At their worst, cover songs are lazy album filler. At their best, they can eclipse even the best original material. Covers are a chance for bands to cut loose and have fun by digging into the catalogs of their idols and influences, and once in a while, they result in something so awesomely unexpected or incongruous that the cover song becomes a staple of their catalog. Everyone with an iPod and an idea has put together a playlist of favorite cover songs; we here at Roadrunner have saved you the time and effort of making one for our stable of artists by doing the work for you. Here, in chronological order, are Roadrunner’s wildest cover songs: enjoy our bands slipping into someone else’s clothes.
Wanna listen as you read? Check these tracks out on Spotify!
Sepultura, Motörhead’s “Orgasmatron”, 1991
Now a stone classic, “Orgasmatron” was only six years old when Max Cavalera picked it as the only cover on Sepultura's Arise. But he knew a perfect fit when he heard one: the band maintains the original’s punishing strut, while Max’s vocals replace Lemmy’s cruel snarl with a cutting, martial bark.
Type O Negative, Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze”, 1993
Cover songs—both deranged and sincere—were part of the Type O Negative experience, both live and on record. This swirling, gothed-up version of Seals & Crofts' mellow soft-rock staple from 1972, with front man Peter Steele laying on his thickest undead croon, might be the best of the lot.
Fear Factory, Gary Numan’s “Cars”, 1998
Entering the realms of the truly odd, we find Fear Factory taking a stab at Gary Numan’s New Wave synth-pop classic (as a bonus track on Obsolete)—and somehow roping Numan into participating as well. Odder still is how faithful it is to the original. Oddest of all? It works.
Coal Chamber, Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey”, 1999
Coal Chamber didn’t share much with art-rock pioneer Peter Gabriel besides a morbid sense of theatricality, but with “Shock the Monkey”, they had a ringer on their hands. Still, they took no chances: they brought in Ozzy Osbourne to handle backing vocals, and the result was their mainstream breakthrough.
Opeth, Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune”, 2005
Given Mikael Åkerfeldt’s idolization of Deep Purple, you might think the only problem with this cover (from the deluxe edition of Opeth's Ghost Reveries) is that it might be too on the nose. But it avoids that pitfall, remaining a faithful cover while adding a new element: Åkerfeldt’s unexpectedly soulful vocals. Indeed, this cover is a strong signpost pointing to the '70s-influenced prog direction the band explored on their latest album, Heritage.
Trivium, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”, 2006
When Kerrang! asked eight bands to cover a song from Metallica’s Master of Puppets album for its 20th anniversary, Trivium got the best—and hardest—of the lot. They acquitted themselves honorably, with Matt Heafy’s already Hetfield-esque vocals complemented by sharper, rougher guitars that make the song even more sinister.
Stone Sour, Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”, 2006
Here’s a real curiosity: Corey Taylor takes on Chris Isaak’s smooth, sexed-up ballad of regret and desire, in an all-acoustic arrangement. In a bonus track for Stone Sour’s Come What(ever) May, Taylor manages to strip the song to its barest bones, but loses none of the intensity he’s known for.
Killswitch Engage, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, 2006
Taking on a legendary song requires stones big enough to seal a tomb, and metal songs don’t come much more legendary than “Holy Diver”. Whatever else you can say about Killswitch Engage, though, they never lack for brass, and they throw themselves into the deathless Dio classic with total commitment.
Megadeth, Led Zeppelin’s “Out on the Tiles”, 2007
On Megadeth's terrific United Abominations album, Dave Mustaine accessed his bluesier side by covering a heavy deep cut from Led Zeppelin III. The tremendously filthy guitar playing (including a "Kashmir" outro!) transforms the song into almost a Megadeth original. (Note: This song is not currently on Spotify, but we're working on it.)
3 Inches of Blood, Lucifer’s Friend’s “In the Time of Job When Mammon Was a Yippie”, 2007
In addition to having the greatest title, this cut from the Trial of Champions EP may just be the most fun cover song on this list. Reworking a song by the nearly-forgotten German prog-metal outfit Lucifer’s Friend, 3 Inches of Blood goes absolutely gonzo, and the result is a cover impossible not to love.
Dream Theater, King Crimson’s “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic Part II”, 2009
Speaking of prog... Cover songs are fundamental to the Dream Theater live experience; the band is never afraid to break out a cover, be it goofy or ambitious. The special edition of Black Clouds & Silver Linings came with an entire EP of covers, including this go-for-broke version of a daunting prog masterpiece.
DevilDriver, Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years”, 2009
DevilDriver normally doesn’t traffic in cover songs, so it’s all the more surprising that they took on a band as iconic as Iron Maiden for another Kerrang! compilation. It’s somewhat jarring, given the two bands' radically different guitar and vocal styles, but in the end, it’s a solid modernization of a great original.
Machine Head, Judas Priest’s “The Sentinel”, 2011
Covering Judas Priest is the metal equivalent of running a marathon: you better be in good shape before you even try it. After training for almost two decades, Machine Head was finally ready, releasing a razor-sharp cover of this monster-of-the-week deep cut as a bonus track on Unto the Locust.
Want to hear these covers for yourself? Check 'em out on Spotify!