The 9 best metal covers of old school punk songs (plus one absolute f**king stinker)

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There was once a time when punks and metalheads were mortal enemies. Thankfully, that didn’t last long when both sides started paying more attention to the music than the haircuts. Here we find ten metal bands paying their respect to all things spiky-haired and obnoxious, and one band making a complete bollocks of it….

Metallica – So What (originally by Anti-Nowhere League)

Metallica have never been shy about their love of punk rock, covering everyone from The Misfits and Killing Joke to Discharge and The Ramones, but they took such a shine to this foul-mouthed Anti-Nowhere League ditty that they named their official fan club magazine after it. Originally seized by the obscene publication squad, So What includes everything from bestiality to vomiting urine, and the liberal use of a word ending in ‘unt’ and rhyming with punt. Can’t imagine why it was banned.

Slayer – Sick Boy (originally by GBH)

It’s worth remembering that Slayer’s first UK show at the Marquee, back in June 1985, was almost entirely populated with spiky-haired oiks of the punk variety, so it was only natural that the LA band returned the favour with an entire album of punk covers on their 1996 opus, Undisputed Attitude. And given that Birmingham legends GBH inadvertently helped to invent thrash metal it’s only right that we choose this one for our top ten. Those Exploited covers are pretty special too, mind.

Pantera – The Badge (originally by Poison Idea)

Recorded for the 1994 soundtrack of the Crow movie, the Cowboys From Hell turned in a brutal rendition of this anti-cop anthem by the Kings Of Punk, with frontman Philip Anselmo seeming to particularly enjoy the line “some still call him pig.” Similarly noteworthy, if rather faster than the original, is Machine Head’s cover of Alan’s On Fire from the same Poison Idea album, Feel The Darkness.

Fear Factory – Millenium (originally by Killing Joke)

Another punk band who quite rightly get regular nods from the metal world, Killing Joke have been covered by everyone from Metallica and Prong to Godflesh, Helmet, and Japanese mentalists the Mad Capsule Markets. It is quite possible, however, that Fear Factory wouldn’t even exist without Killing Joke’s influence and here they pay homage with a spot on cover of Millennium from the Joke’s Pandemonium album of 1994.

Soundgarden – I Don’t Care About You (originally by Fear)

While there’s no denying that Chris Cornell has one of the greatest voices in rock, it must be said that it doesn’t particularly lend itself to this classic by LA punk legends Fear. That said, it works better when played live, and it’s great to hear Mister Cornell expounding the joys of spending a night in the ‘Wilcox motel’, which, for the uninitiated, is the police station in Hollywood.

Napalm Death – Nazi Punks Fuck Off (originally by Dead Kennedys)

It could easily be argued that Napalm Death themselves are a punk rock band, but, semantics aside, this is a blistering and heartfelt rendition of the Dead Kennedys anti-Nazi classic, from a band who have never been tight-lipped about their distaste for all things fascist. Clocking in at just one minute and 27 seconds it is, remarkably, over 20 seconds longer than the original. Also worth checking out are Sepultura’s covers of the Kennedys’ Drug Me and Holiday In Cambodia.

Lemmy – Thirsty And Miserable (originally by Black Flag)

Among the 24 Black Flag covers on the Rise Above compilation, released 2002 to help pay legal funds for the West Memphis Three, you’ll find this fantastic version of Thirsty And Miserable by none other than the legend that is Mister Kilmister. Admittedly, the likes of Corey Taylor, Neil Fallon and Mike Patton (to name just three) turn in some stunners, but there is none better or more appropriate than Lemmy roaring about a lack of booze! Perfect.

Teenage Time Killers – Teenage Time Killer (originally by Rudimentary Peni)

There’s some considerable grey area with this supergroup formed in 2014; is it punk or is it metal? And do we really care what it is when it’s so brilliant? Either way, COC’s Reed Mullin and crew liked this track by anarcho-punks Rudimentary Peni so much that they didn’t just cover it, they named the band after it! A tip of the hat, sirs. Good job.

Soulfly – Ain’t No Feeble Bastard (originally by Discharge)

In all honesty we could do an entire piece on Discharge covers alone (Machine Head, Metallica, Anthrax and Napalm Death to name but a few), but there’s something about this Soulfly cover that captures the raw essence of the band, and in particular that magnificent opening bass line, arguably one of the best in punk rock. “Feels good to be a motherfucking punk loser again,” says Max Cavalera, and he’s not wrong.

Benediction – Largactyl (originally by Amebix)

In many ways, Bristol squatter punks Amebix further blurred the lines between metal and punk with their heavy as fuck, doom-laden sound. As did Birmingham’s Benediction – a metal band spawned from the very same punk scene. As such, Benediction offer a near mirror version of this eerily psychotic classic, just slightly heavier and slightly faster than the original. Relax, it’s only paranoia!

Guns N’ Roses – Down On The Farm (originally by UK Subs)

Sadly, not all punk covers can be quite as great as the originals as proved by Guns N’ Roses turning in this absolute stinker on The Spaghetti Incident? album. Sure, it’s nice that they give the UK Subs some credit, but is there really any need for Axl’s woeful attempt at a Cockney accent? No, there is not. And while we’re on the subject, Megadeth’s rendition of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK is bloody awful, too.


A veteran of rock, punk and metal journalism for almost three decades, across his career Mörat has interviewed countless music legends for the likes of Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Kerrang! and more. He's also an accomplished photographer and author whose first novel, The Road To Ferocity, was published in 2014. Famously, it was none other than Motörhead icon and dear friend Lemmy who christened Mörat with his moniker.