1. Bruce Dickinson with Godspeed - "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" - Originally by Black Sabbath
A great opener for the list; although Godspeed was a short-lived act (barely making it two year), with Bruce Dickinson with the lead vocals they could have amounted to anything. This song is from the Nativity In Black tribute album to Black Sabbath, and it is one of the most played tracks for me.
2. Demons & Wizards - "Immigrant Song" - Originally by Led Zeppelin
Those guitars, those vocals, that double bass drum... the entirety of this song shoots far over anything Led Zeppelin ever have done. I love both Demon & Wizards albums (waiting/wanting for a third...) but this song seals their legendary status for me. I can't even stomach the original, because after hearing this version, you will swear the original is by an indie band, there is that much of a difference between the 'rock' and the 'metal.'
3. Dope - "You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)" - Originally by Dead or Alive
A so-so band covering a crappy disco song. I really don't know why I included this one originally, but it was two years ago. This is still the only Dope song I listen to (an Ex is the one who introduced me to the band), but even that is sketchy. Still, I'd rather hear Dope shout it out then Dead or Alive, that is for sure.
4. Eric Clapton - "Cocaine" - Originally by J.J. Cale
Ok, this one is a bit of a cop-out, as most people have never heard of J.J. Cale, and as such have no inkling of what the original brings. This is still a Clapton staple, and I don't know a single person who doesn't love this song, whether it be the original or the unplugged version, you can catch anyone and everyone humming along whenever it pops on the radio.
5. Eric Clapton - "I Shot The Sheriff" - Originally by Bob Marley
The first in a long line of 'Oh, I thought that was the original artist,' "I Shot The Sheriff" has been argued over countless times. Was it Marley or Clapton who recorded it first? Which one is better? Yadda yadda. Well I am here to tell you it was Bob Marley who originally wrote and recorded the song, but Eric Clapton re-recorded only a year later, which then launched to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, causing all the confusion.
6. Foo Fighters - "Darling Nikki" - Originally by Prince
If you weren't aware of the 80s (I was born in 1986, but I don't recall a day of it) then this one may have surprised you too. Coming off of Prince's acclaimed Purple Rain album, "Darling Nikki" is the song that launched Tipper Gore into the tirade of the evils of rock and metal lyrics. Good one Prince. But almost twenty years later, Dave Grohl decided to cover the legendary song, and it actually did pretty well as the B-side to their "Have It All" single. I would have never thought the Foo Fighters version being better known until I mentioned it to a friend (and another professed metalhead), who said he had never heard of the Prince original. Ah, the youth of today, this is why I educate.
7. Gary Jules - "Mad World" - Originally by Tears For Fears
Another cop-out, who has heard the original version? Not many (I have). And who among you few liked it better then Gary Jules' version? Even fewer. His hauntingly beautiful vocals and melody really changes the song, making it into an anthem of oppression, far from the new wave, semi-reggae version of the original. No contest of quality.
8. Guns N' Roses - "Hair of The Dog" - Originally by Nazareth
I got into an argument with a guy at a bowling alley of whether "Hair of The Dog" was by Nazareth or Mountain. He had to have been over fifty at the time and I must have been nineteen, but I was right and he was wrong, so 'take that!' Mr. Bowling Alley Guy! Anyway so this is a great song, often overlooked by classic rock lovers the world-over, and Guns N' Roses do a killer version of it. This was off "The Spaghetti Incident?", their last true album, before Axl Rose bastardized the name completely. This was also the beginning of the end of the group, so they aren't all winners, but this track is some hard-hitting, rock and roll.
9. Guns N' Roses - "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" - Originally by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is one of the most covered artist of all time, and for good reason; I think he is a kind of crappy singer/performer (I await the hate), but he is an amazing song writer. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere (can't find it now) that Mr. Dylan likes when his works are re-recorded, giving them a second life and a new audience. I concur, and now am seriously thinking of doing a 'Best Metal Bob Dylan Covers' article. We'll see.
10. Guns N' Roses - "Sympathy For The Devil" - Originally by The Rolling Stones
Another GNR classic, redoing a classic. I do love the original, although I am not a satanist, I have always had a fascination with the devil, more as an evil outlook and less as a character. To assume that he/it is something in need of sympathy intrigues me, plus I like all the historical references. Guns N' Roses takes a great song and amps it up, staying very faithful to the original. This is one of the least changed cover versions on this list, and that is why it works, I think.
11. GWAR - "School's Out" - Originally by Alice Cooper
Honestly, this is the song that made me begin this list in the first place; GWAR does an amazing job up thrashing-up a beloved classic. They update the old 'shock rock' into the new, with heavier guitars, heavier drums, and the booming growl of Oderus Urungus, is truly something to behold. I posted the video to this amazing cover some time ago, and I encourage you all to watch it now (or again). My favorite part is the extra mini-verse that they throw in at the end, I think it's a great addition, and it really speaks of the band's persona very well.
12. Helloween - "Hocus Pocus" - Originally by Focus
I was going to just say, 'Come on, who else covered it?' but after looking into it, there are at least a dozen acts that have - although most of them are live versions and unrecorded. This is a song that my dad talked about as I was growing up, marveling at how popular a yodeling song truly was, but I never had a chance to actually hear it until I got to college. There I heard the Focus version, and ended up laughing my ass off. A year or so later, after discovering power metal and Helloween, I came across this cover and was marveled again, of why a prominent power metal band would cover a flash-in-the-pan piece. I don't know why, but it works; the vocals match up great, the distorted guitar bring an edge to the 90% instrumental song. I like it, and so far everyone I've showed it to (after they stopped laughing) have agreed.
13. Iced Earth - "Shooting Star" - Originally by Bad Company
This one totally killed the original, I can't even bring myself to hear the Bad Company version any more, it's as if it doesn't exist. Matt Barlow brings a new soul to an old song, crooning through the beginning and building and building to the end. It shows off his mastery of his craft, and shreds any competition. The original paints you a beautiful picture, while Iced Earth graffiti's it on your store wall. Also Tesla does a great version of this too, but not as stunning as Iced Earth's.
14. Iced Earth - "Transylvania" - Originally by Iron Maiden
What can I say? A great instrumental by a great band, covered by another great band, making it an amazing song by all accounts. The heavy metal version kicks some major ass. 'Nuff said.
15. Jimi Hendrix - "All Along The Watchtower" - Originally by Bob Dylan
Another Bob Dylan covered superbly. This is one of the best known covers of all time, and most people don't even know it is a cover. Hendrix is seen as a rock god today (somewhat deservedly so), and this one put him on the map. It's also one of a handful of his songs that still make it on-air and into TV and movies.
16. Johnny Cash - "Hurt" - Originally by Nine Inch Nails
One of those songs that you wouldn't really realize was a cover, I can scarcely believe it and I have both versions in my collection. Johnny Cash's somber baritone does wonders with Trent Reznor's writing style. Changing the industrial piece to a southern acoustic was brilliant, and leaving it just as a voice and a guitar is just magical. If you don't listen to another cover on this list, at least listen to "Hurt," it'll be time well spent.
17. Metallica - "Sabbra Cadabra" (With "A National Acrobat" mixed in the middle) - Originally by Black Sabbath
Probably my favorite on this list, I can't help but turn up the volume and make sure I hear the entire song. I will sit in my car at my destination and finish it before I leave the vehicle. Released on Metallica's cover album, Garage Inc., this over-ten-minute song blends together "Sabbra Cadabra" and "A National Acrobat" together to make an amazing song. Honestly, when I first heard this song, repeatedly while growing up, I didn't even realize it was two songs combined. It just seemed like an interesting breakdown, that had little to do with the rest of the song, but regardless it rocked!
18. Tesla - "Signs" - Originally by Five Man Electrical Band
A great example of bringing a unknown song into the musical foreground, and too the unknowing masses, this is the song that Tesla is best known for. With the release of their unplugged album, Five Man Acoustical Jam (a play off of the original artist of this song), Tesla ushered in a new era of rock - the unplugged album. "Signs" is what made it all possible. A great song as a morality tale, their use of simple instruments and acoustic guitar bring it to another level. They released this song again, this time fully electric (on Replugged Live) but it didn't have the 'umph' the of original.
19. Type O Negative - "Hey Pete" - Originally by Jimi Hendrix as "Hey Joe"
This song is great, well number one because it's Type O Negative, but also because of how they change the original. I'm not just talking about the change of style, from the electric blues into the sludgy version, but the change to the song itself. Aside from the title, to reflect the name of frontman Peter Steele, the group edits the lyrics to change the weapon of choice from a gun to an axe, again because Peter Steele plays the bass 'axe'. It makes the song a bit humorous and really brings it up to the standard Type O Negative style.
20. Ugly Kid Joe - "Cat's In The Cradle" - Originally by Harry Chapin
While the original was a sweet, gentle piece about father and son, Ugly Kid Joe uses dual guitars and vocals to bring the song into the third dimension. With a voice for father, and one for son, the song comes alive to the listener. Plus I like the heavier outlook to the music as well.