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.
4. "Turn the Page" (Bob Seger) Probably no one really expected Metallica covering Bob Seger to turn out so damn well, but the flare they add to his classic road song is truly a stunning feat. It turned out to be a big hit for them, and it's easy to see why. It has all the greatest elements of Metallica's '90s sound and melded with lyrics which they pretty much could have written themselves.
3. "Whiskey In the Jar" (Thin Lizzy) Another one people probably didn't expect to turn out all that great was this Thin Lizzy tune. The Irish rockers' influence on later metal and punk bands cannot be understated, though -- check out Iron Maiden and Ted Leo's fantastic Lizzy covers for proof -- and Metallica paid proper respect with this hard-hitting version of the Irish folk song.
2. "Only Happy When It Rains" (Garbage) You thought Metallica covering Bob Seger was odd? Taking on Garbage at the annual Bridge School Benefit definitely takes the cake. We all know Metallica can rock it on an acoustic guitar though, and they kill it again on this one.
1. "Last Caress/Green Hell" (Misfits) From one end of the spectrum to the other, the Misfits were one of the most obvious bands for Metallica to cover, and of course they tore through these quick covers of two of the Misfits' hardest, fastest and most off-putting lyrical efforts. Hetfield's Danzig impression is spot-on, and these two tracks just rip together so hard, they almost sound like they were meant to be together all along.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.