London Brixton Academy

Hats off to [a]Metallica[/a]. I mean, you know, they're survivors, aren't they?...

HATS OFF TO [a]Metallica[/a]. I mean, you know, they’re survivors, aren’t they? Not only did they manage to drag metal stomping and screaming into the ’90s, they then reinvented themselves further as cigar-chewing sleaze rockers, while still understanding that we want to see a big arena show with explosions, fire and everything. But they haven’t forgotten their roots. And to prove it, they’re releasing this double compilation album of cover versions, including 11 new efforts. They stress that these were often recorded in one or two takes, to keep it ‘raw’.

But then you read between those practised lines, and realise that this is in fact [a]Metallica[/a]’s answer to [a]UB40[/a]’s ‘Labour Of Love’ series of ‘tributes’ to the music that has inspired them over the years. More cynical observers might infer that, in the wake of the relatively selective appeal of the ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ albums, [a]Metallica[/a] need a commercial shot in the arm, without spending millions of dollars on making a new album. Therefore, the fact this took only three weeks to record and includes songs of more traditional metallic values, thereby appealing to old and new fans, may not be entirely insignificant.

None of which would matter if the new stuff was much more than [a]Metallica[/a] doing mostly unimaginative versions of old faves in the style of [a]Metallica[/a].

While the ‘wide range of influences’ this is meant to display encompasses metal, rock, heavy rock and heavy metal-type rock, at least their choice is faultlessly obscure. Whether the world needs to be reminded of early-’80s horror headbangers Diamond Head or early-’70s Welsh bludgeonists Budgie‘s contribution to rock history, let alone The Misfits or Discharge, is debatable. But for all their recent professions to liking Suede and girly tongue piercing, they’re not ashamed to admit they grew up on a diet of spandex, studs and the long-lamented New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

But if their original genius was speeding all that up and thrashing it around to the nth intense degree, they come unstuck here when they try to be trad, as with their sludge-boogie-plus-indulgence reading of Black Sabbath‘s ‘Sabbra Cadabra’, or pub rock chug through ‘Whiskey In The Jar’. Meanwhile Blue Vyster Cult and Bob Seger covers, not to mention a sing-along Lynyrd Skynyrd power ballad, suggest middle-age spread affects the most terminally adolescent minds in the end.

Far better is their cartoon cover of Nick Cave‘s ‘Loverman’. Nick will hate it, obviously, but the simplistic quiet-loud dynamics only heighten the daftness of the original. Likewise, pure death metal [I](Oh God, get it right! It’s black/speed/grindcore/ dark metal -[/I] [I]Ed)[/I] schlock horror like their medley of tunes by seminal Scandinavian nutters Merciful Fate is meat and potatoes in their evil hands.

But then at [a]Metallica[/a]’s age you can only rock so hard for half the time you could ten years ago, as the faster, more blusteringly barmy material from the 1987 ‘Garage Days Revisited’ EP shows. So until they see fit to attempt ‘The Drowners’, we’ll continue to look on in mildly amused disinterest.