Recently Metallica announced they would be contributing to the new Ronnie James Dio tribute album, This is Your Life, and the results, "Ronnie Rising," are now streaming online. Given most people's personal dissatisfaction with Metallica's sound over the years, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that this cover medley sounds so damn good. Everyone in the band is on point.
It really shouldn't be all that surprising, though, considering Metallica has a long history of being a great cover band. It's been said they're the world's most famous garage band, and they live up to that name with a streak of stellar re-recordings of their favorite songs. Sometimes, it's enough to make you wish they'd just switch to playing covers full-time.
These are my picks for their ten best of all time, although given the amount of covers they've recorded and their general quality, ten probably isn't enough to encapsulate all their greatest.
10. "Mercyful Fate" (Mercyful Fate) Another medley similar to "Ronnie Rising," this one must have been a long time coming. Metallica met and befriended the Danish band while on tour in the early '80s and helped restart their career after Metallica's own explosion a decade later. This sequence then made perfect sense when they laid it down for their 1998 Garage Inc. album. With Metallica's superior production techniques, they brought a totally new life to these classics.
9. "Remember Tomorrow" (Iron Maiden) As usual, Metallica took the road less traveled by choosing a song from Iron Maiden's earliest years with Paul Di'Anno. Their take on Maiden's early masterpiece is a metal tour de force that shows just how much those recordings influenced Metallica's own eventual sound.
8. "Tuesday's Gone" (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Stretching their legs a bit, Metallica and some famous friends decided to perform this Lynyrd Skynyrd song on a live radio show they were doing, and the recording turned out so good that they eventually put it out on Garage Inc. The song itself is perfectly suited to the jammy, off-the-cuff feel of Metallica's recording.
7. "Breadfan" (Budgie) Metallica recorded this Budgie cover as a B-side during the ...And Justice for All sessions, and it shows the band at the absolute peak of their powers. Budgie was a strange choice for Metallica in a lot of ways, chief among them that Budgie was an early-'70s prog-rock band, but Metallica twists this one to perfectly suit their early style.
6. "Prowler" (Iron Maiden) Another early Iron Maiden song, Metallica completely destroyed when covering "Prowler" live in the late '80s. Though a studio recording never surfaced, it can be found on many of their best live bootlegs from the era.
5. "It's Electric" (Diamond Head) Metallica has recorded tons of Diamond Head covers of the years, but oddly this one always hit me the hardest. It's just a pure, straight-ahead rocker that burns the house down. Special respect must also be paid, of course, to their fantastic early recording of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?"
List continues on the next page.