There has been a long and storied history of metal artists covering big pop and mainstream hits over the years. But, weirdly, it doesn’t seem like artists outside of metal like repaying the compliment so much. We’d like to say that we don’t know why that is, but actually, there have been a few examples over the years and the results are...let’s say...mixed. Want evidence? Here are 10 very surprising versions of metal songs by artists that are worlds away from metal music itself. It might get a bit weird from here-on in.
Lil Uzi Vert - Chop Suey (System of a Down)
Starting with the most recent addition to the list, Philly emo-rap megastar Lil Uzi Vert has just released his own rock album, Pink Tape. It features collaborations with both Bring Me the Horizon and Babymetal, which shows his heart is in the right place, but we can’t be letting him get away with his version of System of a Down’s definitive song. Called CS on the album, it’s basically Uzi doing karaoke but sticking that autotuned vocal so beloved of modern hip-hop artists over the original SOAD version. It’s not very good and it’s pretty pointless, and it seems that most fans of both artists agree. Shame.
The Cardigans – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Black Sabbath)
Swedish 90s pop sensations The Cardigans are most known for their 1996 song Lovefool from the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. Two years before that, though, they were covering Black Sabbath’s classic Sabbath Bloody Sabbath on their debut album Emmerdale (yes, named after the British soap opera). They take away the dread and that massive riff of the original, replacing it with some smooth, lounge vibes and a dreamy, whispered vocal from Nina Persson. A couple of years later they did the same thing with Iron Man. Think that’s enough now, guys.
Jamelia – Numb (Linkin Park)
You might now know Jamelia as one of those Loose Women who crop up on ITV every lunchtime, but she actually had a very successful pop career in the UK. You remember that song Superstar? Yeah, banger! That was her! Still, we raised a few eyebrows when she took Linkin Park’s classic, emotional rager and turned it into a slinky, acoustic R&B number on BBC Radio One’s Live Lounge. Very odd. What next? Stacy Solomon treating us to her rendition of Bodies by Drowning Pool?!
Tori Amos - Raining Blood (Slayer)
Look, there’s no way we’re taking pot shots at an artist as genius as Tori Amos. She might not be metal, but the classically trained singer and pianist has been making incredible albums for years now. It’s just that, when she released her 2001 covers album Strange Little Girls, we did not expect a haunting, baroque cover of Slayer’s classic thrash metal anthem Raining Blood to be sat on the track listing next to songs by The Beatles, Neil Young and Depeche Mode. Saying that, it is a captivating, if practically unrecognisable version.
Pat Boone – You've Got Another Thing Coming (Judas Priest)
Most people know Pat Boone as an early rock and roll singer, coming very much in the aftermath of Elvis but offering something safer and cuddlier for mainstream America thanks to his strong religious beliefs. No one would have expected Bible-loving Boone to have turned to the devil's music, but he did exactly that in 1997, releasing an entire album of covers by the likes of AC/DC, Metallica, Dio, Ozzy and more. The fact that it opens with a cheesy Vegas singalong to Judas Priest’s classic You Got Another Thing Coming is as hilarious as it is unlikely.
SebastiAn - Don’t Tread on Me/Nothing Else Matters (Metallica)
When Metallica released their Blacklist companion album, with 53 different artists covering songs from their classic 1991 The Black Album to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the best-selling album in metal history, the breadth of guests was very impressive. Possibly the oddest moment, though, was getting French producer and DJ SebastiAn in to create a funky, glitchy, deep house, remixed mash-up of Don’t Tread on Me and Nothing Else Matters. Hearing James Hetfield’s voice over some synthy basslines was a shock, but, we’ll admit it, we think it’s pretty cool!
Dirty Projectors – Rise Above (Black Flag)
For over two decades now, the mastermind behind Dirty Projectors, David Longstreth, has made a series of very odd, lo-fi, indie art pop releases. He’s quite an enigmatic figure is our Dave, but although we’re actually pretty partial to some of his work, he bit off a fair bit more than he could chew with his 2007 album Rise Above, which was entirely made up of Black Flag covers. Turning the wildly chaotic original of Rise Above into a fey, doo-wop ballad is massively discombobulating for those of us raised on classic Black Flag.
Four Tet – Iron Man (Black Sabbath)
Kieran Hedben, AKA Four Tet, is another artist who has been making challenging, lo-fi music for over two decades, leaning into ambient, electronic and EDM. Back in 2005 he was asked to produce something for the Black Sabbath tribute album Everything Comes And Goes alongside other indie electro artists, and came up with an instrumental, acoustic led, broken beat version of Iron Man. Which is actually rather soothing.
Emm Gryner – Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne)
Canadian singer-songwriter Emm Gryner has worked with the likes of David Bowie, Jools Holland and members of Snow Patrol, but take a closer look at her back catalogue and you can see that she’s passionate about rock and metal. Her 2001 covers album Girl Versions features her tackling songs by Def Leppard, Fugazi, Stone Temple Pilots and The Clash. It’s her lovely piano version of Ozzy Osbourne’s legendary Crazy Train that we’re pointing you in the direction of today, though. This and Tori Amos’ Raining Blood in the same year? Must have been something in the water.
Maroon 5 – Closer (Nine Inch Nails)
Poor old Trent Reznor hasn’t had much luck when it comes to having his songs covered. We all know about Johnny Cash’s staggering version of Hurt, which has become the definitive version in the eyes of many people since its release, but did you know that the song has also been desecrated by the likes of Leona Lewis and Mumford And Sons? Crikey. If you thought that was all bad though, wait until you hear Maroon 5 strip every ounce of nihilism and danger away from Closer. Hearing Adam Levine sing Reznor’s lyrics of self-disgust and loathing like he’s trying to chat up a girl at an All Bar One on a Saturday night is deeply unhappy listening experience.