Metallica's boundary-smashing project The Metallica Blacklist dropped on Friday.
With a whopping 53 covers of tracks from The Black Album performed by artists from all across the musical spectrum, The Metallica Blacklist is an epic undertaking that offers up new dimensions of one of the most celebrated and commercially successful metal albums of all time.
The sheer scope of artists represented is undeniably impressive, but it is also a little intimidating.
So for the benefit of those who'd rather not listen to what an EDM or country or hip-hop version of a Metallica track sounds like (which would be foolish, because some of them slap) we've put in the hard yards for you, listening to all 53 tracks of The Metallica Blacklist in search of sounds that'll please even the most discerning of Maniacs ears. We've then made a list of the most metal-friendly versions of each song, to create you the closest thing we could to an alternate universe version of The Black Album.
This is The Maniacs Guide To The Metal Side Of The Metallica Blacklist
1. Enter Sandman - Ghost
Ghost's theatrical blend of hard rock/metal was a chance to work with any of the tracks from this record, but the way this Enter Sandman cover turned out, we're delighted they chose to with the most obvious of choices. The haunting organ-led intro takes the track to a black mass, with Tobias vocals creating a fittingly spooky aura before it explodes into a full-on arena metal track in the back half. This does exactly what it says on the label and sometimes that's just what we're looking for.
Other versions worth a listen: Weezer
2. Sad But True - White Reaper
Kentucky garage punks White Reaper have always carried a certain metal essence to them, and on this ripping cover of Sad But True that essence steps boldly to the forefront. The snarkier delivery of vocalist Tony Esposito gift the song a fitting sarcastic vibe, while the rest of the band simply turn up to eleven and rock the fuck out. We approve.
Other versions worth a listen: Royal Blood, Jason Isbell
3. Holier Than Thou - Corey Taylor
Corey Taylor's love of 80's era Metallica runs deep, so it's hardly surprising that he chose one of the Black Album's more traditional thrash/metal offerings for his contribution. Even less surprising is that he absolutely nails this faithful rendition of the frantic Holier Than Thou. Everything is where it should be and Taylor absolutely crushes the vocals. While some more experimentation would have been nice, there's no arguing with a good cover done straight up and done well.
Other versions worth a listen: Biffy Clyro, The Chats, OFF!, PUP!
4. The Unforgiven - Diet Cig
One of the genuinely awesome things about The Metallica Blacklist is the opportunity it offers us Maniacs the chance to find some new acts that otherwise might not have found ears over here. Indie rock duo Diet Cig are one such act and their cover of The Unforgiven is a fitting example of the songs inherent crossover quality. Favouring a more low-fi vibe to the original, Diet Cig's arrangement and delivery are a perfect match for the emotional narrative, with vocalist/guitarist Alex Luciano's performance lending a 90's indie-meets-grunge vibe that has just enough grit to appeal to heavier palettes.
5. Wherever I May Roam - Jon Pardi
There's no denying that Metallica's music lends itself well to being countryfied and with the exception of Jason Isbell's superb reading of Sad But True, country megastar Jon Pardi's surprisingly heavy yet still country as hell version of Wherever I May Roam is the absolute standout example of why. Pardi's vocal twang, utilisation of fiddle, use of powerful female backing vocals and glossy Nashville production take Metallica to the barn dance without stripping away any of the raw power. The way Pardi reproduces Hammett's leadwork is inventive and yet faithful to the original and you get the sense this was done with more than a bit of love.
6. Don't Tread On Me - Volbeat
Danish euro metal/rock band Volbeat do exactly what you expect with this cover, infusing the track with a distinct euro metal flair that pushes Don't Tread On Me's hooks to the forefront. Vocalist Michael Poulsen's vocal reading is pure metal cheese fun and unsurprisingly all of the instrumentation is absolutely on point. If someone asked us what a Metallica cover by Volbeat would sound like, this is exactly what we would envision. Turn it up and have fun.
Other versions worth listening to are: SebastiAn, Portugal. the Man + Aaron Beam.
7. Through The Never - The HU
The HU are one of the most unique metal bands on the planet and the Mongolian metalhead's version of Through The Never is a great example of the unfamiliar instrumental and tonal qualities they bring to metal. The HU give the track an even more menacing sound as they thrash away on a mixture of traditional Mongolian and western instruments. The vocals, sung in their native tongue are a standout. This is on a shortlist of our favourite Metallica covers of all time, as is their earlier version of Sad But True.
8. Nothing Else Matters - Chris Stapleton
If we're being honest, Nothing Else Matters is more of a country-rock song than a metal song, to begin with, so it is not surprising that amongst 12 (yes 12!) versions of this song on The Metallica Blacklist it is Stapleton's gritty voiced reading that works the best. As one of the only acts to maintain the songs heavy tonal qualities, this comes off sounding something like Chris Cornell fronting a country band, covering Metallica in a Kentucky dive bar. We can see this soundtracking a lot of NFL highlight packages in the future.
Other versions worth a listen: Phoebe Bridges?
9. Of Wolf and Man - Goodnight, Texas
Look, we aren't going to lie to you, this isn't metal, in any way at all, it is awesome though and as the only cover of this underrated song on the Metallica Blacklist we are just thankful that it doesn't suck, in fact, it rocks. The updated American-folk style interpretation actually suits the track's lyrics really well, giving it a spooky almost Ghost-like vibe. This would kill around a campfire, in fact, we're going to go learn it now, for that exact purpose. Also the video rules.
10. The God That Failed - IDLES
Winning the award for the cover on The Metallica Blacklist that sounds the most unlike the source material are IDLES. The British rock/punk band more or less just throw the lyrics to The God That Fails over an IDLES song, hardly referencing the source material in any other way. How you feel about that will entirely depend on how you feel about IDLES.
11. My Friend of Misery - Kamasi Washington
None of the versions of these songs are particularly Maniacs friendly, so we've chosen the one that is simply the best. This wild, jazzy interpretation of My Friend Of Misery by the saxophonist Kamasi Washington is the kind of cross-genre, mind-melting fusion that this concept was intended for and it over-delivers. In fact on a compilation that features too many people playing it safe, this is a breath of fresh air. Instrumentally impressive, vocally dynamic, unashamedly complex and inspired, this is a gift from Washington and his band to those Maniacs out there with jazz leanings. The percussion is so far beyond what Lars would have ever thought of, the piano is wonderful and the saxophone when it hits is an absolute delight.
12. The Struggle Within - Rodrigo y Gabriela
This is the only version of the album closer, and thankfully the Mexican acoustic guitar duo do an incredible job of making the song their own. This is acoustic guitar playing at its finest. It's not metal, but it's definitely worthy of a listen by our Maniacs. If you do enjoy it, do a deep dive on their YouTube because they've got plenty of experience covering Metallica in this style.
That brings this epic listening experiment to an end, we hope you've enjoyed our version of The Metallica Blacklist and remember if you didn't rate this list, there are plenty of people out there who didn't like The Black Album so maybe you can go be wrong somewhere together. Just kidding, you do you, Maniacs, you do you.
Listen to more Metallica now.