10 amazing covers by massive metal bands that you’ve (probably) never heard

Photos of Iron Maiden, Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom, Black Sabbath and Nightwish performing onstage
(Image credit: Iron Maiden: Bill McCay/Getty Images | Arch Enemy: Mark Horton/Getty Images | Children Of Bodom: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images | Black Sabbath: Fin Costello/Redferns | Nightwish: Rowen Lawrence/WireImage)

A good cover has the ability to “make” a band. Korn’s Word Up!, Disturbed’s Sound Of Silence, Quiet Riot’s Cum On Feel The Noize – all these and more have been bona fide hits that legitimised their performers to new, unfamiliar audiences. However, for every metallic reinterpretation heard the world over, there are dozens that barely sneak their way into a handful of ears. Whether it’s through intentionally limited releases, bad timing or a lack of outside interest, these are 10 immaculate covers by heavy metal superstars that (unfairly) never caught on.

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Iron Maiden – Rainbow’s Gold (Beckett cover; 2 Minutes To Midnight b-side, 1984)

Iron Maiden aren’t exactly known for their covers (Doctor Doctor notwithstanding). To be fair, when your originals are as iconic as Run To The Hills and Hallowed Be Thy Name, why would you bother prioritising other people’s stuff? Still, The Beast shoved a turbocharger up prog rock’s arse on this 2 Minutes To Midnight b-side, retaining Beckett’s twisting time signatures while adding oodles of oomph. Bruce Dickinson’s wails are especially ear-rattling, as well.

Ghost – Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles cover; Opus Eponymous bonus track, 2011)

It takes either a genius or a mad man to try and make The Beatles spooky. Given that Tobias Forge has masterminded some of metal’s most irresistible songs and paraded around as a skeletal antipope, he may be both. The Ghost pontiff and his monk-like acolytes reimagined Here Comes The Sun as an insidious lullaby in 2011, and it’s so shockingly good that for it to not be on streaming services is, well… blasphemy.

Nightwish – Symphony Of Destruction (Megadeth cover; The Siren b-side, 2005)

Nightwish and Megadeth have nothing in common. While Nightwish seek to seduce you with a menagerie of graceful melodies, Megadeth’s bangers routinely punch you in the face. That didn’t stop the Finnish darlings from paying tribute to their thrashing forefathers, however. Bassist Marko Hietala takes lead vocals on this swelling Symphony Of Destruction redo, which was recorded live and, despite its compelling clash of jagged guitars against lush synths, buried on The Siren’s b-side.

Slayer – Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf cover; NASCAR: Crank It Up, 2002)

How is this not more infamous?! In 2002 – for a NASCAR soundtrack, randomly – thrash bad boys Slayer stabbed their flag into timeless bad boy anthem Born To Be Wild, and the result is unsurprisingly badass. Tom Araya’s crew caught Steppenwolf’s “heavy metal thunder” in a bottle then violently shook it. From that shriek of “Born to be wiiiiiild!” to the cacophonous solos, the classic’s outlaw spirit got amplified to 11: the only volume Slayer knew.

Black Sabbath – Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple cover; Born Again deluxe edition, 2011)

Yes, the sound of Tony Iommi playing one of the most iconic riffs ever is as incredible as you think. In 1983, Black Sabbath were fronted by ex-Deep Purple man Ian Gillan, and the band threw that fact a wink as subtle as a hand grenade while touring. They covered Smoke On The Water to acknowledge their singer’s former occupation, the result being easily the best thing to come from that godforsaken Born Again era.

Dream Theater – Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath cover; Uncovered 2003–2005, 2009)

Dream Theater beat the bootlegging game by joining in. While most bootlegs of b-sides, concerts and rarities are put out by fans seeking a quick, copyright-infringing buck, the progressive metal idols simply release theirs themselves! The New Yorkers’ 2009 addition to their Official Bootleg series unearthed a host of covers, including a particularly dynamic Heaven And Hell. You won’t find it on streaming, though, and knowing that is its own form of hell.

Alice In Chains – Tears (Rush cover; 2112 40th anniversary edition, 2016)

For 2112’s 40th birthday, Rush gathered a random array of stars to cover the album’s greatest moments. Steven Wilson tackled The Twilight Zone, which was bloody genius, while A Passage To Bangkok fell to, umm… Billy Talent? OK. Tapping grunge icons Alice In Chains for Tears seemed equally oddball, but all made sense once it came out. The dual-vocal harmonies don’t just mine the emotional depths of the original; they drill that sadness even further.

Children Of Bodom – Antisocial (Trust cover; Skeletons In The Closet, 2009)

Children Of Bodom covered some wacky shit in their time. The fun-loving Finns’ take on Oops… I Did It Again! was so out-of-nowhere yet excitingly crafted that it went supernova, and they’ve also stamped their name onto Pat Benatar and Billy Idol tracks. Attempting Trust’s Antisocial (famously redone by Anthrax) didn’t touch those decisions in terms of zaniness, yet it definitely did in quality. The galloping riffs and gang vocals perfectly fit the band’s ever-exuberant ways.

Arch Enemy – Breaking The Law (Judas Priest cover; War Eternal bonus track, 2014)

If we were Alissa White-Gluz, we’d have assumed this was a hazing ritual. War Eternal was the blue-haired firebrand’s first Arch Enemy outing, following Angela Gossow’s 14-year tenure. As if that weren’t intimidating enough, the band got the newbie to sing Breaking The Law?! That’s cruel! Nonetheless, Alissa’s roars rose to the occasion, while guitarist Michael Amott was in suitably flamboyant form, his recreation of that seminal riff utilising multiple parts of the fretboard.

Gojira – Escape (Metallica cover; From Mars To Sirius bonus track, 2005)

With From Mars To Sirius, Gojira announced themselves as metal’s loudest eco-warriors, wielding death metal, groove metal and post-metal to fight for Earth’s salvation. The album’s Japanese edition also outed them as owners of the world’s strongest turd polish. The Frenchmen gave Metallica’s Escape (an infamously wet entry on Ride The Lightning) a brutal makeover. Every seismic guitar chug, along with Joe Duplantier’s roars and brother Mario’s stampeding drums, bulked up this previously tame pop-rock attempt.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.