10 Best Metal Cover Songs
While some groups have built a great business dedicating their careers to paying tribute to other artists, most choose to add cover songs to their repertoire to add a bit of spice to them. How many times have you been at a concert and the group on stage has broken out into a cover tune? Sometimes you dig it, other times you wish they would just keep to their original material. Either way, it's just part of the deal.
Then there's the other side of the coin. Many of the artists we cover here on Noisecreep have made the cover song a thing of high art. Whether it's been the odd B-side or an entire album filled with them, some bands have raised the bar when it comes to their cover song performances. Noisecreep is taking some time out today to honor some of our favorite tribute tracks with our 10 Best Metal Cover Songs list.
Kicking off our 10 Best Metal Cover Songs list is Nevermore’s ‘The Sound of Silence.’ Simon & Garfunkel’s original version of the song has become a modern pop standard and has little to do with Nevermore’s cover of it. Featuring a 7-string guitar attack from Jeff Loomis, plus Warrel Dane’s “less is not more” vocal style, Nevermore’s ‘The Sound of Silence’ is way more Download Festival than it is Woodstock, and we’re more than OK with that.
The most obscure act on our list, Milwaukee speed metal merchants Realm broke up at the beginning of the ‘90s, but not before leaving the world with their over-the-top take on ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ Starring the vocal acrobatics of Mark Antoni and drummer Mike Olson’s unrelenting footwork, there’s nothing subtle about Realm’s Beatles cover. Clocking in at 1:58, the song’s blistering twin-guitar attack -- courtesy of Paul Laganowski and Takis Kinis -- is the cherry on top.
Glenn Danzig has always looked back to early rock ‘n’ roll and blues for inspiration, so it’s no surprise that the former Misfits singer chose to cover ‘The Hunter.’ Showing up towards the end of Danzig’s 1988 eponymous debut album, the original’s horns and organ are stripped out, leaving Glenn’s primal vocals and John Christ’s guitars in full spotlight. Blue Cheer’s cover of ‘The Hunter’ is also worth seeking out if you’re a hard rock fan.
Obituary’s cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘Circle of the Tyrants’ is a favorite among death metal aficionados. On the track, John Tardy sticks to his trademark death growl, but he also delivers most of the lyrics with a clarity that suits it perfectly. Obituary’s Trevor Peres’ funereal guitar tone was largely inspired by Celtic Frost mainman Tom G. Warrior, so it’s also fitting that his band’s take on ‘Circle’ mostly stays loyal to the original source material.
Written by George Harrison in 1969 in the backyard of Eric Clapton’s then house, ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is one of the most beloved Beatles songs. It’s a tall order to cover a song so revered, but Swedish occult rockers Ghost’s haunting version of the classic single is a gem that deserves a spot amongst the 10 Best Metal Cover Songs. Everything from the psychedelic keyboard stabs during the song's beginning, to its spectral vocals, Ghost’s cover of ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is a stunner.
Black Sabbath is probably the most covered band in the heavy metal pantheon. We could have gone with a number of cover tunes, but there’s something truly sinister-sounding about Anthrax’s version of ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ that kept us coming back to it. Appearing on the New York thrash outfit’s 1987 ‘I’m the Man’ EP, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ features the band firing on all cylinders, but Joey Belladonna’s powerhouse vocal performance is what takes the song over the edge.
Most Death fans couldn’t have predicted that late vocalist/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner would have had the kind of pipes to pull off a Judas Priest cover, let alone a song that called for a high vocal range. But Death’s cover of Priest’s ‘Painkiller’ found Schuldiner weaving together a punishing hybrid of traditional high-pitched vocals and his usually growled yet decipherable vocal delivery style. Of all the many Priest covers out there, this one is the finest.
First written and performed by folk icon Joan Baez in 1975, ‘Diamonds & Rust’ got a complete heavy metal overhaul two years later by Judas Priest. The band’s galloping rhythmic thrust during the verse sections is a smart stylistic change from the original version, while Rob Halford’s choice to sing the song in the lower register of his voice is also a winning move. Leave it to Priest to transform a folk tune into a metal classic.
Part of Voivod’s allure is their left-of-center approach to most of what they do. That restless spirit courses through the Canadian stalwarts’ cover of Pink Floyd’s psych-rock opus ‘Astronomy Domine.’ Released during a time when thrash metal ruled the heavier side of the metal spectrum, Voivod’s version of ‘Astronomy Domine’ sounded like nothing else on 'Headbangers Ball.' The swirling guitars, deadpan vocals and beefy production on this metallized version of the Floyd oldie are sci-fi gold.
Topping our 10 Best Metal Cover Songs list is Metallica’s superb take on ‘Am I Evil?’ Metallica’s James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich first fell in love with the song in 1980 when New Wave of British Heavy Metal masters Diamond Head released the original version on their ‘Lightning to the Nations’ album. Metallica’s cover is not only still a staple in their live sets; it remains one of their most popular recordings.