Album review: Metallica's 'black album' covered by Imelda May, Dermot Kennedy and others

In its tribute to the band's classic 1991 album, Blacklist has 53 tracks, and reveals several gems 
Album review: Metallica's 'black album' covered by Imelda May, Dermot Kennedy and others

The Metallica Blacklist has numerous artists covering tracks from the Black Album. 

★★★★☆

Metallica have never been a band to do things by halves – so perhaps it isn’t hugely gobsmacking that the tribute record to 1991’s Black Album that they have curated should clock in at a brain-melting 53 tracks.

Setting aside the question of whether anyone needs that many interpretations of the Black Album’s 12 songs, The Blacklist is an explosively enjoyable re-contextualising of the Metallica songbook. And a reminder of just how far the group’s influence has spread beyond the battlements of heavy metal.

The Blacklist makes room for Metallica acolytes such as Mongolia’s The Hu and Sweden’s Ghost. Yet this is far from a headbangers’ ball, featuring, as it does, contributions from Phoebe Bridgers, St Vincent, Brooklyn rappers Flatbush Zombies, Per Gessle of Roxette and more.

There’s respectable Irish representation to boot. Imelda May delivers a rollicking The God That Failed. And Dermot Kennedy strips to its essence James Hetfield’s raw dirge Nothing Else Matters (addressed to the girlfriend Hetfield was in the midst of breaking up from).

It’s all for a good cause, too. Proceeds raised from May’s song go to Little Flower Penny Dinners in the Liberties in Dublin, and Kennedy’s to older person’s charity Alone.

As is often the case with cover records, some of the most striking cuts are those that defy preconceptions about the source material. Tackling Nothing Else Matters Phoebe Bridgers re-casts the tune as a torturous piano lament.

St Vincent, meanwhile, reimagines the thunderous Sad But True as a shoe-gaze torch song, stripped of his machismo and with a heart of darkness pulsating in its place. In the same vein Moses Sumney’s revisiting of The Unforgiven gives it a mysterious r’n'b glimmer.

Other contributors cleave to the pulverising essence of the originals. Pop star Rina Sawayama’s tilt at Enter Sandman, for instance, ditches the Hammer Horror theatrics yet keeps faith with the composition’s seismic majesty. It’s a testament to her virtuosity – but, even more so, to Metallica’s bleak, brooding genius.

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