I spend a disproportionate amount of my music budget on covers, both single tracks through downloading services and 'Tribute to' collections. Those compilation CDs frequently go for dirt-cheap in used CD bins; all the easier to purchase en masse. My rule of thumb is: if said collection has one cover by a band I already like, I will buy it.

This attitude seems abnormal. Though some of metal's finest sport cover albums in their catalog, the cover remains an underappreciated art form. Disdain is the accepted reaction to covers in the blogosphere and the magazine pantheon, especially for off-the-wall or genre-crossing cover choices. With its stuffiness and modernity, that type of attitude is boring.

The record industry thrived on covers at the start. Both The Rolling Stones and the Beatles padded their earliest records in country and blues standards. 45-inch singles held the throne in those days, and people held great performers in higher esteem than creative or consistent artists.

But valuing creativity should not exclude appreciating a good performance. Or a bad performance—some music exercises one's sense of humor, rather than impressing one with its quality.

The best covers reveal something about either the original song, or the cover artist. For example, Metallica's medley of Mercyful Fate songs offers insight into how strong King Diamond's vocal hooks are, even without his sometimes-gimmicky falsetto.

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Metallica - Mercyful Fate from Garage, Inc.

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I'm fondest of metal bands covering non-metal songs. Metal bands, especially ones with no punk background, rarely grasp the fundamentals of punchy songwriting. A good metal cover of a pop song represents the perfect marriage of powerful sound and powerful song. The worst covers illuminate the very essence of the original. Whatever the cover band failed to capture is what made the original tick. For example, My Dying Bride's cover of Portishead's “Roads” skews very close to the original, but Aaron Stainthorpe is no Beth Gibbons. There is a reason the remainder of Portishead never made an album without her.

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My Dying Bride - "Roads" (originally by Portishead)

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Yngwie Malmsteed - "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" (originally by ABBA)

Yngwie's notorious penchant for showboating is no match for the finest pop songwriting of the '70s. He fills every inch of this track with finger-tapping clowning, but the core remains. More metal musicians should study ABBA. When I last saw Opeth, Mikael Akerfeldt said Frida Lyngstad would guest vocal on their next record. I hope he told the truth.

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Crowbar - "Dream Weaver" (Originally by Gary Wright)

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Gary Wright's original has a fantastic hook and a great atmosphere, but it meanders. Crowbar's rendition tumbles forward, but maintains enough of the original's delicacy so that it feels faithful. Doom metal often claims hypnotic qualities, but I've rarely heard a song hit the perfect balance the way "Dream Weaver" does.

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Doro Pesch - "White Wedding" (Originally by Billy Idol)

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Billy Idol packs a cheesy amount of testosterone into his music. Hearing his music with a woman singing feels like a complete inversion. Doro further distances her version by downplaying the keyboard hook and making the beat even less funky than the original's—I didn't know that was possible. Doro's version must go over well with her fans because she still performs it regularly.

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Sodom - "Surfin' Bird" (Originally by the Trashmen)

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Take five seconds to laugh about that one episode of Family Guy, then read on.

My old boss Ian Christe has done the 'Roots Bloody Roots of thrash' countless times on Sirius XM, but I don't think he ever included this. Underneath the filth and distortion, Sodom's "Surfin' Bird" remains faithful to the original—imagine an alternate history where someone innovated thrash metal in the '60s! Also, more thrash bands should consider scat-man vocal breaks.

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Disturbed - "Land of Confusion" (Originally by Genesis)

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Disturbed has a history of doing heavy covers of '80s pop songs (Tears for Fears - "Shout"). Sensible choices for a band with an actually good singer as opposed to a good-for-metal singer. This is the only song on this entire list I actually like better than the original. Phil Collins-led Genesis often gestured toward heavy music without ever embracing it—remember "Home by the Sea"? Disturbed took "Land of Confusion" to its logical conclusion.

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Turisas - "Rasputin" (Originally by Boney M)

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Turisas, like many folk metal bands, often employ dance beats. But when they cover a disco song, they speed the chorus up enough to lend it some danger. "Rasputin"'s liberal take on history suits bands like Turisas and their liberal take on viking culture. Or otherwise pagan raiding party culture . . . if such a thing ever existed.

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Periphery - "Black or White" (Originally by Michael Jackson)

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God damn I miss Chris Baretto's vocals—Periphery might have wound up as more than a flash in the pan if he remained in their fold. As it stands, Misha Mansoor recently started a funk/pop side project, or so Facebook informs me. I'm willing to bet he could succeed in funk as well as in metal—the genre has its fair share of guitar heroes as well. The Black or White riff, written by Bill Bottrell, is often mis-accredited to Slash. No wonder—it shreds.

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Kreator - "Lucretia, My Reflection" (Originally by The Sisters of Mercy)

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I could compile an entire tribute album to this one song, but Kreator's version snarls the most, and they best capture the goose step-y snare drum quality of the original. Many mid-to-late '90s metal greats flirted with the underbelly of '80s alternative, and while it's chic to despise the products, many of those experiments produced some great jams. The Sisters of Mercy, as hindsight informs me, were nearly metal to begin with.

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In Flames - "Everything Counts " (Originally by Depeche Mode)

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When researching this article I found more covers of Depeche Mode songs than any other—specifically "Enjoy the Silence." I nearly offed this for Converge's version of "Clean", but I love Violator so much that I can't post a song from it in lesser form. In Flames' "Everything Counts" blends seamlessly with their original material on Whoracle, one of their finest hours.

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Children of Bodom feat. Kimberley Goss - "Oops, I Did it Again" (Originally by Britney Spears)

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Laiho and company have a huge repertoire of various covers, but this is the piece de resistance. Obviously Bodom didn't take themselves very seriously, or spend much time on it (the mix is awful), but the slap bass fill near the beginning and Laiho's pick-slide around 2:00 are perfect touches. Likewise, his solo is spot-on, and there's a charm in hearing Laiho's shitty yells and Kimberly Goss's shitty actual-singing layered over one another.

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Throwdown - "Baby Got Back" (Originally by Sir Mix-A-Lot)

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Sargeant D. of Stuff You Will Hate has blogged about the inherent similarity between cocky hip-hop and tough-guy hardcore. Throwdown embrace that crossover 100% on "Baby Got Back". The song keeps close to the original for two-thirds of its runtime and then takes liberties during the 3:20 vocal break. "Dial 7-1-4 now move that floor, shake that dopey ass" actually syncs up with the rhythm more tightly than Sir-Mix-A-Lot's original vocal break.

This is how a gothic doom band does a good cover of a trip-hop song. Nick Holmes' voice is too masculine to imitate Tracey Throne's, but he knocks it out of the park in a more comfortable octave and preserves the most important part of the song: the hook! Paradise Lost eschew the original's hip-hop beat in favor of a more traditionally 'metal' beat. Good choice on their part; the mid-'90s acoustic-guitar-plus-drum-sample trend has not aged well.

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Paradise Lost – "Missing" (Originally by Everything but the Girl)

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“I Want You” is probably the closest to a metal tune the Beatles ever wrote, but this is the only instance of a metal band playing it that I could find. Ron Broder sticks to his best Tom G. Warrior impression instead of attempting the Fab Four's melodies—the end product is a little awkward, but at around 2:20, when the double bass kicks in, this cover takes off. Coroner nail the instrumental elements.

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Coroner- "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (originally by The Beatles)

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Anthrax- "Got the Time" (originally by Joe Jackson)

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Anthrax always knew when to put Frank Bello in the spotlight. His dextrous bass work completely carries this tune—Jackson's original comes off rather shrill, but Bello's robust, percussive picking rounds the sound out a lot more. Also, for the first time ever, Joey Belladonna's voice sounds less irritating than the man he's covering.

— Joseph Schafer

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