The 10 best cover songs by thrash metal bands

Photos of Metallica, Megadeth, Power Trip and Sepultura performing onstage
(Image credit: Metallica: George De Sota/Redferns | Power Trip: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Adult Swim | Megadeth: Paul Natkin/WireImage | Sepultura: John Atashian/Getty Images)

Thrash metal has always been a culture unto itself. It has its own movements (see San Francisco and Teutonic thrash for proof), its own fashion (snapbacks and patched-up denim) and even its own pantheon of gods: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. But, when members of this extreme metal cult look beyond their borders, things can get incredibly interesting. From legendary veterans to young guns, these are the best cover songs ever released by thrash metal artists.

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Metallica – Turn The Page (Bob Seger cover; Garage Inc., 1998)

Not content solely with such game-changing originals as Master Of Puppets and Fade To Black, Metallica are also arguably the greatest cover act in popular music. The show-offs. The height of The Four Horsemen’s transformative powers was flaunted when they took a classic by one of America’s seminal songwriters, Bob Seger’s Turn The Page, and somehow made it better. They retained the original’s tragedy and vagrant twang while upping the rock ’n’ roll urgency, and it’s just immaculate. 

Megadeth – No More Mr Nice Guy (Alice Cooper cover; Shocker soundtrack, 1989)

Megadeth were thrash metal’s biggest outlaws. Wildmen onstage and hedonistic off of it, who else in the scene could more believably readapt No More Mr Nice Guy? Dave Mustaine snarls his way through Alice Cooper’s signature track, his grit behind such lines as “My cat clawed my eyes” making them feel far realer than before. The band thankfully cleaned themselves up in the 1990s, but this cover will always be laced with a dangerous bad boy streak.

Slayer – Dissident Aggressor (Judas Priest cover; South Of Heaven, 1988)

By 1988, Slayer’s reputation as thrash’s most malevolent force was sealed, Reign In Blood having blasted the bullet belt off even the most ardent speed metal freak. The Hollywood hellraisers had nothing left to prove in the game of lightning-fast brutality, so they wisely slowed to a groove metal hammering on South Of Heaven. Dissident Aggressor fit this new approach seamlessly, bulking up the percussion and rhythm riffs of Judas Priest’s original while threading in Tom Araya’s characteristically anguished wails.

Anthrax – Got The Time (Joe Jackson cover; Persistence Of Time, 1990)

We see you, person about to rush into our comment section and moan, “But what about Antisocial?!” While Anthrax’s redo of Trust’s gang-vocalled hit is iconic, Got The Time’s better. No metal band of the New Yorkers’ vintage had the bravery nor vision to reach into post-punk’s deepest pockets, then turn whatever they yanked out into a scrambling standout. Joe Jackson didn’t like it, but this version’s seven times more popular than his (according to Spotify numbers), so who cares?

Sepultura – The Hunt (New Model Army cover; Chaos A.D., 1993)

Sepultura’s beefed-up redo of The Hunt has been somewhat sidelined in their discography, with other covers like Orgasmatron being favoured live. This is still a belter, though. Seps’ most out-of-character reinterpretation (in that the original wasn’t by a fellow metal or Brazilian band) lives in the fascinating juxtaposition between those accessible guitar chords and Iggor Cavalera’s punishing snare sound. It’s a balance between the palatable and the barrel-chested that the band never quite recreated in any of their self-penned anthems.

Machine Head – Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden cover; The Blackening bonus track, 2007)

Signing on to cover an Iron Maiden classic? You may as well be signing your own death warrant. The Beast’s back-catalogue is beloved by possibly the biggest cult following in all of metal, and any stab at their stuff is interrogated with ears eager for you to fall short. Machine Head slayed Hallowed Be Thy Name, however, intensifying the song’s slips from ominous verses to bombastic crescendos by throwing the entirety of their groove metal heft on top.

Power Trip – Brainwave (Prong cover; Power Trip, 2011)

Blue-collar thrashers Power Trip found stardom by keeping shit basic. Their modern masterpiece, Nightmare Logic, stayed strictly with single-pedal drumming, ensuring that primal heaviness remained in their repertoire while peers got lost in oceans of over-technicality. The band’s 2011 Prong cover was an early sign that such simplicity yields incredible results, its marching drums and chiselled riff colliding with Riley Gale’s roars to create a bona fide pit-starter. The loss of such prodigious talent still stings.

Celtic Frost – Mexican Radio (Wall Of Voodoo cover; Into The Pandemonium, 1987)

Into The Pandemonium was Celtic Frost’s “fuck it” album. By the time the Swiss masters were recording it, they’d already made their mark, shaping emerging stars from Sepultura to Kreator. So, with their legacy secured, they asked, ‘Should we write classical songs?’ Fuck it! ‘How about an industrial track with an EDM beat?’ Fuck it! ‘And should we open the album with a new wave cover that’s better than it has any right to be?’ … Fuck it!

Overkill – Fuck You (Subhumans cover; Fuck You, 1987)

During their foundational years, Overkill’s disdain for authority was as subtle as a brick through your window. The New Jerseyans were massive fans of NY punk bands like The Ramones, who stunned the establishment just up the road, and they channelled that spirit on a debut album that declared them Rotten To The Core and covered Sonic Reducer. Fuck You, however, was the boldest announcement of Overkill’s punk proclivities, with the Subhumans cover’s eponymous EP getting censored in certain shops.

Sylosis – Zero (The Smashing Pumpkins cover; Dormant Heart bonus track, 2015)

Zero has one of the heaviest guitar parts ever penned by a band outside the metal sphere, so it was only a matter of time before somebody in our genre poached it for themselves. In the end it was UK thrash/death metal mavens Sylosis who stepped up to the plate. The Reading rabble complemented the cutting bravado of The Smashing Pumpkins’ riff with unabashed extreme metal roars, resulting in a mixture that works as magnificently as pumpkin pie.

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.