With Metallica’s Black Album turning 30, there’s been a fair bit of celebration around the impact of metal’s biggest selling album ever. Here at Wall of Sound, we thought we’d recognise the band’s impact on other artists from a variety of genres. Whilst a popular band for other metal acts to cover, they’ve also crossed over at times, as illustrated further by the release of The Metallica Blacklist – a collection of covers by artists from hard rock, indie, country, RnB and pop. Before you check out that album, here are 20 previously released monumental covers of Metallica classics…
20. ‘Fade to Black’ – Disturbed
Disturbed are well known for their covers of 70s and 80s pop hits, but on their Music as a Weapon tour they busted out the all time thrash power ballad. It underlined some of the band’s ambition, and paid tribute to a band that paved the way towards area tours. It’s very faithful, with David Draiman’s vocals hitting the mark and Dan Donegan nailing the leads, though segues into their own song ‘Darkness’ before the thrash out.
19. ‘One’ – KoRn
A popular cover but not necessarily a great one. Korn give ‘One’ the nu metal treatment, stripping it of guitar solos and adding their own 7-string tone to the melodic intro. They keep the syncopated thrash part intact and give it a down tuned hammering. Jonathan Davis dominates with his own interpretation of the anguish and anger the soldier faces upon their return. They still bust this out from time to time as a live amendment to ‘Shoots and Ladders’.
18. ‘Nothing Else Matters’ – Lucie Silvas
British singer-songwriter’s version of James Hetfeild’s heartfelt ballad was a minor European hit in 2005. Pop covers of Metallica have often landed with a thud (see Avril Lavinge’s version of ‘Fuel’) but Silvas’ piano and orchestral arrangement underscores the tenderness of the song and gives it some gravitas as it reaches a guitar-less climax.
17. ‘Eye of the Beholder’ – In Flames
With guest vocals from Robert Dahne, the Swedish Gods of melodic death metal had a crack at one of Metallica’s classic thrashers. ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is a raw eclipse of the world’s biggest metal band, so to hear an alternative twist to it makes for an awesome tribute, particularly when you hear signature In Flames elements to it.
16. ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ – Vader
In an alternate universe, Metallica went harder and darker as they progressed, not softer and bluesy. Vader takes Ride the Lightning’s thrash classic and goes death metal on it. They drop the intro entirely and just smash out the riffs, with more thunder than lightning. The snarl in the vocals captures the right attitude too.
15. ‘My Friend of Misery’ – Dark Tranquility
Well, it looks like Metallica are really powerful influences for the Scandinavian region. Once again, we’ve got a cover from this corner of the globe, this time it’s Dark Tranquility covering ‘My Friend of Misery’ with the most authentic rendition possible. This song celebrates the Black album in its own way, in a blackened death metal kind of way, and vocalist Mikael Stanne will ensure you know about it.
14. ‘Escape’ – Hatebreed
Considered by Metallica themselves to be a secret shame, ‘Escape’ is a surprise choice for hardcore legends Hatebreed on their 2009 covers album, For the Lions. They give the track a much needed kick in the teeth, with Jamey Jasta’s growl capturing the gritty truth of the verse lyrics. They bring a breakdown to the bridge and the (then new) two guitar line up gets the solos right too. The police sirens are a killer touch. A good cover that captures the essence of the original and brings their own energy and trademark to it.
13. ‘Battery’ – Rodrigo y Gabriela
The first entirely instrumental cover on this list, the Mexican siblings covered a trio of metal classics on the 2020 EP Mettal. Their version of ‘Battery’ beautifully captures the usual acoustic intro before getting down for some serious unplugged thrash. The fret work is just incredible.
12. ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ – Primus
Primus’ Les Claypool was a Bay Area friend of Metallica in the 80s and even tried out for the vacant bass position when Cliff Burton passed away. He got his chance to jam and eventually laid down his own version of the Master of Puppets track on 1998’s Rhinoplasty. Largely a spot on version, with added emphasis on Claypool’s bass work, a tribute to his old friend. Way heavier than Primus’ usual output so worth checking out if you’re not a fan of ‘Jerry was a Race Car Driver’.
11. ‘Disposable Heroes’ – Chimaira
In 2005 heavy metalers Chimaira released an almighty cover of ‘Disposable Heroes’, one of the fastest Metallica songs out there. The eight minutes of power prove how well respected Metallica are, to some of the big guns out there. Mark Hunter punches through the vocals with rolling gutturals and the band imitating the Metallica sound perfectly.
10. ‘One’ – Chris Cornell
A different inclusion on this list, the late (and very much missed) Chris Cornell covered two songs titled ‘One’ at the same time – combining Metallica’s lyrics with the melody from U2’s ballad. The effect is a chilling lament on war, communicated superbly by Cornell’s voice.
9. ‘One’ – Children of Bodom
‘One’ is so powerful that we couldn’t restrict it to one appearance in this list. It’s also still a grieving time for the metal community as we mourn the tragic death of Alexi Laiho, so so young. To keep the Scandi theme going, Children of Bodom pay ultimate homage to Metallica and the song as they slow their speed metal rhythm right down to honour the opening hymns of ‘One’. The Finnish legends have fun with the track’s crescendo and include their own tuning towards the end.
8. ‘Enter Sandman’ – Burton C. Bell, John Crist, Robert Trujillo, Tommy Aldridge
Tribute albums were a thing back in the late 90s – early 2000s, so of course Metallica got the treatment a few times. Rather than full bands, most of these consisted of collaborations between artists recording in different studios. Fear Factory’s Burton C Bell gets to unleash on the Black album’s trademark hit, with rasps, growls and a little spit. Danzig guitarist John Crist adds his own flair to the leads, while drummer Tommy Aldridge (ex Ozzy, ex Whitesnake) smashes away. The addition of (then future) Metallica bassist Rob Trujillo adds to the high standard of this cover. Bell’s take on the bedtime prayer is haunting too.
7. ‘Ride the Lightning’ – Halestorm
More often than not, most covers will inevitably end up with a deeper vocal performance than Hetfield’s 80s shriek. That’s part of the reason Halestorm’s version of ‘Ride the Lightning’ is so good. Frontwoman Lzzy Hale can sing higher than most of the men on this list but gives it some serious snarl too – it is entirely possible her brain is burning, such is her conviction. The guitar tone is pretty accurate, meaning the whole song sounds like it could’ve been recorded back in 1984. The guitar solo is sublime.
6. ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ – Sabaton
If Sabaton were ever going to do Metallica, ‘… Bells…’ was an obvious choice. Inspired by Ernest Hemmingway’s epic Spanish Civil War novel, musically and thematically, it fits Sabaton well. The German power metallers actually drift closer to the S&M version with their inclusion of synth strings and keyboards. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vocals were recorded standing on top of a hill.
5. ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ – Bullet For My Valentine
Bullet For My Valentine have always been loud and proud Metallica super-fans, tracing all the way back to the start of their careers, just catch some of their interviews to prove it. As one of the biggest names in the scene today, it’s worth hearing how they interpreted one of my favourite ever Metallica songs, ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’. What I love about this cover is how Matt Tuck brings in his vocal style and let’s the rest of the band take care of the Metallica stuff. This sounds like it could fit on their Fever album as an original power ballad.
4. ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ – Apocalyptica
Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos is arguably the breakthrough Metallica cover set. The arrangements pack a punch, imbued with a beauty from the strings. There are no drums, no vocals and little distortion but the songs are faithfully captured and lose none of their power. On ‘Harvester of Sorrow’, the quartet lay down a thunderous bass sound, while reproducing the vocal and guitar melodies. Put on your best tuxedo and headbang like a classical thrasher.
3. ‘Master of Puppets’ – Trivium
What even is a list of best Metallica covers without throwing in ‘Master of Puppets’. Oh man, Trivium smashed this one. With incredible production and adaptable vocals to honour the original, Matt Heafy and the boys give this one 110% and would have probably been a huge opportunity for Metallica fans to discover Trivium. Don’t skip the guitar solo on this one, you’ll wanna hear how well the band reinvigorates it.
2. ‘Whiplash’ – Motorhead
Metallica paid tribute to Lemmy Kilmeister at his 50th birthday celebration and it was only fitting Lemmy returned the favour on this straight ahead rock n roll version. It manages to nail the Bay Area vibe and give it that England aggression, to the point Lemmy declares “never stop, never quit, cuz we are Motorhead”. Even the critics recognised it’s greatness and it became Motorhead’s first Grammy win in 2004. A fuckin’ good time.
1. ‘Battery’ – Machine Head
In 2007 Machine Head released The Blackening which was a defining metal record for the noughties, and set the standard for their succeeding records. When they included ‘Battery’ in their Deluxe album release, the world wasn’t ready for a Blackening era cover. How lucky are we to experience a cover of one of Metallica‘s most prolific songs, on the back of Machine Head at the peak of their careers. This is thrash metal at its finest on all accords.
The Metallica Blacklist is out September 10, 2021 via Blackened Recordings.
Pssst – Honourable mention to Van Canto because we can!