Metallica, widely held up on the pedestal as the greatest metal band in existence, decided to return to their roots and record a cover album of the fundamental material that shaped their impressive career. At the time, the band was coming off their two most prestigious accomplishments, namely the awe-inspiring Load and vastly underrated, and unjustly lambasted follow-up, ReLoad. Truthfully, not many people share my assessment, and those who dont pointed to 1998s Garage Inc. as a pathetic, moneymaking scheme by an aging band in rapid decline. Little of that is accurate, but despite a couple noteworthy covers, the whole album is largely forgettable, particularly the abominable second disc.
I cant think of a worse way to commence an album than to open with the wretched Free Speech For the Dumb. Essentially relying on the main guitar riff to carry the entire song, this song will quickly grate the listener. Empty, directionless drumming and pointless yelling ensue. Black Sabbaths Sabbra Cadabra makes an appearance in the third slot, adding relatively nothing to the proceedings. The trite love lyrics and excruciating run time wrap another failed attempt. Metallicas retooling of Bob Segers Turn The Page is a surprising success. The cool opening melody eventually rises to a rockn conclusion.
The albums pinnacle song is undoubtedly the wicked, up-tempo Die, Die My Darling. Lars Ulrich beats the hell out of his kit, setting a brutal pace for Hetfield to indulge in his trademark growl. The rest of disc one is mostly solid, ranging from the masterful, towering anthem Astronomy, to the edgy remake of Nick Caves Loverman. Other efforts, such as the over-praised Whiskey in the Jar dont fare so well. Ditto to the painful, nine-minute acoustic rendition Lynyrd Skynyrds Tuesdays Gone. Metallica doing a Skynyrd cover is just wrong on so many levels.
It has been well documented on this website that I regard a sizeable chunk of Metallicas 80s material with a decided air of queasiness. Therefore, the prospect of listening to their older covers made me more than a little nauseous. A big jolt was the first track out of the gate, Helpless. Despite a long-winded run time, it works pretty well. The clean production of disc one is tossed out the window, in favor of a raw, unpolished approach that old school metalheads with salivate over. The distorted vocal effects on The Wait send that number into a tailspin quickly. Last Caress/ Green Hell is a disgustingly written, poorly executed attempt from the beginning.
While disc two is not a complete disaster, even the best moments are far less spectacular than the brightest spots on the first CD. Am I Evil? was one of the first Metallica songs I heard, and can still get my blood pumping to this day. Breadfan has a simple, creepy bridge surrounded by a hodgepodge of annoying vocals sung at a ridiculously fast pace. Equally abysmal is the profanity-ridden debacle So What. The album closes out with four Motorhead covers, none of which really impact in any meaningful way. For what its worth, Too Late Too Late is the best of the bunch, carried along by the twin chugging guitar hooks. Of the sixteen songs on disc two, the bulk come across as flat, uninspired, filth-covered letdowns.
Ultimately, the listener will be leaning one of two ways upon hearing Garage Inc. Those who prefer their music thrashier, angrier, and less refined will find most of disc two to their liking. On the other hand, if the bands newer, 90s material is the style of choice, then disc one is the place to be. Therein lies the problem though; few people seem love both sides of the band, and as a result, it feels like youre paying full price for only half a product. Given the high price, its hard to recommend this album, even though there are some tremendous covers spread out over both CDs. If youre looking to complete your Metallica collection, then forking over the cash seems justifiable; otherwise, getting only good disc and one garbage disc doesnt seem worthy of the steep price tag.
Final Rating: 2.5 Stars