If you are a Metallica fan, all your Christmasses have come at once. In celebration of Metallica’s Black Album of 1991, they have a deluxe remaster of the original record and there is a 4 record set of a diverse range of artists covering tracks off the record. There’s St. Vincent, Weezer, Royal Blood, OFF!, Kamasi Washington, My Morning Jacket and of course Phoebe Bridgers. Each artist has a unique and interesting take on a track off the Black Album, which is fun to listen to and a great idea. I’m glad Metallica let this happen, because they have a history of being a little too….self serious about their music. However, if you are a Metallica fan you have hours of covers, remasters and new live tracks to dive into, which is METAL!!!
For me, Phoebe takes Nothing Else Matters to its thematic core. The track itself is a strange and uneasy mix of self – reliance, nihilism and contradictions. One the main contradictions is that if it doesn’t matter “what they say,” why write a song about it? I digress. I think these contradictions and uneasy relationships that makes the track work. On the one hand, the more you rely on yourself the more cut off you are from others. Hatfield sings about learning to trust in someone new, because that person does not play the games he is used to from others. This person is not there to use and manipulate him, like so many before. However, he always retreats to a rigid, and boarderline nihilistic, self – reliance where he is ready to write off the world entirely. It is this inner conflict between trust in others at the expense of the safety in trusting only the self that is the core conflict.
Bridgers takes this conflict within the self and casts it as a psychological horror with her James Wan inspired haunted house arrangement. The piano, music box, strings and ghostly echos on the vocal makes you feel stuck in a haunted attic. There is a sense of claustrophobia that works well in this track. Whenever Phoebe is ready to break out the track pulls right back and presses you within a rigid sonic coffin. The final verses brings in a thumping base, which seems at odds with the rest of the track and threatens to destroy the song. For me, this captures the inner conflict within the self as you leave the safety of the self to trusting in another.
I love what Bridger’s does with this track. She takes a rather formulaic original metal power ballad and turns it into a haunting treatise to psychological conflict. The emotive quality of the vocals and arrangement is exemplary and it is a cover that breathes new life into the original work.
Listen to Nothing Else Matters