Most would agree that Metallica has had an incredible career. However, there are many that would also argue their shifting musicality has not seen the same success. Personally, I really enjoy Metallica's entire catalogue. That said, I don't class Lulu as a Metallica album per se, but I do recognise and appreciate their willingness to experiment.
During the 90s, Metallica exploded as a mainstream act that left all other Thrash Metal bands wondering if they took a wrong turn with their own musical trajectory. Yes, I know some of you will claim Metallica sold out and weren't true to their fans. However, I know of no artist that purposely limits themselves just to please the fans. I'm sorry to tell you this, but we are not important. Sure, they say how great we are in every city they visit, but once they fly out, they issue the same platitudes to the next city of fans; Spinal Tap’s Simpsons cameo anyone? Truthfully, this isn’t a bad thing but it does prove all musicians, not just Metallica, owe us nothing. Otherwise, The Beatles would have never left Liverpool, Aerosmith would never have ventured past Boston, and AC/DC would only be recording and touring in Australia. We, the music fans, would need to gravitate to them – Woodstock style. Admittedly, music festivals handle this alternate reality in a quasi-way that ensures the journey of the music lover is equal to the music itself. Hence, it is my belief that an artist owes us fans nothing and that we should relish the albums that speak to us, and disregard those that fall short. That is certainly how I deal with Lulu. After all, we don’t need to own everything Metallica releases, do we?
Regardless, throughout the 90s, Bob Rock was a key driving force behind Metallica’s mainstream success. It was a radio friendly, welcoming sound, that would make the band a household name. Going back to their roots, momentarily, Metallica and Rock would collaborate on the exceptional covers album Garage Inc.. Although the producer’s role was still relevant, I absolutely love the statement in the liner notes that the album was ‘Somewhat produced’. Personally, I would say that it just wasn't over produced and it most likely appealed to these who disliked the production elements of the Self-Titled Black Album and Load/ReLoad albums. However, despite including covers that were closer to Metallica’s original ethos, some of the newer recordings are a little less Thrash driven and that may deter some listeners. That said, the selected songs, both new and old, merge into a compilation that has become one of my favourite Metallica albums as it has a little bit of everything.
Following the release of the album in November of 1998, the double CD went everywhere with me. It seemed that my Discman (really a Philips CD walkman requiring 4 AA batteries), was destined to run out of juice just as I was rocking away in my own world, traversing the suburbs of Sydney. Nothing was more infuriating than boarding a train only to find the battery died five minutes into the hour long journey. Needless to say, I ended up carrying spare batteries. Fast forward to the modern era and I can be thankful that my Oppo HA-2 DAC/Headphone Amplifier not only provides an exceptional sound quality that the iPhone can’t even dream of matching, but it doubles as a charger for the aforementioned iDevice. Nevertheless, I look back with fondness, rather than regret, as it was all about the music. While the portable CD player probably sounded horrid, my teenage ears knew no better and I simply enjoyed the music. Sometimes I wish to go back to that era when specifications, who mastered the album, and which source was used was seemingly irrelevant.
Unfortunately, Garage Inc. would become another victim in the MP3 era as I digitised and sold this masterpiece. To say I was a bloody idiot is a major understatement. I guess my only saving grace is that the MP3 buried in my past and I once again own this record, on vinyl, and I couldn't be happier. Anyway, enough of my incessant rambling, find a comfortable seat and join me for the next couple of hours as we enjoy Metallica’s album Garage, Inc..
DISC 1 / Side One (New Recordings '98)
Free Speech For The Dumb is a fat Thrash-infused song that encourages you to turn the volume up. It isn't my favourite song on the album, but it gets the album off to an incredible start.
It's Electric is an excellent song that is perfectly suited to Hetfield's vocal style and the overall musicality of the band. It is mastered with a little too much focus on the treble region, but that is a minor quibble.
Sabbra Cadabra has a gorgeous guitar intro. The groove is so compelling that you will be toe tapping and head bopping subconsciously. The overall sonic signature of Sabbra Cadabra is cemented in blues rock and roll and I absolutely love it!
Turn The Page was an exceptional song when originally performed by Bob Seger, but Metallica has made it their own and has taken the song to another level. It is one of Metallica’s greatest recordings and is one of their songs I play regularly.
DISC 1 / Side Two (New Recordings '98)
Die, Die My Darling is a killer rock track. I love it!
Loverman may initially sound like a strange pick as one wouldn't normally associate Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds with Metallica, but Metallica certainly recorded an excellent rendition that is worthy of the musicality heard on the original recording. Both versions are excellent, but I find that I gravitate to Metallica’s interpretation as I feel it is the more polished of the two.
Mercyful Fate is an exceptional song that commands you to turn the volume knob to the right. Yes, your neighbours will likely call the boys and girls in blue, but it will be worth it! Seriously, listening at lower volumes destroys the musicality and energy of this song. It is expertly recorded and mixed while being nothing short of a rock and roll symphony. King Diamond and Hank Shermann would be proud!
DISC 2 / Side One (New Recordings '98)
Astronomy has always been a favourite of mine. The incredible Blue Öyster Cult may have recorded the original epic, but the first time I ever heard Astronomy was when Metallica covered it for Garage Inc.. Hence, as excellent as the original is, I will always hold Metallica’s rendition near and dear to my heart. Interestingly, it would be this song, along with Don’t Fear The Reaper, that would push me to become a dedicated fan of Blue Öyster Cult. Therefore, one can conclude that while some cover albums aren’t worth listening to, there are others, such as Garage Inc., that are done with so much respect to the original, you feel compelled to track down the original recordings.
Whisky In The Jar is an awesome groove-filled track. It is another song that compels me to sing-a-long as my body moves to the rhythm of the music. I probably look like I’ve lost control of myself, when in public, but I don’t care, Whisky In The Jar is that good!
Tuesday's Gone is perhaps the only song on the album that I don't like. It isn't a bad song on its own, it just isn't well suited to the album. Plus, every time I listen to it, I think of Bob Geldof. I also feel Metallica sounds too much like Bon Jovi on this track. I love Bon Jovi, but this is a Metallica record. As I think about it more, perhaps it is the nasal grind of the Geldof/Bon Jovi duet, I Don’t Like Mondays, that reminds me of Metallica’s rendition of Tuesday’s Gone. That all said, I much prefer Lynyrd Skynyrd’s original as it is less monotonous. I guess we can be thankful that Metallica didn’t try to interpret Free Bird as some songs should never be covered.
The More I See wraps up the '98 recordings in style with a harder hitting song than Tuesday's Gone. It also displaces the ridiculous outro Metallica recorded as part of Tuesday's Gone. The More I See may be meat and potatoes rock and roll, but Metallica’s added gravy ensures the song sounds fantastic.
DISC 2 / Side Two (Garage Days Re-Revisited '87)
Helpless has an incredible rhythm and riff-centric sound. The soundstage, while dynamic, does border on the limits of audible compression, but manages to stay away from the mess that came with Death Magnetic. Basically, Helpless is recorded, mixed, and mastered well for the style of music and if Death Magnetic had been mastered with this approach, I dare say there would have been less opposition to an otherwise exceptional album.
The Small Hours is musical perfection as it terrifies me and simultaneously excites me. That haunting introduction and beat would be the perfect musical accompaniment for any horror film set in an insane asylum. It is pure brilliance from start to finish and in some ways reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper.
The Wait has incredible energy, but I feel Hetfield’s distorted vocal lets the song down as he sounds lost in the soundstage. While it certainly isn't a bad song, it also doesn't feel polished. Although, I guess that is the point of a 'Garage' style album, isn’t it?
Crash Course In Brain Surgery features the bass that Newsted was deprived of on ...And Justice For All. Overall, it is a solid cover and worthy of inclusion.
Last Caress/Green Hell is one of the greatest covers/recordings Metallica has ever made. It is punk rock with a little thrash thrown in for good measure. I love it!
DISC 3 / Side One (Garage Days Re-visited '84 + B-Sides & One-Offs '88-'91 )
Am I Evil? YES, I AM!...I always get a little carried away with this song. It is bloody brilliant and if Satan has a playlist, this would most certainly be on it.
Blitzkrieg is as thrashy as you can get. Get that air guitar out and enjoy!
Breadfan has a killer riff but, beyond that, I don't feel drawn to the song. Hence, for me, this is a filler track.
The Prince is somewhat similar to breadfan as I don't connect with the song on an emotional level. That said, I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy elements of each song. I can certainly point to aspects that I adore, but if it doesn’t come together cohesively, then those elements remain highlights in an otherwise pedestrian performance.
Stone Cold Crazy is a great song. I love the original as it is one of Queen's best, but Metallica, yet again, takes the song to another level of excellence.
DISC 3 / Side Two (B-Sides & One-Offs '88-'91 + Motorheadache ‘95)
So What is a great way to start the sixth side of the vinyl release. It’s rude and crude, but it’s such a fun song! If you can look past the overt profanity, you will thoroughly enjoy this epic rock song. So What reminds me of Steel Panther's style in that regard.
Killing Time is a solid cover song that I neither like or dislike. It is a filler track and is perfectly suited for that purpose.
Overkill raises mixed emotions as I believe that some music just shouldn’t be covered. Perhaps it is just me, but covering Motorhead is akin to Avenged Sevenfold covering Metallica. It works, really well, but I'm not sure it should be done.
Damage Case is a great song, with a great groove.
Stone Dead Forever is an excellent song, but I feel Hetfield is imitating Kilmister, rather than making the song his own. This is, of course, the danger of cover songs versus recording someone else’s unpublished song. Yes, imitation is a form of flattery, but I have always had reservations about it when listening to cover songs.
Too Late Too Late is a perfect song to close this epic release on. While it encourages me to listen to the album again, and stay within Metallica's catalogue, Garage Inc. is a lengthy release and I seldom follow it up with anything else as I want to savour the experience.
Metallica's Garage Inc. is an incredible covers album. There really isn't a bad song on the album and while I may not connect with a few of the songs, they certainly work well with the overall style of the compilation. It is quite clear that if Metallica ran out of song ideas and got bored playing their classics, they could make it as one of the greatest cover bands in history.
For this review, I listened to the 2014 Blackened pressing (cat: BLCKND013-1). The mastering was superb and at no time did I long for more musicality from the album or my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable (fitted with the Ortofon OM20 needle). I have also listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and while the core mastering is the same, I truly enjoy the vinyl tonality just that little bit more. Without a doubt, the vinyl edition is a prized possession in my collection. Besides sounding incredible, the vinyl layout and design, while mimicking the original CD, is full featured and offers a valued added proposition for fans and collectors alike.