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The reason I bought this single (for one €uro on eBay, guess it isn't all too popular) is because Metallica ballads have always been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. Fade to Black, Sanitarium, One, The Unforgiven, Nothing Else Matters... I just love them all for some reason, can't tell you why, maybe some deep psycho-analysis would reveal that hidden secret, but as of now, I can only tell you that for some reason I just love them. Anyway, when watching the "Classic Albums" documentary about Metallica's black album I learned of the "elevator version" of Nothing Else Matters, which features no drums, bass or guitar distortion and instead only consists of an acoustic guitar played by James Hetfield, his vocals, and the Michael Kamen-conducted London Symphonic Orchestra. Learning about that, I just had to track down the release they put said version on, and this version of the Sad But True single is it.
This is just awesome. I like it a lot more than the album version. With Kirk, Jason and Lars out of the way, and with the arena rock power balled cliché of a distorted guitar solo at the climax out of the picture this song feels two dozen times more heartfelt and has much more of a vibe of James Hetfield pouring his heart out rather than the vibe of the album version, James Hetfield trying to make a radio-friendly song. Additionally, the orchestra - completely buried in the mix in the album version - really shines in this version, giving the song a much more intense atmosphere. The guitar solo being entirely acoustic works really well, too, and helps in giving the song its heartfelt singer/songwriter feel. You'd almost think Hetfield would change his name to Yusuf Islam after this. Really beautiful song, far outshining the album version.
Another bonus track on this single is a live version of "Creeping Death", from Metallica's legendary concert in Moscow. If you've seen the video "A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica" you'll know what an insane show that was. The performance here is very enthusiastic, very energetic, very thrashy and monstrous, and just a whole lot of fun to listen to. It's one of those live recordings that make you wish you had been there, because there is great energy and great interaction with the crowd. Definitely a good listen, and a more than worthy bonus track for a single.
So, with all the praise, why is the score so low, you ask? Well, it IS a Sad But True single, so unfortunately that song is on here, too. Twice. Being the second most repetitive Metallica song after Enter Sandman, and probably the one most overbearing with the excessive palm-muted chug-o-rama, it just grates on your nerves like a crying baby sitting in front of you on an intercontinental flight. To make matters worse, the demo version of this song is actually EVEN MORE ANNOYING than the album version. Yes, I know, it's hard to imagine, but it's true. Without Bob Rock's production gizmos and the weird echo-y U2 style semi-leads over the chorus, it descends even deeper into the dreaded realm of chugga-chug-chug-chugga-chug. How infinitely irritating.
Anyway, if you are a sucker for Metallica ballads like me, you should definitely get this single, because the "elevator version" of Nothing Else Matters is much, much better than the album version. Just remember to skip the first track and stop the CD before the fourth track starts, otherwise you'll end up with a frustratingly irritating listen.