Friday, February 3, 2012

Reviews: Metallica- Beyond Magnetic; Fastway- Eat Dog Eat

METALLICA/ Beyond Magnetic (Warner Bros., 2012)
I am surprised that they didn't title this rushed release what it really is: damage control. After that disasterous Lou Reed Lulu album bombed, all of a sudden out of nowhere came this EP. This move completely defies everything that this band has done in the past. Metallica is one of the most calculating bands of the last quarter century.
I typically don't buy digital only releases, as I like getting a physical product for my money. This was released as an iTunes exclusive in December, and I passed. It saw a physical CD release on January 31 here in the States, so I jumped on it. These songs are leftovers from the 2007/2008 Death Magnetic recording sessions, and are presented here in rough mix form. Think of the production of B-sides Breadfan and The Prince, only slightly cleaner, and you get the idea of the sound quality here. I prefer this sound to the spit shined, brick walled production that the album proper got.
There are 4 songs on this EP, and they are all middle of the road except for Rebel of Babylon, which has plenty of punch. One of the things about Metallica that drives me nuts is how they kill a good groove or barreling freight train vibe with unnecessary time and tempo changes. I refer to this as 'stick shift Rock', as the herky jerky motion makes it feel like riding with an inexperienced driver in a car with a manual transmission. They need a producer to come in with a razor blade and shave off all of this nonsense and get to the meat of the song.
This release comes in a jewel box with a single page panel insert with credits. A bare bones package for a bare bones release. What do you want for $5.00, though? I'm just happy that this received a physical release.
FASTWAY/ Eat Dog Eat (SPV, 2011)
Fastway's first studio album in 21 years was released overseas last November, but I held off ordering it in anticipation of a Stateside release. Two months passed, and I caved and ordered it on AmazonUK, only to find out that it will be released in North America in April. D'OH! I have a strange sense of loyalty to bands that I liked during my formative years, regardless of whether or not I've gotten over them, or even if they put out a string of bad albums. Fastway fits both bills, as they have more bad albums than good ones.
On this, their seventh album, lead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke has reconstituted/ reconstructed the band as a trio. Clarke is the only original member, but this is not a deal breaker, since the band changed members with every release anyways. The deal breaker for most will be that original vocalist Dave King is absent. Toby Jepson is the third front man that the band has had, and he sounds like a young David Coverdale. Think of Coverdale's bluesier howl, like when he fronted Deep Purple in the mid '70s. He's good but does not have King's charisma or power.
Fast Eddie Clarke's tone is still warm and hasn't changed since the '80s. This is okay by me, as I love '70s and '80s Hard Rock. These guys are definitely not chasing modern trends, that's for sure. Fastway circa 2011 sounds a lot like Fastway circa 1984, minus the songwriting. This album has its moments, but the songs are mostly mid-tempo and laid back. The only song that even comes close to the amped up boogie attack of the first two albums is Leave the Light On, which is great. This is not a bad album by any stretch, but it does not compare to the first two albums or the Trick or Treat soundtrack. Fast Eddie Clarke can still shred when he wants to...the problem is that he doesn't do very many grab-you-by-the-balls guitar solos anymore.
And yes, that album cover totally sucks.

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