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No "Tabaluga tivi" on James' stereo - 45%

kluseba, October 28th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1998, 2CD, Vertigo

Metallica's "Garage Inc." is only interesting for collectors and die-hard fans as it's a rather odd mixture of newly recorded cover songs and cover songs recorded over more than one decade prior to this release. Even though these are cover songs, they are witnesses of the general controversial development of the band.

The most interesting tracks on here are actually the first recordings with Jason Newsted, released eleven years earlier as "The $5.98 EP - Garage Days Re-Revisited". These five songs are clearly the best on the release. James Hetfield's vocals are mean without overtly employing the strange pronunciation he would later use. The bass guitar is actually audible on here and Jason Newsted proves that he has a lot of technical talent but that he can also play with unchained energy. The guitar riffs are raw and the soli don't overuse the wah-wah pedal yet. Even the drum play is precise and tight. I really wish Metallica had recorded some original material with this raw production and energizing performance as this could have potentially become the best Metallica release ever. These five songs are simply fun to listen to.

The other songs on the second disc go downhill as the timeline passes by. There are a few highlights such as the famous Diamond Head covers "Am I Evil?" and "The Prince" or the angry Anti-Nowhere League worship on "So What" but the rest is rather generic. It would have been alright to cover one or two Motörhead songs but to put four covers of this band at the end of a record wasn't a brilliant idea. Motörhead is not exactly known for its diversity and originality. This is a general problem of this record as some artists are covered several times. Metallica missed the chance to introduce us to a few more obscure bands that influenced the band's early years. In addition to this, the sound of the more recent tracks is by far not as energizing and mean as the tracks recorded in the eighties.

The first disc includes only new recordings and they are pretty much hit and miss, just like the "Load" and "ReLoad" records that both moments of sheer experimental brilliance and headless redundancy. Some more courageous covers are actually grabbing my attention on here. The dark and plodding "Loverman" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is hard to sit through at first contact but has that special gothic atmosphere which I like a lot. The live rendition of the southern rock classic "Tuesday's Gone" by Lynyrd Skynyrd with banjo and harmonica is a nice experiment even though this kind of music is usually not really my cup of tea and also far too long with a running time above nine minutes. The cover of the old Irish folk song "Whiskey in the Jar" is probably the catchiest tune on here and the obvious single choice. Metallica really managed to make this song sound like one of their own. It would have fit and been a highlight on any of the two previous releases. The only slightly annoying thing is that the old-fashioned chorus coincidentally includes a mildly amusing pronunciation that suits James Hetfield's style of singing since the nineties. As a child, I always imagined James Hetfield singing that he doesn't want to listen to "Tabaluga tivi on a stereo" in the chorus. But back then, I also thought that that land mines had taken James' herring and not hearing on "One".

Anyway, several of the new cover songs are quite uninspired and boring like the repetitive Discharge's "Free Speech for the Dumb" or Misfits' "Die, Die My Darling" that sound like hastily recorded jam sessions where Metallica didn't put anything unique into the adaptions. I don't mind faster, simpler and straighter songs at all but these songs don't have the passion and unique twist that similar songs on the second disc have. Metallica sounds like a more or less talented punk cover band on here and it doesn't suit them at all. Some negative examples also tend towards the other extreme. As much as I respect Mercyful Fate, a medley consisting of five songs and a running time of over eleven minutes is just an overkill to me. Half of it would have been more than enough for me. I've never been a fan of medleys which are something that might be used in discotheques where people don't really listen to the music anyway but not on a metal record. While the shorter songs are too simple to leave any deeper impression, the longer songs really drag on for far too long.

All in all, this album is a lot of hit and miss to me but I must admit that there are more misses than hits. Ultimately, this release is saved by the inclusion of the legendary "The $5.98 EP - Garage Days Re-Revisited" songs. If you can grab the original, you should completely ignore this release. Otherwise, I only suggest you to grab this record if you see it for a very low price. This album is not as bad as the overlong "Lulu" or the extremely overrated "Metallica" but it's not far away from the latter either. I dusted this release off my shelf to give it a few spins after ten years or so and I completely understand why I haven't listened to this record for such a long time. It's a really unspectacular and unnecessary filler compilation with a few hidden gems. This record was ordinary back in the days and it definitely didn't age well either. It would be best for most metal fans to just ignore that this ever happened. This is for truly dedicated fans only.