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Top 10 best Metallica covers


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I’m not a man who watches much TV. In fact, I think 90% of modern television is an enflamed sore on the ass-cheek of entertainment.

But, nonetheless, I found myself channel-hopping last night and something caught my eye: a trailer for the upcoming Gears of War 4.

It was only a short teaser, but what stood out to me more than anything was that its soundtrack was a snippet from a cover of Metallica’s emotional classic ‘Nothing Else Matters’.

It was a pretty generic rendition of a practically perfect song, but it soon got me thinking about far superior tributes to the self-professed “biggest metal band on the planet”.

And here they are:

10) Mastodon – ‘Orion’

This is here purely because I adore Mastodon’s bassist/singer Troy Sanders, and for years I thought hearing his four-string lay out the riffs of the legendary Cliff Burton was something I could only dream of.

Or at least, that was until I scoured the dark depths of the web and found out that Sanders and his three Georgian bandmates had covered ‘Orion’, the beloved instrumental from Master of Puppets (1986).

This version is very similar to the thirty-year-old original, the only difference being that the remake adds a dirt under its nails that is unmistakably Mastodon’s own.

9) Hatebreed – ‘Escape’

‘Escape’ is one of the most underrated songs in Metallica’s entire canon. The deepest cut from their sophomore record Ride the Lightning (1984), it is despised by Metallica themselves as it was created after pressure from their label insisted that the album contained one accessible, radio-friendly single.

But since the band never released the track as a single, the whole song became an entirely pointless exercise; since its inception 22-years-ago, ‘Escape’ has only played live in its entirety once.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Somehow, the hardcore punk-inspired five-piece took Metallica’s most commercial-sounding song and transformed it into a heavy, groove metal number with a melodic tendency not often demonstrated by the balls-to-the-wall Hatebreed.

In this regard, it did exactly what any cover version should do; expanded on both the original song itself and the range of the band that is performing it.

8) Rob Scallon – ‘Enter Sandman’ (backwards version)

Musically, this rendition of what is arguably Metallica’s best known song is utter crap. However, it has earnt a slot on this list purely because of its achievements technically.

For those who haven’t heard of him before (and you really should have, because he’s one of the best musicians on YouTube right now), Rob Scallon is a metalhead that has gone viral more times than herpes. And rightfully so, because his videos boggle the mind.

This man has covered Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’ on a banjo, performed every Metallica song in just four minutes and, at the peak of his lunacy, covered ‘Enter Sandman’… backwards.

Just watch it. For the love of God, do it.

7) Disturbed – ‘Fade to Black’

Disturbed has never been the subtlest of rock bands, but going from their cover of the emotionally visceral ‘Fade to Black’ alone, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

This rendition of ‘Fade…’ has only been performed live by the American quartet three times and never committed to tape, making it an extreme rarity. But it is definitely something that hardcore followers of both Metallica and Disturbed need to seek out.

The cover sees the vocals of front-man David Draiman switch from his signature bark to a more mellow delivery, as well as opening with an awesome solo from shredder Dan Donegan, who channels Kirk Hammett’s sound down to a tee.

This version of ‘Fade to Black’ may be condensed at just four minutes in length, but nonetheless it is still a must-listen.

6) Van Canto – ‘Master of Puppets’

Van Canto’s version of the timeless ‘Master of Puppets’ – the title track to arguably the most important metal album ever made – is not here because it’s a good cover.

It’s here because it’s, quite simply, hilarious.

How so? Well, have you ever wanted to hear Metallica acapella? No, of course you haven’t. Nobody in the history of music has wanted to hear that. But, guess what, it exists.

In place of the chugging guitars of Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, the pounding bass of Cliff Burton and the blasting rhythms of Lars Ulrich’s drums, Van Canto gives us five Germans literally going “Runna-dunnadi-dunnadi-dundundun” for eight minutes. And I love it.

I love it the same way I love movies like The Room (2003) or War of the Worlds (2005); as a trainwreck of absolutely glorious proportions.

Click that video below and I guarantee it will make your day, just as it makes mine every time I hear it.

5) Machine Head – ‘Battery’

Oh, you thought it was impossible to make one of Metallica’s thrashiest tracks, ‘Battery’, even heavier? Well think again son!

Driven by the roars of metal god Robb Flynn, Machine Head’s ‘Battery’ is the dictionary definition of “all killer, no filler”, as it springs to life with a rush of adrenaline that refuses to stop until the song has come to an abrupt halt.

Machine Head’s groove metal repertoire adds a true depth and aggression to what was already a rip-roaring masterwork, taking ‘80s thrash and dragging it, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

This cover is a rarity, available only on the deluxe edition of Machine Head’s magnum opus The Blackening (2007), but if you can dig this one up, you will love every thrashing second of it.

4) Lucie Silvas – ‘Nothing Else Matters’

She may be the least “metal” entry in this list, but the rendition of ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by English pop singer Lucie Silvas is pure art; a piece just as emotional and thought-provoking as the 1991 original.

The guitar riffs of Hetfield and Hammett are transformed into sombre violin and piano sections, with Silvas’ own powerful voice making this a truly beautiful four minutes of music.

Furthermore, seeing Metallica branching out into the world of pop this way – and with this song – gives me hope that, one day, pop music snobs will stop seeing rock as some primitive, mindless, dingy derivative of “real” music.

3) Dark Tranquillity – ‘My Friend of Misery’

Much like Hatebreed, Dark Tranquillity took a decent Metallica track and made it into something truly impressive. ‘My Friend of Misery’ really doesn’t get the love that it deserves, but Dark Tranquillity’s version shows that there at least some people out there that love it as much as I do.

Opening with that always beautiful bass riff, the Swedish metal veterans soon take the song down a dark, dark road, transforming it from a pseudo-thrash rocker into death metal-tinged insanity.

Mikael Stanne’s guttural vocals truly are the highlight of this awesome experience, making it a shame that Dark Tranquillity’s ‘My Friend of Misery’ can be found only on the limited edition of The Gallery (1995) (an album that every metalhead needs to hear, because it is absolutely stunning from start to finish).

2) Apocalyptica – ‘The Unforgiven’

Apocalyptica are the only act on this list that, instead of just covering one or two Metallica songs here and there, has made an entire album dedicated to the thrash legends.

The debut by the Finnish quartet is entitled Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (1996), and it does exactly what it says on the tin. The album sees eleven of Metallica’s best tracks transformed into classical, grandiose movements, each so beautiful and artistic that it becomes hard for me to pick a favourite.

But, overall, I think I have to go with their rendition of ‘The Unforgiven’. Taken from Metallica’s seminal "Black Album" (1991), the track already started out as a highly emotive, moving song. But Apocalyptica somehow makes the cut even more visceral in their translation of it to the world of the classical.

This cover is pure beauty, to the point where you don’t even have to be a metalhead to absolutely adore Apocalyptica’s ‘Unforgiven’.

1) Trivium feat. Robb Flynn and Corey Taylor – ‘Creeping Death’

The planets really aligned for this absolute slice of metal perfection. At the 2012 edition of the Revolver Golden God Awards, metalcore prodigies Trivium performed a short, three-song set which came to a raging climax as they covered Metallica’s ‘Creeping Death’.

But this was apparently a task too monumental for just four men, as the quartet was joined on-stage by Stone Sour/Slipknot singer Corey Taylor alongside Machine Head founder and front-man (and general bad-ass) Robb Flynn. What followed was sheer, heavy brilliance.

Taylor’s roars and Matt Heafy’s backing screams rival James Hetfield at his peak while all the instrumentalists in Trivium plus Flynn lay out a perfectly intricate, note-for-note adaptation of the Metallica classic. Robb’s own vocal passage during the song’s bridge is a slice of pure, powerful thrash, as both Heafy and Taylor chant “Die!” behind him in impassioned bellows.

It just has to be heard to be believed. Put this shit in Gears of War and do it now.

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