The 10 best metal covers of classic goth songs

(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns)

Both the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the UK goth scene lurched into life in 1979, yet the idea of Bauhaus touring with Iron Maiden, or Biff Byford propping up the bar with The Cure’s Robert Smith, would have seemed the stuff of madmen’s dreams. Goths and metalheads eyed each other suspiciously across town parks all through the 1980s, but in the 90s came a glut of heavy metal love letters to this curious bastard sibling genre, each swathed in black and obsessed with death but favouring different approaches to their instruments. Here are 10 of the best metal covers of classic goth songs.

Darkthrone - Love In A Void

Firmly embedded in the sweet spot between uproarious fun and terrifying lunacy, you’ll find Darkthrone’s wild, rickety rampage through goth first-wavers Siouxsie And The Banshees’ 1979 b-side (the first cover version that the two-man black metal pioneers ever consented to release). “I think it was a genius choice and an extremely cool cover song,” drummer Fenriz told The Lodge webzine in 2011, crediting bandmate Nocturno Culto for the song’s appearance on Darkthrone’s belated debut single, 2006’s Too Old Too Cold.

Sepultura – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

Chipping the song from nine minutes down to four is just the start of Sepultura’s reimagining of Bauhaus’ evergreen 1979 single and the song that arguably kicked off the whole goth movement. After a surprisingly mellow start, with tribal percussion, delicate trails of feedback and soft acoustic strumming, the Seps lock into a lumbering sludge groove, Derrick Green’s caustic, slavering vocal making him sound like he killed poor old Dracula actor Mr Lugosi himself with his bare hands.

Cradle Of Filth – No Time To Cry

Dani’s flying circus has tackled many covers over the years, from the sublime (Slayer’s Hell Awaits) to the ridiculous (that Tears For Fears one). But Cradle Of Filth’s take on Leeds uber-goths The SIsters Of Mercy’s 1985 single - which reached Number 63 in the UK charts - strikes just the right balance, rendering one of goth’s catchiest pop ditties with extra helpings of blackened guitar and haunted house camp. Spookier still: 16 years later, the EP featuring this cover, Bitter Suites To Succubi, also reached Number 63 in the charts. Witchcraft. It’s the only explanation.

Deftones – If Only Tonight We Could Sleep

Taken from The Cure’s 1987 album Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, If Only Tonight We Could Sleep has a mysterious, languid darkness to it that’s goth all over, a quality deepened even further by Deftones’ weighty version. Originally performed by the band when they played an MTV tribute to The Cure in 2004, where Chino revealed that transcribing Robert Smith’s lyrics got him into songwriting, it was dusted off in 2018 when the Sacramento alt-rock saviours played  Smith’s Meltdown Festival in London.

Neurosis – Day Of The Lords

The beautifully bleak throb of the Joy Division’s 1979 original is matched fairly faithfully by Neurosis. This cover, which first appeared on a live seven-inch, caught the Oakland band at a transitional stage between their lairy hardcore roots and magisterial post-metallic future. Day Of The Lords was always a thrillingly doomy tune, one of a few where JD guitarist Bernard Sumner’s self-professed Black Sabbath influence comes to the fore, so it’s an ideal pick for Neurosis.

Solitude Aeturnus – Deathwish

An uptempo two-minute rave from Orange County goth institution Christian Death, Deathwish was an unexpected choice of cover for Texan doom crew Solitude Aeturnus’s fourth studio album in 1996. More used to banging out majestic covers of metal standards like Heaven And Hell or Hallowed Be Thy Name, SA neatly polish up the dusty little tune, giving the celestial voice of Robert Lowe a chance to nail some unorthodox harmonies, and providing some respite from the band’s predominating slo-mo epics. 

Death Angel – Wasteland

Bay Area mainstays Death Angel offer a subtle, respectful metallisation of The Mission’s fourth single, a No.11 hit back in 1987. Taken from the Japanese edition of 2016’s The Evil Divide, it’s the only song here that truly outdoes the original. They don’t just heavy it up, but add new dimensions to the arrangement, though while Mark Osegueda is clearly a better singer than Wayne Hussey, the Mish frontman probably has the whole of Death Angel licked for tales of rock’n’roll debauchery.

Cattle Decapitation – Sonny's Burning

Debuting on The Birthday Party’s 1983 EP The Bad Seed – which gave singer Nick Cave the idea for what to name his next band – Sonny’s Burning is a spiky, jittery, artfully annoying, wild and crazy post-punk shakedown, providing unexpected but oddly suitable grist to the mill for free-thinking death/grind luminaries Cattle Decapitation. Theirs is more charnel house than arthouse, but there’s a shared wavelength of depravity, noise and weirdness where such disparate bands happily co-exist.

Paradise Lost – Xavier

Australia’s avant-goth-neoclassical-world-folk-art-rock-dark-wave sensation Dead Can Dance have been confounding useful descriptors for nearly 40 years, and they’ve been the discerning extreme metalhead’s go-to pick for late-night post-gig comedown vibes for almost as long. So you’re spoilt for choice with DCD covers, including Ulver, The Gathering and our old friends Cattle Decapitation, but it’s got to be Halifax goth metal superstars Paradise Lost, deep into their millennial groove and breakbeat phase, giving a hip urban twist to DCD’S elegaic 1987 original, a haunting meditation on female persecution.

Metallica – The Wait

The best band ever to be named after a Monty Python sketch (with apologies to Ethel The Frog and Toad The Wet Sprocket), Killing Joke were always too diverse to be restrained by the goth tag - indeed this 1980 debut classic was already heavier-riffed and more psychotic than most NWOBHM in that year. Metallica’s mega-phased maxi-crunch neck-snapper version for 1987’s The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited drilled right into the song’s core, James Hetfield wrapping his snarl around one of the most satisfying two-word choruses in rock history.

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Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.