In recent years, metal artists have revealed their love for the King of Pop. Just one quick Youtube search will pull up tons of metal MJ covers both good and bad. Last month, several metal musicians from bands like Asking Alexandria, Iron Maiden, Living Colour, and Motorhead gathered together and covered some of Jackson’s popular songs. While the idea is great, the final product falls flat. A lot of the songs are bland or don’t stray far from the original. The album comes off as dull overall.
Things start off okay with a cover of “Thriller” by Chuck Billy of Testament. The guitar riff sounds amazing and manages to be a metal version of the original beat. The vocals are what make this cover weird. For some reason they sound kind of cheesy and for the most part they don’t stray from the original. This version even tries to do the classic creepy laugh at the end, but it’s nowhere as creepy as the Price version. The cover of “Man In the Mirror” by Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandria) and Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big) is kind of odd. The intro riff doesn’t sound like the track. You can only hear some similarities if you really focus on the music. The vocals aren’t terrible, but again they seem to want to honor the original version. It would’ve been great to hear some intense vocals on this track, especially since it’s not a song that’s covered much.
This pattern is found throughout the album. “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Shake Your Body Down,” and “Dirty Diana” all sound similar to Jackson’s versions with minor tweaks in the vocals and music. They’re okay for the most part, but really easy to ignore. The “Beat It” cover starts off well with the opening bars recreated with electric guitars, but the vocals provided by Priya Panda are really weak. If she had some really powerful vocals the entire song would’ve been better. “Rock With You” has a weird sounding guitar riff that doesn’t bear any resemblance to the original music. What’s even worse is that the singer Doug Pinnick sounds like Ozzy Osbourne with a cold. The “Black or White” cover is decent enough. The riff is nowhere as awesome as Slash’s, but at least they tried to make it their own. What is cool are the harmonizing vocals that randomly come in.
The best cover on the record is Billie Jean by Corey Glover (Living Colour) and Phil Campbell (Motorhead). The low key opening beat is recreated by a bass, while the main melody is provided via electric guitar. It sounds amazing and thanks to the musical change manages to stand out from the other tracks on the album. Also, the vocals sound really good. Glover is a talented singer and does a great job with the song. “Never Can Say Goodbye” is odd choice for a cover, but Icarus Witch does a pretty good job making it different. They keep the vibe and tone of the original; the only thing they change are the addition of electric guitars. It’s as if they mixed the old with the new and it works well.
For some reason, Alien Ant Farm felt it was necessary to re-record and release their cover of “Smooth Criminal.” While their version is awesome, it was pointless to re-record it, especially because it doesn’t sound as good the second time around. Also, why couldn’t they record another Jackson song? I felt they did a really good job with his song that they could easily do something like “Speed Demon” or “Another Part of Me” and it would sound just as great. Another gripe I have with the record is these aren’t metal covers at all. Most of these acts don’t take the songs and make them their own. Rather, they’re trying to hard to recreate Jackson’s work. They either stick too much to the original or make the song boring.
Overall, the album gets 6.5/10. While the thought behind the release is nice, the execution is sub-par. Some of the song choices are weird and most of the covers are bland and boring. There are a few that stand out, but I’ve heard better Jackson covers just doing a random Youtube search. Maybe if the artists weren’t so busy trying to stick with the original or if they would’ve spent more time on the album it would’ve fared better. But if you were thinking of adding this to your collection, steer clear and wait for a proper metal tribute to the King of Pop. If anything, the record shows that Jackson’s music crosses all boundaries.