I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Beatallica—"Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band"
Record Label: Oglio Records
Release Year: 2007
I first heard of Beatallica in the early 2000s, when I read a rave review of one of their demo tapes in Metal Maniacs magazine, with the writer proclaiming it to be his "pick of the f***ing year!"
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based band’s shtick–“mashing up” bits and pieces of Metallica and Beatles songs and titles to create original, all-new mutations like “A Garage Dayz Nite” or “Blackened The U.S.S.R.”–sounded hilarious, and I became an instant fan as soon as I checked out the tunes the band had made available for free download on their web site.
Beatallica didn't know it yet, but they were in for an interesting couple of years. As their music drew attention from the metal press and the massive Beatles fanbase, they quickly became a bona fide viral Internet phenomenon. Their sudden notoriety also had a downside, as they narrowly avoided serious legal trouble with Sony/ATV, controllers of the Beatles catalog, who apparently didn’t find the band’s mash-ups as funny as everyone else.
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich himself stepped in on Beatallica’s behalf and helped put an end to the legal wrangling, which paved the way for the band to finally sign a recording contract and release their first official studio album, Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band, on Oglio Records in 2007.
If you’ve never experienced the madness of Beatallica before, you are in for a treat when you pop this one into your CD player!!
"Blackened the U.S.S.R."
Obviously it helps to have a working knowledge of both the Metallica catalog and the Beatles' oeuvre in order to truly "get" Beatallica. The first thing that most listeners will notice is that vocalist Jaymz Lennfield’s impression of James Hetfield is hilariously dead-on, right down to the trademark "Yeeeaaa-aaaah's" and "whoooaaa-oh's!" When Beatallica’s songs first started making the file-sharing rounds in the early 2000s, his imitation was so convincing that some listeners actually thought they were tapes of the real Metallica guys goofing around!
Jaymz's three cohorts – guitarist Grg Hammettson, bassist Kliff McBurtney and drummer Ringo Larz are no slouches on their respective instruments, either. This is a tight, well oiled, and yes, extremely HEAVY machine. Most of the time, when you hear a group described as a “joke band” or a “parody act,” they turn out to be a half-assed musical package, but Beatallica are the real deal. These guys can play like muthafuggas and their songs show a deep knowledge and reverence for the material of both bands, which only increases my admiration. I bet if they really wanted to, these guys could bash out a pretty bad-ass album of original old-school thrash metal tunes, but hey, if they'd rather drink beer, dress up in funny costumes, and blast out bad-ass ditties with titles like "And Justice For All My Loving" and "Leper Madonna," I'm all for it.
"Helvester of Skelter"
Most of the songs on Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band were re-recorded from the early, “classic” batch of tracks that were widely available on the Internet back in the day,. which may have been something of a bummer for longtime supporters, but first time listeners can’t go wrong with any of the hellacious numbers on offer here, like “A Garage Dayz Nite,” “Hey Dude,” and “Leper Madonna.” Aside from their obviously beefier, more professional production and sound quality, I've only detected a few slight tweaks from the original demo versions -- there are less F-bombs than on the originals, but the frequent references to beer remain!
Of the four “new” tracks on Sgt. Hetfield's..., “Helvester of Skelter” (a combo of “Harvester of Sorrow” and “Helter Skelter”) takes the prize as not only the best song on this disc, but the best song Beatallica has come up with. The bass-crushing “Anesthesia (I’m Only Sleeping)” showcases Kliff McBurtney's chops most admirably and “Ktulu (He’s So Heavy)” is a masterpiece of tripped out heaviness as well. Beatallica manages to be hilarious and head-bangable at the same time, which is not an easy feat. (Yeah, I'm looking at YOU, Steel Panther!) The first time I heard this disc back in '07, I immediately raised a frosty brew and proclaimed myself a die hard Beatalli-banger for life!
Summing It Up
Your mileage may vary with this band depending on your level of Beatles and/or Metallica fanhood (or how twisted your sense of humor is), but I’m still laughing and throwin' the "metal devil horns" with every spin of this album and wondering when, or if, the “real” Metallica will ever deliver something this heavy and listenable again. Beatallica has released two other studio albums since this debut (2009's Masterful Mystery Tour and 2013's Abbey Load) and they're both well worth investigating, too. Thumbs up, WAY up!
© 2019 Keith Abt