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Thousands of spins, and still great - 90%

OlympicSharpshooter, January 10th, 2004

While I am a fan of everything Metallica has released, I can honestly say that no album of theirs has held my interest as long as this one. I have to be in the right mood for most albums, but this one is an evergreen.

Metallica has always enjoyed playing covers, and this collection is a nice salute to their long career and the bands they enjoy listening to. I would argue that Blue Oyster Cult wasn't a huge influence on the band, but I don't think that disqualifies them from being covered. They don't do Maiden and Priest because those are obvious choices. Even four covers in, most people have no idea who Diamond Head are. Same for Discharge and Mercyful Fate. And nobody would expect a Nick Cave or Bob Seger cover. About the only ones you might expect are the Motorhead covers, and those were done for a Lemmy tribute show. Metallica enjoys surprising people, and that's what they've done here.

The electric opener is "Free Speech for the Dumb", the first of two Discharge covers, and it thrashes along like nothing they've done since uhhh, "Through the Never" maybe. It's dead simple, but you can tell they're getting a kick out of it. "It's Electric" contains some of Diamond Heads dumbest lyrics(well, "Sucking My Love" is worse) but that riff is infectious, and it's fun to hear James hamming it up like a 70's hero. Oh, and I love that multi-tracked sustained note in the chorus.

"Sabbra Cadabra" is my least favourite number here. The Sabbath original was a trippy almost honky-tonk metaller with a nice bluesy piano line and a real sense of boogie. The Metallica version strips it off this and makes it come off as a "Load" reject. However, major points for a truly metal grafting of "A National Acrobat" into the middle of the song.

"Die Die My Darling" beats the stuffing out of the original. It's one of the more grim songs in punk history, and Metallica infuses it with coiled menace and some very impassioned vocals. "Turn the Page" is a nice chugging Bob Seger cover. I'm a huge fan of Bob, and this cover can't beat the originals moody atmosphere, but they certainly give it the ol' college try. A nice fuzzy Hammett solo, and the song has a great rock out section the original seemed to build up to, but never released.

Here we have a truly epic cover, along the lines of "Fixxxer" or "The Outlaw Torn". The verses are all classic Cave doom and gloom, and the lyrics are perfect for James who really shreds his vocal chords on that titanic chorus. It's odd how the term "epic" can be put on something this personal, but it's both. James rambles like he's playing in a bar in front of twenty or thirty people, and you are almost soothed by the quiet before he goes back into that brimstone n' bells scream. "LOVERMAN!"

The Mercyful Fate medley is a classic speedy metal cover, and I can picture people crying with joy at it (the kind who piss on their 90's records mostly), It's got some of Fate's best early tunes, most from Melissa and the Mercyful Fate EP. It's comprised of the following: 1. "Satan's Fall" (a song that's actually longer than the whole medley) works well, and it's hilarious to hear Metallica doing straight up "hail Satan" lyrics 2. "The Curse of the Pharaohs" is even better than the original version. The guitars are heavier, the bass superior, and although James ain't King Diamond, this song wasn't one the King's tougher to perform anyway and doesn't suffer from the change. Also fun to hear Kirk do more than one solo in the same song for once. 3. "A Corpse Without a Soul" is one of the best vengeful zombie stories in metal (how many are there?), and it's a smooth segue from "Pharaohs" to 4. "Into the Coven". "Come come/Into the Coven/and become Lucifer's Child!" Ah, I love this part. James seems to know of what he speaks, and although the King is wailing away on this with all his might, James makes his point felt. 5. Last is "Evil", and I really wish we'd gotten more of this one because it's a damn good song.

"Astronomy" is the third homer in a row, with the band ably honouring one of the Cult's most magical songs. James emotes well, and the band seems to thrum like a tightly wound string before snapping back on another titanic chorus. Gotta love those enthusiastic "HEY!"s over a winding medieval piece of castle rock par excellence. Then back into the verse, nice Hammett solo, and another big payoff and ride-out solo.

"Whiskey in the Jar" was a big hit and deservedly so, but I think that they could've picked a better Lizzy tune. Nothing special here. "Tuesday's Gone" is an oddity in that it was recorded live for an acoustic jam, whereas the others are all new studio tracks. It's one of Skynyrd's best songs, a beautiful lonesome ballad that, like "Turn the Page", perfectly evokes the feeling of the road. Obviously those haters of "Metallicountry" won't find much to like here, but them's the breaks. Not sure why we needed seven guest musicians here, but I'm a big fan of AIC, CoC, and Primus so I won't complain that they are represented here.

"The More I See" is another dead simple Discharge number, and a fitting close to disc one. Stay tuned for a little guitar and bass doodle bonus track thingy.

Disc 2 is even better in my opinion. I reviewed the Garage Days EP earlier, so check that for my thoughts on tracks 1-5. Suffice to say, all of em are great, with "Helpless" and especially "The Small Hours" being stand-out tracks.

"Am I Evil" is the greatest Metallica song they didn't write. Much as I love Diamond Head, Metallica blows them away on this song. This is Metallica playing straight up evil like they rarely do, and it's great. Huge epic riffs, some of James' best howls, a solid "Paint it Black"-like military march drum beat from Ulrich, and solos solos solos! This, along with "The Prince" really shows how much compositional influence these NWOBHMers had on Tallica. It thrashes it grooves and it crushes.

"Blitzkrieg" is a fun dumb proto-thrasher from a band of the same name, but lets be honest here, the Tallica version is worlds better because they are far superior players. This is a real toe-tapper though, with a nice riff, some cool Burton bass work and just a real fun NWOBHM cheese metal feel. Also gotta love the "fucked up in one place" sound bite from Ulrich at the end. These two tracks were from the classic "Creeping Death" single originally, just as an FYI, and comprise the very first Garage Days chapter.

"Breadfan" is another classic, a hyperspeed update of an already hyperspeed song by loveable underdogs Budgie. This was high metal science back in '73, and it still rocks like a mofo today. Gotta love the pretty interlude with what is in actuality one of Kirk's better solos. A comparable section in "Crash Course in Brain Surgery" was axed and replaced with hilarious drunken bellowing, but luckily it's still present here. Of course they axed it and made it even more frenetic live, but what the hell. Also features one of the more challenging lyrics in the Metallica cannon because of the speed and length of the verses. I still wanna know what the hell is up with the "fluffy" line at the end though.

"The Prince" was one of the first true Bay Area Thrash songs. None of the stump-dumb structures of Anvil or Motorhead here. Dizzying speed, tons of tempo changes, and one of the most unforgettable lead breaks ever. If Diamond Head had had a singer like James Hetfield, they would've been unstoppable.

"Stone Cold Crazy" is a faithful update and it sticks close to the roller coaster riff-and-rolling original (how could it not?) the only difference really being a slight tempo increase an a more intimidating vocalist. To be fair to Freddie though, I'd like to see James try "Somebody to Love" for example. "So What?" is a ludicrously obscene anthem from goofy punks Anti-Nowhere League. It's a fun tune, and the production is easily the best on the second disc. Even though it's from mid-career Metallica, this is one of the first modern Hetfield vocals. Keep it simple stupid.

One of the very first Metallica covers, "Killing Time" is somewhat unremarkable except for James' quirky drill sergeant vocals (odd counterpoint to "Disposable Heroes") and the quick pace. Really little to say here.

Now we have the Motorheadache set. These stick right to the book, and it's fun to hear Metallica just fucking around in the studio. Watch for some massive miscues and flubs, and some really cheap production, but who cares? Just fun fun fun, and some of the 'Heads best tunes as well. Refreshing to hear a Motorhead set without "Ace of Spades".

And that pretty much covers it. One of my very favouritest albums, and one that refuses to get tired for me.

Stand-Outs: "Am I Evil?", "Astronomy", "The Small Hours"