Everybody loves a good cover. So we tracked down a whole bunch of musicians, writers, broadcasters, artists, filmmakers and general music lovers to find out what their favourite rendition is and why it's so goddamn good.
Jon Paul Davis (Conan)
Anthrax doing Protest And Survive. Original by Discharge.
Protest and Survive by Discharge was a track I first heard on Anthrax's Attack of The Killer B's (1991). Anthrax were (and are) on constant rotation on my music player and I love how heavy this song is, particularly with the Scott Ian vocals. The original is pretty awesome too.
Will Oakeshott (Heavy Magazine Journalist)
Nine Inch Nails doing Dead Souls. Original by Joy Division.
I cannot begin to describe the impact Joy Division has had on my life. But from my first proper exploration of the Unknown Pleasures record, a dark wave crashed over my entire being and dragged me down to an endless abyss which, amongst its discomfort, completely soothed me. It still does and I think mostly because Ian Curtis (RIP) truly spoke to me with his lyrics, as if he understood my mental struggle before even I could comprehend it. I remember seeing The Crow (1994) before I was even a teenager and this cover song scared me senseless, but I couldn't escape it. Years later when re-watching the film, I discovered it was a cover of Joy Division's Dead Souls and from that point I really began to appreciate Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails.
Alex Wilson (Sleepmakeswaves)
Husker Du doing Eight Miles High. Original by the Byrds.
A 60s classic suffocated under a sea of distortion and despair, yet the timeless songwriting still shines through. I love covers that discover new emotions in an old song, and Bob Mould's wordless howls at the climax are both chilling and exhilarating.
Michael Christopher (Drowning Horse/Territory/Self-Harm)
Sepultura doing Symptom Of The Universe. Original by Black Sabbath.
My dad brought me up on a lot of hard rock stuff and would frequently play Black Sabbath's Paranoid (1970) from as early as I can remember. I got pretty into heavy metal from around the age of 10 and came across Sepultura's version of Symptom of the Universe on their Blood Rooted (1997) CD, which I was lucky enough to inherit from my brother, whom had won it in a competition in the Community Newspaper.
The track was fierce and by far the standout on the CD. I'd never heard the original version before and once I discovered that it was actually a cover of a Sabbath song, it instantly became my favourite Sabbath track and prompted me to explore a lot more of their back catalogue. It remains to be my favourite Sabbath track to this day and I have Sepultura to thank for that.
Azgorh Drakenhof (Drowning The Light)
Mutiilation doing My Way. Original by Frank Sinatra.
Ever since this first came out as part of the split vinyl collection with Deathspell Omega, Malicious Secrets, Antaeus and Mutiilation entitled From the Entrails to the Dirt (2005), I instantly appreciated this song and it is definitely one of my favourite cover tracks.
The most being that despite it being, of all things, a Frank Sinatra song, it not only works so well as a black metal song on a musical level (if it wasn't pointed out what it was I'm sure many would not know it wasn't), but the lyrics and theme of that song in particular fit Mutiilation so well. You can look at lyrics from the last four Mutiilation albums and see similarities, even from the first line: "And now, the end is near; And so I face the final curtain". It is utterly fitting for the dark, manic, depressing and verging on suicidal journey Mutiilation would take it's listeners on and also, funnily enough, the riffs are very Mutiilation-esque when played in this style.
Another reason is because Mutiilation/Meyhnach has ALWAYS done things his way. Whether it will upset fans or what they expect from him and his band, he has always been one against the grain and one who has paved his own path and sparked some original ideas within the genre. He has always remained true to his art and true to himself and what he wants from his art, and I have always respected such honesty from an artist. I also enjoyed watching the fallout at the time of "Why would a black metal cult figure like Mutiilation do a cover of Frank Sinatra?" and the tears of fanboys and rawcore kids flowed freely forever more due to it.
Is it the best cover musically? It's excellent, maybe not the very best, but what it represents outweighs the 'music'. True dark reflection will always capture my attention more then 'music' or 'productions values'.
'Rupert Murdoch' aka Privacy (Producer)
Pipilotti Rist doing Wicked Game. Original by Chris Isaak.
Video artist Pipilotti Rist delivering one of my all time favourite covers. Killer guitar work. I love how the tone is so similar to the original and the melody and mood remains faithful until it starts to unravel. Very cool stuff!
Heng Shen Yeap (Kromosom)
Disclose doing Mitt Totala Hat (second song). Original by Svart Parad.
This Disclose Swedish hardcore classic covers album opened my world to 80s Swedish hardcore back in the 90s. Featuring (the likes of) Shitlickers, Anti Cimex, Bombanfall, Sod, Svart Parad, Avskum, Absurd, Crudity and Agoni. These bands took influences from Discharge and put their own spin on it. These are some of the bands that have shaped my taste for hardcore punk and has influenced projects I've been in, present and past. Every track on this record is a banger, I urge you to listen to the whole thing. Because I have to choose, here is Svart Parad (black parade) and they're from a small town called Hedemora. They had a distinct dark sound compared to their peers and is said to be the first Swedish straight edge band. My Total Hatred!!!!
Tessa Tribe (Masses)
Cemetery doing Wind And Shadows. Original by The Chameleons.
I love this reworking of the classic Chameleons song so much. It quite drastically changes the song from classic post-punk to chaotic deathrock, but that hooky riff is still super recognisable. It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I actually first listened to the Chameleons after hearing their song first as a Cemetery cover on the Wind And Shadows (2015) LP. Honestly, I think I like the cover more than the original.
Jack Sargeant (Author of Flesh & Excess: On Underground Film And Against Control, film programmer and curator)
Lydia Lunch and Rowland S Howard doing Some Velvet Morning. Original by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra.
I can never do just one-thing, and I've flensed this exercise down to a mere three cover versions that I like. Firstly Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra's unique Some Velvet Morning and Lydia Lunch and Rowland S.Howard's equally beautiful interpretation (see above).
I also really love Nancy's version of Bang Bang (itself a cover obviously) and this cover version by Coil, which is beautiful, haunting and unexpected. Finally, I love Einsturzende Neubauten's Jet'm, a detoured reworking of the epic Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg classic, Je T'aime... Moi Non.
Mike Scheidt (Yob)
Metallica doing Last Caress/Green Hell. Original by The Misfits.
I'm not sure if this/these is/are my favourite cover song(s) of all time, but these back-to-back covers, particularly Last Caress/Green Hell by The Misfits, had a huge impact on me. Metallica's $5.98 E.P. Garage Days (1987) was released to a wounded metal scene still acutely mourning Cliff Burton's passing. I was 16 when Cliff died, and it's hard to describe how heavy that loss was. They were the greatest band in the world to me, their last album with Cliff a bonafide classic. Cliff was one of us. It fucking hurt.
Modern discussions about Metallica do not apply here. In 1986, they were kings. When they announced their new bassist, I knew he was from Flotsam And Jetsam and I was a fan of them. But I was also very skeptical. When they released this EP, I sighed a small bit of relief. It wasn't original material obviously and no one will ever, ever match Cliff Burton. But it was raw, fun and exhibited good form introducing Jason Newstead. It was also my introduction to The Misfits and Earth A.D. (1983) remains one of my favourite albums.
Jon Rosenthal (Footpaths/Invisible Oranges Journalist)
Low doing Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me. Original by The Smiths.
I dislike The Smiths. Though we can all undoubtedly relate to Mozz's sadness at its very core, his take is whiney, sophomoric and wrought with Holden Caulfield-egocentrism. It doesn't speak to me. Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker and Zak Sally breathe a legitimacy all too real into Morissey's meditation on the loneliness we all feel. Feel free to crucify me.
Matt Tomich (ex-LIFE IS NOISE/RTR FM)
Esben And The Witch doing Planet Caravan. Original by Black Sabbath.
I’ve always loved those weird tracks that stick out on an album like a musical post-script. On the original version, Ozzy might as well be singing from the Upside Down; Tony’s guitar has nary a lick of distortion; Geezer bassline could’ve been lifted from a funk record and Bill’s playing percussion with just his hands. It’s Black Sabbath at their least-Black Sabbathy, and it’s one of the most interesting pieces of music they ever produced.
Pantera’s take showcased Phil Anselmo’s vocal range and brought the song back down to Earth, but it’s the recent rendition from Esben and the Witch that strikes a chord with me most. They embrace the hypnotism of the song’s main refrain even more than Sabbath did. Rachel Davies’ voice sounds at once intimate and a world away, soaked in cavernous reverb, and the instrumental second half lingers like the memory of a bad dream. It does everything a good cover should: honour the original work via total reinvention.
Neil Bramley (Comfort)
His Hero Is Gone doing Raise The Curtain. Original by Jerry's Kids.
I've never been anywhere near as rabid for His Hero Is Gone as the multitudes of folk I've spent time around over the years, however their take on this song stands out in my memory the most. Whereas the Jerry's Kids version has a rainy-day gloominess in the context of the full-tilt teenage hardcore LP around it, the world of His Hero Is Gone sounds like it has been pouring non-stop for years.
Yonn Mclaughin (Pestilential Shadows/The Slow Death/The Holiday Project/Horrisonous)
Nadja doing Dead Skin Mask. Original by Slayer.
While both could be considered 'heavy', Slayer and Nadja are completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Nadja manage to turn this song into an oppressively heavy drone/doom nightmare, making this version infinitely scarier than Slayer's ode to Ed Gein.
Slayer may have had a hysterical screaming girl on theirs, but Nadja manages to make it sound as though old Ed is retelling his own tale.
Kegan Daly (Space Bong/FalseXIdols Records)
Monarch doing I Got Erection. Original by Turbonegro.
French avant-garde doom band, Monarch, played homage to Norwegian deathpunk provocateurs, Turbonegro, when they covered their classic anthem I Got Erection. Only a Turbojugend would understand how ironic and perfect a female singing this song is. It's a dedication to punks who evolve musically by staying true to the creative self in all it's manifestations. Everything else is stagnation and conformity. Punk is boring.
Suzanne (Seance Records)
Monumentum doing Fade To Grey. Original by Visage.
Italy's Monumentum took one of the eighties greatest, darkest new wave synth pop anthems and transformed 80's pop synth lines into a funeral like hymn of languid gothic doom and darkwave with the help of Francesca Nicoli of Neo Classical group, Ataraxia. The song lends itself so well to Monumentum's atmospheric style and Francesca Nicoli's grandiose gothic vocals. The cover is morbid, hypnotic, darkly beautiful and defines the high gothic style of the 90s, which crossed over into black metal. No song turns the decade of fluoro to grey like this one does!
Christopher Shoulder (MiSC/DiE - now defunct)
Index doing You Keep Me Hanging On. Original by The Supremes.
The best cover of all time. FACT! I heard this version about 5/6 years ago and it completely put me in a moody depressing black hole, but in a good way. Ten times better than the original, which rarely happens on a cover. Stripped back; completely changes the feel of the song. What more could I ask for? I feel lucky that my ears have been able to heard such beautiful sounds, having only existed for a mere 30 years. There's only a handful of songs I would say that about.
Craig Patrick (RTR FM's Behind The Mirror Coordinator)
Dax Riggs doing Our Mother The Mountain. Original by Townes Van Zandt.
Townes Van Zandt’s poetic and often unhappy lyrics and twanging troubadour music was around long before the likes of Nick Cave shot to fame. During his life time, he battled various addiction and mental health problems, and died a relatively unsuccessful (commercially) musician, but slowly interest in his music has grown – and rightly so as some of it is truly beguiling and unique. Our Mother The Mountain captures perfectly what made him so magic and equally tragic.
Although not struck down by the same mental health problems or substance abuse battles, Dax Riggs is far from a typical singer song writer. Like Van Zandt, his lyrical style is often poetic rather than literal, and he has become well known for performing a large number of covers. His emergence from the New Orleans heavy metal/grind scene into a bluesy singer songwriter – largely built around his amazing voice and tireless live gigging – has been interesting to witness. This cover is so perfect because it still captures the core of the song musically so as to be recognisable, but Dax’s voice, harder guitar style and sense of urgency take the unease and disquiet at the heart of the song’s lyrics to another level entirely.
Louis Dunstan (Extortion/Big Bread)
Quiet Riot doing Mental Health. Original by Slade.
So as far back as I can remember, this is the first heavy metal song that I truly had on high rotation. I was obsessed with the album cover of Quiet Riot's Mental Health. I thought it was extreme and confronting and I could never get my head around the wall of sound that the vocal production that this song had. The original by Slade is also pretty damn good.
Jess Willoughby (LIFE IS NOISE)
Slowdive doing Golden Hair. Original by Syd Barrett.
To this day, American-Japanese director Gregg Araki is still my favourite filmmaker of all time. When I was growing up, I discovered Doom Generation (1995) by accident while trawling at my local Video Ezy and have never been the same since.
To me, the experience of watching that film was mind-blowing—I quickly devoured the forever fucked up, yet insanely beautiful, teen characters portrayed on the screen and the ridiculous (and completely unrealistic) situations they ended up in. And the soundtrack! Everything from early Nine Inch Nails, Love And Rockets and Cocteau Twins to Jesus And Mary Chain and Meat Beat Manifesto. It basically laid the foundation for my deep-seated love of industrial, goth and dark alternative for years to come.
But this track is actually not from this film. It’s appears on a later release of his, Mysterious Skin (2004). I am the first to say that I’ve never actually been much of a Syd Barrett fan. But I adore the woozy, engulfing sounds of Slowdive. And when the opening credits rolled on this movie and the watery signature lines of Golden Hair filtered through, it was a revelation. There is something about this rendition that is just so haunting and reflective; the way it builds slowly to its peak and sharply drops off. It always leaves me wanting more.