Oct 282021

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20. Iron Horse – To Live Is To Die

“To Live Is To Die” is a deep cut within the Metallica songbook. Clocking in at nearly ten-minutes, the sprawling multi-movement track is the second to last song on …And Justice For All. The band has only played it live once. The lyrics are almost an afterthought. Just four lines long, the words are spoken quietly, and in the background, during the final minutes. One of the few artists to cover the track is the bluegrass outfit Iron Horse, who recorded it for their second Metallica tribute album, Fade to Bluegrass: The Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica, Vol. 2. Shortening the song to just under three minutes, Iron Horse sings the words, which touch on such topics as lying, death, murder and salvation, over and over again. The group transforms the song into a striking country gospel tune, which forces the listener to contemplate the lyrics’ complex spiritual meaning. “All this I cannot bear to witness any longer/Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home.” – Curtis Zimmermann

19. Halestorm – Ride the Lightning

One thing I admire about Halestorm is their willingness to tackle covers from a wide variety of genres on their numerous cover EPs. They’re sticking to their metal roots here though with their cover of “Ride the Lightning,” the title track of Metallica’s second album. It’s a pretty straight cover, but gives lead singer Lizzy Hale permission to show off her outstanding vocals. The band’s right behind her, and pretty soon you’re picked up and carried along by this ripper – especially with that corker of a guitar solo, played with a cleaner guitar than the original, which makes all the difference. – Brendan Shanahan

18. Pat Boone – Enter Sandman

There’s a curious lineage of showboating arrangements of “Enter Sandman.” Many of the versions are pleasant, and occasionally goofy: there’s parodist-in-chief Richard Cheese’s, and even a take by blue-eyed soul great Paul Young. But the wonkiest and most magnificent of them all is unquestionably Pat Boone’s, released in 1997. The cover is drawn from Boone’s In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, which features Boone appropriating a dozen metal/hard-rock classics with, of course, a blazing big band. One of the many ways this preposterous record rose to prominence was as a gag gift, passed ironically between friends and metalheads. (A big aspect of the album, too, was apparently Boone leaning into donning sleeveless, Not Nice Guy leather outfits — trés metal! — for his public appearances around the album.) Indeed, Boone’s cover of “Enter Sandman” plays, first and foremost, like some kind of sustained Andy Kaufman stage prank: oddly transgressive, demented, and epically entertaining. Because it’s Pat Boone, he leans hard into a sanctimonious reading of The Lord’s Prayer (alongside a child who’s more precocious than the Metallica original), and harder still into the scatted cadence of the nursery rhyme bridge that follows. But beyond this familiar territory, the rest of “Enter Sandman” effectively unfurls like a nightmare around an unmoored Boone, with choral swells and honking saxophones raging from the void like loopy hallucinations. – Ben Easton

17. Steve ‘n’ Seagulls – Seek and Destroy

If you’re a fan of cover songs, it’s likely you’re already familiar with Steve ‘n’ Seagulls. The Finnish bluegrass cover band hit the jackpot with their version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” up to 131 million YouTube views and counting. Seven years later, the one-trick pony is now a one-trick thoroughbred, and the band’s not stopping. “Seek and Destroy” sounds the way you’d expect a bluegrass cover of a Metallica song to sound, but when it’s played with this much wit and verve, that’s a feature, not a bug. – Patrick Robbins

16. Phoebe Bridgers – Nothing Else Matters

Phoebe Bridgers totally eschews the traditional challenge of guitar-core as being the only way to go with this piece of textbook rock balladry, without a pedal board in sight. Piano, muted strings and accordion, together with her gothic chamber vocals echoing into a nihilistic lament. The build is via electronic percussion revving in from the sides, and it is a marvel of deconstruction. Bridgers is fast becoming the go-to girl for psych-rock ambient grooves. This version comes from the Metallica Blacklist album, where it is one of twelve covers of this song, far and away the song most featured. – Seuras Og

15. The HU – Sad But True

Proving that metal knows no boundaries, Mongolian folk-metal band The Hu bring plenty of their heritage to this track from Metallica’s first album. Morin khurr (a traditional fiddle type instrument) riffs, traditional throat singing and fully Mongolian lyrics add a dark and intriguing atmosphere to this pitch-black cover. And the accompanying video is great, to boot. – Brendan Shanahan

14. Stary Olsa – One

For those looking for a seven-plus minute cover, you won’t find it here, yet this is not some kitschy ye olde time cover. This is a heartfelt reminder that war is always painful whether it’s World War I or war in the medieval times. The mandolin doesn’t actually sound that out of place initially, as there is a lighter guitar opening in the original as well. When the flute joins in, there is a different kind of mournful sound. The bagpipe kicking in to escalate the plea in the chorus stays in temporal character and continues to build to a frantic finish. – Sara Stoudt

13. Troy Millette – Enter Sandman

Troy Millette, a Vermont-based songwriter, treats the song as a lullaby, rather than a threat about fear of the dark and bad dreams. The crazy thing is that it works. Millette’s delivery is so convincing that you really do believe he’s singing this song to a child he cares about. And when it comes to lyrics that really shouldn’t be in a lullaby – “And never mind that noise you heard / It’s just the beasts under your bed” – Millette sings with such conviction that you believe he means this as a calming tactic, not as the terror-inducing menace of the original. It’s an idea that really doesn’t work on paper, but Millette commits to it so well that it actually convinces you the song is a lullaby, not an anti-lullaby. – Riley Haas

12. Metaphump – Master of Puppets

Leonard Piacentino had a dream – he wanted to show the world that just because a song is heavy metal doesn’t mean it’s noisy slabs of sludge. To do this, he founded the thirteen member collective Metaphump, who dissemble songs by Megadeth, Pantera, and the like, turning them into funk and jazz fusion grooves. The Parisian combo changes “Master of Puppets” from head-banging to ass-shaking. You’ll be wondering what hit you, and you’ll want it to hit you again. – Patrick Robbins

11. Lissie – Nothing Else Matters

Lissie is clearly on the same “stairway,” if you catch my drift, taking a step back into her more acoustic start, which actually makes the relentless build all the more affecting. Aggressive, even; she sounds as if she means it. From her 2012 EP of covers, Covered Up With Flowers, it does what it says on the label. I would say the guitar solo has as much balls as the Kirk Hammett original. – Seuras Og

The list continues on Page 5.

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