The Metallica Blacklist: Elton John, Royal Blood, Biffy Clyro and more on covering their favourite Metallica songs…
Arguably Metallica's finest album and perhaps one of the defining albums of the 1990s, Metallica's self-titled 1991 album known to most simply as The Black Album turns 30 this year and as well as treating fans to a newly-remastered version of the album and some fantastic box set editions last month, this week the metal legends unveil a new album which sees the great and good of rock music pay tribute to their heroes with cover versions of their favourite songs from the band's 1991 materpiece.
The Metallica Blacklist arrives in stores this week and sees more than 50 artists putting their own unique spin on The Black Album's songs, spanning all genres from rock to jazz with covers by a laundry list of bands and artists inlcuding Elton John, Biffy Clyro, St. Vincent, Weezer, Kamasi Washinton, Royal Blood and more.
Ahead of its release some of the artists involved offered their thoughts on the songs they chose to cover for the new album and what they learned by unpicking some of Metalloca's best-loved songs...
Biffy Clyro on ‘Holier Than Thou’
“We picked 'Holier Than Thou' because it’s one of the quiet heroes off the record. I think songs like Enter Sandman, Sad But True and Nothing Else Matters they’re obvious fan favorites. We felt, that maybe they were slightly obvious songs to cover. We definitely like to stand for the underdog as a band. Nothing more, this is a real personal favourite, I just love the dense sound of guitars in the original. We felt that it was a great song to tackle, something we could really get our teeth into.
“We’ve got such huge respect for Metallica that we felt that the worst thing we could do would be to try and out-riff Metallica or out play Metallica or trying an exact cover. We felt it would show more respect to take the song on a little bit of a journey.”
Elton John on ‘Nothing Else Matters’
“I was asked by Andrew Watt, who produced the track, to play piano on it. And the original track started with a guitar, and he had the vision of saying 'I want to start with a piano on its own, and end with a piano on its own.' So I did it, I did it in London via Zoom. It was a lot of fun, and I loved this song anyways, so much, and the vocals and everything, and the track, and everybody on it.
“I was the last but one person to go on it, and when I did my bit and it worked out so well, he decided to ask Yoyo Ma to do the solo in the middle and the ending with me. So, he was absolutely right and his vision was incredible that it works so well.”
Royal Blood on ‘Sad But True’
“We chose to record this Metallica song because it’s bold, it’s ferocious, it’s a kick in the teeth and it’s out of our comfort zone. We like to be challenged. It’s got a great shaker and great guitar solos.
“We had a great time recording this track and learned a lot along the way. We learned how intricate these songs are. We learned that it’s very challenging to recreate the guitar solos with a lack of guitarists in our band. But in doing that we got to reimagine them and do our own thing.”
Kamasi Washington on ‘My Friend of Misery’
“Before doing this cover of “My Friend of Misery” I know I’d only really listened to Metallica just as a fan, for enjoyment. I had never really fully dissected the songs like that. You know, I just kind of listened to them they way I listened to most music. I try to just absorb it, I try not to dissect everything. Because I’m just a fan of music and sometimes when you start dissecting it, it makes it a little harder to just kind of enjoy it at the pure level.
“For doing this, I was really dissecting the song and really the whole album. Whenever I do that, I feel like every musician, especially great musicians, they kind of have their own vocabulary. Metallica as a band, they definitely - as individuals as well - but as a band for sure they have their own vocabulary. Getting in there and really listening to the song and thinking about the structures and arrangements and the sounds, and all that. A piece of that vocabulary is definitely kind of embedded. I feel like when you really learn music, you learn on the subconscious level. That's when you really learned it. When it’s just become a part of you. Yeah I definitely think some other miracle ideas and concepts have kind of passed over to me from doing the song.”
Goodnight Texas on ‘Of Wolf and Man’
“I think one thing we learned in covering “Of Wolf and Man” is that even the more abrasive Metallica songs can be stripped down to their lyrics and rhythm and there’s real beauty in there. I think it’s impressive how that is hiding within so many of these songs that you wouldn’t expect. “Of Wolf and Man” is definitely one of those for me where the song itself is, sort of, snarling and growling and loud and, sort, of anti-melodic, but it is really a beautiful story and a really deep, honest view into something James was experiencing at the time. “
Weezer on ‘Enter Sandman’
“We recorded this Metallica song simply because it’s the most kickass guitar riff of all time.
“From the particular way to fret and pluck the opening figurations to the nylon string guitar riff, to the subtle half-step fluctuations of the rhythm guitar pattern and to the build-up of that introduction and the gradual dynamic decrease in the coda - it was a master class in itself. There’s a reason why certain songs become hits and typically it's the attention to the minutiae of these details.”
Tomi Owo on ‘Through the Never’
"I recorded this Metallica song because I was quite drawn to the spirit in the song. To me, ‘Through the Never’ questions and explores the highs and lows, the strengths and weaknesses of our humanity in the most succinct and concise of ways. I feel like it also explores our relationship with the universe and with the world around us.
“And there’s one thing I particularly appreciate, it kind of solutes our bravery. It says, 'twist and turning twisting through the never.' And I feel like it means that as humans, we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we keep going. You know, we have amazing grit and mind power, and faith which keep us going through everything. It’s a very special song.”
The Metallica Blacklist is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.