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"The Many Faces of Metallica" Album Review

I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

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"The Many Faces of Metallica"

(3-CD set) Music Brokers, 2019

Disc 1: "The Songs (1988-2003)," 14 tracks

Disc 2: "The Songs (1983-1987)," 13 tracks

Disc 3: "Influences & Originals," 15 tracks

This is the second volume I've purchased from the Many Faces of... series of bargain priced, triple-disc tribute compilation sets (the other was a salute to Iron Maiden, which I reviewed here), and they continue to be a strange, sometimes puzzling listen. While curious Metallica fans will surely be tempted by this set's ultra-cheap price (only $6.97 at Wal-Mart), they may be confused by the lack of familiar names in the track list.

The Music Brokers record label compiles the Many Faces sets by licensing previously-released/out of print material from other labels. The bulk of The Many Faces of Metallica appears to be sourced from Puppet Masters: A Millennium Tribute to Metallica's Greatest Hits 1983-2014, a 2 CD collection of mostly-obscure bands that was released by Versailles Records back in 2014. I have heard of Mystic Force, who've been kicking around the power/prog metal underground since the late '80s, and Kilted Warfare has a few familiar players in its lineup, but otherwise I'm at a loss when it comes to most of the other participants. Who the hell is Shadowbomb? Riffuz? Steal The Show? The Furnace? You get the idea. I tried looking some of these artists up on Metal-Archives, which led nowhere, and when I searched them out on Discogs, some only appear on other Versailles Records tribute releases. Make of that what you will.

Mystic Force - "Wherever I May Roam"

Disc One: "The Songs (1988-2003)"

The Many Faces of Metallica makes the odd choice of starting with later-period songs on Disc 1, with the true golden oldies (1983-87) on Disc 2. I personally would've arranged the songs in chronological order so the earlier stuff came first, but obviously, Music Brokers didn't bother to consult with me on the running order.

Be that as it may, Disc 1 gets off to a decent enough start with a crunchy version of "Ain't My Bitch," one of the better songs off of 1996's Load album, performed by Shadowbomb. Mystic Force delivers a rousing rendition of "Wherever I May Roam," and even though we've all heard "Enter Sandman" a million times before, the mysterious Leaving Eden do a nice job on updating it with a female singer. The marvelously-named Stiletto Ghetto also have a female vocalist, and their sparse, moody version of the epic ballad "Nothing Else Matters" is one of the highlights of this collection.

Kilter Warfare is a mini-supergroup of sorts that includes Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, Whitesnake), former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland, and vocalist Susan McEwen, and they turn in a crushing take on "Blackened" from 1988's ...And Justice For All. By this point I was thinking "so far, so good," but then things started to take a turn for the weird.

Charlie Bonnett III's bizarre, country-fried acoustic take on "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" leads into several "extreme" and death metal-ized tracks like Dark Sky's un-listenable "Dyers' Eve," Stalwart's "Shoot Me Again" and Riffuz' symponic-death version of "Sad But True." By the time Disc 1 ended with Overlord's doom-chunk "King Nothing" I was ready to throw in the towel, but in the interest of metal journalism, I popped open another beer, took a deep breath, and moved on to Disc 2, hoping things would improve.

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Shadowbomb - "Ain't My Bitch"

Disc Two: "The Songs 1983-87"

Disc 2 covers Metallica's formative early years, performed by yet another set of no-names, and like Disc 1, it's a mixed bag. Fierce Atmosphere's "Master of Puppets" and Dangerfield's "Jump In The Fire" are decent, if workmanlike, versions, and Kinoath do a nice job on the classic instrumental "Orion."

Jonnyallen's noisy, death-tinged "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Far Cry From Innocence's death-core take on "The Four Horsemen" had me reaching for the "skip" button in record time, but Erling Solem, whoever they are, provided a pleasant surprise at the disc's mid point, daring to tackle the mammoth instrumental "The Call of Ktulu" (and not screwing it up).

Trelleborg's bouncy, symphonic Viking/Folk metal cover of "Battery" simply has to be heard to be believed - it sounds like evil circus music! -- and the punk fueled Love Buzzards ("Motobreath") and the Venom-esque Just One Fix ("Phantom Lord") provide some late inning highlights. The second disc closes with a solid cover of the set-ending staple "Seek and Destroy," performed by High Voltage.

Trelleborg "Battery"

Disc 3 "Influences & Originals"

Metallica's love of punk rock, Motorhead, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal is well documented, so it makes sense to cap off The Many Faces of Metallica with a CD full of NWOBHM bands that influenced their sound. Three of the tracks on Disc 3 have actually been covered by Metallica, and it's cool to finally hear the original versions of Blitzkrieg's "Blitzkrieg," Budgie's "Crash Course in Brain Surgery," and Holocaust's "The Small Hours" after so many years.

Elsewhere on Disc 3 there's a ripping live version of "Black Metal" by Venom, oldies but goodies by Witchfynde ("Give'Em Hell"), Tokyo Blade ("Powergame"), Cloven Hoof ("Night Stalker"), Samson ("Good To See You"), some classic Saxon ("Denim & Leather"), and of course Motorhead ("Burner").

A live rendition of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" by the Ian Gillan Band seems like an odd inclusion at first, but Lars Ulrich is a well known Purple fanatic and let's be honest, Music Brokers probably didn't have the budget to license the DP original. I presume that's also the reason why the live version of "Whiskey in the Jar" is performed by Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell as a solo act.

The Sex Pistols' "I Wanna Be Me" closes out the 3rd disc, though the Pistols' connection to Metallica doesn't go much further than "Lars and James probably owned Never Mind the Bollocks when they were kids." The song was originally a hard to find B-side (on the "Anarchy in the U.K." single) so it's nice to hear this rarity, but if Music Brokers wanted to properly showcase Metallica's punk side, they should've picked tracks by Discharge or G.B.H. instead.

Blitzkrieg, "Blitzkrieg"

Summing It Up

Like most tribute albums, the first two discs of The Many Faces of Metallica are evenly divided between hits and misses. The NWOBHM compilation on disc 3 was the main selling point of this set for me, and it's likely to get the most play around my house in the future.

I'd say that Iron Maiden's entry in the Many Faces series was a more satisfying listen overall, but there were enough interesting nuggets scattered throughout this collection to keep me entertained.

© 2022 Keith Abt

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