Along with their Super Deluxe 30th-anniversary reissue of The Black Album, Metallica have released a compilation of 53 different Black Album covers by an eclectic legion of artists from myriad realms of the music universe. With all proceeds going to charity, Metallica encouraged performers to select whichever song they wanted to cover, regardless of whether it had already been selected. Consequently, with only 12 songs in play, most tracks appear multiple times. For example, there are seven versions of The Unforgiven. And be forewarned: consecutively listening to all 12 versions of Nothing Else Matters will leave even the most resolute listener teetering on the precipice of sanity.
Music’s most compelling covers see artists recasting familiar songs in a unique and thrilling new light. …Blacklist boasts several such tracks, like Biffy Clyro’s Holier Than Thou – an onslaught of surging beats, razor-wire riffing and a supernova-sized breakdown. Speaking of Holier Than Thou, Off! turn in a positively blistering version that anyone unfamiliar with the original could credibly mistake for an old-school punk anthem.
Ghost transform Enter Sandman into a euphoric slice of 70s hard rock with snarling riffs, piano-driven melodies and Papa’s witchy, layered vocals. And Mongolian marauders The Hu check in with a slamming Through The Never, sung in their native tongue and played with the wild, surging ferocity of a bloodthirsty horde riding into battle. Other notable performances include St. Vincent’s smouldering, pseudo-industrial take on Sad But True and Ha*Ash’s version of The Unforgiven – a dreamy slice of acoustic balladry that feels like the theme to a mythic quest.
Statistically, some misses are to be expected. Colombia’s Grammy-collecting megastar, Juanes, funks up Enter Sandman with a bit of Latin flavour, but you’d still be hard-pressed to remember it among the numerous other versions. Elsewhere, Chase & Status bring in Background Gee for Wherever I May Roam, showcasing some filthy hip hop grooves but leaving listeners waiting for a huge payoff that never arrives.
But the hits outweigh the misses by a mile, especially when you’ve got hitters like Royal Blood, Weezer and Corey Taylor in the line-up. And while Miley Cyrus’s collaboration with Elton John and others on Nothing Else Matters is one of the more memorable tracks, country legend Chris Stapleton taps into the gritty defiance of the original with a mean and dusty eight-minute version that rises to the top of the …Blacklist heap. Closely related, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit turn Sad But True into a boozy roadhouse shakedown.
Charitable aims notwithstanding, the question inevitably arises: just how many versions of Enter Sandman does one person need? More pointedly, what’s the purpose of such heroic excess? First, …Blacklist aligns perfectly with Metallica’s enduring ethos of doing everything bigger and better than anything done before. But ultimately, this is a towering show of force that underscores how, unlike any other band in history, Metallica have transcended heavy metal and emerged as one of music’s greatest cultural exports. And while nobody’s going to love all the versions on The Metallica Blacklist, there’s a track for every person, mood and playlist. It’s one hell of a fun ride.
The Metallica Blacklist is released on September 10 via Blackened Recordings