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From Hell's Heart
"From Hell's Heart..." is an editorial column written by the Metal-Rules.com team. Every other month or so we
pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it.
The Trials and Tribulations of Tribute Albums (December 2000)
“The Trials and Tribulations of Tribute Albums: Does the World Need Any More Cover Songs?”
Seriously, what in the fuck is with all of these tribute albums? This has gotten way out of hand, and it’s a trend that’s lasted too long. It seems like every band has a tribute album nowadays. Christ, I’ve even seen a tribute to Rod Fucking Stewart! I remember thinking how great it would be to hear bands cover Sabbath songs as I was jamming to my Dad’s old records. Back then, Sabbath always sounded primitive to me, and I felt their music needed to be “updated”. I pissed my pants over Nativity in Black, but that album was just the first of too many other tributes to come.
Many bands serving as a major influence in metal deserve to be paid tribute. But whether or not a tribute album is necessary is debatable. I take this stance: if the band’s music can be improved, then go for it. Black Sabbath’s early material, although groundbreaking, still sounds pretty primitive, which can only be expected from the era in which it was recorded. Modern bands can not only improve the sound quality, but also make the songs heavier. The same goes for Celtic Frost and early Judas Priest. On the other hand, we have bands like Slayer, whose music just simply cannot be improved. No Slayer cover will ever match the original. The same goes for Iron Maiden: although bands can make the music heavier, they usually fail miserably when it comes to the vocals (although both Anthrax and Opeth did killer versions of “Remember Tomorrow”).
The most interesting way of covering a song is by changing it to reflect your own style. Priest’s “Love Bites” is a horrible song. But Nevermore’s version simply crushes because they played around with it. And how about Ozzy’s “No More Tears”? It’s quite a boring and overplayed song. But when Solitude Aeturnus put their hands on it, they turned it into a great doom-laden song. And The Beatles are complete shit. But when Realm transformed “Eleanor Rigby” into a thrash song, it took on a whole new life. But the most brilliant cover song I’ve ever heard is Illdisposed’s version of Megadeth’s “Wake Up Dead”. First, the original version rules, and there is absolutely no reason to cover it. But Illdisposed fucking changed the whole song. The riffs are all played differently, the arrangements are different, the guitar leads are completely different, and they even added new verses. They paid tribute, but made the song into something completely new.
Because tribute albums are such a big trend, some record labels take advantage of the money-making opportunity. Thus we see Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Kreator, and Iron Maiden tributes come out containing unknown and fourth-rate death metal bands who shouldn’t even release records let alone cover songs. And it’s sad when bands include a cover song on one of their albums, and then their label advertises it with “including a cover of Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’!!!!” When a label advertises like this, it’s simply wrong. You should be attracted to a band because of the music they write, not because of what great songs they cover.
And I think cover songs in general are just getting tiring. Some bands have been doing way too many covers over the years. Sure it’s just for fun, but goddamn it, spend your time and energy writing some new material! Are you listening Anthrax? One thing I do admire about Anthrax, however, is how perfectly they play other bands’ material. On the other hand, it’s truly sad when they release a best-of album (Return of the Killer A’s) and the only songs appearing from State of Euphoria and Persistence of Time are the cover songs appearing on each. It’s also sad when these are the only songs the band plays live from these albums. It’s as if saying “the best songs on these albums are the ones we didn’t write”. And then we have bands releasing entire albums worth of covers. Well, this isn’t so bad. I mean, if you dig Overkill, Napalm Death, or Six Feet Under, you’ll probably dig their covers albums. At least the songs are assembled onto one CD instead of being spread out over several CD singles, compilations, tribute albums, and soundtracks (like Anthrax).
Really, I could care less if bands continue to do covers, but please at least try and make things interesting. Some incentive to listen needs to be present. But I think record labels need to put tribute albums to rest. They tend to be a money-making scam and we just don’t need any more.
The Trials and Tribulations of Tribute Albums: Does the World Need Any More Cover Songs?
By Michael De Los Muertos
This one is a pretty easy topic. If by “tribute albums” you mean the worthless chaff churned out by metal record labels to try to make a quick buck, and if by “cover songs” you mean filler material a band puts out to satiate their fans until their next studio release, the answers to both are clearly no. What we could use, though, are the right tribute albums, and the right cover songs, because, as always, the concept is valid, but the execution doesn’t always come off.
While it is true that tribute albums are made up of cover songs, I see two different species here: the real tribute album, where a group of bands get together to cover one band’s songs, and the inverse, the cover album, where one band covers songs by lots of different bands. Both are pretty risky these days. I think there is some room in the world for both types, but they have to be chosen carefully. Take Nativity In Black, for instance. That was a good idea. Black Sabbath is a band that needs a tribute, and the bands to provide the covers ought to be bands who were heavily influenced by them, or can take their songs in a new direction. Granted, there are some crap songs on that album, and some poor choices of bands, but there are some real gems too. Unfortunately since the success of high-profile tributes like Nativity we’ve been flooded with third-rate clones, horrible albums full of badly-produced tracks by bands nobody has ever heard of. Part of the problem is that they’re making tribute albums for bands who don’t deserve tribute albums. Example: Sepultura. I love (old) Sepultura, and clearly they were important on the scene in their day. Of course they influenced many bands over the years. But they don’t deserve a tribute. In the year 2015, long after Sepultura themselves have passed into history, and their role on the metal scene can be evaluated from the perspective of history, then it will be time for a Sepultura tribute album.
Cover albums tend to annoy me more. I guess my paradigm experience with them was a bad one, that being Guns N’ Roses The Spaghetti Incident?, which, judging by the sheer number of them I see in used CD stores to this very day, has got to be the most-returned album of all time. And rightly so – it suuuuuucked! This is the worst example of a cover album: a band churns out some hastily-recorded tracks and throws them on an album to “tide over” the fans until their next studio release. Even some of my favorite bands have been guilty of this (AHEM Six Feet Under), and I’m skeptical whenever I hear a band has a cover album coming out. I still haven’t heard Helloween’s Metal Jukebox, and that’s not because I don’t trust Helloween to have well-produced, well-sung covers, but more because I really don’t need a power metal Spaghetti Incident. I’d rather wait four years until their next album, rather than wait two to get a disc full of covers – in which there’ll invariably be a couple of real clangers – and then wait another two in abject disappointment until the “real” album comes out.
Unfortunately, metal is a business, and business reality is sometimes ugly. There must be somebody out there buying these terrible tribute and cover albums that seem to proliferate in every Nuke Blast and Century Media catalog, so I guess in a way they’re probably funding the “real” albums to an extent. So the fact that they exist doesn’t bother me. Will I buy them? Usually no, except under extraordinary circumstances.
Tribute albums and cover songs...both are kind of one in the same, but I will make a distinction here. I am TOTALLY sick off all the tribute albums coming out but if a band records a full album of ORIGINAL material and puts one cover song at the end of the CD, I'm OK with that. The tribute album thing started out as something cool but has grown into a thing were some labels base their existence around releasing tribute albums to almost every metal / hard rock band that has existed. I can understand a tribute to Sabbath or Maiden - not that it's likely that anyone will top the originals. There are way too many tribute albums where a bunch of unknown, noisy, death metal bands pay tribute to a band that has nothing to do with their sound and VERY little to do with their influences. I don't know about you, but I do not want to hear someone burping and grunting out "Over The Mountain" by Ozzy...I'll listen to the original thank you. There are some tributes that are just silly. Some bands deserve to be forgotten! I wonder what the count is on the number of Slayer tributes that have come out now - seems like dozens!?!?? Does anyone actually buy this because they think it's gonna be better than Slayer?? HELL NO!! Does anyone think a tribute to Suicidal Tendencies makes sense? There are only a few tribute albums that to me were done right and involved the right type of bands covering the songs. Two of my favorites were released by Century Media Records. The first is the Legends of Metal / Delivering The Goods tributes to Judas Priest. The second is the Holy Dio Tribute to Ronnie James Dio. As for cover songs themselves - I think one song on a full-length CD is cool; or a b-side with some originals, unreleased songs, live songs and a cover or two (ie. Iron Savior's cover of "Headhunter" by Krokus got me back to listening to some classic Krokus!!)
If for some reason you wanna hear a bunch of unknown bands (for the most part) covering, and often butchering bands, then head over to www.dwellrecords.com where you will see a glut of this tiresome crap. It's sad that these bands think the only way they can get some recognition is by being on a tribute CD...especially on the low caliber tribute CD's that no one even knows about. While there is some room for tribute CD's, what we have now needs to come to an end. Bands should focus on writing better music rather then covering stuff that people already like. I would rather hear a band take a song and make it theirs, not ruin it and not make an exact copy. In the words of Tom G. Warrior "create, not copy." In other words, if you're planning on covering a song...DOT NOT just cover it, RE-CREATE it without butchering it in the process! Not an easy task is it?
This is a very interesting topic to cover in this months "From Hells Heart". The last few years have seen such a proliferation of tribute CDs and cover songs that it seems that there is hardly a metal band left that doesn't have a tribute to it in one form or another. There have been tributes to Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Dio, Accept, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Helloween, Guns N Roses and Queensryche among others. There have also been a number of CDs released by bands that are totally covers songs and tributes to some of the bands favourite artists and influences and finally there are the numerous cover songs that show up on many bands CDS and even more often as b-sides on the singles. Overall this is a very large body of covered material and stretches from one end of the metal spectrum to the other.
I myself like covers. Its great to hear another band interpret material from the groups that have influenced them. Metallica have made a career of playing covers from some of the best obscure bands from the history of metal as such Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg and other acts outside the metal spectrum such as The Misfits and Killing Joke. Six Feet Under have just released a CD of covers called Graveyard Classics which has covers of AC/DC among others. Helloween even got in on the act last year when they released Metal Jukebox which had covers of songs by bands like Focus, Faith No More and the Scorpions.
I think the idea of tributes and covers is fine but its getting to a saturation point now. There are only so many versions of "Hes a Woman, She’s a Man" or "Kill The King" that I can take. There comes a point when I get sick of hearing covers and want to hear some fresh new material. And the other thing that I don't like about all the covers and tribute CDs today is that many are done by bands that I have never heard of before. When I heard Helloween covering Judas Priest or Grave Digger covering Dio it was cool. But to hear a band like Prototype covering King Diamond just doesn't interest me. My interest comes from hearing a great band paying tribute to their heroes not from a young band trying to make a name for themselves with someone elses material. Another thing that bugs me is when the covers are preformed by bands that can't hope to pull of the original. I know that many people don't agree with me but hearing Chris Barnes singing a Thin Lizzy tune or any death metal band doing a King Diamond cover just does not interest me in the least. Its nice to hear a band do a cover song in their own style but to just dismantle the song in most cases and with rare exception just doesn't interest me in the least.
I think that its time for the flood of covers to stop. Covers are great but a full cd of covers for the sake of doing covers is just not that interesting. I know that I usually don't buy them. As for Tribute CDs. Its great to hear a CD full of established bands doing covers of their heroes. It gets old quick when the market is flooded with tribute CDs which include fledgling bands trying to make a name for themselves. I would much rather hear original material from a young band. As for covers themselves. One song on a CD of 12 or 13 tracks is cool.
Since I usually don’t bother with tribute albums, I don’t have a whole lot to say on the subject. I did buy the Judas Priest tribute, Legends of Metal (Volumes 1 AND 2! No crappy North American version for me!) a few years back, but I sorta had to... Priest are my all-time favorite band and the Legends... tribute boasted such an impressive line-up of bands that I just had to buy it. There is at least one more Judas Priest tribute CD that I’m aware of which features a bunch of Death Metal bands (many of whom I’ve never heard of) who, in my opinion, merely end up butchering some of the genres greatest songs. No offence to fans of Death Metal, but Kreator covering "Grinder" makes much more sense than some Mortician clone covering "Breaking the Law".
I also bought the Black Sabbath tribute, Nativity In Black: Vol.1. Never having been a huge Sabbath fan, I picked it up just to familiarize myself with some of their classics. This was also during the pre-web days. Grunge explosion, so I was desperate for some new music. It was a pretty good CD, but it’s one that rarely (if ever) gets played anymore. I’m sure as hell not buying NIB: Vol.2 that was released earlier this year, that’s for sure... Have you seen the line-up for that one??? Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi deserve nothing short of execution for allowing such hideous bands to perform their material! Utterly disgusting.
Getting back to the topic, I do think that over the past two or three years that record companies have been getting carried away with the issuing of tribute albums. I can understand tributes to bands like Sabbath, Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio, and maybe even Accept because these bands are not only the most influential acts in Metal history, but they also created and forged Heavy Metal into a new and legitimate genre of music. And as the true pioneers of Metal they deserve some kind of recognition. But it seems as though nowadays, every excuse for a label is issuing a tribute to some band or other. I wish I could name some albums for examples, but I don’t know of any because I’ve just been ignoring them. I have no interest in them whatsoever. And why should I? In the majority of cases, the issuing labels select the most inappropriate bands to play the covers and the cover is never as good as the original anyway (Well... Megadeth’s cover of "Anarchy In the U.K." WAS better than the Sex Pistol’s version...). It seems to me that tribute albums are nothing more than a money-making ploy on part of the record companies and for the consumer are really nothing more than novelty items. Personally, I’d much rather spend my money on new material by the artists that are supposedly being "honored".
No, no, no, no, no.
Ya know, it was pretty cool when your favourite band added a cover tune to their album.
I know I ‘d look everywhere for the singles that had that
“unreleased B-side” that was usually a cover tune. Then along came
Garage Days, Nativity In Black, Kiss my Ass……uh-oh ,now its overkill
(who even have their own album “Coverkill” pardon the pun), as there
tributes to everyone. Don’t believe me, check out Dwell Records
Do We Need Any More Cover Songs?