I know it’s Labor Day in a couple days and I usually do a column of union songs, but after the last couple weeks I’m so very, very tired. I suspect many of you are as well. So I encourage you to check out the May Day edition for some great pro-worker protest songs (It’s Tom-Morello-approved!) but after the last couple weeks I think we all need a bit of a breather from activism for a few minutes.
Fortunately my friend, former coworker, and former boss (really, he was my editor for a couple months and still speaks to me) Daniel Jimenez dropped a fantastic column idea right into my Twitter mentions. Because twee acoustic covers of get a lot of attention, sometimes because they’re good and sometimes because they’re a borderline crime against humanity, but the other direction is often even better.
So join me in taking a break from basically everything to listen to some metal covers of non-metal songs.
Type O Negative — “Summer Breeze”
OK, yes, I stole this first one directly from Mr. Jimenez’s suggestion tweet. It’s Labor Day weekend and I’m a worker, so I’m allowed to slack off a little.
This is an amazing intro to the concept, because you don’t get more different than an extremely goth doom metal cover of the quintessential yacht rock song. My brain isn’t even sure how to process this. It’s familiar words and a familiar melody, but it’s so extremely wrong. In every way! Everything about the vibe is the opposite of the original.
I love it. We all need to be confused sometimes. Keep our brains on their toes… metaphorical toes… if your brain has literal toes probably see a doctor.
Leo Moracchioli — “Straight Up”
It takes significant willpower not to just list four of Moracchioli’s songs. He’s the absolute master of metal covers and he’s been giving us one a week for years and all 400-plus are uniformly amazing. If you enjoy this, which you will, here are some of my other favorites that I won’t just fill the list with because even I have my limits of laziness: Adele’s “Hello,” Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Toto’s “Africa,” and… look, just go to his YouTube channel, subscribe to it, listen to everything, then contribute to his Patreon because he deserves your money more than you do.
But enough about Leo Moracchioli (he says after a 45-minute YouTube rabbit hole of metal covers), this was low-hanging fruit because “Straight Up” is apparently ripe for the off-genre covering. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes did a punk cover that is also vastly superior to Paula Abdul’s original. Not that I have anything against Abdul. Her music would be a guilty pleasure if I was still capable of feeling shame. But like the Ramones and Nirvana, for some reason her music is just easy to adapt to different styles. That is probably a good thing! It speaks well of her songwriters, at least.
Ghost — “Missionary Man”
The original, by the Eurythmics, isn’t quite as well-known as some others, but I’ve had my vinyl copy of Ghost’s 2016 EP, Popestar, spinning for like two straight weeks so it’s on my mind. Of its five songs, this isn’t as good as “Square Hammer” or “I Believe,” but what makes it notable is that the arrangement is so well-done that if I didn’t tell you it was a cover of a new wave classic you’d never know it wasn’t a Ghost original.
Honorable mention goes to Ghost’s cover of ABBA’s “I’m a Marionette,” but Ghost is one of the rare bands whose later stuff I like better than the earlier stuff. The requisite cover from its 2016 EP beats out the cover from the band’s 2013 EP.
And yes, I own a record player [Gokhman note: He just got the thing a month ago and he’s already going around bragging he has one!] and I use it to play EPs by a theatrical Swedish metal band with an elaborate internal mythology. I’m one of those people. Like you didn’t expect that from me by now.
Megadeth — “These Boots”
As should be obvious to anyone who’s read my column, seen my RIFF tagline, or been within earshot of me for more than a couple minutes, I’m a huge Metallica fan. Because of that I was slow to come around to Megadeth, on account of Dave Mustaine’s unceremonious ejection from a pre-fame Metallica. And, if we’re being honest, I’m still not a huge fan. Mustaine’s vocals grate on me more than a little and they try too hard to be metal, which is ironically extremely not metal.
That said, in this remaster of the cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made For Walking,” Mustaine is trying really, really hard to sound like Lemmy from Motorhead. And I love Lemmy. Everyone should do everything possible to emulate Lemmy. I can’t help but encourage it.
Also, the song’s original composer was so angry with the cover that he sued and it was removed from all subsequent pressings of Megadeth’s first album. And rocking so hard that lawyers get involved is extremely metal.
Rammstein — “Stripped”
For the last spot I was down to Metallica’s “Turn the Page,” which I didn’t include because it seemed too on brand, Rage Against the Machine’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” which I can’t use because I promised to be apolitical, and Children of Bodom’s “Oops I Did It Again,” which is good but more for its novelty than its actual quality and I couldn’t include a cover of an artist that our friend Leo did such a better job covering.
So I went with a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Stripped.” But Rammstein’s version is so deeply, disturbingly metal! It’s another case of a band taking the bones of a song it enjoys and really, truly making it its own. I wholeheartedly applaud that.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.