At this point in their career, Metallica are this generation’s version of the Beatles. And just like the Beatles, Metallica continues to innovate and experiment with their sound and their discography. With their latest release, Helping Hands…Live & Acoustic at The Masonic, these heavy metal veterans continue to display their talent with stripped down versions of their hits and a few choice cover songs.
This live performance was recorded at a charity event in 2018 benefiting Metallica’s organization, All Within My Hands. Continuing their charitable efforts, the band is donating all the profits from the sale of this album to AWMH, as well as providing donations to their host cities on each date of their 2019 tour. Given the philanthropic nature of this project, Metallica’s choice to release this acoustic concert was a bold and welcome addition to their discography.
Metallica has dabbled with acoustic elements throughout their career, such as the first half of” Fade to Black”, to their acoustic cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Tuesday’s Gone” from their Garage Inc. compilation. Given this history, I was surprised to hear some of Metallica’s faster thrash songs like “Disposable Heroes” and “The Four Horsemen” played in an acoustic setting. Even without electric guitars and distortion, these songs retained their ferocity and energy, and showcased the talent of each member as they played with clarity and unrivaled technique.
However, the true heart of the album is Metallica’s slower, somber song selections. “Nothing Else Matters,” “The Unforgiven,” and “Bleeding Me” sound tailor made for this setting. The addition of a steel lap guitar and additional percussion add a new layer of depth and emotion to these songs that is vastly different from their original versions.
One criticism that I have about this record is the inclusion of cover songs. While I understand that these are tracks that the band loves and plays well, I would have loved for those spots to have been reserved for more of Metallica’s own works. “Mama Said,” “Until It Sleeps,” “Orion,” and “Fade to Black” would have been perfect additions to this already incredible set.
I’m always amazed at established bands that are not afraid to venture out of their comfort zone and continue to innovate their sound and experiment with their music. Metallica has consistently shown that they are not afraid to play with a symphony, experiment with genres, and now perform unplugged. This is why they are so respected and admired, and deserve to have their name spoken with the same regard as the Beatles and Elvis.
Verdict – 4 / 5 – A unique album that showcases a different side to this legendary band’s hits.