Metallica has shared Jason Isbell and St Vincent's covers of their Black Album classic Sad But True. The heaviest song from the Black Album is unrecognisable under Isbell's country-blues interpretation, while St Vincent puts a propulsive dark-pop spin on the track.
Both artists have certainly gone all in on the track, but that is the point of a cover – and they offers fresh perspectives on a song that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
Isbell and St Vincent's versions of Sad But True are taken from the forthcoming Metallica Blacklist album, which sees 53 artists cover their favourite Black Album tracks for charity, with half the proceeds of the album's sales going to Metallica's All Within My Hands Foundation and the other half to charities of the contributing artists' choosing.
Hearing Isbell wrap his virtuoso chops around Metallica's downtuned blockbuster doom shuffle is quite the eye-opener, with rasping slide and Telecaster twang transforming a song that's typically played through layers of saturated distortion, with big Boogie amps, ESP and Jackson guitars being Metallica guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett's weapons of choice.
But perhaps this is proof apparent that Isbell was right all along, that the Telecaster is the best guitar design ever and there's no song out with its range. Indeed, earlier in the year the Grammy-winning virtuoso and Fender collaborated on the Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster. Finished in Chocolate Burst with a double-bound Custom body, it's one of the sweetest looking signature guitars of the year so far.
Despite stripping the sound back and foregrounding the beat ahead of the guitars, St Vincent's Sad But True [below] maintains the essence of the track, mining its themes of duality for what feels like a meta-commentary from Annie Clark on her relationship between the subversive and the mainstream.
That, similarly, was a tension evident throughout Metallica's career in the early 90s, when the thrash pioneers exited the underground, transitioning from arena-headliners to blue-chip stadium headliners and one of the biggest-selling bands of all time.
As for Metallica's Black Album anniversary preparations, the metal giants are going all in. Besides Isbell, the likes of St Vincent, Miley Cyrus, Chase and Status, Biffy Clyro, IDLES and more all feature on the Metallica Blacklist album.
The Black Album, meanwhile, has been remastered being reissued in a variety of formats, including 180-gram double vinyl, standard and triple-CD expanded editions. There is also a limited edition Deluxe Box Set comprising the 180G 2LPs, a picture disc, three live LPs, 14 CDs, 6 DVDs, a 120-page book, and pretty much everything but a hologram of Lars Ulrich to accompany you in your living room.
Both of these epic anniversary releases are being put out by Metallica's own Blackened Recordings imprint, and will be available digitally from 10 September, with physical releases following on 1 October
See here to preorder The Black Album Remastered, and here for The Metallica Blacklist. And if you are a Metallica fan with an open mind and haven't year heard Miley Cyrus cover Nothing Else Matters with Yo-Yo Ma, Rob Trujillo, Chad Smith, Sir Elton John and WATT, you can check that out below, too.