Metallica’s 10 Best Cover Songs
Metallica are the most commercially successful heavy metal band of all time, selling more than 120 million albums to date. But long before they were a household name, they were an up-and-coming band that leaned on their influences to create a signature sound. Cover songs have been a long part of Metallica’s history, especially at their early live concerts and with 1987’s ‘$5.98 EP Garage Days Re-Revisited’ EP -- which served as an introduction to bassist Jason Newsted, following the untimely and tragic death Cliff Burton – and 1998’s ‘Garage Inc.,’ which features the band’s take on a diverse slate of artists including Queen, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Misfits. Here is our list of Metallica's 10 Best Cover Songs.
Metallica’s 1998 cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ shows off a completely different side of the band. The song, included on ‘Garage Inc.,’ features the band stripped down performing the southern rock staple acoustically with some help from former Down and Corrosion of Conformity guitarist/singer Pepper Keenan, Les Claypool from Primus, Faith No More’s Jim Martin, Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney from Alice in Chains and Blues Traveler’s John Popper.
Metallica’s take on Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page’ was a huge hit for the band back in 1998, topping the Billboard Rock chart for over 11 weeks. The slow ode to life on the road fits right into Metallica’s wheelhouse, while also showing a different side of the band. The controversial Jonas Akerlund-directed video, which was banned from MTV at the time, for the song features porn star Ginger Lynn and tells the story of a mother who works as an erotic dancer during the day and a prostitute at night.
The original ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ shows a different side of Queen, featuring a very heavy guitar riff from Brian May and some crazy vocal harmonies from the late Freddie Mercury. Metallica’s spot-on cover, minus the vocal aerobatics, fits right into the band’s repertoire and was originally featured on the B-side to 1991’s ‘Enter Sandman.’
Metallica’s take on Thin Lizzy’s version of the traditional Irish song ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ is also featured on the band’s 'Garage Inc' album. The mid-tempo take on the Irish classic is uniquely Metallica and also shows off a more polished side of the band in their playing and on the production on the track. The song received a lot of radio airplay that brought a ton of exposure to the traditional track and also garnered Metallica the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance back in 2000, besting tracks from Alice in Chains, Buckcherry, Kid Rock, Korn and Limp Bizkit.
‘The Small Hours’ was originally featured on Metallica’s 1987 ‘Garage Days Re-Revisited’ EP. The song starts with a clean guitar playing a dissonant melody before the heavy slow riff comes chugging in. The slow groove of the song is infectious as are the lyrics in the original Holocaust song. ‘Dark rivers are flowing back into the past / You are the fish for which I cast / And what of the future, what is to be / As the rivers flow into the sea.” Metallica crushes this version of the song, which is one of the highlights on the 'Garage Days' EP.
'So What’ is a vulgarity-laden romp through the Anti-Nowhere League classic. Metallica's version was originally released as the B-side to the single “The Unforgiven.’ The ode to simply not giving a s--t touches on some taboo topics like bestiality and sexually transmitted diseases but all in a tongue-in-cheek yet matter-of-fact delivery. The band liked to close out shows with this song on their ‘Nowhere Else to Rome Tour’ in 1994.
‘Helpless’ takes Metallica back to their humble beginnings, as the band tackled the Diamond Head song at many of their early shows. The track serves as the kick off of Metallica’s 1987 ‘$5.98 EP Garage Days Re-Revisited’ EP and is also available on 'Garage Inc.' The speedy cover features a raw and energetic Metallica at their best. Kirk Hammett shreds a brilliant solo in the track that also shows off Metallica’s sense of humor at the end when it fades out and then fades back in as the band jokingly falls apart while recording.
‘Breadfan’ was originally written and recorded by Welsh prog-rockers Budgie back in 1973. Metallica first released the track as a B-Side on the ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ single back in 1988. The band had knack for busting their cover out during encores in the late '80s and used the song as the opener on their 1994 tour. The song features a blistering solo from Kirk Hammett, before morphing into a slow section featuring even more tasteful work from the guitarist. The song picks back up with the main riff and chorus before ending with the classic spoken line, “Mommy, where’s Fluffy?”
Metallica’s cover of the Misfit’s ‘Die Die My Darling’ is an amazing tongue-in-cheek performance on 1998’s 'Garage Inc.' album. Their version doesn’t veer to far off the original 1984 Misfits song, but Metallica did shorten the track by a full minute and added their stamp with heavy crunchy guitars and a ironic delivery of the lyrics by James Hetfield. Never have the words “Don’t cry for me oh baby / Your future’s in an oblong box yeah” been delivered with such passionate melodic conviction.
It’s not surprising that some still don’t realize that ‘Am I Evil?’ is a cover, as it has been a staple in Metallica’s live show for decades and the band has really put their stamp on the song. It was originally recorded by Diamond Head on their 1980 debut album ‘Lightning to the Nations.’ Metallica released their studio version on the B-side of ‘Creeping Death’ back in 1984. Their version of the classic is also featured on 1998’s ‘Garage Inc.’ The seven-minute-plus song shows off Metallica’s versatility with a slow heavy groove and some speedy sections. You can hear the influence of the song in some of Metallica’s more progressive offerings like ‘Eye of the Beholder’ and ‘The Frayed Ends of Sanity.’