Beatallica blends Metallica power with Beatles' melodies

The song was "For No One," a Paul McCartney-penned, heart-in-a-vice tear-jerker about a relationship gone Antarctica-south.

Listening to the wistful Beatles "Revolver"-era tune, you hear longing and more than a tinge of regret in McCartney's papier-mache voice.

But heading to band practice a few years back, Jaymz Lennfield heard something else.

"The chorus to it is slightly chromatic," the singer/guitarist says. "Me and my old guitar player were on the way to a rehearsal, and we were listening to the song, and it was like, 'Man, listen to this riff, it could be totally heavy.' "

So they started toying around with the tune, adding some serious torque and testosterone to it, making it something you could dislodge vertebrae while headbanging to. They penned new tongue-in-cheek, metal-worthy lyrics, introducing the peace and love of the Beatles to the pissed-off pantheon of Metallica.

The next day, they did the same to another Beatles number, resulting in the more-than-a-mouthful mash-up "Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band."

Unbeknownst to Lennfield at the time, right then and there, Beatallica was born.

It's a loud, sweaty synthesis, with the emphasis on the power and volume of Metallica underscored with the pop savvy of the Beatles.

The band's tunes tend to follow the structure of a given Metallica song, complete with muscular, white-knuckle riffing and Lennfield approximating Metallica frontman James Hetfield's signature pained, passing-a-kidney-stone howl (i.e., lots of yaa-arrghs!).

"What I'm doing with my voice is just kind of unnatural," Lennfield chuckles. "You've got to be a little bit of a chameleon."

Within this framework, the band incorporates some of the Beatles' signature melodies and lyrics, leavening the heaviness with harmony, though the songs still crunch like a Hefty bag full of broken glass.

The end result is tunes like "Hero of the Day Tripper," "Hey Dude" and "I Want to Choke Your Band," a missive against hair metal poseurs.

"You've got to make them sound seamless," Lennfield says of the band's hybridized jams. "Some songs don't match up. My favorite Beatles song and my favorite Metallica song have not ever been used in a Beatallica mash-up, because we haven't found the right formula. You just can't haphazardly go about doing songs, otherwise it sounds stilted."

The whole thing began as a lark, with each Beatallica member creating his stage moniker by combining the name of a member of Metallica and the Beatles (James Hetfield + John Lennon = Jaymz Lennfield). The other group members: Grg Hammetson, Kliff McBurtney and Ringo Larz.

"The mash-up thing just kind of started as an April Fool's party thing that we were doing," says Lennfield, whose real name is Michael Tierney. "It wasn't really meant to be this wheel that kept on turning and turning."

But after penning a few Beatles-meets-Metallica rippers, a fan took some MP3s of the songs and posted them on a website he created -- and dubbed Beatallica -- unbeknownst to the dudes who created them.

"Then he called me up and said, 'Hey man, you need to know some things about this stuff that you did,' " Lennfield recalls after the site received a good deal of traffic. "And then we said, 'Well, we should probably get a live band together, just in case.' And, like, 2½ months later, we were being flown across the country to headline a radio festival. So it was just like, 'OK, I guess there's something to this.' "

Since then, Beatallica has signed a record deal, released a pair of CDs, the most recent being the "Masterful Mystery Tour," and hit the road steadily here and abroad since their formation a decade ago.

By combining the relative mirth of the Beatles with the malevolence of Metallica, Beatallica has created something that's equally fun and fierce.

And speaking of fierce, that would only begin to characterize the reaction of some of the more staunch loyalists of both bands that Beatallica mines.

"It gets to be a little aggressive, the things that we get in the mail or in person," Lennfield says. "I've had just as many violent threats from Beatles-side people as from metal-side people. If someone being a supporter of a certain band really takes it to a level of being incensed, then that's more than being a follower of a band. You have some other issues that are burning inside."

But what about the response from the guys who created Beatallica's source material in the first place?

They haven't received any direct feedback from the Beatles camp, though they have had to endure some legal wrangling with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which controls some of the Beatles' catalog.

As for Metallica, the band is on good terms with them, having met the group several times, with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich publicly supporting Beatallica's efforts.

"It's really a very friendly relationship. It's not as heavy as what a lot of people might think," Lennfield says of his band's encounters with Metallica. "On the Beatles side, I've not talked not to anyone directly. Our label doesn't really want us to do that. There's too many people involved, too many publishers and individual owners. But, hey man, if Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr want to go out for lunch, that's cool with me."

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ or 702-383-0476.


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