Fear not valiant readers; this article is not an expose on Manowar's more questionable and salubrious fetishes (I won't ever go there), but an analysis of cover songs by metal bands, taking cues from Bleeding's insight into metal kinship. Metal being a highly inclusive and encompassing genre, metalheads occasionally dabble in the black arts of "covering" other bands material to create their own interpretation of previously loved classics, or for the less imaginitive, to merely "metal it up a notch" to which the writer would undoubtebly be shocked beyond their wildest belief. Songs have been covered by a variety of bands from a plethora of non-metal genres (and some covers are inter-metal as well) - some superbly, with some butchering the original, distorting it to unimaginable depths of mediocrity and musical travesty. For the convenience of the viewing public, i've created some criteria to evaluate the songs and bands that have covered them, including:
- Comfort Zone Factor: An indicator of how far the band has ventured outside it's usual genre - for example, if say Kreator did a cover of Chattanougah Choo-Choo, a big band number by The Glenn Miller Band, the style of the cover is vastly different to the original genre of the artist that played it. A the more dissimilar the style, the higher the value becomes, with a maximum score of 5. If the same band covered a band too similar to it's own genre, say Megadeth, then they would recieve a score of 1. (As a matter of fact, i'd pay good money to see that done live...)
- Blood Loss: A measure for how proficiently or preposterously a band has covered the song, in a definitive amount of blood, depending how badly they have butchered the song in question. Expressed in litres up to 5 - the lower the loss, the better the song.
Now onto the show!
Death - Painkiller
Original Artist: Judas Priest
Chuck Schuldiner's blood-curdling intepretation of the classic Painkiller was certainly cranked up to frantic levels, and is done so with headbang worthy prowess. Death takes the song and infuses it with their trademark technical mastery to make it their own.
Gamma Ray - It's A Sin
Original Artist: Pet Shop Boys
The Pet Shop Boys' distinctive nasal tenor delivery is hard to emulate - its their defining characteristic and can't really be emulated. Kai Hansen's shrill, tinny voice barely does justice to the original performance. Although the arrangements are faithfully translated to metal, but overall lacks style or flair. Take away Kai's occasional shrieks, and It's barely a Gamma Ray song. Nice solo, though.
Dark Tranquillity - Lady In Black
Original Artist: Mercyful Fate
Stanne's voice is unrivalled in my opinion, albeit one-dimensional in comparison to King Diamond's cartoon witch-like cackles and falsettoes in the original. Dark Tranquillity infuse a mock horror feel to the song, dramatically matched to the ethereal guitarwork and brilliant drumming found therein. A brilliantly textured and punchy final verse ensures repeated plays. A great cover of a timeless classic.
Blind Guardian - Mr. Sandman
Original Artist: The Chordettes
Hansi Kursch shows great restraint in the first-half of the song, where the band attempts to build an ominous feel by slowly adding a wave of creepy guitar melodies to the innocent and saccharine tone of the original before letting fly with monstrous riffs and screams aplenty. Great, but one solely for the novelty factor of the video (which is hilarious, by the way. Drag queens (guess who they are!), clowns and a shit-scared kid. And that's all i'm going to say.)
Vintersorg - Rainbow Demon
Original Artist: Uriah Heep
The organ steeped original is almost lost in the harsh electronically-driven cover by Vintersorg. Unfortunately, Ken Hensley's signature earthy organ sounds are totally washed away by cold synths and drum machines. It's his distinct Vintersorg sound, but electronic substitutes are no match for the real thing, in my opinion. Saved solely for some impressive singing by "Mr. V" (as he's now identified) and time-honored soloing, Vintersorg doesn't show quite enough care to keep the feel of the original intact. That said, he does put his personal love for this band into it, which can be clearly heard.
Helloween - Space Oddity
Original Artist: David Bowie
This cover isn't necessarily bad, but it isn't very good either. Andi Deris does a fine, albeit pedestrian job of capturing the essence of David Bowie's almost signature song,
with the band utilizing acoustics (guitars, mellotrons, synths) rather than distorted instruments - doesn't make a mockery of the orignal, but doesn't particularly lend the track anything distinctly "Helloweenish" about it either like their other covers. Why use a synth solo when there is no keyboard player in the band? Some of this cover is logic-defying but still competently done. Enjoyable at a fashion.
Demons and Wizards - Immigrant Song
Original Artist: Led Zeppelin
thoroughly enjoy this cover. Thundering bass lines and drumming complement Hansi's dynamic vocal performance, although not to the point of rivalling Robert Plant. Crisp, clear and modern, and foremostly Demons and Wizards.
Nevermore - Sounds of Silence
Original Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Nevermore completely strip away the innocent facade of the original song by injecting pure, unrelenting aggression and brutality. Upping it's cynical outlook with crunchy, bassy riffing and lashes of a soul-destroying percussion assault, Dane twists and turns his voice into something much more sinister than what the song requires. It's indistinguishable to a point, but kudos for Nevermore for taking this song their prisoner.
Children of Bodom - Oops, I Did It Again!
Original Artist: Britney Spears
BL: 4L - but in a good way
This song deserves to be parodied, and who better to do it than Alexi Laiho? A simplistic song to begin with, the Hatecrew attempt the impossible - forging a metal song out of bubblegum pop. They do it fairly well, with a solo being well transposed into the song, and the death growls actually juxtaposing quite naturally with the breathy female vocals. It's a joke as the laughing at the end suggests, but it's a pretty well performed one at that.
Nightwish - High Hopes
Original Artist: Pink Floyd
Entirely sung by bassist (and bassy) vocalist Marco Hietala, his weighty vibrato add a layer of darkness into the hopeful, bright original. The piercing church-bells and soaring licks compliments of Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen reinvent the song and present it to a new audience in the 21st century. A brilliant cover.
In Flames - Everything Counts
Original Artist: Depeche Mode
In Flames' tribalistic drumming and wide-ranged guitar sound compliments this song as they re-build the entire structure from the arrangements up, each instrument utilizing a different rhythmic or melodic style, ranging from short arpeggios to sweeps across long, drawn out chords that makes this originally electronic-based song stack up in the metal world all too well. Martin Gore would have been proud, but something tells me that he would have been turned off by the self-indulgent solo between the verse and chorus. Good though, very well done.
Amon Amarth - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Original Artist: Black Sabbath
This cover is atrocious, purely for the fact that the production is so primitive, nothing bar a wash of muddy noise can be heard instead of what you'd expect, that being music. Somewhere in this miasma of sound drums pound away and Johan Hegg growls waywardly underneath. I can't listen to this for more than 30 seconds without fearing the risk of permanent ear or sanity damage.
My Dying Bride - Some Velvet Morning
Original Artist: Nancy Sinatra (featuring Lee Hazelwood)
Aaron Stainthorpe's baritone meanders melancholically all over this record, which gives it more character than the original deserved. Some dark rock n' roll-esque soloing punctuates this barbarous, gothic dirge, and is done rather well. The string section does a splendid job in creating mood too.
Mercenary - Music Non Stop
Original Artist: Kent
Indie rockers Kent's chirpy original is complimented by Mercenary's room-filling synth sounds and thick, heavy guitar tones. Keeping faithful to the tone of the album (11 Dreams), they do infuse a surrealist flavor via some artificial keyboard melodies and layered, chilling vocals. A baffling choice for a melodic death band to cover, but interesting and cleverly executed.
Opeth - Remember Tomorrow
Original Artist: Iron Maiden
Opeth's interpretation of Iron Maiden's pre-666 opus turns the more rocking original into an hard-hitting adagio ala Opeth. Mikael adeptly pours his all into the delicate finger-picked acoustic guitars and ethereal vocal lines before letting fly with a up-tempo riff attack and face-melting wah solo. Beats the pants off of Paul Di'Anno's voice, let me tell ya!
This is just a selection of the countless metal covers that seem to be out in the world - metal bands can create some wonderful interpretations of classic songs that don't necessarily come from the same musical stock - from what it seems, metal on metal is just grating against a rock and a hard place. As I said before, my bank account is open to depletion to each and every metal band that does an awesome non-metal cover - so get cracking!