Jul 062023
elisapie unforgiven cover

“The Unforgiven” was Metallica‘s second biggest song when it was released as the second single to their self-titled fifth album. It wasn’t Metallica’s first ballad, but it reversed their previous formula which arguably made it more appealing to the average listener. It remains one of their best known songs among non-metal fans and is far and away their most covered song.

We last encountered Inuk singer Elisapie on her transformative cover of Bondie’s “Heart of Glass.” From about as far north in the province of Quebec as you could possibly be from, Elisapie has been recording and releasing Juno- and Polaris-nominated music for more than a decade. (Those are Canadian music awards. The Junos are Canada’s Grammys and the Polaris is a little more indie.) She sings in English, French and her native Inuktitut. On both the Blondie cover and this new Metallica cover, she sings in her native language.

Any time an artist translates a song into their native language, there is going to be a distinct sense of different, but Elisapie also alters the arrangement, bringing it closer to folk. There’s a pounding drum in the background and some closely mic’d acoustic guitar. On the chorus, she adds layers of her voice.

But it’s after the first chorus where things really take a turn, as throat singing and some unidentifiable sound effects flesh out the arrangement. That stuff drops out for the next verse but after the next chorus an increasing number of instruments, including banjo, are added. At this point the throat singing almost resembles a digeridoo and there is additional percussion and noise as the song builds to its not very metal but still quite heavy climax.

It’s a really creative take on an iconic song. Check it out below:

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