5 Killer Cover Songs: Metallica

Photo: Ross Halfin

There’s little argument that can be made against the assertion that thrash metal titans Metallica are one of the biggest bands in the world, and quite possibly in the history of recorded music. I mean, not many bands can play an adequately-attended show in Antarctica, right?

Getting their start in 1981, Metallica has soldiered forward at a blistering pace, molding modern metal into their own creation and having a vast influence on rock music as a whole for decades now. Metallica has persevered through tragedy, lineup changes, lawsuits, and sometimes risky sonic experimentation (anyone remember their bizarre collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu?).

40 years after their formation, the thrash juggernauts have cemented their space in the annals of music history, still packing stadiums and selling millions of records worldwide. Hit the lights and check out these 5 great Metallica covers.

Shai Hulud, "Damage, Inc."

Shai Hulud is a band that isn’t afraid to toss in a few cover songs to complement their original material. They’ve put versions of songs by Bad Religion, NOFX, Bad Brains, Negative Approach, and more to tape, and always seem to put their own spin on it. Their rendition of the Master of Puppets closer, “Damage, Inc.,” is no different. The song was originally found on the b-side of Crush ‘Em All Vol. 1, released by Undecided Records in 2000, with BoySetsfire on the a-side covering “Fade to Black”.

The band later included it on the compilation A Profound Hatred of Man. The ferocity of the Metallica original is turned up, with then Hulud vocalist Geert van der Velde bellowing his way through James Hetfield’s lyrics, while Matt Fox and company play the song at a blistering pace. I may be biased—as Shai Hulud is one of my all-time favorites—but I think the forefathers of modern metalcore do a great job on the track.

Link 80, "Harvester of Sorrow"

If you’re over the age of 30 like me, you may remember a time where Fearless Records was mostly a punk label, releasing material by Straight Faced, Bigwig, At the Drive-In, and Gob. One of the standouts of this era of Fearless was the compilation Punk Goes Metal, finding various punk bands like AFI, Strung Out, and Death By Stereo covering a swath of hair metal and thrash classics.

One of the standouts to me was ska/punk band Link 80’s take on Metallica’s “Harvester of Sorrow” from 1988's …And Justice for All album. While I was big into ska as a teenager, the genre does little to nothing for me now, but Link 80’s offering to this compilation is pretty awesome. The horn section sounds legitimately evil, with the verses being sped up to a pace that would incite a circle pit at any show. The band’s interpretation really lets the punk influences of Metallica shine through.

Between the Buried and Me, "Blackened"

Having appeared in this column before, North Carolina prog metal stalwarts Between the Buried and Me took on quite an eclectic blend of artists for their 2006 Victory Records cover album, The Anatomy Of. The band made the right choice to kick off the album with the Metallica track “Blackened," turning the over-6-minute epic into a whirlwind of stomping mosh, blast beats and intricate playing.

Between the Buried and Me vocalist Tommy Rogers growls his way through the song, opting to take a more death metal approach in the vocals instead of sticking to the gritty melody of the original. The band crushes their way through intricate solos penned by Kirk Hammett, with no single member bringing the ferocity of the song down at all. In fact, the instrumentation is as accurate as you’ll find in a Metallica cover. Even the tone of the guitars is spot on, especially the mid-heavy guitar intro to the song.

Cannibal Corpse, "No Remorse"

One could argue that modern death metal would not be what it is today without Cannibal Corpse, much like how modern rock and heavy metal wouldn’t be what it is without Metallica. Not only did the Corpse make a name for themselves with their unrelenting and controversial, slasher-film-provoking lyrics, but also with the grotesque and infamous artwork the band used by Vince Locke. Not to mention their infamous appearance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Cannibal Corpse has done a more-than-adequate job of paying homage to their metal ancestors, covering songs by Black Sabbath, Kreator, and Possessed. One of the standouts in their tributes is the Gore Obsessed (and later Red Before Black) bonus track, “No Remorse." 

Vocalist (and Target super fan) George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher bellows his way through the vocals on the track, making the song that much more terrifying, as the rest of the band slams their way through the song. The track sounds absolutely punishing tuned a few steps down, which really gives it that Cannibal Corpse vibe.

Exhumed, "Trapped Under Ice"

As previously mentioned, Metallica’s influence on many subgenres of metal is vast, and splatter metal juggernauts Exhumed are no exception to that influence. Having started in 1990, releasing demos, splits and EPs, the band quickly made a name for themselves with their impressive output. Much of their early material was compiled for the massive 3-CD, 83-song collection, Platters of Splatter.

Exhumed's discography following that collection includes the 2005 covers album, Garbage Daze Re-Regurgitated, an obvious nod to Metallica’s The $5.98 E.P. – Garage Days Re-Revisited covers collection. The album also includes a unique blend of metallized selections, including songs by The Cure, Amebix, and Led Zeppelin.

Exhumed destroys the Ride the Lightning classic (an album which is my personal Metallica favorite), putting their own gore-informed spin on it, drenching the song in double bass, blast beats and face-melting solos. It almost sounds indecipherable until the song’s chorus cuts through the wall of devastation, making way for a technical and neck-snapping bridge of the song.


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Tagged: 5 killer cover songs, metallica