The Metallica Blacklist Album Review

The Metallica Blacklist Album Review

Metal fans, prepare to feel old. Metallica's self-titled fifth studio album, Metallica (also known as The Black Album), turns 30 this year. To celebrate, Metallica tapped their favorite artists to cover each song on the album.

The result? A 53 song, four-disc opus known as The Metallica Blacklist. While covers vary in effort and quality, The Metallica Blacklist offers a compelling look at the diaspora of Metallica's influence through the lens of an iconic album.

It's kind of impossible to review The Metallica Blacklist like a conventional album because it has no interest in being a conventional album. The album is structured chronologically like Metallica but with multiple versions of each track. For example, the album opens with a six-song run of "Enter Sandman."

The structure makes it a bit of a slog to listen to the album front to back, but that's not a slight on the project. It's built to explore Metallica's influence; a traditional album couldn't do the concept justice with influence so vast.

My only criticism of this structure is the reliance on certain songs. It's no surprise that so many artists wanted to cover "Nothing Else Matters," but 12 versions seem excessive. For reference, "Enter Sandman" and "Sad But True" each have six, while deeper cuts like "Through the Never" only receive two.

Some of the album's covers feel less like they're inspired by the original heavy metal version and more like a blatant copy and paste. 

Take Weezer's cover of "Enter Sandman." Their version goes almost note to note with the original, tweaked with Weezer's alt-rock instrumentation. It feels like a less talented band performing "Enter Sandman" at a bar for tips.

The album shines when artists add just enough of their signature flair to create something new within the spirit of the original.

Rina Sawayama's "Enter Sandman" meshes the track's oppressive guitar with arena pop vocals for an even grimier take on the song fit for a nightclub in hell. Flatbush Zombies chop up "The Unforgiven" for three verses of horrorcore bliss. Kamasi Washington brings his trademark saxophone onto a chaotic, jazz rendition of "My Friend of Misery."

Miley Cyrus, WATT, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujilo, and Chad Smith join forces for an epic rendition of "Nothing Else Matters," the album's stand-out track. Ma, John, Trujillo, and Smith all trade licks on their respective instruments, while Cyrus dominates her vocal track. It's the original maximized to the extreme, taking an already impeccable arrangement and adding new, top-of-class instrumentalists. If there's a proof of concept for The Blacklist, this is it.

Not all the album's riskier tracks stick the landing.

The Neptunes add bare percussion to "Wherever I May Roam" for the laziest track on the entire album. Without Pharell's signature backing vocals or any sense of groove, it feels less like a Neptunes cut and more like a beginner's remix in GarageBand.

"Nothing Else Matters" covered by My Morning Jacket feels downright disrespectful, turning the track into a breezy, alt-rock jaunt. What was once a gut-wrenching ballad of trust within relationships now feels like puppy love. It utterly fails to capture the original's spirit and is a slap in the face to an all-time classic song.

I could go on about my favorite and least favorites from The Metallica Blacklist, but that would be beside the point. There's so much on this album that any fan of Metallica's music will attach to something. The Metallica Blacklist is an excellent package for Metallica hardcore and more than worth a cursory listen if you're a fan of any of the project's artists.

Unless you're a fan of My Morning Jacket. In that case, get out of here.

Track Highlights and Lowlights From The Metallica Blacklist Album Review

Disc One, Track 5: Enter Sandman by Rina Sawayama

Length: 5:33

From the review: “Rina Sawayama's "Enter Sandman" meshes the track's oppressive guitar with arena pop vocals for an even grimier take on the song fit for a nightclub in hell.” If you like this cut, check out Rina Sawayama’s stellar 2020 release Sawayama.

Disc One, Track 6: Enter Sandman by Weezer

Length: 5:34

From the review: “Take Weezer's cover of "Enter Sandman." Their version goes almost note to note with the original, tweaked with Weezer's alt-rock instrumentation. It feels like a less talented band performing "Enter Sandman" at a bar for tips.”


Disc One, Track 8: Sad But True by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Length: 4:30

Jason Isbell turns “Sad But True” into a country-rock barn-burner. The song’s chorus works exceptionally well within the country format, making this a radical but fitting reworking of the original.

Disc One, Track 11: Sad But True by St. Vincent

Length: 4:12

St. Vincent channels Earthling era David Bowie for her industrial take on “Sad But True.” Thumping drums and slick riffs make for an absolute banger of a cover.

Disc Two, Track 2: Holier Than Thou by The Chats

Length: 2:25

The Chats channel their garage punk sensibilities for their cover of “Holier Than Thou.” Punk and metal are always a fun mix; this cut feels right off a homemade cassette (and I mean that as high praise).

Disc Two, Track 6: The Unforgiven by Cage The Elephant

Length: 5:53

A less callous alternative rock cut than My Morning Jacket’s “Nothing Else Matters,” Cage The Elephant’s “The Unforgiven” still feels off. Diminished by its overall style, but bolstered by a fun guitar solo towards the end.

Disc Two, Track 9: The Unforgiven by Flatbush Zombies

Length: 4:36

From the review: “Flatbush Zombies chop up "The Unforgiven" for three verses of horrorcore bliss.” We need a full album of Metallica rap remixes as soon as possible.

Disc Three, Track 2: Wherever I May Roam by Chase & Status

Length: 3:06

This reviewer has a soft spot for grime, so I love this Chase & Status take on “Wherever I May Roam.” The build through the chorus and beat drop feels so natural in a grime style that it doesn't even feel like a cover.

Disc Three, Track 3: Wherever I May Roam by The Neptunes

Length: 3:56

From the review: “The Neptunes add bare percussion to "Wherever I May Roam" for the laziest track on the entire album. Without Pharell's signature backing vocals or any sense of groove, it feels less like a Neptunes cut and more like a beginner's remix in GarageBand.”

Disc Three, Track 10: Nothing Else Matters by Phoebe Bridgers

Length: 4:34

Now, THIS is how you rework “Nothing Else Matters.” Phoebe Bridgers delivers her signature melancholic indie-folk style to maximize the song’s hopeful yet somber message. Her upper register vocals in the song’s chorus match the original’s intensity in a way only Bridgers can deliver.

Disc Three, Track 11: Nothing Else Matters by Miley Cyrus, WATT, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujilo, and Chad Smith

Length: 6:35

From the review: “Miley Cyrus, WATT, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujilo, and Chad Smith join forces for an epic rendition of "Nothing Else Matters," the album's stand-out track. Ma, John, Trujillo, and Smith all trade licks on their respective instruments, while Cyrus dominates her vocal track. It's the original maximized to the extreme, taking an already impeccable arrangement and adding new, top-of-class instrumentalists. If there's a proof of concept for The Blacklist, this is it.”

Disc Four, Track 2: Nothing Else Matters by My Morning Jacket

Length: 3:26

From the review: “‘Nothing Else Matters’ covered by My Morning Jacket feels downright disrespectful, turning the track into a breezy, alt-rock jaunt. What was once a gut-wrenching ballad of trust within relationships now feels like puppy love. It utterly fails to capture the original's spirit and is a slap in the face to an all-time classic song.”

Disc Four, Track 12: My Friend of Misery by Kamasi Washington

Length: 6:47

From the review: “Kamasi Washington brings his trademark saxophone onto a chaotic, jazz rendition of ‘My Friend of Misery.’” Washington’s signature style leaks into every song he performs. I’d listen to a full Washington Metallica cover album in a heartbeat.

Disc Four, Track 13: The Struggle Within by Rodrigo y Gabriela

Length: 3:59

A bit of a strange closer, Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela delivers a skilled take on “The Struggle Within.” It’s fun, but as the only cover of “Struggle” and an album closer it feels a bit out of place.


Anthony Madalone

Anthony Madalone is a DC-based contributor for Binaural Records. His old school roots in Springsteen have transformed into a love for modern pop and hip-hop. In his free time, Anthony enjoys performing stand-up and eating rice.

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