The 10 most imaginative covers of Metallica songs

Photos of Metallica, Apocalyptica, Kamasi Washington and Rodrigo Y Gabriela onstage
(Image credit: Metallica: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for P+ and MTV | Apocalyptica: Miikka Skaffari/Redferns | Kamasi Washington: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella | Rodrigo Y Gabriela: Rick Kern/WireImage)

Metallica are so huge that their appeal transcends the confines of heavy metal. In America especially, the Four Horsemen are an accepted cornerstone of mainstream culture, selling out stadiums in every city – sometimes twice over in the same weekend. They’ve inspired musicians well outside of long-haired headbangers as a result, and the 10 covers below prove it. From jazz icons to YouTube prodigies, here are the artists that have pushed metal’s biggest band into the most unexpected of soundscapes.

Metal Hammer line break

Kamasi Washington – My Friend Of Misery (The Metallica Blacklist, 2021)

On the Black Album, My Friend Of Misery is a gloomy deep cut that lambasts the hollowness of society’s loudmouths. Kamasi Washington’s reimagining broadly fits the same description, but the saxophonist also reinvents the song as a soulful, explosive and polyrhythmic jazz rock piece. Although the uninitiated would never guess this version’s roots in Metallica, its blend of the original’s mood with an all-new musical vocabulary represents an ambition more covers should strive for.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela – One (Live In Japan, 2008)

At first, acoustic guitar dynamos Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s take on One doesn’t sound too far removed from the original. It opens with the same melody as Metallica’s version, becoming increasingly intense as it unfolds, but then the pair start to flaunt their talents. Everything accelerates, notes get added in, the vocals are replaced by sly nods to the Fade To Black riff – it’s a completely fresh take by the time the tandem are done.

Moses Sumney – The Unforgiven (The Metallica Blacklist, 2021)

One of the rare artists in the modern music landscape to feel truly unique, Moses Sumney rocketed to mainstream acclaim with his jazzy, shamanic and avant-garde pop in the late 2010s. The concept of him getting his hands on The Unforgiven for Metallica’s Blacklist project was a mouthwatering one, and unsurprisingly he redefined it. Sumney’s interpretation is hypnotic and distinct, yet still loyal to the mournful tone of the original.

Apocalyptica – Nothing Else Matters (Inquisition Symphony, 1998)

Finnish “cello metal” outfit Apocalyptica have built a career off translating Metallica to classical strings. Their debut album, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos, does what it says on the tin and has ascended from curiosity to sleeper hit among metalheads. Their cover of Nothing Else Matters still stands as their greatest achievement, accentuating the heartbreak of the Black Album ballad into a grand, majestic tragedy. Plus, that guitar solo on a cello? Sublime.

Van Canto – Master Of Puppets (Tribe Of Force, 2010)

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Van Canto are an “acapella metal” collective who, rather than bothering with guitars and bass, simply use six vocalists and a drummer. Hilarious as it may be, it has fans as high-profile as Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén. Your enjoyment of the Germans’ stab at Master Of Puppets depends on how long you can stomach people shouting “runnaddun-uh-dun-dunna” over and over, but you can’t deny its inventiveness.

Hellsongs – Blackened (Hymns In The Key Of 666, 2008)

Hellsongs self-classify as “lounge metal”, rearranging some of the biggest metal songs ever into puffs of chilled-out indie folk loveliness. It’s a schtick that could have quickly grown stale if the Swedish trio weren’t so fucking good at it. Their take on Blackened – one of Metallica’s thrashiest songs, don’t forget – stands completely on its own as a dreamy hippie-pop piece. Never before has the lyric ‘Colour our world blackened!’ sounded so cheerful.

Sunn O))) – FWTBT (3: Flight Of The Behemoth, 2002)

Ever wondered what it would sound like if your fridge covered Metallica? If so, time to check yourself out of that asylum, because Sunn O))) have the song for you! The drone duo adapted Ride The Lightning standout For Whom The Bell Tolls in signature fashion, doubling its runtime and drowning it in ominous atmospherics. You won’t get any of the adrenaline of the original, but prepare to feel haunted.

Vika Yermolyeva – Battery (2010)

In the mid-1980s, Metallica got into the habit of having their albums’ openers start with something gentle, like an acoustic guitar, then plummet into a speed metal hell. YouTube piano maestro Vika Yermolyeva asked in 2010, “But what if those entire songs were bashed out using keys?” Thus, she tickled Battery out on the ivories at lightspeed, her fingers moving at an inhuman pace. Her live version, with added drums, is equally dazzling.

The Hu – Sad But True (2020)

The Hu have found mad levels of viral fame by blaring out hard rock jams with traditional Mongolian instruments. In 2020, they took their unusual angle on heavy music to a Metallica cover, redoing Sad But True with throat singing, morin khuurs and tovshuurs. Thanks to those burly voices and ear-splitting drums, this version’s just as heavy as the original, and it proved The Hu’s methodology could also be used to reinvent conventional Western metal.

Tomi Owó – Through The Never (The Metallica Blacklist, 2021)

Before she was approached to join the Metallica Blacklist project, R&B up-and-comer Tomi Owó had never even heard the Black Album. However, this only strengthened the identity of her Through The Never cover. Owó planned to both be herself and pay tribute, making for a dynamic offering that grows from pop crooning to scorching metal guitars. It’s a combination that the world needs to hear more of, quite frankly.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.