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This is a rather pointless little single that's been in my possession since 1992, making it one of my earliest metal CDs. Thing is, any CD I've bought in the last month or two has probably already been spun more often than this single has in the roughly 18 years that I've owned it. It's not just pointless for the obvious reason that singles are often pointless when you own the album that has the song on it anyway, it's also pointless in that the b-sides on here are of no interest or value.
So there's a live version of "Enter Sandman", as if we hadn't already heard that song a billion times by the time this single was released. That's right, as proud owner of this single do you not already have a superfluous copy of one song you already have on the album, no, you get a bonus song that's not only on the album but has previously been released as its own single as well. So as an avid collector this would be the third time you now have this song on CD. Awesome.
The live version of "Harvester of Sorrow" is the only thing remotely of interest here, if only for the sole reason that Metallica forget how to play it halfway through. At some point every one just starts playing something completely different from one another and from how the song's supposed to go, the band stops, there's a bit of embarrassed whistling, a spit, and the song resumes. Yeah, I know, not exactly worth anyone's money, but a fun listen once or twice.
These two live tracks are of course sandwiched between the two versions of the title track, once the album version and then again one of these demo versions that are on all singles of the self-titled album (and in abundance in other parts of Metallica's discography) and which are basically the same as the actual version except with a more primitive sound and Hetfield not having his lyrics together yet, doing the by now well-known "na-na-naa" lines instead. We all know how the song goes, we've heard it on the radio a million times and many of us own the album. And if you really wanted to have "Nothing Else Matters" as a single you should get the "Sad But True" single containing the "elevator version" of the song, much better than having the album version a second time.
I don't see how there'd be any need for this. At all. I'd have sold it a long time ago, but what would I sell it for? Who would buy this? Who would want this?
This song absolutely marks the new commercial direction Metallica headed for with the release of the self-titled. All the girls in my school love this song, so that's a clue of how easy-listening this song is.
Anyways, I don't label songs as “bad” just because they are commercial. There are commercial, radio-friendly songs out there that are absolutely worth listening in my opinion, tunes like Priest's “Revolution”, Maiden's “Wasted Years”, Scorpions' “Blackout”, etc. Metallica are also a band that knows how to write good ballads, classics like “Fade to Black”, “The Unforgiven”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and the essential “One” are some of my personal favourite tunes ever. So, Metallica had everything to really make “Nothing Else Matters” a better song than it is.
The problem is that this track is absolutely generic. The guitar lines try to be melancholic and sad, but they are pretty simple and common; the drum beats are pretty lame (Lars, you can do better than that!), the only things that save this tune to be a complete waste of time are Hetfield's vocals, his powerful voice is wonderful here, and the guitar solo, which is short but very emotional. A pretty good solo indeed.
As for the live tracks, they are useless unless you have never heard Metallica live. Otherwise, the tracks aren't worth listening. The demo of “Nothing Else Matters” is also useless, in my opinion.
So, better get other Metallica ballads instead of this one. Compared to “Unforgiven” or "Bleeding Me" this song is just a little piece of mediocrity.