Metal Goes Pop: Five Examples of Doing It Right

Yesterday our compatriots at Country Grind announced that heavy rockers Torche and Part Chimp will team for upcoming Chunklet-issued 12-inch record that finds Torche covering legendary lo-fi rockers Guided By Voices.

Torche have always been a metal band unafraid to embrace big pop sounds, and the band's take on "Exit Flagger" (listen here) doesn't sound all that far removed from Guided by Verde-era GbV -- which is to say, it rules.

Metal bands taking on pop, power-pop, or soft-rock can be a lot of fun, but more often than not, it falls on the ridiculous side. Sure, Children of Bodom's take on "Oops! I Did It Again" is funny, but the band's embrace of the tune is clearly more on the winky-side than the "Hey, we really like this song" approach (just listen to that goofy bass plucking).

Here are five examples of heavy bands approaching songs far outside their genre where the results end up surprisingly poignant -- and awesome.

Replicants, "Silly Love Songs," originally performed by Wings

The Replicants -- a heavy supergroup featuring members of Failure and Tool -- only issued on album, Replicants, which found the members exploring AOR tunes from the likes of Steely Dan, T-Rex, John Lennon, and more. This take on "Silly Love Songs," featuring James Maynard Keenan on vocals, is tender, creepy, and heavy. McCartney wrote it as a screed about critics who criticized his lightweight work, but in Keenan's hands it sounds like something...else. In many ways it works as precursor to Keenan's work with A Perfect Circle (a band that's own covers album is pretty great, too). Maybe Keenan should consider bringing Ken Andrews of Failure into the APC fold.

Deftones, "No Ordinary Love," originally performed by Sade

The Deftones have never really been a "metal" band in the classic sense. Sure, guitarist Stephen Carpenter has always brought massive, down-tuned riffs to the table, but singer and occasional guitarist Chino Moreno has always been more of an ambient, gothy foil to Carpenter's caveman power. As a result, the band's songs straddle the line between shoegazing art-rock and metal, a distinction unique enough to keep the band from being lumped in with the worst of the nu-metal heap. On this song by sexy jazz-chartreuse Sade, the band is reserved, minimal, and tense -- aided by soaring vocals from Far/Onelinedrawing-dude Jonah Matranga.

Crowbar, "Dream Weaver," originally performed by Gary Wright

Crowbar isn't afraid to go full on doom metal with a classic pop jam here. This sounds like the version Wayne from Wayne's World would have really heard in his head as he floated toward Tia Carrere in that heavy metal club. "She will be mine, oh yes, she will be mine."

Metallica, "Turn the Page," originally by Bob Seger

Metallica's later years have been weird -- marked by really bad albums like St. Anger, pretty good ones like Death Magnetic, and this year, a really strange one called Lulu and featuring Lou Reed. (Listen to a sample, why don't you?) The band has been outspoken about their influences though, covering standard stuff like Diamond Head, Thin Lizzy, and The Misfits on Garage, Inc. But the band tipped its hat to other, less apparent inspirations as well, taking on Nick Cave and Bob Seger. James Hetfield's signature bark/croon is served well by Seger's blue collar blues -- though I think I'd rather hear the band take on "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."

Megadeth, "These Boots Are Made For Walking," originally by Nancy Sinatra

Dave Mustaine often gets painted as a humorless, uptight jerk, but damn if the band's cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking," featured on the Megadeth's 1985 debut Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!, isn't one of his finest, funniest moments. The track rocks -- and even though the song's original songwriter, Lee Hazlewood, ensured that the Mustaine's original, controversially rude alterations to the lyrics were scrubbed away, the song remains an example of what can happen when a heavy band recognizes a heavy song -- regardless of what section of the record store the tune is filed in.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.