Mark: Last week we took a look at a pretty dismal batch of “Wherever I May Roam” covers. I don’t know what to expect from this week’s “Don’t Tread On Me” covers, as I don’t remember this song at all. But whatever the result, it will be blissfully short, because there’s only a handful of them.
Mr Jay, did your week recover from listening to five bad versions of “Wherever I May Roam”?
Jay: Yeah, last week was a pretty shoddy offering from the world’s most famous Metallica fans. And this week’s track is a weird one for 2021. I remember it being an unironic/unsarcastic pro-America song, or pro-war song, and I can’t imagine that holds up very well considering the last thirty years. But maybe a new interpretation of the song can breathe some life and nuance into the track? Let’s find out!
SebastiAn – “Don’t Tread on Else Matters”
Mark: Instantly kind of enjoying this 80s pop transformation of Metallica. It is very funny. Like Hetfield grunting his way overtop of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”. The production, while hilarious, sounds pretty great. The sounds all pop right out of the track and bounce and sparkle the way that so many things did back in the 80s, when people still had hope in their lives. Hahaha.
The transition into a synth strings presentation of “Nothing Else Matters” is fucking absurd, though. Haha. Who the fuck is SebastiAn? It then moves into kind of glitched-out remix territory and I’m just howling.
This is the funniest track on The Blacklist by a million miles. I think it’s kind of awful, but I also think it is extremely entertaining. This is review-proof. I have no choice but to give this an A.
Jay: Some 80s Bowie vibes in the intro guitars. I don’t really recognize the song at all from the beginning, which is neat, and when the vocals enter I suddenly can hear how the translation was made, which is even neater. Great horns.
But yeah, what is going on in this song? The sudden turn in mood and arrangement. Really nice to hear these isolated strings and brass; I wonder if they’re the originals. And when Het comes in on vocals I chortled. The whole thing seems like it keeps undermining itself as it goes. But hearing some of the harmony and lower vocal parts in isolation is really great. I don’t think I like this, but I am very fascinated by this.
And then the glitch-disco kicks in. Hah. This is all very silly when taken as a whole. But it sounds really good and doesn’t ever do more than wink at you, so the mood almost works overall. What a weird outro. What a weird song. What a good producer!
Grade: A (Mark), B (Jay)
Portugal. The Man – “Don’t Tread On Me”
Mark: Interesting sounds going on here. I don’t know anything about Portugal. The Man beyond the fact that writing about them makes it seem like you don’t know how to put a sentence together because your punctuation gets all fucked up.
Bass and drums heavy cover with an unsettling vocal track that sounds vaguely… choral? There’s a nervous energy to most of this that I enjoy. It is refreshingly off-kilter and quite strangely produced and performed. Style points for there being something about this track that creeps me out.
I don’t love this, but it has a certain something.
Jay: I’m going to call them PTM to avoid the punctuation issue Mark mentioned. Some interesting sounds here, but the plonky key things sound like they’re in the wrong sound, both in terms of the notes and the timbre.
This once again sounds like a group of buddies goofing around with a Metallica song in the rehearsal space. At least this one approaches the original from a few different angles. Still, I’m not really into the vocal approach, or recording/mix, or arrangement in general. Not for me! Though I have to say the intro, interlude, and mellotron outro have really neat ambiance and I wish there was more of the song like these.
Grade: B (Mark), C+ (Jay)
Volbeat – “Don’t Tread on Me”
Mark: Volbeat is another band that I have heard of, but have not actually heard. They must be a heavy rock band, because this sounds like it might be a very straightforward cover of the song.
The recording sounds pretty good. Big, tough sound. The central riff is pretty great. The harmonies and synth work in the chorus are a really nice touch, too. Actually very great and nicely succinct guitar solo here too.
I like this just fine. I get the sense that this vocalist is bending their usual style to put on a Papa Het performance, but not so much that it bothers me. Good, clean hard rock/metal voice.
Sucker punch outro surprised me and sounds great. I like this one!
Jay: Pretty faithful cover of the original in many respects, but also with some nice flourishes around the edges (and during the chorus). Doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but the production is solid, the vocals aren’t trying to ape Het, and I feel like it has more pep than the original. That chorus lead guitar reminds me of the band Failure, which is always a good thing. [Edit after hearing the original again: this version does more reimagining than my memory told me, and I like it better than the original.]
Grade: B (Mark), B+ (Jay)
Metallica – “Don’t Tread on Me” (Remastered)
Mark: Holy shit, this intro is great and hilarious. The gang vocals are enormous and the riffs are very heavy and fist-pumpy. Some great drum work here as well. Lots of great hits and chugs.
I think I can overlook the connotations that come along with the song title and the kinds of folks that wave those goddamned “Don’t Tread on Me” flags around because this song is a fun, chunky monster. I mean, it’s the song equivalent of a pickup truck with a busted-off tailgate. But that can be fun.
How come every guitar solo on this album has a wahwah pedal involved? Ah well, minor quibble.
Pretty fun song for an album cut!
Jay: Ah, this tempo is far slower than the Volbeat version, which is probably why that one felt peppier. The production on this track feels quite empty as compared to the other tracks on the Black Album so far. The vocals (especially the goofy refrain at the very end) emphasize that rah-rah American thing that I remember, and yes, that sounds weird in 2021. Even the solo doesn’t evoke much. Overall, the original feels sluggish, empty, too silly in its chromatic verses, and like filler as compared to every other track we’ve heard thus far. Oh well. They can’t all be hits!
Grade: B+ (Mark), C+ (Jay)
Next installment: “Through The Never” – covered by The HU and Tomi Owó.