When Metal Is, Yet Is Not: Metal Covers of Non-Metal Songs


Sometimes I really like a fresh take on an old concept. It can reveal a new angle on an old classic or bring life to an otherwise moribund corpse. Cover songs should do exactly that. We’ve all heard boring covers that are essentially rehashes of the source material.  But a quality cover should have its roots planted firmly in the original song while sprouting stems and leaves extending up and outwards into sunny musical skies. Some of my favorite examples of this are when metal bands cover non-metal songs. After all, there’s almost no way to be a slave to the original when you’re not playing the same genre.

I could rehash all the regular metal covers of non-metal songs everyone knows but what would be the point of that? No one needs to hear Korn or Metallica or Marilyn Manson or whatever Children of Bodom was doing when they covered Britney Spears. So here are a few covers I like that maybe you haven’t heard before.

Botch “O Fortuna”

If you’ve ever seen a movie preview, you’ve heard Carl Orff‘s “O Fortuna” several thousand times. There has never been a song that better fit with the voiceover guy announcing “In a world where [blah blah blah].” Botch’s cover of this classic leveled me when I first heard it. The drums are tight, the transitions from calm to chaos are on-point, and it properly captures the apocalyptic atmosphere accompanying falling buildings, tidal waves, and every natural and man-made disaster you can imagine. If you have a speaker system or headphones with high-bass output, use those for this track. The bass hits and it rules.

Cloud Rat “The Needle and the Damage Done”

Cloud Rat is a new band to me thanks to the insistent encouragement and great review from one Rolderick von Owlfordshire, III. I don’t even like grind but these guys do it in a way that I don’t hate. In fact, I might even like it. Anyway, they made a cool cover of Neil Young‘s classic sadboi jam about how drugs are bad. Listen to ole Neil, kids. He’s seen some shit. And listen to Cloud Rat listen to Neil because with the raucous and creative way they breath life into this song, they’ve seen some shit, too.

Opera IX “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Some folks may think it’s sacrilege for anyone to try covering a perfect song like Bauhaus‘ mopey goth dirge about legendary B-movie actor, Bela Lugosi. Those folks might be right but I love this rendition anyway. Opera IX has always been one of the more underappreciated black metal acts out there. Maybe not the most original or adventurous, Opera IX still brings the goods with consistently solid offerings and have been doing so for over 20 years. Combine that with being (I think) the first black metal band with a female harsh vocalist and they’ve always kept my attention. Here, Opera IX performed this cover as a bonus track on the very good The Black Opera: Symphoniæ Mysteriorum in Laudem Tenebrarum. Give it a shot and let me know what shitty taste I have in thinking this is good.

Leander “Bad Romance”

What’s this? A Lady Gaga cover? Sure. Why the fuck not. Leander plays this stadium-club anthem filtered through modern metal, growls, and some nifty work on the bass and guitar frets. Fun track! They also do a cover of Rihanna‘s “Only Girl” if you want more of their takes on Billboard 100 material.

So these are some of my picks. What do you got?

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