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‘Garage Inc’: Behind Metallica’s Back-To-Basics Covers Album

Interested in “f__king with some other stuff”, ‘Garage Inc’ found Metallica exploring their influences and offering an insight into their state of mind.

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Metallica Inc album cover 820

Metallica have always worn their influences on their sleeves, and Garage Inc is where they paid tribute to many of them. A world tour in support of the Load and Reload albums saw the band playing in the round, with an epic finale of a collapsing lighting rig. The encore then composed of a stripped-back performance gathered around some amps, with the band blasting out their favourite cover songs. When they came off the road in 1998, the group were inspired to record an album’s worth of them.

Listen to Garage Inc on Apple Music and Spotify.

But on Garage Inc, Metallica also pay homage to their own history. The album’s title itself is a nod to the Master Of Puppets track ‘Damage Inc’, while the concept harks back to The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited, a 1987 EP that had long been out of print. The cover art even depicts the band members as mechanics – an everyman group, no different to anyone else. They’d headed back to their roots.

“There was an interest in f__king with some other stuff”

Metallica’s aim was simple. As Lars Ulrich explained to Metal Hammer, “We haven’t really f__ked with cover songs for a while. But we just did the two Load albums more or less back to back, so it just seemed like a good time to do some, from both a time point of view and a creative point of view. Just shake that off a little bit and come back to something a little looser and a little kind of sillier. There was just a renewed interest in f__king with some other stuff.”

The result was a double-album of new covers, along with a clutch of hard-to-come-by B-sides and EP tracks, with Disc One representing the band Metallica had become, and Disc Two getting to the heart of the group.

A strong Metallica vibe

The raucous ‘Free Speech For The Dumb’ (by UK crust punks Discharge) sets the tone, followed by ‘It’s Electric’ from NWOBHM legends Diamond Head, to whom Metallica quite possibly owe their career for inspiring them to get started in the first place.

Following up with an homage to the godfathers of metal, Black Sabbath, ‘Sabbra Cadabra’, and with the bulk of Disc One’s material representing their more familiar influences – ‘Die, Die My Darling’ (Misfits), the titular ‘Mercyful Fate’, ‘The More I See’ (Discharge again) – it’s reassuringly apparent that the band Metallica had grown into wasn’t a million miles from the teenagers who first got together in 1981.

But it’s Bob Seger’s country-rock paean to touring life, ‘Turn The Page’, Nick Cave’s ‘Loverman’, Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘Astronomy’, Thin Lizzy’s ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ that perhaps gives some perspective to the band’s frame of mind for Load and Reload. All, however, are delivered with a strong Metallica vibe and James Hetfield’s distinct snarl. Staying true to the loose and fun vibe, the latter features guests Gary Rossington (Skynyrd), Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney (Alice In Chains), John Popper (Blues Traveler), Les Claypool (Primus), Jim Martin (ex-Faith No More) and Pepper Keenan (Down, Corrosion Of Conformity) sharing vocal duties.

The most coveted of Metallica releases

Disc Two of Garage Inc was a compilation of the most coveted of Metallica releases, The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited, featuring longtime live favourite ‘Last Caress’ (Misfits), and its predecessor, Garage Days Revisited, with covers of Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’ and Blitzkreig’s self-titled track. Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’, Queen’s most metal track, ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, and the snotty belligerence of Anti-Nowhere League’s ‘So What’ also crop up, with the whole thing rounded out with a quadruple hit of Motörhead.

Though not designed to be a hit album, when it was released, on 24 November 1998, Garage Inc nevertheless debuted on the Billboard 200 at No.2 and was later certified quadruple-platinum, spawning four singles along the way.

Garage Inc can be bought here.

Listen to the best of Metallica on Apple Music and Spotify.

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