Meet Zelda, your everyday, easygoing lamb. One Sacramentum and one Immortal album later, it’s clear. Zelda has morphed into one black metal loving beast. What if little Zelda wasn’t the only one to succumb to metal’s sinister sub-genre? If only non-metal songs were brave enough to follow Zelda’s hooves down that wicked musical path. Thanks to black metal, hearts have been warmed by some of the most appealing elements known to underground music: Bleak guitar riffs, dismal musical atmospheres, lyrics biting with raw truth (and let’s not forget those bloodcurdling screeches.) If it’s ever occurred to you that some of the more, well, mainstream music would make outstanding black metal covers, you’re in luck. I now present to you ten ordered songs imagined in the style of black metal:
10. “Bleed the Freak” – Alice in Chains
With unmistakable vocal harmonies, gritty hooks and gloomy song topics, Alice in Chains continue to set the bar for heavy rock and metal. The band put an extra touch of eerie on “Bleed the Freak,” though. For that reason, I’d hate to see it ignore the call for a black metal rendition. Just lend an ear to that unnerving intro.
9. “Natural Mystic” – Bob Marley & The Wailers
It only takes a single glance at the song title to catch the mysterious vibes from this one, but a closer listen to the track will show solemn melodies that would nicely accompany distorted guitar riffs and fiery vocals.
8. “Only Happy When It Rains” – Garbage
With the copycat fever that weakened the mid-90s alternative scene, this track may be written off as just another unoriginal wannabe, alt rock song from the time period. On the other hand, the melodramatic, drowsy and spacey pacing of “Only Happy When It Rains” reserves its spot in this list.
7. “St. James Infirmary” – Louis Armstrong
“St. James Infirmary”‘s is a richly mournful classic, encouraging many artists to serve up their renditions over many decades. Anonymously written as a folk tune some moons ago, “St. James Infirmary” tells the story of a soldier’s return, only to find his partner deceased. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong where he also belted, “When I die I want you to dress me in straight lace shoes / Boxback coat and a Stetson hat.” How undeniably morbid and how appropriately fashioned for this occasion.
6. “Every Breath You Take” – The Police
Most folks know that “Every Breath You Take” is one of many from The Police that stands among other chart-toppers, but not one morsel of this tune is sugary. Ironically, its haunting sound was probably refreshing to folks and was what contributed to its success. Now if it could just get that amplifier treatment. And who’s willing to throw in some blast beats?
5. “Night Comes Down” – Judas Priest
We have to face the music, though. BM might not be ready to tackle these commercial songs just yet. That’s where Judas Priest come in. The icons churned out a new one, Redeemer of Souls, this month. But if you’d rather relive the old days, let’s dig into “Night Comes Down” from Defenders of the Faith and imagine it redone with a sharper, grislier metallic bite. Its overwhelming, emotional atmosphere would double, triple if it traded its traditional metal trimmings for an extreme direction.
4. “Old Man Kensey” – R.E.M.
“Shiny Happy People” wasn’t the only R.E.M. track that saw the light of day. There are a whole slew of pieces from their earlier era that are incredibly on point, namely “Old Man Kensey” from Fables of Reconstruction. Pulsing with a melancholic folk rock charm, I can’t see why this track wouldn’t find a comrade in creepy offerings from this isolated metal sub-genre.
3. “Sunglasses at Night” – Corey Hart
The electrifying, ominous verses of “Sunglasses at Night” are what give this a pass to get revamped.
2. “Something in the Way” – Nirvana
“Something in the Way” may be mostly acoustic, making it come off as hushed and unassuming, but that is exactly where its strength lies. This woeful selection from Nirvana’s widely referenced Nevermind would make it ideal to be escorted to the extreme side of metal. The phrasing of it allows it to naturally be equipped with more ferocious drumming (i.e., double bass), and I can even hear some razor edged, tremolo-picked notes replacing the string section as I type.
1. “Hurt” – Nine Inch Nails
With that disturbing, tortured melody and equally disturbing lyrics, “Hurt” is already halfway suitable for black metal material. It even sneaks in some scares beneath its industrial rock pastures. I can’t think of a more deserving track to take the number one spot. And that’s a wrap: Ten songs awaiting a touch of black metal. There’s really no ground to break, though. (It’s no secret that Carpathian Forest did that with their version of “A Forest” by The Cure.) Though the idea may still seem preposterous, it’d be a shame for black metal’s artistic appeal not to be explored further. Like Zelda the corpse paint loving lamb, these songs might be undergoing the ole black metal transformation at some point.