Back in March 2002, Total Guitar printed an edition of the magazine featuring James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett on the cover – though between album cycles, Metallica were a big deal back then, just as they are today.
Emblazoned across the cover were the words: ‘Play Like Hammett & Hetfield’ – a coverline referring to a lesson written by fresh-faced TG tutor, Steve Allsworth, who had created a four-minute instrumental track in the style of the band entitled Apocalypse Dawn and tabbed it out for readers to learn.
So far, so normal. ‘Play like’ lessons are standard guitar lesson fare, and TG has always been jam-packed full of ’em. However, what happened next was not so normal.
Fast-forward nearly two decades to 2021 and Ukrainian blogger Andriy Vasylenko, a Metallica geek and fansite owner, would contact Steve (who still writes for the mag!), informing him that his track had acquired notoriety online in the mid-2000s. Many had believed it to be a genuine unreleased Metallica studio demo. Others labelled it (perhaps more accurately) a deepfake – an intentional aping of the Metallica sonic likeness.
Though the myth was busted, Andriy posted a video to his YouTube channel this year recounting the story. Read on as Andriy relays the facts surrounding TG’s unintentional online hit – and pick up a copy of the latest issue of Total Guitar for full tab and commentary from Steve).
Please tell us a little about yourself, your YouTube channel and your love of Metallica.
"I’m a musician and blogger, born and living in Poltava, Ukraine. My main instrument is bass, but I’ve always been a big fan of guitar riffs. In 2014, during my final year in university, I started posting Metallica bass covers on YouTube. And over the years it grew from just a cover channel to a sort of Metallica fan encyclopedia. Now the bass/guitar stuff is taking over again, not least thanks to the guys I’ve collaborated with, including Steve Allsworth."
How did Apocalypse Dawn first come to your attention?
"It was late 2009, I guess. The internet was still pretty much [the] Wild West, so you often could come across faked stuff that nobody could verify. Most would believe [these tracks were] real, because why not? Like so-called ‘Unreleased Metallica Demos’, Apocalypse Dawn was among the most convincing ones. The programmed drums could evoke some doubts, but most still didn’t hear the difference back then. Plus the near-radio sound quality concealed the fakeness even more."
Can you tell us a bit about how the track initially rose to prominence on the internet?
"It began not long after Apocalypse Dawn had appeared in Total Guitar in 2002. The track spread across the internet within the following couple of years, and everyone was wondering if it was really Metallica. [Certain] conditions overlapped that made it so believable.
"Firstly, it’s an instrumental track – no James Hetfield singing. Secondly, it was the St. Anger era, when Metallica was in a sort of information cocoon. Thirdly, it actually sounded quite close to Lars and company."
How did it compare to the other “fake” Metallica tracks you’d heard?
"Other ‘fakes’ were mostly actual songs by actual bands that people just retitled as ‘Metallica’ and uploaded online. And then the internet machine did the job. Most were way off, but wishful thinking reinforced by the lack of info is a powerful thing.
"Apocalypse Dawn, on the other hand, was intended to be as close to Metallica as possible. All the band’s trademark features were there. You would think that the creators of such a masterful imitation would have done it for exposure, to promote their band or something. But almost nobody could trace its origin. So there you have it, a perfect ‘fake’ Metallica track."
As the huge Metallica fan you are, which songs do you think Steve’s track evokes the most?
"Firstly, the ballady stuff. As an admirer of James Hetfield’s arpeggios, I find the licks Steve wrote were spot on, without sounding forced. Fade To Black, Sanitarium, One, To Live Is To Die, Nothing Else Matters – you can feel them all in only the first minute of the track. And then the Sandman-ish and Battery-ish sections completed the essence of Metallica."
From your perspective, how did the YouTube community react to Apocalypse Dawn?
"It was a recurring topic online in the 2000s. People asked on forums ‘Did you hear of Apocalypse Dawn?’ or ‘Is it really Metallica?’ And a lot did agree that [it really was] Metallica rather than not!
"Now the generations [have] changed, and most of my YouTube audience [have] never heard of the track and the mystery around it. The millennial viewers, however, do remember it, which gives them that bittersweet nostalgic feeling.
"It was funny hearing Steve say that he had no idea Apocalypse Dawn had become such a myth among Metallica fans. He did a fantastic job and served the community big time, in both teaching the guitar and (unintentionally) giving food for fun speculation."
To learn Apocalypse Dawn in full, complete with commentary from its original author Steve Allsworth, check out the new issue of Total Guitar, which also features an in-depth interview with Kirk Hammett in celebration of the Black Album's 30th anniversary.