15 Of The Best Covers By Metallica Throughout The Years

We told you about the most monumental covers of Metallica songs, but Metallica are a pretty capable cover band in their own right. There is a wealth of Metallica covers to choose from, especially since they collated all the early recordings on the excellent Garage, Inc. compilation. Their earliest gigs included more than one Diamond Head cover and indeed, many of their tour cycles have featured a ‘tribute’ section in the set where they rotate through their cover arsenal, paying respect to those who came before them. They are fond of off-beat covers too, rarely choosing the biggest hit by their favourite bands and looking for moments where they can add their own slant to it. There came to be a bit of a ‘Metallica effect’ too for these bands: there is no way bands like The Misfits or Diamond Head would be as recognised by metal fans today had the biggest metal band in the world not covered their tunes. Nor would many of them have ever listened to Nick Cave or some of the other artists below. 

We have ignored the Kirk/Rob cover jams from their WorldWired Tour, since for every example where they do something kind of awesome, they completely trash another song. Honourable mention to their performance as one of the backing bands at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert in 2009 where they got to play covers with Ozzy Osbourne, Lou Reed and Ray Davis

And sure, you’re going to see a lot of Garage Inc. below because it certainly showcases some of the best covers out there, however there are some gems beyond the 1998 double-disc that were worth including, so check it out. 

15. ‘Ecstacy of Gold’ – Ennio Morriccone

From their club beginnings through the recent WorldWired Tour, nearly every Metallica show has opened with a taped version from The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, with the exception of the memorable live versions by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for the S&M concerts. The Metallica version appeared on a tribute to Morriccone and, despite initially starting in a similar vein, it soon becomes a galloping thrashfest for Kirk Hammett to unleash his wah wah pedal. It is a great collection of solos and it’s a shame the band hasn’t brought it to the stage …yet.

14. ‘Remember Tomorrow’ – Iron Maiden

Despite a drunken dig at ‘Run to the Hills’ at the end of the Garage Days Re-Revisited EP, Metallica had largely avoided covering ‘big’ bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. That changed when Kerrang magazine was putting together an all star tribute to Iron Maiden. Metallica’s version of the power ballad from Maiden’s debut established what many had long suspected – it was an enormous influence on songs like ‘Fade to Black’

13. ‘All Your Lies’ – Soundgarden

Metallica had toured with Soundgarden on Lollapalooza in 1996, so when it came to commemorate Chris Cornell’s passing, the four horsemen delivered two covers at a tribute concert. ‘All Your Lies’ is a muscular thrash version of the punk/grunge classic, with Hetfield’s vocal attack a highlight. 

12. ‘Sabbra Cadabra’ – Black Sabbath

Despite having released a ton of covers by the time they got together for Garage, Inc, Metallica had never released a cover of metal’s godfathers. Rather than choose ‘Paranoid’ or ‘War Pigs’, they went to this lighter psychedelic track from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. The riff is brilliant and it sounds like Kirk is having fun with it. They actually skip the most psychedelic section, instead segueing into the darker themes of ‘A National Acrobat’, turning the track on its head before returning to the levity of ‘Sabbra Cadabra’. A cool track to sing along to with a beer in hand. 

11. ‘The Wait’ – Killing Joke 

A different kind of Metallica cover, especially amongst the Garage Days collections. Rather than capture New Wave of British Heavy Metal or punk, ‘The Wait’ is a post-punk, almost industrial song by UK band Killing Joke. You know what attracted Metallica – the riff is a beastly power chord slab that hammers hard. The raw performance nature of the recording is pretty awesome too. Featured in the Jack Black family film School of Rock

10. ‘Die, Die My Darling’ – Misfits 

This cover’s great because Metallica have fused their sound at the time (1998) with the sound of the original song. It’s a great sing-a-long but equally sounds super heavy, in a bit of a metal-up-your-arse kind of way. 

9. ‘So What’ – Anti-Nowhere League

So there’s no way this song would be appreciated if released today, however you can appreciate it for what it was in its time. It’s an aggressive American interpretation on an original Brit-punk track, but it works, and it’s hilariously tuned eloquently in contrast to the, uh lyrics. Hetfield not only sounds great on this track, but it kind of highlights the band’s personality to choose to cover this song and bask in the glory. 

8. ‘Killing Time’ – Sweet Savage 

With just about a third of this track in a riffage intro, you know you’re in for something thrashy. I love Garage Inc. of course for its diversity, and this track picks things up a notch from the many Load/Reload-esque covers where Metallica were, well – maybe trying to find themselves a bit. ‘Killing Time’ could have sat as a cover on one of the band’s first albums, it works so well and they’ve put just the right spin on it, absolutely timeless. 

7. ‘Last Caress/Green Hell’ – Misfits 

An unlikely musical influence, especially compared to where Metallica were about to go on …And Justice For All, but here is a medley of two sick Misfits songs. ‘Last Caress’, though less controversial than ‘So What’, is still a disturbing ear worm that gets pulled out for encores regularly. They Metallica-fy it to the point it thrashes, even more so on the transition to a seriously brutal version of ‘Green Hell.’ Though they had long split up by 1987, The Misfits would find a new audience amongst metalheads and re-emerge (without Glen Danzig) soon after to cash in on their popularity. 

6. ‘Mercyful Fate (Medley)’ – Mercyful Fate

Confession: Until I heard this medley on Garage, Inc. I was ignorant to the ways of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. I had been missing out. Metallica take a bunch of riffs and sections of early Fate tracks and combine it into 11 minutes of majestic metal. For some fans, Metallica hadn’t sounded like this since … And Justice For All. With Hetfied having no chance of matching Diamond’s high pitched shrieks, the lower register makes the songs heavier. Doubles as a rare example of the band going satanic too. 

5. ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ – Queen

Their label of the time wanted current artists to cover each other as an anniversary collection, so Metallica (then a rising non-commercial entity) took one of the biggest artists and chose an obscure album track. The results speak for themselves. It thrashes hard, cheeky lyrics and all, and has become one of their most played covers, helped by the fact it was also a B-side on the ‘Enter Sandman’ single. Hetfield even sung it with Queen (and Tony Iommi) at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992. 

4. ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ – Traditional (inspired by Thin Lizzy’s version)

Just a fuckin riot, as depicted in the video. Downtuning the guitars gives it a real meanness too, and it’s a good example of Lars being able to sit with a groove. Probably the most fun cover in the arsenal. Totally fits as a single in the Load/ReLoad era. 

3. ‘Free Speech for the Dumb’ – Discharge

Opening ‘Garage Inc.’ this cover will stop you in your tracks. It’s one of those tracks where Kirk Hammett could be seen playing it live on the ground kicking and screaming as he riffs to the retching vocals. Hetfield has so much passion in this track and it’s simply raw. It has less profanities than ‘So What’ but almost feels more raw as Hetfield really tests his vocal capabilities. Great all-round song, and brings colour to the notion of intensity. 

2. ‘Turn the Page’ – Bob Seger

This is a pretty special cover, and Metallica even released a music video for it, which has clocked over 50 Million hits to date. Wow. The metal gods bring in their Load/Reload energy into this one, but also their southern ‘Unforgiven’ side. It’s an immense cover, and is close to best-spot for a reason with its timelessness. You can tell Hetfield really enjoyed this one, and put in a genuine vocal effort. If breakdowns were around back then, the last minute would be that – incredible, emotive, electric. 

1. ‘Am I Evil?’ – Diamond Head

Covered at their earliest gigs, recorded for the ‘Creeping Death’ single B-side and played on nearly every tour since. Sometimes they include the demonic snare drum intro, and sometimes they cut straight to the main riff. They even played it on the Big 4 tour with members of Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer joining in. It’s a joy of sick guitar work, both the riff and the solos, and one that James can sink his teeth into vocally. A song so metal and sonomounus with Metallica that it could be an original – and it has collected plenty of cheques for Diamond Head for more than 35 years. Such is their reverence for Diamond Head and their album Lightening to the Nations that they also have covered ‘The Prince’, ‘Helpless’ and ‘It’s Electric’, for other B-sides and EPs (all of which are compiled on Garage, Inc.)

Words: KJ Draven (@KJDraven) and Ricky Aarons (@rickysaul90)

The Metallica Blacklist and Metallica (Remastered) are out now, via Blackened Recordings.