Review Summary: Enter Sandpaper.
A bit harsh, but honestly, that's what this album kind of sounds like: taking sandpaper and rustling it in your ear. Metallica’s website seriously wasn’t kidding when it said that a few of the songs on the Six Feet Down Under EP
would be “rough”; indeed, once the record starts, one is instantly able to hear a few fans talking loudly in the foreground, their excited chatter occasionally drowning out the efforts of the band onstage.
So, points for honesty, I guess?
For the uninitiated, the Six Feet Down Under EP
was released by Metallica in September of this year to coincide with their return to Oceania (as part of the World Magnetic Tour) – after an absence of over six years. A series of performances from each other time that the band has been Down Under has been included on this EP, with two songs from each preceding tour in 1989, 1993, 1998, and 2004. Amongst Metallica’s nine studio albums, …And Justice For All
are best represented here with two songs each.
But before we go any further, let’s go back to the issue of audio quality for a little while more, for I feel that it is utterly essential to make absolutely clear that on this release it is truly a huge vortex of suck. To put it bluntly, the Six Feet Down Under EP
makes the poor mastering quality of …And Justice For All
and the senseless audio clipping of Death Magnetic
sound like an exercise in finesse. Although the recording quality drastically picks up in the second half of the album, the first four songs (“Eye of the Beholder”, “…And Justice For All”, “Through the Never”, and “The Unforgiven”) are near unlistenable. Grainy vocals, guitars that buzz thinly in the background, and drums that merely click harmlessly make this a rather horrible listening experience. Furthermore, the bass is nearly always a non-factor – and that’s seriously saying something, even for a bass-adverse band like Metallica. Even though it is hard to overlook the fact that most of the songs here are nothing more than fan-contributed bootlegs, ultimately the rough nature of this production makes for a release that is utterly jarring, woefully alienating, and altogether inaccessible for the bulk of Metallica's fans.
Yet this EP does have its moments: for one, it contains the best performance of “Low Man’s Lyric” that can be found on an official Metallica release, and it is truly pleasing to see one of Metallica’s most underrated songs finally given due justice. James Hetfield showcases the upper echelon of his vocal range on this slow number, and in doing so manages to turn in a surprisingly heartfelt and emotive performance. The rendition of yet another ReLoad
number – “Devil’s Dance” – is also absolutely fine, with the band managing to find some compatibility between Kirk Hammett’s blues-influenced tuning and the Perth Entertainment Centre’s acoustic qualities.
I could wax poetic about the eternal battle between the album’s abysmal production and Metallica’s many merits as a live act, but ultimately it comes down to this: if you feel that you can find something to enjoy in an energetic wall of static that vaguely approximates a Metallica tune (a description particularly apt for this EP’s version of “Through The Never”), or if the prospect of solid performances of a couple of underrated ReLoad
tracks excites you, then this EP should be right up your street.
Otherwise, avoid at all costs.
And start hoping that the second volume of Six Feet Down Under
(to be released later this week) sounds a wee bit better.
Author's Note: This review can also be found on my personal blog (at the address http://snuffleupagush.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/damaged-justice/).