How dare you mix with rock and metal perfection!
There are some songs that should never be covered, be it because they were done perfectly the first time, or because the first version is irrefutably synonymous with its creator.
Well, at least that’s what many music fans think. As usual, rules were meant to be broken, and that applies here as well.
Yes, many attempts to recreate seemingly untouchable compositions betray (just listen to Kayne West’s slaughter of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or the Scissor Sisters’ blasphemous revision of “Comfortably numb“).
That said, the following 10 clues prove how doable it is to do well. We are not saying that these versions necessarily are better than their predecessors; But given how revered and definitive the originals became, these artists deserve applause for bravely and effectively giving it their all.
Vader, “Raining Blood”
Originally by Slayer
Kills‘s tune is extremely fast and vicious, so it’s a testament to the Polish death metal ensemble that they are able to go up on both fronts. Besides replacing the recurring weather effects with piercing guitar feedback, their slightly shorter live variation – from 1994’s Sothis EP – is faster and nastier in general.
Lead singer Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek infuses every lyric with throaty vehemence, while his bandmates launch into a relentless onslaught of animalistic impatience. Interestingly, they redid it for the 2008s Lead us!!! EP where they added precipitation and polished the production. Neither surpasses Slayer’s offerings, but both are very respectable efforts.
Ghost, “Enter Sandman”
Originally by Metallica
No matter how divisive Metallica (aka The Black Album) are among Metallica fans, opener “Enter Sandman” is undeniably one of their greatest compositions. It thus required a lot of courage for the similarly polarizing Ghost to take a crack at it for 2021’s Metallica’s Blacklist.
Imaginatively, they convert it into a pious piano ballad, before breaking out into a fiery, yet typically danceable, smart and delicious performance. It is also successfully compact, with an extraordinary compromise between fidelity and idiosyncratic innovation. Although a few other acts – including Weezer, Juanes and Rina Sawayama – also copied “Enter Sandman” for the compilation, Ghost topped them by a mile.
Jefferson Airplanes psych rock vibes are unusually far removed from Shrine‘s trash metal ethos. Of course, that didn’t stop the latter band from tackling “White Rabbit” in the 1988s Refuge deniedand luckily they made it.
Longer than the original, its opening offers the biggest surprise as the expected harder percussion and feistier guitar work is complemented by vocalist Warrel Dane’s new foreword (“Little Alice is on drugs again / They’ve bent her little mind“).
Afterwards, it’s a commendable one-for-one copy complete with suitably histrionic singing and biting instrumentation. The Dane’s last echoing song (“She is dead”) is also a nice detail.
The best covers often come when a band goes way beyond their wheelhouse, which is what Amon Amarth did with this iTunes edition bonus track of 2011’s Surtur Rising. They immediately dove into more somber territory via somewhat altered opening arpeggios. Then they filter SOAD’s template into their emblematic melodic death metal exuberance.
Johan Hegg‘s guttural recital, along with the persistently furious arrangement, leads to a less nuanced and heartbreaking result, but their dynamic anger is nonetheless enticing and commendable. Best of all, their uniqueness shines through and provides a better option than just making an exact copy just to prove they can.
The first album in two parts Nativity in Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath series is full of great adaptations, but Type O negative‘s delivery of “Black Sabbath” is hard to beat.
Where the original is characteristically brooding yet soothingly hypnotic, the American troupe’s embellishment is laced with trademark goth/doom metal seriousness and playful quirkiness. What’s more – and as the title suggests – they change the lyrics significantly in the middle in a clever way that alludes to Black Sabbath’s narrative. (E.g, “Large black shape with eyes of fire“becomes”I am the shadow – with eyes, eyes of fire.”) It is a brilliant processing.
Ronnie James Dio + Yngwie Malmsteen, “Dream On”
Originally by Aerosmith
This one comes from the 1999s Tribute to Aerosmith: Not the same old song and dance, and it mirrors their cut very closely (it even has an identical runtime). In fact, it is almost indistinguishable from the previous version at first. However, it’s not long before Malmsteen makes his mark with some shredding, before Dio launches opening verses via his usual operatic roughness.
From there, Malmsteen’s six-string theatrics and Dio’s stacked harmonies continue to add weight and individuality, while collaborators Stu Hamm (bass), Gregg Bissonette (drums) and Paul Taylor (guitars/keyboards) provide an impressively precise and intense tribute.
The final track of Death‘s last studio album (1998s The sound of endurance), “Painkiller” is essentially the group’s swan song. As a remarkably accurate emulation of Judas Priest classy, it’s quite an impressive way to close out their legacy.
Sure, the song is arguably a bit less shrill (and a tad creepier), the absence of some production theatrics – such as a lack of double vocals – makes it more straightforward, and the flashy guitar work halfway through is marginally different. Nevertheless, it is one high meticulous recreation that infuses enough of Death’s DNA to fit in with the rest of the post.
Avenged Sevenfold, “Wish You Were Here”
Originally by Pink Floyd
It would be foolish to try to outshine that warm perfection Pink Floyd‘Wish you Were Here.’ fortunately Avenged Sevenfold‘s attempt – from 2016’s The scene – do not do.
Instead, it exudes the devotion and accuracy of a flashier tribute. Granted, they leave out the tentative radio chatter from the 1975 rendition, and the percussion, vocals and mid-song guitar solo are a bit heavier, but pretty much everything else is as faithful as possible.
Even the piano work is spot on, whereas the marching drums near the end provide a resourceful change. So thanks to A7X for respectfully helping to introduce Pink Floyd to a younger generation.
Taken from 2008’s “Burden” single and Watershed sessions, Opeth“Would?” is a lovingly devoted cover of the Alice in Chains booklet. Naturally, it’s more elegant and less, well, grungy, with a front man Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s angelically pained crooning that serves as a nice contrast to the late Layne Staley‘s gruffer outline.
Moving onto the arrangement, it’s correspondingly softer (especially with regards to Martín Méndez’s more subtle bass playing), with revised guitar solos leaning towards the Swedes’ characteristic gothic despair. Honestly, it wouldn’t be wrong to prefer it to the original, since Opeth do such a fine job of making it their own.
Led Zeppelin is one of the most celebrated – albeit controversial – classic rock acts, so pretty much everything they did is sacred. However, given how trippy, groovy and sublime “No Quarter” is, it’s only logical that Tool put their spin on it.
Taken below Enema sessions, it landed in the 2000s Saliva box set, and the markedly extended duration exudes the quartet’s penchant for industrial psychedelia, alternative metal and the like. Especially numerous lyrical changes – in conjunction with lots of proggy jamming and Maynard James Keenan’s familiar ethereal tone – transform it into a mind-blowing journey that only Tool could deliver.