On November 24th, 1998, Metallica released “Garage Inc.” The release marked the third consecutive year with a Metallica album. The band was in their most productive period as “S & M” would be released in 1998.
“Garage Inc.” is a two-disc set that is part cover and a part compilation album. It collected all the previously released cover songs (Garage Days Re-Revisited) and Japanese C-Sides (According to Lars Ulrich.)
For the sake of this review, I elected to cover the first disc.
So, in honour of the release of “Garage Inc.” here is my track-by-track review.
Free Speech for the Dumb (Discharge)
“Speech” is my least favourite track of the album. I understand the band was looking to make a statement by opening and closing “Garage Inc.” with a “Discharge” song, it just fails to draw me in.
With that said, the guitar tone is heavy and punishing, which sounds nice and meaty when mixed with Lars Ulrich’s Drum tone. Kirk Hammett has a couple of forgettable guitar fills, so let us say I am happy that the runtime of this song is less than three minutes.
It’s Electric (Diamond Head)
The juxtaposition between the harsh and steady “Speech” into the highly energetic “Electric.” is nice. The songs are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and I consider “Electric” to be the proper beginning of the album.
Overall, the song works for me on all levels, but the highlight of this song is James Hetfield’s vocal performance. It is not overproduced, and as with most of the record, they let the vocals stay raw, which conceptually fits the record.
Sabbra Cadabra (Black Sabbath)
When I listen to “Garage Inc.” the word FUN always enters my mind, and “Sabbra Cadabra” is no exception.
Black Sabbath is a band that you would expect Metallica to cover, and I cannot think of better songs for them to pay homage to.
The mix of Tommy Iommi’s Riffs and Ozzy’s lyrics performed by Metallica is too great for one song. The transition between “Cadabra” and “A National Acrobat” is seamless, with the latter being the highlight of both sections for me.
Turn the Page (Bob Seger)
“Page” represents are rare occasion where a cover song transcends the original. The remarkable thing about all Metallica cover songs is that they maintain the soul and spirit of the original artist’s vision all while introducing elements that are distinct “Metallica.”
The back half of the song is my favourite portion, a “Reload” influenced solo leads us on a pure Hetfield Odessey where he finds a new voice and delivers some goosebump-inducing melodies.
It is a powerful song that is made even stronger with the accompanying video. Kudos are to Hammett who delivers subtle and effective slide guitar work.
“Die, Die My Darling” (Misfits)
“Die” has the distinction of being the most played song from the album. To date, it has been performed 170 times since 1998.
It is my favourite of all the “Misfits” covers that Metallica has tackled over the years, with its up-tempo groove and catchy-as-hell melodies.
It is a sheer delight from start to finish and Hetfield’s “Just die-uh” at the end of the song finishes it nicely.
Loverman (Nick Cave)
I consider “Loverman” to not only be the most experimental cut on the record, but also the most interesting choice in artists/songs that Metallica has covered.
The song is simply a trip, there is no other way to put it. Metallica peppers “Loverman” with so many unique sounds and noises that it is hard to tell that it is in fact a Metallica cover, until the chorus that is.
My favourite part of the track is the slow spell-out portion that leads back into the heavy screaming bit. I do feel the song drags a bit and could have easily been a couple of minutes shorter, but that is my only complaint.
Mercyful Fate Medley (Mercyful Fate)
Whether it is the first time you have heard this medley or the 50th, settle in and get comfortable because this 12-minute opus is a monstrous undertaking, both for the band and our ears.
I give Hetfield high praise for tackling the vocal styling of King Diamond. It is very tactful and respectful, not entering parody at all.
I do feel Metallica tried to cram too much into one song. I am sure they had a hell of a time deciding which song/s to cover and crafted the medley from that.
Being as the medley is comprised of five songs: “Satan’s Fall”, “Curse of the Pharaohs”, “A Corpse Without Soul”, “Into the Coven” and “Evil”, Metallica could have trimmed off the final two or three songs and still had a strong tribute.
Astronomy (Blue Oyster Cult)
“Astronomy” is my second favourite song on the album.
The mood and spacey atmosphere the band creates in the opening of the track is a wonderful landscape for the rest of the song to play out.
Overall, there are plenty of bright spots to be found, particularly on the pre-chorus riff, it sounds so unique.
The ending section of the song is the highlight for me, it is simply magnificent. The way Hammett’s solo and Hetfield’s voice intertwine gives me chills.
Whiskey In The Jar (Thin Lizzy)
“Whiskey” has earned a cult following in the years since its release. It is the ultimate party song and provides an opportunity for a stupendous sing-along when performed live.
The peak of the song is the tone of Hetfield’s lead guitar. It does not sound like any other on the album and that differentiation sets it apart from the other tracks.
It is a straightforward song that does not provide many surprises and it serves its purpose well.
Tuesday’s Gone (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
While “Gone” features appearances from the likes of Jerry Cantrell, Pepper Kennan, John Popper, and Les Claypool, to name a few, I feel it does not fit with the rest of the record.
So much time and attention were spent on the production of the other songs, that the loose radio station recording of “Gone” lessens its impact
It is not a bad rendition of the song; I just think it would have been a better fit on the second disc of the set with the B-sides.
The More I See (Discharge)
Metallica closes the album the way it started with a “Discharge” song. I enjoy “More” then track one, but my gripes and likes are the exact same. I usually skip this song altogether.
While not a proper studio record, “Garage Inc.” allowed Metallica to continue what I consider to be the most experimental period of the band.
The band selected some exceptional songs to give the “Metallica” treatment and the final product captures the essence and attitude of the late 90s.
This collection of songs continues the solid foundation Metallica built with the other material the band has covered in years prior to the release of “Garage Inc.”
“Garage Inc.” will always hold a special place in my heart not only for the reasons I mentioned above but also for it being the final “album” of material that featured Jason Newsted.
Sure, we had a couple of one-off recordings in the days leading up to Newsted’s departure, but the way he left is quite poetic when you consider that he began and ended his time with the band recording a cover album.
Until next time, play it loud friends!