Mark: It’s hard to imagine a more overblown band than Metallica, but even for them, The Metallica Blacklist is a pretty fucking audacious way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of your biggest record. The Black Album was an enormous smash, catapulting an already pretty huge metal band into an unfathomable level of crossover success. So they’ve decided to celebrate by releasing a 66 track collection featuring the album’s songs being covered by a wide array of artists.
Seems like a wacky thing to do, but it would also be wacky not to listen to each and every one of them. Go get a drink, we’re going to be awhile.
Jay: I listened to a fair share of The Black Album throughout my life but have mixed feelings about it as a record. I’m not sure I should be here! I also have mixed feelings about a 66-song set of covers, but I like the idea of evaluating each track independently. Let’s do it!
Alessia Cara & The Warning – “Enter Sandman”
Mark: Aside from some slightly nifty change-ups to the song structure, if I were to say to you “marble-mouthed modern female vocalist covers Enter Sandman for a movie trailer”, this is what you would hear in your head. Pretty boring! Tries to rock out at the end by faithfully playing the original riff, but feels kinda superfluous overall.
Jay: Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into? What is this “whoa” section? This version has a distinct “end of a superhero movie” or “video game trailer” feeling to it, in the bad way. It really says something that the very end, where they play the actual riff of the original song, is the highlight.
Mac DeMarco – “Enter Sandman”
Mark: Lolz. This one is pretty funny. It sounds all stoned and out of tune like most of DeMarco’s recordings do. But he’s clearly having fun with it. I can’t believe that I have to listen to this song again already.
Okay, this is pretty faithful to the original, but it’s funny because Mac DeMarco is working very hard to do his best Het voice, and throws in lots of swell growls at the end of each line. The recording also sounds like shit, which makes me feel like they knocked this out in an afternoon, which is about as much attention as a project like this deserves.
Guitar solo surprisingly tasty. Mostly this one is just silly, and I kind of respect that. He keeps laughing at the end and sounds more and more like he’s trying to do Ozzy from the beginning of “Crazy Train”. Falls completely apart at the end. These folks don’t give a fuck. Good stuff! Probably my fave thing that Mac DeMarco has ever done.
Jay: I dig the vocals, and also think it’s a testament to Hetfield that it makes you think about how successful Hetfield is at doing his thing. The cover is pretty straight, plus loads of chorus effect, minus some of the guitar flourishes of the original. I like the wah-wah on the solo. If this was my friend’s band who had recorded this at the end of their jam session, I’d tell them they did a killer job. I can’t believe I’m going to listen to five more versions of this song!
Ghost – “Enter Sandman”
Mark: Opens as a piano ballad. I hate it very much. The choral backup vocals make it worse somehow.
Kicks in with a very faithful Sandman Stomp at the second verse. This version feels really sluggish to me. Recording also kinda sounds like trash, so they probably didn’t spend much time polishing this turd.
Solo section stands out with a couple of nice flourishes, but overall this is a snooze-fest. Haha. See what I did there?
Jay: I’m OK with the piano line off the top, but these vocals really aren’t for me. This version has the distinct feeling of people older than Metallica doing a cover of Metallica, like Meatloaf’s band covering “Enter Sandman” while Meatloaf is taking an intermission (Meatloaf would have killed a vocal take of this song!). This version really doesn’t do anything for me. Why didn’t they get Meatloaf to do a version?
Juanes – “Enter Sandman”
Mark: I am very into how Juanes has transformed one of the most legendary metal grooves of all time into a very weird, herky-jerky… thing. It sounds like a vampire robot sneaking up on a guy in a sombrero. Outside of these very fun sections, though, the track is largely faithful to the original, although the slightly more latin-jazz tinged guitar solo is pretty nice!
Overall, I enjoy the flavour of this cover, and I give it credit for doing something, anything new with the source material.
Jay: In the first ten seconds, I’m already into this track more than anything before it. The tightness of the riff with the ringing out of the cymbals is just great. Vocals are much less my thing, and chorus is missing a punch, but I just appreciate that this version somehow simultaneously captures the original version’s spirit while distinctly doing its own thing. Nice solo, but definitely the song loses steam otherwise. This is too much “Enter Sandman” all in a row, but I’m glad this version is here.
Rina Sawayama – “Enter Sandman”
Mark: At least this one is in a different key, I guess. Big, punchy drums. That’s nice.
Haha, okay. This one is ludicrously huge on a production level. It has a big, slick, cinematic pop energy that I’m kind of digging. The vocal approach is a little bit of an “edgy girl on American Idol” vibe, but really well performed. Also, the chopped up samples of Papa Het’s laugh are hilarious.
Not the best guitar solo that I’ve heard so far, but the vibe of the overall track is carrying it. Pretty interesting change-up of the spoken word section of the song!
Oh shit! Key change. Alright, this one is really going for it. Best version I’ve heard so far, by a longshot. Absolutely stupid fun.
Jay: Hahah, what is this four on the floor thing? This version is audacious, with some hilarious production ideas. Like the previous track, it’s able to capture the spirit of the original song while also adding its own ideas and voice. As a subjective experience, this song really isn’t for me, but objectively I respect how much they’re going for it. The Hetfield pitch-modulated sample, the dance beat, the guitar ripping out in Hammett-like licks in the middle of the verse, the laser beams and risers… it’s a lot. Too much. But I admire the verve.
Grade: B+ (Mark), C+ (Jay)
Weezer – “Enter Sandman”
Mark: I’ve already heard this, and I know that it’s another entry in a long line of extremely faithful covers by Weezer. The production on this is actually really solid, and although it’s weird to hear Rivers Cuomo singing this song, the performance is admittedly pretty decent.
Huge bonus points for the inclusion of a “Buddy Holly” stinger at the end of the guitar solo, but then I also have to remove those huge bonus points for the tragic missed opportunity of not getting the guys from the spoken word sections of “The Sweater Song” to do the spoken word section of this song. I can’t fucking believe that nobody thought of doing that, but it would have really been something special.
All things considered, this is a pretty okay cover, and it sounds like a good amount of effort went into it. But other than the very funny “Buddy Holly” reference, there’s not much going on here that I wasn’t expecting.
Jay: A very straight cover that is saved from being too straight by two features: Rivers finding a way to sing it in his voice and not sound like a caricature of Hetfield, and the “Buddy Holly” stinger at the end of the solo. I’ll confess this is my favourite of the bunch, even though it’s such a rehash of the original; the vocals really express more emotion than the original, and it gives the song a nicely disarming, honest quality. This isn’t the sound of a band trying to be another band, but rather faithfully filtering another band’s music through their own voices. I’m not keen on most Weezer these days (except the incomparable “L.A. Girlz”), but I like this.
Grade: C+ (Mark), B+ (Jay)
Metallica – “Enter Sandman” (Remastered)
Mark: If we’re judging these by who did the best “Enter Sandman”, I don’t think that saying that Metallica did the best version of “Enter Sandman” is much of an upset. Also, this remix of the song took an already stupidly slick recording and pushed it even further. I haven’t done an A/B comparison, but this sounds absolutely huge.
This song might seem played out to some people, but there’s a reason why this blew Metallica up to mega-star status. This song is fun as hell. It achieves an unbelievable balance of spooky metal-ness and earworm hooky-ness.
Song still rocks.
Jay: I still think Meatloaf could do it better.
Next installment: “Sad But True” – covered by Sam Fender, Jason Isbell, St Vincent, Royal Blood, White Reaper, YB and Mexican Institute of Sound.
You’re going to do the whole Boxset? I am here for this. That’s a lot of cover versions. I found the trailer exhausting let alone all the tracks
Yeah, we’re going to try to tackle the whole box!
It is way, way too many covers. But we’ll just do one song at a time once a week or so and will hopefully not get TOO burned out on Metallica.
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