Oct 282021

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30. Alex Skolnick Trio – Fade to Black

As the guitar player for the metal band Testament, guitarist Alex Skolnick came up through the same San Francisco Bay Area thrash scene as Metallica. Skolnick, however, took a bit of a departure from the metal world in the late ‘90s to pursue a degree in jazz. In the new millennium, he splits his time between both the metal and jazz worlds, having released several fusion jazz albums, while still recording and touring with Testament. On the 2011 album Veritas, the Alex Skolnick Trio changed Metallica’s power ballad “Fade to Black” into a haunting instrumental odyssey. – Curtis Zimmermann

29. Shakira – Nothing Else Matters/Despedida

Shakira covering Metallica sounds like a trainwreck. But, as we’ve seen on this list already, “Nothing Else Matters” is more malleable than most. It’s basically an American songbook standard at this point, enjoyed by people who wouldn’t consider themselves metalheads by any stretch. So when Shakira brings sound south-of-the-border instrumentation to it, it doesn’t sound at all out of place. And when she segues it into her own Spanish-language song “Despedida,” that makes perfect sense too. – Ray Padgett

28. Van Canto – Battery

I heard this cover before I heard Metallica’s original, and it remains hard for me to hear that opening guitar riff without singing along like it’s this a gothic cappella version. All together now: “Battery, baaa-tter-y / Battery, baaaaa-tter-yyyyy.” – Jane Callaway

27. Ha*Ash – The Unforgiven

Next to all the heavy-hitters on the Metallica Blacklist tribute, the oddly-punctuated Ha*Ash stood out for their relative obscurity. This Latin-pop sisters duo from Louisiana seems like an odd choice to cover Metallica. So odd, in fact, that some Metallica fans revolted when the cover was released ahead of the album. Not long after, James Hetfield had to assuage the metalheads: “We cast the net as wide as possible: to rock, alternative, country, bluegrass and rap. I know there’s a lot of Metallica fans out there who are pretty concerned about that. Don’t worry; Metallica is Metallica. Somebody covering our song isn’t going to change us.” – Ray Padgett

26. Apocalyptica – Creeping Death

Yes, there’s something gimmicky about a string quartet, made up only of cellos, playing metal. But Apocalypitca were first – they literally invented “cello metal” – and their debut album, Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, is the closest thing to a classic the genre has produced. Much of that album shows why cellos playing thrash metal actually works, and the only track from Ride the Lightning is one of the better examples. Beginning with a solitary cello playing the riff, the song builds cello by cello until all four are performing a remarkable facsimile of Metallica as Romantic music. One cello takes Hetfield’s vocal lines or Hammett’s solos and the others take the rhythm and bass parts. Apocalyptica’s version of “Creeping Death” is shorter than the original, but it still manages to convey most of the power. – Riley Haas

25. The Native Howl – Harvester of Common Sorrow

You will hear this Metallica song blended with another song, “Man of Constant Sorrow” (originally a bluegrass tune), but don’t let that country boy persona fool you. This banjo means business (just wait for that hardcore solo). Despite the genre crossover, the vocals remain in the spirit of the original, gravelly and passionate. However, the added call and response adds a bit of levity showing that the Native Howl isn’t taking themselves too seriously. – Sara Stoudt

24. Sunn O))) – FWTBT [For Whom the Bell Tolls]

Infamous drone metal provocateurs Sunn O))) are legendary for their incredibly slow tempos and their deafening live shows. They slow the song down to such a slow crawl that it is almost entirely unrecognizable. (And lasts about twice as long.) Something like seven minutes in, somebody starts…well, it’s not singing. Somebody starts growling so slowly it’s more like a gurgle, albeit one of the scarier gurgles you’ve ever heard. And if you make it to nine minutes there are drums! This isn’t for everyone, but if you can handle it, you’ll hear a famous thrash metal song utterly transformed into drone metal performance art. – Riley Haas

23. Chris Stapleton – Nothing Else Matters

“Nothing Else Matters” is arguably one of the most mellow tracks in Metallica’s catalog. It’s a slow ballad that comes with a heavy dose of strings. Country rocker Chris Stapleton recorded his own spin on the classic for The Metallica Blacklist, giving the song a brooding ‘70s rock style makeover, with big guitars and gut wrenching vocals. – Curtis Zimmermann

22. Alborosie ft. Raging Fyah – The Unforgiven

A reggae version of this song might seem like too much of a genre bend at first, but when you consider the context of the song, it seems less strange. A song about struggle actually seems fitting for a genre of music associated with political activism. Although the sound is certainly the classic reggae, it isn’t overdone or forced. Once you ease into it, you pay less attention to the difference in sound, and the original story returns as the focal point. – Sara Stoudt

21. Jason Isbell – Sad But True

For the first 40 seconds of this excellent track off the Metallica Blacklist album there’s no indication that a Metallica cover is on the way. The opening noodling is pure roadhouse blues and once Isbell starts barking out the lyrics it still takes a few seconds to place them. The band is wailing behind him, with only the slightest nod to the original riff. There are bits of fiddle, plenty of electric guitar ad libs, and a steady rhythm section; this song absolutely deserves a starring role in a barroom fight scene. The song absolutely stands on its own aside from being a great cover, but it’s clear that there’s some love for the original material: right before the last verse we get one quick hit of that Metallica riff before Isbell rockets back into his version. It’s a great moment in a song full of them. – Mike Misch

The list continues on Page 4.

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