Covering a beloved classic song as an already established band is always a risky game. Pull it off and you are forever intrinsically linked to the song itself, putting your stamp on it in such a way that your version will be one that many music fans will actually hear and fall in love with before they even listen to the original. Fuck it up, however, and you risk looking like a right bunch of berks that have put out a clanger and completely missed what made the original song tick so marvellously in the first place.
For every brilliantly realised metal cover, there are a dozen failed attempts (remember that weird period in the 90s and early 2000s where nu metal bands were putting out dodgy covers all over the place?). Luckily, though, there really are some brilliant metal covers out there, so we've amassed ten examples that not only matched the might of the original versions, but in at least a couple of cases, arguably surpassed them.
Metallica - Turn The Page (Bob Seger)
Originally written for his sixth studio album Back In '72, released in, er, 1973, Bob Seger's Turn The Page was a brooding, emotionally-charged country power ballad that found new life on Seger's acclaimed live album Live Bullet three years later. Its mournful ode to the perils of life on the road as a touring musician evidently struck a chord with Metallica, who recorded their own, magnificent take on the track for 1998's Garage Inc covers album. The added metallic heft brought a new sense of power to the song, while James Hetfield's voice has arguably never sounded better, his low baritone and lion-like roar sounding pitch-perfect on a recording that encapsulated the frontman's ability to embrace his vulnerable side without losing an ounce of his potency as a vocalist. Twenty five years on and it is undoubtedly the most famous version of the song, with over 130 million streams to its name.
Killswitch Engage - Holy Diver (Dio)
Taking on a track fronted by arguably the greatest and most beloved singer in the history of heavy metal? And adding in screams? Most bands would be onto an absolute hiding at even attempting such a feat, but Killswitch Engage were not 'most bands', especially come the mid-2000s when, off the back of the classic The End Of Heartache, they were fast becoming one of the biggest forces in metal. Originally recorded for a Kerrang! covers compilation but given new life with a hilarious music video the following year, Killswitch managed to pull off the unthinkable and put out a Dio cover that not only kicked ass, but put enough of a unique new slant on the song to forge its own place in metal history. As of today, it's Killswitch's second-most streamed song ever. That's how good this cover is.
Judas Priest - The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) (Fleetwood Mac)
You have to go some way to record a cover of a Fleetwood Mac song that arguably outshines the original, but that's what Judas Priest seemingly managed with their legendary take on Mac's 1970 single, The Green Manalishi. Peter Green's sinister, hazy, drug-fuelled anthem nabbed Fleetwood Mac a UK top ten single upon its release in 1970, before Priest decided to give it a big ol' injection of heavy metal nine years later. While it offered a wholly different vision of the song, Priest's chugging guitars, snappier pace and propulsive energy are just undeniable, Rob Halford in his snarling, smirking element throughout. The live version on Priest's legendary Unleashed In The East album is particularly vibrant.
Cancer Bats - Sabotage (Beastie Boys)
If there was ever a hip hop group whose music lent itself to a heavy makeover, it's the Beasties. In 2010, Toronto, Canada's finest purveyors of bruising metallic hardcore, Cancer Bats, put their own riotous spin on hallmark Beastie Boys anthem Sabotage, going Full Tribute with their version by also recording a brilliant, loving homage to the original track's music video. The cover itself doesn't do a whole lot other than take the standard 'take-a-heavy-song-and-make-it-even-heavier' approach, but holy crap, does it work. That final explosion of energy before Sabotage's final chorus is absurdly heavy, ensuring the cover's place as the definitive pit-starter at Cancer Bats shows forevermore.
Ghost - Jesus He Knows Me (Genesis)
What better band to offer their own spin on a classic song satirising frothing, fanatical televangelists than the spooky mob of Swedish ghouls who have made pseudo-religious mischief their calling card? Recorded by English prog-rockers Genesis for their fourteenth studio album We Can't Dance back in 1991, Jesus He Knows Me was resurrected in spectacular style by Tobias Forge and his chums for 2023, serving as the crown jewel of their richly entertaining Phantomime covers EP. Quite frankly, Ghost have recorded so many great cover songs that actually picking their best is a herculean effort at this point, but their fabulous version of Jesus He Knows Me just beats out the competition thanks to packing one of the most brilliant music videos of recent years. Starring a drug-pounding, machine gun-toting, limousine-riding, sex-obsessed TV preacher, it brings the song's original message to life in the most vivid and absurdly over the top way possible.
Limp Bizkit - Faith (George Michael)
About as obnoxious a cover as has ever been produced, Limp Bizkit's chaotic version of George Michael's classic pop bop remains a live staple of their sets and a guaranteed floor-filler at rock club nights the world over, more than 25 years since its official release. It disgusted many fans of the original, but you have to give Fred and the boys credit for, in the truest of nu metal spirits, having the cheek to remove every single bit of restraint and subtlety from Michael's version and replacing it with shameless, braggadocios swaggering and loud, brash lairiness. It ain't big, it ain't clever, and it certainly ain't pretty, but when it goes as hard as this, who cares? This is a classic.
Lacuna Coil - Enjoy The Silence (Depeche Mode)
You don't need to listen to much Lacuna Coil to know that the Italian metal mainstays take myriad influences from 80s goth and synthpop, so covering one of Depeche Mode's most iconic songs made all the sense in the world. Unsurprisingly, they did a fantastic job with it, too; Cristina Scabbia's ethereally beautiful vocals are in their element, while the band's crunching guitars give the cover a nice extra bit of beefy underbelly without swamping those all-important keyboards. Released as the second single from Lacuna Coil's 2006 album Karmacode, it has since arguably become as celebrated an anthem from their discography as their hallmark OG compositions Swamped and Heaven's A Lie.
HIM - Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)
Just a few years after it first dropped on the world courtesy of Chris Isaak, a soon-to-be-famous gaggle of Finnish goth rockers led by the snake-hipped and smouldering Ville Valo had put their own version of Wicked Game onto tape. After appearing on a couple of demos and EPs, HIM polished up their cover and released it once again for debut full-length album Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666. The rest is history: the cover became one of HIM's trademark hits, remains their most-streamed song ever and has, for pretty much every eyeliner-wearing rocker of a certain generation, comfortably replaced Isaak's original as the definitive version. Interestingly, while largely less celebrated, HIM's cover of Neil Diamond's Solitary Man, released in 2004, did even better in some territories, reaching an impressive number nine in the UK singles charts.
Disturbed - The Sound Of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel)
Be honest: if you were given an infinite amount of time to predict what song nu metal survivors Disturbed would cover that'd eventually outshine Down With The Sickness to become their biggest hit ever, how long would it have taken you to land on this? Cynics may have scoffed at the man behind the monkey noises taking on such a famously delicate, emotional ballad produced by two pillars of 60s pop culture, but the numbers are dizzying: 700 million streams. Almost a billion views of the video on YouTube. Disturbed's success with this cover is almost unprecedented in metal, Draiman's powerful voice brilliantly suiting what is a more epic and rousing take on the song and introducing the band to a whole new generation and demographics that had likely never touched them before. Fact is, this cover is absolutely massive. And it's really, really good.
Nightwish - Walking In The Air (Howard Blake)
Given that Nightwish mainman Tuomas Holopainen has since admitted that Howard Blake's masterful composition for 1982 animated Christmas classic The Snowman is his favourite piece of music, perhaps it was always only a matter of time before he attempted to put his own symphonic, metallic spin on it. He and Nightwish did just that in 1998 - a stroke of genius given how perfectly Tarja Turunen's astonishing soprano vocals fit the song, and how wonderfully the band's fantastical music suits the feel of the track itself. The Nightwish version's break into a rocky, double-time stomp for the song's final chorus gives it a nice little edge to finish on, ensuring the Finns' cover as not just one of the finest metal covers of the 90s, but an essential addition to a Christmas playlist made by any self-respecting metalhead.