In this writer’s opinion, a band can do a cover song injustice one of two ways (in rare cases both). One is by playing the song to a T, and adding no elements of what your band has to offer. For some reason the most occurring example in my mind is Joan Jett’s cover of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. But this editorial is dedicated the other path of injustice, having a cover so different that it either is unrecognizable, or defeats the purpose of the original version. Now for those of you who think that I’m being “too mean” or that “a band has every right to do a grindcore version of “Genie In A Bottle”, I just want to make you aware that covers cost money. Yes, music law is a thing, and it states that your band must have a license for every cover song that it records and sells (even for streaming on Spotify and Bandcamp), and venues must obtain licenses if they are going to allow bands to play cover songs. My co-writer once spoke to members of Jungle Rot about the possibility of performing their cover of “Jesus Hitler” originally by Carnivore, and their response was along the lines of “we don’t want to deal with the paperwork”. A mechanical license can be very expensive depending on how many copies of your cover song you intend to sell. So I would imagine if your band was to do a cover song, you would want the perfect blend of originality and homage so that you would get a return on investment. But these 10 songs that I will now list, seem like a wasted investment and their efforts would have been better spent on just another original. I’m not sure if mechanical licenses were acquired for all of these. Some are so different that you could get away with claiming it’s an original. I’ve divided this list into 2 parts; 5 metal covers of metal songs and 5 metal covers of non-metal.
Forgotten Tomb – Depression (Originally by Black Flag)
You’ll understand why this cover is ridiculous at 3:06. First of all, it’s a good thing this band didn’t sell this record on iTunes because in accordance with their policy on 10 min+ songs, this cover wouldn’t be available for purchase unless you bought the whole damn “album”. Secondly, when there’s an extended period of feedback, it’s usually reserved for live shows, and it’s best when it’s accompanied by breaking instruments on stage. Other than a small minority of extreme noise fans, does anyone really want 7 minutes of feedback/wasted space on their music player?
Sunn0))) – For Whom The Bell Tolls (Originally by Metallica)
West Coast weirdos Sunn0))) did several of these types of covers. Initially I thought they just played this Metallica classic 3x slower. But no. There are no vocals, and there’s not much variance in the riffs, as was on the original version. The band has been on record stating that this was meant to be a reinterpretation rather than a cover, explaining why there is literally zero resemblance to Metallica’s recording, sounding instead like a Sunn0))) original. Still, a music lawyer once told me that even rearrangements require a license. And why even bother slapping Metallica’s name on 10 minutes of drone doom?
Fun fact: The full title of this track (last track on “Flight Of The Behemoth) is “F.W.T.B.T. (I Dream of Lars Ulrich Being Thrown Through the Bus Window Instead of My Mystikal Master Kliff Burton)”
Tuathail – This Charming Man (Originally by The Smiths)
The guitar melody on this bears resemblance to the original, although the distortion makes this cover look like a troll. And the main importance of songs from The Smiths is Morrissey’s vocals. Replacing them with typical black metal vocals doesn’t do The Smiths justice, while the pop-esque melody doesn’t do black metal justice.
Amon Amarth – Aerials (Originally by System Of A Down)
Same case as above. SOAD’s vocalist Serj is one-of-a-kind. And while Amon Amarth’s vocalist Johann could be considered the same, he really should stick to what he knows, lyrically and vocally.
In Extremo – This Corrosion (Originally by The Sisters Of Mercy)
The token folk metal tune on this list. The use of folk instruments on this recording definitely bring something different to the table. Problem is that the instruments give it too much of an improper upbeat tone, while the original recording has a gothic tone that is too epic to be messed with.
Epica – Crystal Mountain (Originally by Death)
Sometimes you can sneak clean vocals into death metal songs and keep them good. But having a soprano interject in the middle of a death metal classic is just over-the-top. The addition of a symphony is pretentious as well.
Celtic Frost – In The Chapel In The Moonlight (Originally by Dean Martin)
Yes. Celtic Frost does Dean Martin. This song has a percussive track just like several of their originals from earlier works. Tom G. Warrior for the most part refuses to do actual singing on this as usual. As was the case with The Smiths, it’s injustice to a singer but now with a beat that sounds nothing like the original.
Crystal Viper – Tyrani Piekieł (Originally by Vader)
I can’t help but feel that this was done out of nepotism. Both bands are from the same Polish metal scene. This cover features Vader frontman, Piotr Wiwczarek, but as a backup vocalist for the most part, only having the lyrics in the bridge to himself . While this doesn’t annoy me as much as Epica’s Death cover, the clean vocals still defeat the purpose of this death metal track. The guitar tuning on the original recording was more aggressive as well.
Machine Head – Colors (Originally by Ice-T)
Given that this song was recorded when the Nu-Metal movement rose to popularity, it of course raised some eyebrows. Flynn’s rapping isn’t too different from Ice-T’s. So to give the song a twist, he inserted a few guitar techniques here and there. But pick scrapes can’t really hold a candle to record scratches in my opinion.
Vital Remains – The Trooper (Originally by Iron Maiden)
This is my example of a cover being unjust by being the same and different all at once. Before the death growls kick in, the guitars are played in the same way as the original. So the beginning sounds like power metal. Hence they’re trojan horsing their death metal on you here. In the past, death metal bands have covered metal classics. But in other cases, the riffs were made more aggressive and tuned lower.