A Trip Through the Early Days of Piracy with a Mislabeled Metallica Cover
Hi, my name is W., and I’m a Metallicaholic. [“Hi, W.” you respond in unison]. They say you never forget your first kiss. If the same holds true for metal, you never really forget that first album that hooked you, embarrassing as it might have been. Thankfully, my first metal kiss happened to be Metallica‘s …And Justice for All, a decidedly unembarrassing crush if we’re being honest with ourselves. However, as many crushes go, what began as a healthy appreciation soon turned to a desperate, bizarre fixation. For the first few years of my heavy metal fandom, I was completely devoted to and obsessed with Metallica. I purchased and loved all of their albums (yes, even those ones). I sought out the live bootlegs they offer for free download through their fanclub. I bought Metallica shirts and posters and DVDs. I got a restraining order from James Hetfield and a C&D notice from Lars Ulrich. Okay, that last part might not be true, but you should have a pretty clear idea about how much I loved Metallica until I really got hooked by the heavier stuff. Since all of this went down in the mid Aughts, though, there was another, seedier side to my obsession, one that forms the focal point of this article. So great was my gluttony for Metallica music that I ventured down the dark rabbit hole of internet piracy. This post is the story of perhaps the most infamous “Metallica” cover I downloaded.
Younger readers who came of age after Web 1.0 may be unfamiliar with the hazy, highly piecemeal days of illegal downloading. Before The Pirate Bay and other major torrenting sites really hit their stride, most of us had to do our dirtywork through ambiguously legal software like Napster or Kazaa. Although both of those sites had their time in the sun, both also experienced a number of setbacks (most notably Lars’ righteous crusade against Napster in 2000), and during my time in high school, most of us chose Limewire as our particular poison. True, the free version of Limewire was loaded with viruses, but savvy stealers knew they could swipe a copy of Limewire Pro from Limewire Free and go about their nefarious ways worry free. Free or Pro, though, every version of Limewire had one commonality: really, really bad metadata.
Because Limewire was essentially an ungoverned, godless Wild West of P2P sharing, any joker wishing to watch the world burn could upload really any MP3 file with any particular metadata and call it a day. Then, hapless dupes like me, searching for rare, unreleased, or demo versions of songs would download these shoddy files, add them to our collections, and then seed them back to the P2P network, allowing the duplicitous ouroboros to swallow its tail on some other poor sadsack’s computer while we remained none the wiser of the evil we had abetted. Because tracks were downloaded individually rather than as entire albums (or even discographies, as became the norm with torrenting sites), it was next to impossible to ever verify if that track you just found was really not Metallica playing the “The Imperial March.”
So, if you were trying to find a cool cover song of a tune you dig mightily, not only would you have to sift through a lot of bands attempting to do self-promotion (SHATTERSPHERE *FOR FANS OF METALLICA, LINKIN PARK, LIMP BIZKIT, PANTERA*), weird troll audio clips (including the notorious “Bill Clinton E-Free Club Dot Com” track that probably unloaded who knows how many trojans onto my my parents’ computer [sorry, Pops]), and *rare* and *unreleased* tracks that you could actually find on pretty widely available EPs, but you’d also have to deal with wildly inaccurate metadata and misattributed songs. Some of the more infamous misattributed songs that littered Limewire included a live version of “Dust in the Wind” by Linkin Park (I’m 99.99% certain this is not in fact Linkin Park), the “Legend of Zelda” song by System of a Down (actually written by a guy named Joe Pleiman for the album Rabbit Joint), and “Detachable Penis” by The Butthole Sufers (actually King Missile).
Being the Metallica megafan that I was in my late teens, I used Limewire to download all manner of Metallica covers because I just could not get enough. Some were legitimate; others were totally bogus. Perhaps the most notorious mislabeled track, though, was a cover of Metallica’s “One” by none other than Children of Bodom. Or at least that’s what I and millions of others believed after downloading the cover. Hell, it was a decent Metallica cover, and I didn’t really know enough metal at the time of download to identify its true identity, so this song remained in my music library for years, nestled up to Are You Dead Yet? and Hate Crew Deathroll.
My ignorance persisted for years, even long after my bizarre fixation with Metallica had ended. Sure, I knew that the song probably wasn’t really performed by Children of Bodom. The production was too unpolished, the vocals too sloppy, the synths missing, and the guitarwork more soulful than skilled. Still, ignorance is bliss, and since I had spent the majority of college delving much deeper into the void of extreme metal, I really wasn’t even aware of how potentially flawed the data on this track was. I knew it definitely wasn’t Crematory’s cover of “One,” as is often claimed on Youtube videos, because the track lengths are inconsistent, so Children of Bodom was as good an answer as any. Then, about 6 years ago, give or take one, I was cruising through Facebook late one night and saw a younger metalhead who had found the cover on Youtube (the new preferred distribution method for shoddily labeled pirated tracks) had posted it on his wall. He too, was operating under the Children of Bodom paradigm (as was the uploader of the above video, apparently). Thankfully, a sage metalhead happened upon this thread and revealed the long-obscured identity of the actual artist. “This isn’t Children of Bodom, you idiots,” he chimed in, “this is Dispatched.” Dispatched! The Swedish melodeath band! Of course! It actually made a lot of sense…
Except, as I have since discovered, Dispatched never actually covered “One” either! What’s the deal? Has the entire internet been duped into playing one long, stupid game of Metallica Cover Telephone? Who really performed this cover?
Could this C.O.B. really be the culprit behind this notorious farce? Those initials would actually go a long way at explaining where all this confusion came from, and it makes sense that this cover would have been ripped from a relatively obscure tribute album and seeded to the primitive pirate networks with slipshod data. As it turns out, a quick investigation on discogs reveals that there was in fact a cover of “One” performed by a Korean band called C.O.B. for a tribute album called Am I Metallica, A Tribute to Metallica, and that the run-time for that cover matches up with this old file I have on my computer.
I guess, after a decade of (in)actively searching for the truth, I can finally mark this case closed.
So what’s the moral of the story here? I grew up in a special time and place when many of us were really trying to figure out this brave new world called the internet, a time before hidden links to explicit images of old naked dudes completely ruined my opinion of my fellow internet dweller, a time when naivety was free to explore and learn. Sure, we made a lot of mistakes and downloaded a lot of bad MP3’s, but we braved the skies like Icarus together, hoping this newfangled technology would never melt our digital wings. This process of downloading terrible music files is why I am so strict on maintaining my metadata in my media library. Though I abandoned my pirate ways back in undergrad (and strongly suggest you do the same so that we can keep supporting this genre of broke fools that we all claim to love so much), if someone from a future generation ever finds my hard drive and uploads it to whatever architecture the future internet houses for disseminating ancient media formats, I hope that they’ll look at my tidy, well-maintained media library and think of me fondly. Perhaps even erect a stature to commemorate my heroism.
A man can dream, anyway.