hate Train" is an overall solid track, but sounds like a stretched version of "Fuel". What really annoys me about the track is the pronunciation of James Hetfield. He always sings in a very artificially aggressive way and adds the letter "a" to many of his words like "stand-a", "you-a", "send-a" and so on. He always had this tendency, but it just sound too ridiculous on this one. Maybe he should take some lessons in speech and language pathology and correct this strange trademark.
"Just A Bullet Away" should have ended after four minutes, but has an unnecessary melodic break that destroys the dynamics of the tracks and leads than back to the original style. This is as predictable as it is boring.
"Hell And Back" starts promisingly, but turns around worn out riffs again after awhile. The whole tracks sounds as if the band had recorded two minutes of music and aligned the same bit two times for a length of four minutes before another predictable bridge with a guitar solo kicks off as in any other standard Metallica track from Death Magnetic or the early days. The chorus is repeated as often as in some tracks on Lulu.
"Angel Of Babylon" starts off slow, then kicks off as another fast-paced thrash track, but when I start to get bored the song has some interesting breaks and variations without losing its energizing spirit. The vocals especially show some great efforts and are quite catchy. We even have a little bass solo line in this track, but once again the band could have shortened this track about two minutes or so. Nevertheless, this song is without a doubt the best one on here and is the only one that should have made it on Death Magnetic instead of, for example, "The Judas Kiss". It's not an excellent classic, but surely a pretty good song.
In the end, this is a rather mediocre attempt to beg for pardon, but for most of the fans this strategy worked surprisingly well. People easily change their minds. After "Lulu", many never ever wanted to listen to this band and now everybody says they are back in strength. I can't agree on this. We have three mediocre and one quite good song. The tracks suffer from their useless length, their bad production, and their similarity to Death Magnetic. In the end, I would only recommend this release to diehard fans as anybody else might skip this and listen to the better tracks on Death Magnetic instead. There are too many flaws on here to say that this is a worthy release.