Mark: Last week’s reviews of seven different versions of “Sad But True” proved to be a bit more divisive than our reviews of a pile of versions of “Enter Sandman”, but I also feel like it was more interesting. There were fewer rote renditions of the tune and a few more acts took the song into uncharted territory.
Today we’ll be looking at covers of a song that I am admittedly not nearly as familiar with as I was with the first two – “Holier Than Thou”. I’m looking forward to it! Honestly, I’m only really dreading “The Unforgiven” because I hate that song and “Nothing Else Matters” because there are something like 20 covers of just that one song.
What say you, Jay?
Jay: Like you, this album cut isn’t as present in my memory, other than the end of the choruses and their “you—know—not”, but that might be a boon for all the coverers. Without all the cultural baggage, the artists might have an opportunity to do something unique with the material. But again, we’re talking about Metallica songs here, so I’m not going to get my hopes too high!
Biffy Clyro – “Holier Than Thou”
Mark: I love the way that this cover starts off. What’s a “Biffy Clyro”, anyway?
The warbling electronics and drum intro is terrific. Great chord progression! I vaguely remember this tune being one of the more “thrash” oriented tracks on the black album, and I feel pretty confident that this cover is taking things in a different direction. The synth sections are fucking terrific.
The vocal approach is distinctly non-Hetfield, and I like it well enough. Good harmonies. When this one amps up the rock, it gets pretty crispy! Big guitars and some drum licks that approach blast-beats.
Wow, interesting departure during this extended outro as well. This is one of the more interesting covers in this collection, in my opinion. Do I need to look into Biffy Clyro?
Jay: Great start! Is this actually “Holier Than Thou”? I can’t hear any of the original DNA at first, though it’s a little more present once the guitars come. Really great use of (I think) tritone chords. Really great guitar sound, some really excellent drum ideas (the relentless eighth notes at the end of each vocal phrase is fantastic). Love the chorus harmonies. Yeah, this one is working for me. The only thing that isn’t quite working for me are the vocals; I appreciate the difference between them and the original, but they have a clarity of enunciation and a lack of bite that reminds me of a musical or an anime song.
But again, all this wild chord stuff, the use of synth sounds, the fantastic drums and guitar, the wild swings from pretty to fierce, this superb outro… it is all really great. There are little moments in the later vocals that remind me of Shudder to Think, and that’s fantastic for me. A terrific cover.
The Chats – “Holier Than Thou”
Mark: Nice to hear a straight-up punk rock performance of one of these tunes. I have a proclivity for songs rooted in punk, so I’m into this regardless of the rough edges. The band is raging, and by the end it sounds like they’re about to fall off of a stage. Great guitar squall to take us out of the song.
The vocals are what they need to be for this kind of performance. They definitely help prop up the vibe of the song. This cover gets by on vibe.
I had fun with this.
Jay: This is fun! The main riff is just a little too goofy for me in this format, and the vocals aren’t for me. But it’s a ripping cover of an OK song.
Grade: B (Mark), C+ (Jay)
OFF! – “Holier Than Thou”
Mark: Yes! OFF!
Bonus points for this music video also doubling as a short film starring David Yow as a priest (?!). The song launches into another punk cover, albeit a wildly more proficient one than the last (which was already pretty decent). Holy smokes, this band rips.
Everything about this video smokes hard. This is legitimately something that I would listen to, Metallica related or no. We’ve already got a hardcore-laced punk band shredding through a tightly-wound metal cover (occasionally in d-beat mode!), and then you’re going to give me a ripping saxophone solo AND a vision of Jesus throwing the devil horns?
Sign me up. This is the greatest.
Jay: OFF! A good choice. I skipped through the movie, sorry. I’ve got shit to do! Absolutely incredible intro to this version. This cover surpasses the original in energy, intensity, and verve. It rules. If this were just a song on a record, I would say the same thing. Mark is not wrong: this is the greatest.
Pup – “Holier Than Thou”
Mark: Another punk cover! Haha. “Holier Than Thou” is now my favourite Black Album song.
I have an on-again-off-again relationship with Pup. I think that they can rip it, but when they skate too close to pop-punk territory, I tune out. I think that are essentially a good band, though.
I like the way that they’ve restructured the chords underpinning the verses to make them sound more like a Pup song. Actually, the verses sound great to me in general. Not so much the chorus, which I think should erupt and here just sounds kind of underwhelming and a little awkward.
Definitely will award effort points for the guitar solo, because they really went for it. I wouldn’t call this a failure, but it is certainly not close to being the best cover of this song so far. They’ve actually got a cover of Grandaddy’s “A.M. 180” that works way better for them.
Jay: The OFF! managed to straddle the line between feeling good and feeling angry. This is simultaneously taking itself too seriously and too comically goofy in its arrangement. I have heard a few songs by this band that were fun and interesting. This is neither, unfortunately. Even the shoutier second verse doesn’t feel genuine.
While I’m listening to this go on and on, I’m wondering if maybe we should declare a “best version” of each of these songs. This wouldn’t be the best version of “Holier Than Thou”.
Grade: C (Mark), C- (Jay)
Corey Taylor – “Holier Than Thou”
Mark: Hahaha. Corey Taylor.
I can tell what kind of cover this is going to be just from the intro. Total celeb wanting to have fun cover version and he has the funds to produce it out the wazoo.
Very straightforward cover, designed to prop up Taylor’s best Het impression. Which is a pretty good one, to be fair. Corey Taylor can sing this kind of music. It is not surprising.
This one definitely falls into the category of “tribute” cover rather than “interesting take on a song”. Not much personality here, other than Corey’s performance itself. Which again, is not surprising.
The “who the fuck are you” part made me giggle. This is proficient. I’ll probably never listen to it again in my life.
Jay: This just reads like a very very polished remake of the original. It’s true that he has the vocal chops to pull off this song, BUT his heart doesn’t seem to be in it like Het’s heart is in the original. These kind of corny lyrics only work as angry if you’re absolutely convinced they are angry. This sounds more like someone happy with their vocal take than urgent to tell someone that they’re self-righteous.
Hahah, I just got to the “Yeah, who the fuck are you?” part. I’m not sure it offers anything new beyond to people who are Corey Taylor fans and want to hear him sing a song they already like. That ain’t me.
Metallica – “Holier Than Thou” (Remastered)
Mark: I have decided that I like this song. It hits harder than “Enter Sandman” and has a more insistent vibe than “Sad But True”. I would like to drive on a highway to this one. And I hate driving.
Guitars sound great and have a terrific crunch. Holy fuck that snare drum is loud. Has someone done a YouTube video where they’ve replaced this snare sound with the St Anger snare? I can’t find it. That’s too bad.
I really like the solo section before the wahwah pedal comes in. Then it’s just okay. This album really overuses the wahwah pedal!
Anyway, this song basically rips pretty hard. It’s more my thing than most Black Album songs are. I’m not sure it’s got the mythically huge hit qualities that “Enter Sandman” does, though.
Jay: You know what part of this really rips? When the wah solo ends, and it’s just the bass and drums stomping off to infinity. That part is so great, and it makes it clear how much fun this song would be live. The rest of this song is fine. But then again, this is a song about being overly judgemental and stupid, so maybe don’t listen to me?
Next installment: “The Unforgiven” – covered by Cage The Elephant, Vishal Dadlani + Divine + Shor Police, Diet Cig, Flatbush Zombies + DJ Scratch, Ha*Ash, Jose Madero, and Moses Sumney.