Punks and metalheads haven't always shared musical tastes, but these forward-thinking metal bands said "to hell with the genre wars" and paid tribute to the punk artists who shaped their sound.
When you're a long-haired shredder playing four-chord jams by spiky-haired punks, the key to a great cover is attitude. It's the essential crossover element between punk and metal — Jeff Hanneman knew it… James Hetfield knows it… and so do the rest of the awesome artists below.
Metallica – "So What?" (Anti-Nowhere League)
Sure, Metallica did some killer Misfits covers, but god damn, have you heard their version of Anti-Nowhere League's "So What?" The thrash giants matched the snot-nosed intensity of the original, especially when they jammed the track at the 1996 MTV Europe Music Awards without notifying the network beforehand. A few dozen swear words later, Metallica's performance was edited out of the show and the band was reportedly banned from future ceremonies. Worth it.
Napalm Death – Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Dead Kennedys)
If you thought Dead Kennedys played "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" at lightning speed already, just give the Napalm Death version a spin. You can't make out a damn word (par for the course with Napalm Death) but the anti-fascist track fits like a glove into the grind legends' setlist. No wonder Napalm Death have played it nearly 1,000 times live.
Overkill – "Fuck You" (Subhumans)
One of the staples of Overkill's live show for decades, you'd be forgiven for believing "Fuck You" is an original by the thrash legends. Canadian punks the Subhumans actually penned the track in the late ‘70s, but it still sounds damn good being screeched out by the vocal cords of Bobby Blitz.
Children of Bodom – "Somebody Put Something In My Drink" (Ramones)
Let's be honest… Children of Bodom were the absolute kings of the cover song. Beyond their neoclassical renditions of Britney Spears, Andrew WK and others, Bodom's cover of the Ramones' "Somebody Put Something in My Drink" is an all-timer from the Finnish metal masters. Rest in peace, Alexi, you beautiful genius.
Cradle of Filth – "Death Comes Ripping" (Misfits)
Misfits are basically every metalhead's favorite punk band, and the countless covers that exist speak to that fact. Arguably the best punk-to-extreme metal translation of a Misfits cut is Cradle of Filth's version of "Death Comes Ripping". The balance between ferocious metal and punk rock fits just right, and Dani Filth deserves the bulk of the credit for making his challenging vocal style work in contrast to Glenn Danzig's iconic gothic bellowing.
Watain – "Fuck Off, We Murder" (GG Allin)
As depraved as Watain's stage show may seem, the black metal band tipped its cap to the king of the punk rock degenerates — GG Allin. This cover was released in 2013 as part of Decibel's Flexi Series, and it just hits all the right notes immediately. The dissonant black metal guitars swirl violently around GG's misanthropic lyrics, which Erik Danielsson perfectly annunciates as he screams from the back of his throat.
Slayer – "Verbal Abuse / Leeches" (Verbal Abuse)
Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman was a massive punk rock fan, and he helped give new life to Texas hardcore vets Verbal Abuse. The most memorable covers from Slayer's Undisputed Attitude all belong to Verbal Abuse, including "Disintegration/Free Money" and "I Hate You", but for this list, we're giving the nod to the vicious combo of "Verbal Abuse/Leeches". Hearing Tom Araya yell these lyrics is just… *chef's kiss*
Machine Head – "Our Darkest Days / Bleeding" (Ignite)
When Machine Head hit their target, it's often a bullseye. Robb Flynn and the boys were smart to choose such an empowered cover, as that's essentially been Machine Head's formula for success in their own discography. The metal band's one-two punch of Ignite's "Our Darkest Days" and "Bleeding" is about as good as a punk-to-metal cover gets. It just flippin' rules.
Saint Vitus – "Thirsty and Miserable" (Black Flag)
How the hell does a doom metal band grab hold of a ‘80s hardcore banger and make it work? Saint Vitus figured it out with their slowed-down and bluesy cover of Black Flag's "Thirsty and Miserable". You can hear the stoner jam on Vitus' Born Too Late album, nearly fuzzed out into oblivion and too damn good to skip over.
Sacred Reich – "Let’s Have a War" (FEAR)
Thrash bands often fall flat when covering politically-charged punk anthems, but Sacred Reich's version of FEAR's "Let's Have a War" just makes all the sense in the world. Phil Rind sounds almost exactly like Lee Ving in the track's opening verse, and the rest of Sacred Reich don't stray too far from the original version either. It's tight, it's celebratory… it's a fun punk history lesson for those not yet indoctrinated into punk rock.