All 53 Covers on 'The Metallica Blacklist,' Ranked

From the great (PUP, St. Vincent, the HU) to the not-so-great (Portugal. The Man, Corey Taylor, IDLES)

Photo: Herring & Herring

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Sep 10, 2021

Metallica's 1991 self-titled full-length — known best as The Black Album — is an effort that needs no introduction, having made the thrash outfit synonymous with their genre by launching the band to stardom and introducing heavy music to a mainstream audience. 

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the world's biggest heavy band invited some musical friends to the party with The Metallica Blacklist. Out today via the band's Blackened Recordings, the Blacklist collects 53 reinterpretations of Black Album songs recorded by artists from 17 different countries, spanning style and sound.

As Bob Rock discovered in-studio while making The Black Album, one must sometimes take the good with the bad — a philosophy that certainly applies to this massive collection. After listening through, Exclaim! has mapped the highs and lows of the Blacklist by ranking all 53 covers.

There is no right or wrong way to perform a cover song. Some participants opt to stay true to Metallica's rock and metal music visions, while others take some of the outfit's most recognizable music and — for better or worse — reshape it in their image. 

Of course, it is not lost on us that some real good comes from every inclusion, considering all profits generated from streams and purchases will go to a charity of the respective artist's choice. Below, find The Metallica Blacklist from best to worst.

1. Kamasi Washington
"My Friend of Misery"

This arrangement from Washington and his immensely talented ensemble impressively captures the emotional push and pull of Metallica's original, refracted through their contemporary jazz lens to achieve a different kind of "heavy."

2. Rina Sawayama
"Enter Sandman"

Sawayama's cover of The Black Album's iconic opener takes Metallica's arena-sized ambitions to even loftier heights, with her inspired vocal powered by a percussive avant-pop punch.

3. Moses Sumney
"The Unforgiven"

Sumney's touching rendition of "The Unforgiven" is also something of a Cliff Burton tribute, as a layered bass guitar arrangement provides minimal musical accompaniment for his lithe vocals to glide overtop.

4. PUP
"Holier Than Thou"

Not only does this song's aggressive riffing benefit from PUP's unbridled punk energy, but also further melodic attention to lead and backing vocals and the humorous twinkle of a glockenspiel secure this cover's compilation highlight status.

5. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
"Sad but True"

Isbell and the 400 Unit swap out Metallica's lumbering metal in favour of some kickin' country, effectively allowing Metallica's lyrics of manipulation to be masked by Southern charm.

6. The HU
"Through the Never"

Following their 2020 cover of "Sad but True," the HU deliver another intriguing fusion of heavy metal and Mongolian folk, highlighted by the unique texture of the morin khuur in the role of lead and rhythm guitar.

7. My Morning Jacket
"Nothing Else Matters"

Sounding as if they still haven't left the California coast that influenced their last two albums, My Morning Jacket lift James Hetfield's heavy, loving ballad out of the darkness and onto the beach with sun-soaked, carefree feel.

8. Biffy Clyro
"Holier Than Thou"

It's a dizzying deconstruction from the Scottish outfit, as they twist and tweak the song and its cyclical riff in dynamic fashion.

9. Sam Fender
"Sad but True" (Live)

Captured live, Fender's powerful piano-and-voice rendition is quite moving, feeling much more commiserative in nature compared to The Black Album's cunning original. 

10. Goodnight, Texas
"Of Wolf and Man"

Metallica's lyrics of primal instinct are practically readymade for more earthbound sounds, and the Americana outfit's treatment brings them to exciting new territory. Opening quietly as if they were playing among "the new day's mist," Goodnight, Texas's sonic landscape is soon brought to life with a burst of electric guitar.

11. Mexican Institute of Sound (feat. La Perla & Gera X)
"Sad but True"

On this kaleidoscopic cover, James Hetfield's voice gets a trippy pitch shift treatment to start, and a cowbell and horns soon give the song's crushing main riff a joyous bounce. All of this goes down before the rap verses start.

12. St. Vincent
"Sad but True"

Annie Clark's slick, scheming rendition has us hoping she will be the next pop power to slide towards industrial-leaning sounds, with or without Trent Reznor.

13. Tomi Owó
"Through the Never"

One of the Blacklist's most creative inclusions is Owó's R&B reimagining of one of The Black Album's most aggressive songs, in which she and her band break away from the original's rigidity and let things flow, only to find their way to metal towards the end.

14. Jon Pardi
"Wherever I May Roam"

Pardi has turned in one of the Blacklist's most inspired country moments, playing evil cowboy on this tribute by keeping the heavy metal spirit of Metallica's original intact — most impressively when tapping and pedal steel guitar solos collide.

15. Ha*Ash
"The Unforgiven"

The sister duo serve up striking melodic and harmonic reinterpretations — and a mariachi solo section to boot.

16. Chris Stapleton
"Nothing Else Matters"

Clocking in at over eight minutes, the comp's longest entry is a Southern-fried traipse that eventually ambles its way into a heated extended guitar jam.

17. OFF!
"Holier Than Thou"

Furious drum fills make OFF!'s cover liable to spin off in any given musical direction without warning. Ultimately, they crash-land in a cacophonous horn section.

18. Alessia Cara & the Warning
"Enter Sandman"

An inspired new arrangement from the Canadian singer and Mexican trio confidently splits the difference between their respective pop and metal worlds.

19. Mon Laferte
"Nothing Else Matters"

After the original pulled at the heartstrings of metalheads worldwide, Mon Laferte's cover — reimagined as a South American folk song with traditional woodwinds and lyrics in Spanish — stands ready to do the same. 

20. Flatbush Zombies (feat. DJ Scratch)
"The Unforgiven"

Apart from the record scratching skill, the crawl of Hetfield's chorus is an ambitious production choice, which hopefully doesn't distract from the inspired verses in between.

21. Phoebe Bridgers
"Nothing Else Matters"

Bridgers has said that her cover "almost sounds baroque," and the soft piano theme and chorus vocals of her neatly arranged take lead our ears to agree. Here's hoping she follows through on her St. Anger fandom next.

22. Rodrigo y Gabriela
"The Struggle Within"

The Mexican duo's long-held reverence for Metallica is apparent in this passionately played acoustic, instrumental version that surely left frets (and fingers) aflame.

23. Diet Cig
"The Unforgiven"

A neat rewrite of James Hetfield's vocal line hits its melodic high point in a now-soaring chorus, while drummer Noah Bowman's dynamic control gets highlighted in a bridge in lieu of a guitar solo.

24. SebastiAn
"Don't Tread on Else Matters"

The French producer gets funny and freaky with this audacious mash-up of two Black Album selections. It's hard not to crack a smile while Hetfield hollers "Don't Tread on Me" over Ed Banger electro-funk, ahead of robotics ratcheting "Nothing Else Matters" up to EDM mainstage heights.

25. PG Roxette 
"Nothing Else Matters"

If you don't get lost in its hypnotic Nordic pop sway, be drawn in by the late Marie Fredriksson's vocal delivery, stylish synth accents and a startling guitar solo key change.

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26. Igor Levit
"Nothing Else Matters"

In the spirit of the classical music titans he studies, Levit does not shy away from further exploring the form and feel of Metallica's composition, taking this beyond any hotel bar piano adaptation.

"Nothing Else Matters"

If your ears are straining to hear TRESOR's tender vocal, grab a pair of headphones to luxuriate in the cover's equally hushed, yet detailed, production layers.

28. Mac DeMarco
"Enter Sandman"

You can tell DeMarco is channeling the spirit of peak '91 Hetfield with every "ooh" and "yeah-heah" he leans into.

29. YB 
"Sad but True"

The South Korean rockers stand out from the others who picked this tune by sidestepping the original's straightforward stomp, instead opting to play fast and loose.

30. Imelda May
"The God That Failed"

Patience is a virtue, and is also what it takes to get to the more exciting bits of this cover, as May lets loose on backing vocals while keeping cool in the chorus.

31. Chase & Status (feat. BackRoad Gee)
"Wherever I May Roam"

Hetfield's lyrics are an admittedly tough fit for the accurate delivery drill music demands, but at times outside of the chorus, it sounds like they're being read off a phone in the booth.

32. The Neptunes
"Wherever I May Roam"

Hetfield's vocal track shouting over bouncy drums and tambourine alone feels like a bedroom YouTube mash-up, until some flashier synths and guitar arrive to save the day.

33. The Chats
"Holier Than Thou"

Sink a few VBs and you'll soon believe they're Metallica as they hack this one out.

34. Cherry Glazerr
"My Friend of Misery"

Clementine Creevy's whisper is a cool contrast against Hetfield's snarl, but the band are a little less angsty and agitated than we've perhaps come to expect on a song that could benefit from those feelings.

35. J Balvin
"Wherever I May Roam"

The reggaetón star's contribution is less a cover than an effortlessly cool reimagining, with topflight production and a sample budget large enough to have the thrash giants sounding as if they're in-studio with him.

36. Izïa
"My Friend of Misery"

The French singer's choice to dial up the peppy pop rock to a gallop in the solo section conjures visions of a 53-song anniversary tribute to Iron Maiden.

37. Ghost
"Enter Sandman"

The dramatic intro admittedly comes off flat, but also previews a chorus key change in which the ghoulish outfit let a little light shine through.

38. White Reaper
"Sad but True"

Though charmingly faithful, the garage outfit's take does little to wrest the title of The World's Best American Band from the Big Four's biggest.

39. Dave Gahan
"Nothing Else Matters"

It's the dour, undeniably English atmosphere that catches the ear more than Gahan's pensive vocal.

40. Volbeat
"Don't Tread On Me"

The fellow countrymen of Metallica's drummer could have brought a little more than soaring harmonies to lay at the feet of Sir Lars.

41. Vishal Dadlani, Divine and Shor Police
"The Unforgiven"

Dadlani, Divine and Shor Police's cover starts strong before becoming bogged down by its own musical indecision. It's left feeling like a rendition someone would sing to Dadlani in his former role as a judge on Indian Idol.

42. Mickey Guyton
"Nothing Else Matters"

The country pop player's contribution deals in dynamic extremes, but has little else guiding listeners on its guitar effects freakout.

43. Weezer
"Enter Sandman"

While fairly safe on the whole, the cover's self-referential wink comes with a "Buddy Holly" solo interpolation, perhaps signalling that a stockpiling of material for a Teal Album companion is officially underway.

44. Darius Rucker
"Nothing Else Matters"

If this version were made any more palatable, you could call him Gregarious Rocker.

45. José Madero
"The Unforgiven"

In this key, Madero's impassioned reaches for the high notes come off more grating than galvanizing.

46. Miley Cyrus (ft. Watt, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujillo, Chad Smith)
"Nothing Else Matters"

Cyrus and her supergroup largely forego the original song's slow build of momentum in favour of instrumental flourish — how could one not with Yo-Yo Ma and Sir Elton involved? However, the move to make every moment matter leaves this tribute feeling overwrought.

47. Dermot Kennedy
"Nothing Else Matters"

Kennedy's vocals are the highlight of this dulcet, piano-led cover, but being a little more musically adventurous wouldn't hurt.

48. Juanes
"Enter Sandman"

The stop-start treatment given to the main riff eventually leads us to want to stop the listen entirely.

49. Royal Blood
"Sad but True"

As potent as Royal Blood's bass-and-drums attack can be across their three albums, it doesn't quite translate to song that demands the weight of a more complete ensemble.

50. Corey Taylor
"Holier Than Thou"

If you're working a Kill 'Em All tune into your Black Album cover for style points, it's clear which era of Metallica you would rather be paying homage to.

51. Cage the Elephant
"The Unforgiven"

Unfortunately for these hushed harmonies, Lullaby Renditions of Metallica has been done. Maybe the guitar solo will startle you awake.

"The God That Failed"

The musical and emotional weight of this Black Album cut gets lost with the Bristol outfit's pumped-up post-punk treatment — less Brutalism, largely just brutal.

53. Portugal. The Man
"Don't Tread On Me"

This cover arrives in the style of …And Justice For All in that it would benefit from better production. Baffling vocal treatment, an absence of impactful low-end, and a soaring Mellotron left buried in the mix leaves the song wholly underserved.

Learn about the Canadian connections that fuel The Black Album and The Metallica Blacklist.

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