Friday Fun: Are Metallica The Best Cover Band Ever?

A music historian says Metallica are often at their best when covering other bands. Is he right? Check out this playlist and see if you agree.

Ultimate Guitar

Are Metallica the best cover band ever?

That's what music historian Jeff Wagner argues in a post on Noisecreep, where he claims that the band deserve respect for keeping their career going with the help of cover songs. Huh?

Let's hear him out:

"Metallica have continued to take others' originals and reinvent them in interesting ways, making increasingly cool choices too," says Wagner. "It's gotten to the point where their cover songs are more fun to listen to than their originals."

Of course, we'd all like to think that their albums would be their best work, but then, "St. Anger" exists. And what about that stinky record with Lou Reed?

Maybe Wagner has a point. Let's check out a selection of his favorite Metallica covers.

01. Metallica: "Remember Tomorrow" (by Iron Maiden) - The opening riff isn't in the original on Maiden's 1980 original, but returns as a theme throughout the song. Wagner says this song proves how Hetfield "can still belt out killer vocals" when he has good material to work with.

YouTube preview picture

02. Any Metallica cover of Diamond Head - The 'Tallica love covering this band, and has nailed almost their entire 1980 release "Lightning To The Nations". It's pretty clear that Diamond Head were a big influence on Metallica, and as Wagner says, "Metallica is the best thing that ever happened to Diamond Head, and Diamond Head is the best thing that ever happened to Metallica."

YouTube preview picture

03. Metallica's Medley Of Mercyful Fate Songs - Meryful Fate were apparently as much an influence on Metallica as Diamond Head, thanks to their "focus on quality riffs and complex arrangements." It's ironic that King Diamond influenced the band, but seems nervous before this performance. "Don't fk this up!" he tells himself before they start.

YouTube preview picture

04. Metallica: "Blitzkrieg" (by Blitzkrieg) - "The odd syncopation of the main riff in this song totally sounds like an early Metallica original, and here again it's obvious that without the NWOBHM, there would simply be no Metallica. "

YouTube preview picture

05. Metallica Cover Motorhead - "Metallica's early sound owes a great debt to the pounding, metal-up-your-ass attitude and approach of the mighty Motrhead, and they proved their cover song chops with this string of Motrclassics from their most potent era."

YouTube preview picture

Do you agree that Metallica are the best cover band on the planet? Who might contend them for that title? Share your suggestions in the comments.

54 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Considering they started their career covering songs from relatively unknown bands (at that time) from the UK and made the audience believe they were their own - i'd say yes.
    I do enjoy the variety covers they've done. Everything from Maiden to Misfits to Queen.
    Interesting question I think. Almost all of the songs Metallica have covered in my opinion surpass the originals. Helpless, Am I Evil, Blitzkrieg, just to name a few
    I think it is fare to say they are probably one of the best bands at covers. I do tend to like their covers more than the orginals. I'm not that big a fan of Metallica but I think I can agree with this.
    Godsmack does some good covers of Alice in Chains songs on all of their records. Oh wait.....they just stole their sound and nerfed it.
    I will say yes. Not only because they've done a vast number of kickass covers which sometimes are arguably better than the originals; but because the exposure they've brought to bands like Diamond Head and Mercyful Fate and even to old legends like Motorhead and Misfits. Sorry about the run-on sentence
    Why does everyone hate on St. Anger so much? Because it's different? Boo hoo, sorry they didn't just make Master of Puppets 8 more times. "More fun to listen to than their originals" hahahahahahahahahahaha-no. that being said, I love their covers. All of them. and they are almost always better than the original.
    Eh in my opinion the Overkill cover was kinda bad... worthy listening to but not worth putting here. Should of mentioned Whiskey in the Jar!
    I couldn't hear the vocals very well on the Overkill cover. but music-wise they did a good job. And yeah, I agree, the Whiskey In The Jar cover deserves to be on this list.
    No, St. Anger is hated so much because it's poorly produced, horribly written, and terribly angsty. It's like they were trying to jump on the Nu-Metal trend that was popular during that time. They don't get shit on because they made different stuff, they get shit on because the stuff they made was bad. It's one thing to "progress", it's another thing to just start sucking. And why would I want them to remake their most overrated Thrash Metal album over and over again? Gimme Kill 'Em all and Ride the Lightning any day. At least they were good.
    It was 2003, Nu Metal was on it's way out the door essentially at that point. I think it's by far the most emotional record Metallica has ever written, and honestly it's arguably top 3 heaviest. Yeah yeah blah blah no solos snare drum sucked, but I was getting tired of Kirk blandly doing the same wah plagued runs over and over again, and Lars actually has some cool parts on the St Anger tracks. They were at their worst during the 90's. Black album is the heaviest album Metallica should have never written
    I have similar feelings towards St. Anger. Like you were saying about Nu-metal and 2003, Load and Reload were Blues based Hard Rock -which was not popular in the '90s, they were never Alt. Rock a la Grunge-scene bands, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool and other good stuff. I would disagree with your last sentence. Metallica was bound to change. Had cliff been alive, I think they would've changed on Justice. Cliff had the most diverse taste -from JS Bach to The Misfits to even Simon and Garfunkel and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Those changes would probably have been better with the mighty Cliff, but I feel as though Metallica was bound to change. Theres enough melodic evidence in the first 3 albums that says this band isn't a one-trick pony.
    They did a bad imitation of nu metal, actually. I enjoy nu metal but st anger was pretty bad. Still not as bad as Lulu though XD
    While I like Metallica's covers, I like Rage Against the Machine's Renegades cover album more.
    No, it wasn't, 2 of the songs on it - The Four Horsemen & Jump in the Fire - were written by Dave Mustaine, only one of which was from his time before Metallica. Not exactly covers.
    the Am I Evil cover is amazing so is Tuesdays Gone, Sabra Cadabra,Astronomy and Stone Cold Crazy
    I don't agree with Tuesday's Gone. I don't like most of their 'classic rock' covers (i.e., Tuesday's Gone, Turn the Page, Whiskey in the Jar, etc.). But their cover Sabbra Cadabra is pretty goddamn good. I really like the way they put A National Acrobat in there; it fits in perfectly as a bridge for Sabbra Cadabra.
    Metallica truely have done some good covers, but Remember Tomorrow cover doesn't oustand the original version(imho mainly because of the drums)
    Agreed. One of the parts that made the original great was that the drumming was perfectly balanced between the subtleness in the verses and the heaviness in the choruses and middle part, along with the creative and varied fills. Whereas in the cover, Lars is way too loud and then pretty much all over the place with his snare during the rest of the song. I like the idea of the riff in the beginning and ending though, sounds a bit too much like Creeping Death, but still cool.
    I think their versions of ''Loverman'', ''Turn The Page'', ''Sabbra Caddabra'', ''Stone Cold Crazy'', ''Am I Evil?'' and the medley ''Mercyful Fate'' are pretty darn good. Not to forget ''So What?''. There isn't many bands that have done that many good covers.
    Eclectic Lizard
    Metallica is by far the best at covers, and on their first five albums, the best at originals too!
    The best versions of a song are usually the originals. And there's only so far you can go with covers. Metallica are the best at their own music and the bands they covered are the best at their own music.
    best cover band ever? very, very far from that. they're great at doing metal covers of mostly metal songs, but that's about all they do as far as covers go. let's be realistic here, people...
    Loverman (originally by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) cover was way way better than the original. But was the original a metal song?
    L.T Kickass
    Nope their Misfits covers are bad, Helpless original is far, FAR better than the cover, and don't get me STARTED on Mercyful Fate.
    their version of Queen's Stone Cold Crazy is crap. Ulrich keeps slipping out of time, it's got about a tenth of the energy of the original... FAIL
    I think John Frusciante was the best. They guy played guitar renditions of so many classic, great songs. Look up him play Tiny Dancer (Elton John) at a Festival in 2004 (6?). It's AMAZING. The crowd gets so into it.
    It's tough to say who is the best band at covering, but I think Metallica did a great job at it. Machine Head also has done really well, along with Rage Against the Machine, A Perfect Circle, Led Zeppelin (I love their cover of Traveling Riverside Blues so much), and Testament. The Alex Skolnick Trio also gets major props for reinventing so many rock and metal songs as jazz.
    George Thorogood and the Destroyers are the best cover band of all time. 2nd is Metallica, they enhance every cover they do and bring the original band out from behind the curtain. And they can do ANY type of song.
    I thought for sure this was going to be an article about how Metallica 2012 isn't at all the same band as Metallica 1984, 1987, 1989, etc... And therefore when they play songs from those eras they're actually being a cover band, of themselves. Besides, Richard Cheese and Loungse against the Machine is the best cover band IMO.
    I'd personally say most of the originals are better than the Metallica versions, but the Metallica versions introduced me to some of the songs. I hadn't heard of Sabra Cadabra until the Metallica version, and I thought the Metallica was great. However, i do think that Sabbath's original version i better. Rick Wakeman's cameo keyboard is amazing.
    Breadfan and Am I Evil are my favorite covers. Remember Tomorrow is also good. Can't wait to hear their take on Deep Purple. Hopefyllt they'll do another Garage Days-album soon.