Metallica and Various Artists, ‘The Metallica Blacklist': Album Review
Metallica were hurtled into a whole other stratosphere with the release of their self-titled 1991 record. The Black Album, as it's become more commonly known, transformed the band from thrash cult favorites to mainstream hard rockers seemingly overnight. Thirty years on, it remains their best-selling LP and their most accessible listen.
So it makes sense that such a wide swath of artists takes part in The Metallica Blacklist, a 53-track tribute to Metallica's dozen-song milestone that reaches far beyond the rock and metal genres for inspiration. Weezer, Jason Isbell, St. Vincent, the Neptunes, Phoebe Bridgers, My Morning Jacket and Kamasi Washington are among those who pick apart and reshape Black Album classics like "Enter Sandman," "Sad but True," "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters."
The tracks are arranged here in the same running order as the original album, so that means six versions of "Enter Sandman" fill The Metallica Blacklist's first half hour before a note of any other song appears. (Genre-shuffling pop singer Rina Sawayama has the most fun with the tune; costume-wearing Swedish rockers Ghost basically paint by numbers.) And credit brave Goodnight, Texas for tackling "Of Wolf and Man" by themselves and Rodrigo y Gabriela as the lone artists to take on "The Struggle Within."
Like with so many tribute records, the musicians on this one are too often in thrall with the source material to really carve their own identities into the songs. The spoken-word passage in "Enter Sandman" gets increasingly tiring and silly after six versions, and the majority of the album-dominating 12 takes on "Nothing Else Matters" offers nothing new to the popular power ballad.
Still, there are revelations: Isbell and the 400 Unit cover "Sad but True" with plenty of backwoods dust, Moses Sumney injects some minimalist soul into "The Unforgiven," J Balvin gives "Wherever I May Roam" a reggaeton face-lift with an assist from a Metallica sample and Bridgers fashions "Nothing Else Matters" into a late-night lullaby. And then there's Washington's shape-shifting jazz update of "My Friend of Misery," a stylistic reinvention worthy of Metallica's own metamorphosis three decades ago.
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