“Motorbreath” is one of the oldest Metallica songs, appearing on their third demo, back when Dave Mustaine was still in the band. It’s most well known for appearing on their debut album, Kill’em All and has become a thrash classic over the years. The song embodies so much of what made Metallica instantly iconic within the metal community, with its speed, edge and ferocity making an impression on so many listeners and musicians. (It’s in the Top 15 most covered Metallica songs ever despite not being widely known by the general public.)
Experimental black metal band Imperial Triumphant have become known for their heavy, idiosyncratic covers of jazz, prog and alternative rock songs. Now, they’ve turned their sights on a metal classic. The original “Motorbreath” is a straight-forward thrash banger, but, of course, in Imperial Triumphant’s hands, it’s very different.
Have you ever heard a Metallica song open with piano? Scratch that. Have you ever heard a Metallica song that wasn’t a ballad open with piano? Well, this cover of “Motorbreath” somehow opens with discordant piano and drums. And then that rolls into the actual song as if they are the Dillinger Escape plan circa Ire Works. They soon lay into the riff as a traditional metal band might, but the black metal growl stands out.
But the chorus is entirely transformed, and disfigured, as an escalation of tension, utterly unrecognizable from the original. When the verse returns, the original is recognizable again through the riff until, once again, there is a dramatic, unrecognizable ascent into avant garde metal madness with all sorts of distortion and percussion. Not content with completely altering the chorus, this cover then fades out with an ambient coda far removed from the original, and Metallica’s music in general. It’s a cover of a thrash metal song that somehow ends quietly.
It’s hard to put this cover into words, and it’s definitely not for everyone, as there is a complete lack of faithfulness to the song or to the genre. But it’s extremely creative and totally unexpected.