Hear Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” Covered in Unexpected Styles: Gregorian Choir, Cello Ensemble, Finnish Bluegrass, Jazz Vocal & More

They may have arrived on the scene in the 80s as one of the four horse­men of thrash metal—kin to such cud­dly acts as Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer—but believe or not, Metal­li­ca had some seri­ous crossover appeal from the start. Grant­ed, that appeal was lim­it­ed to a small sub­set of punks and skaters who came to appre­ci­ate met­al thanks to Metallica’s cov­ers of hor­ror-punks The Mis­fits on their 1987 Garage Days Revis­it­ed EP. Nonethe­less, it showed that the band always had a sense of humor and an appre­ci­a­tion for other—albeit very closely-related—genres.

Since then, Metal­li­ca has grown up, some­times awk­ward­ly. We watched them do it with the help of a ther­a­pist in the 2003 doc­u­men­tary Some Kind of Mon­ster. We lis­tened to their grown-up angst on that bum­mer of an album, St. Anger.  That year, they also took on a fourth mem­ber, bassist Robert Tru­jil­lo, whose extra-genre affini­ties are broad and deep—from his love for Motown, funk, and the ath­let­ic fusion of Jaco Pas­to­rius to his dab­bling in fla­men­co. The band may have returned to their thrash roots with 2008’s Death Mag­net­ic and this year’s Hard­wired… to Self-Destruct, but they’ll like­ly take a few more weird excur­sions (like their puz­zling 2011 col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lou Reed) in com­ing years.

And yes, they gained a rep­u­ta­tion as being stingy with their cat­a­log dur­ing that whole Nap­ster dust-up. But as you can hear James Het­field and Kirk Ham­mett dis­cuss in a recent Nerdist pod­cast (stream it at the bot­tom of this post), their “cre­ative rest­less­ness” has made them very appre­cia­tive of what oth­er artists have done with their music, stretch­ing it into alien gen­res and unex­pect­ed instru­men­ta­tion and arrange­ments.

In his self-dep­re­cat­ing way, Het­field con­fess­es, “there’s a lot of bet­ter ver­sions of ‘Noth­ing Else Mat­ters’ than ours.” Ham­mett agrees, and here you’ll find most of those they mention—from Scott D. Davis on solo piano at the top of the post, to a choir at San­ti­a­go de Com­postela with their Gre­go­ri­an Chant ver­sion below it, and, just above, Finnish cel­lo ensem­ble Apoc­a­lyp­ti­ca.

It may not be many people’s favorite Metal­li­ca song, but I think the vast range of wor­thy inter­pre­ta­tions speaks to the strengths of its com­po­si­tion. “Noth­ing Else Mat­ters” has even trans­lat­ed to blue­grass, thanks to Finnish pick­ers Steve ‘N’ Seag­ulls, who spe­cial­ize in such tongue-in-cheek coun­try met­al cov­ers. And Het­field and Ham­mett both men­tion with awe Macy Gray’s smoky lounge-jazz cov­er, below. “That’s an hon­or,” says Het­field, “that is a huge com­pli­ment, when some­one takes your song and legit­i­mate­ly does it their style.… It’s real­ly cool to think that the song is that good it can work in any dif­fer­ent genre.”

Indeed. Have a lis­ten to SHEL’s haunt­ing cov­er of anoth­er Metal­li­ca dirge, “Enter Sand­man” or Stary Olsa’s riff on the most­ly dirge-like “One.” And it doesn’t only work with the slow tunes either. Just check out this killer ban­jo ver­sion of “Mas­ter of Pup­pets.”

Hear Metal­li­ca talk cov­er ver­sions (around 50:00), the joys and woes of still tour­ing after all these years, and more at the Nerdist pod­cast just above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Metal­li­ca Play­ing “Enter Sand­man” on Class­room Toy Instru­ments

Metallica’s Bassist Robert Tru­jil­lo Plays Metal­li­ca Songs Fla­men­co-Style, Joined by Rodri­go y Gabriela

With Medieval Instru­ments, Band Per­forms Clas­sic Songs by The Bea­t­les, Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, Metal­li­ca & Deep Pur­ple

Finnish Musi­cians Play Blue­grass Ver­sions of AC/DC, Iron Maid­en & Ron­nie James Dio

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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