The Blackest Album – A Tribute to Metallica

In 1992, the german industrial bandDie Krupps made history by releasing A Tribute to Metallica, an entire album consisting of industrial re-workings of Metallica songs. The album was a breakthrough release for the band, and helped bridge the gap between industrial and metal music.

In 1998, Cleopatra Records collected cover tunes from some of the most cutting edge industrial bands on the scene and released the compilation as The Blackest Album in reference to Metallica’s “Black Album”. The CD was a huge success and ended up spawning several industrial tribute compilations to different bands. Cleopatra currently offers industrial tributes to Tool, Marilyn Manson, Prodigy, Tori Amos, and Radiohead.

2002’s The Blackest Album 3 follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by presenting thirteen Metallica covers by just as many bands. It feels odd to call some of these songs “covers” because without looking at the song titles, many of them are hard to recognize. I like to call those songs “reworkings” –the lyrics are the same, but the timing, presentation, instrumentation, and sometimes even the song arrangements are totally different from the originals. While many of them are tough to recognize during the first listen through, some of them are just as tough to recognize the tenth time through.

And right there lies the crux of this review –“who exactly is this album’s target audience?” It’s not Metallica fans, who would surely pop their pimples in the direction of such metal blasphemy. Fans of industrial music may or may not enjoy this disc; while they will probably enjoy the music, they probably hate Metallica (don’t we all these days?) and won’t be too excited about their favorite bands covering these musty old metal tunes. It’s probably not fans of the bands on this disc, who for the most part are unknown (at least in mainstream circles).

When I think of “industrial music,” I think of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. Those bands are tons heavier than any music found on this disc. Most of the songs are synthesiser versions with vocals tracked on top, so if you aren’t looking forward to hearing beeps and boops replacing Lars’ drumkit, you’re going to be disappointed. More than an “industrial tribute” to Metallica, this is more a “dance” or “club” tribute.

One of the disappointments with this album is the song choices. I know I’m a wrinkled up cranky old-ass man, but about half the songs (“The Cure”, “Carpe Diem Baby”, “King Nothing”, “Hero of the Day”, “The House That Jack Built”, “Secret/Outro”) were songs from Load or newer that I either didn’t know (mostly) or didn’t like. The other half (“Harvester of Sorrow”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, “Leper Messiah”, “My Friend of Misery”, “Orion”, “The Thing That Should Not Be”, and “The God That Failed”) I enjoyed listening to. Or, at least I recognized … the titles.

The tracks that shine on The Blackest Album 3 are the ones that blend a little metal with a little synth.Transmutator’s “Orion” and Excessor’s “Leper Messiah” both feature live guitars laid over drum blips that give a bit of human emotion to an otherwise stale set of bookends. For me, Metallica riffs just don’t translate well to programmed keyboards. Tolchock’s “The Thing That Should Not Be”, which mixes guitars, an upbeat tempo, a few samples, and a recognizable vocal performance (that at least resembles the original close enough that you can sing along) in a successful blend, is probably my favorite track on the album.

The majority of the rest of the album beeps and snaps and ticks and whirs along to a perfect click track. Many of the 100% electronic cover tunes come off sounding like projects that were recorded in someone’s bedroom, (and I assume probably were).

So, does all this mean I didn’t like the album? Yeah, pretty much, that’s what it means. But does it mean it’s a bad album? No. There’s a difference. The cover design, font and graphics are specifically designed to market this CD to Metallica fans, but I think that’s probably the wrong crowd. Fans of industrial music would probably enjoy this most. Metallica fans may enjoy giving the disc a spin to hear how their favorite tunes have been mangled, but I doubt it would remain in their changer for long. Those longing to hear Metallica tunes should probably go pick out a Metallica CD.

01. The Cure – K16
02. Harvester Of Sorrow – Funker Vogt
03. Carpe Diem Baby – Enhanced Reality
04. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) – Razed In Black
05. Leper Messiah – Excessor
06. My Friend Of Misery – The Element
07. Orion – Transmutator
08. The Thing That Should Not Be – Tolchock
09. King Nothing – Transistorhythm
10. The God That Failed – Neotek
11. Hero Of The Day – Lunar Flux
12. The House Jack Built – Godeater
13. Secret / Outro – Black Eyed Sinner

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