Though the world lost Michael Jackson nearly a decade ago, his music is still widely celebrated all over the world. Jackson’s music had a wide impact all across music, including the most unlikely genre, metal. For a pop star, Jackson has a lot of heavy metal fans to his name, which makes sense considering how often he incorporated rock into his music. But most metal covers do nothing more than add in some loud guitars and screaming vocals. Fortunately, there are a good amount of covers that make the song into something else entirely. To celebrate what would’ve been Jackson’s 60th birthday, let’s take a look at these kick ass Michael Jackson metal covers that’ll get your fists pumping in the air.
“Beat It” – John 5
John 5 is a madman on the guitar, whose laid down intricate riffs for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. Considering his riffs are ferocious, you know his Michael Jackson cover is going to be good. The guitarist included his version of “Beat It” on his 2012 album God Told Me To as a tribute to the late pop star. The instrumental track features John 5 playing everything from the main riff to the core melody on guitar. He even replicates some of Jackson’s vocal flourishes on the guitar. He keeps the badass nature of the song intact while showing off his impressive guitar skills.
“Give In to Me” – Soto
Soto released their version of Jackson’s 1991 hit in 2016. The song was already rock infused with Slash on guitar, but Soto takes the song in a darker direction. The intro sounds more somber than the original; you get an overwhelming sense of sadness hearing it. Jeff Soto’s vocal delivery is powerful and haunting, whereas Jackson’s is more anguished and angry. Even the music more intense; the crunching guitars and pounding drums give the song a heavier, morose vibe. It’s a great metal interpretation of the track, especially since it’s not a one to cover.
“Dirty Diana” – Evanescence
Featuring Steve Stevens on guitar, this song already had roots in rock, which is why it’s a popular choice for rock and metal acts. Yet, none of the covers are as chilling or beautiful as this version. The song begins with gentle keys that gives off this haunting tone. You don’t realize what they’re performing until Amy Lee starts singing. She builds up momentum with thing steadily getting gritty until the explosive chorus when the dirty guitars and pummeling drums kick in. But the highlight of the cover is Lee’s performance. She sings with so much power and ferocity it’s like she’s stabbing every line with a knife. Listening to her sing, it’s enough to give you chills.
“Smooth Criminal” – Leo Moracchioli
Alien Ant Farm blew people’s minds when they showed how well Michael Jackson translated to rock music. Their version is still considered one of the best Jackson covers, but this rendition by Youtuber Leo Moracchioli blows it out of the water. This one-man band cranks everything up and gives us a brutal version of this Bad single. The guttural vocals, crunching guitars, pounding drums turns this pop song into a gritty metal anthem. He even puts his own stamp on it with his own searing guitar solo making it stand out from other covers. Whereas the Alien Ant Farm cover makes you jump around, this version makes you want to mosh. Moracchioli is an absolute powerhouse, who regularly puts a metal spin on pop songs. If you want to hear more, check out his version of “Bad.”
“Speed Demon” – Xerath
This song kicks ass, plain and simple. It’s another Jackson single most people don’t cover. Most Jackson covers are already rock based, so it’s easy to down tune the guitars, throw in a solo, and add some screaming vocals. But Xerath turns this song into an aggressive, in your face anthem. They transform the main melody into a searing riff, yet it still has this undeniable groove to it. As soon as that opening riff kicks in, you can’t help but headbang. The screaming vocals are extreme; it sounds like Richard Thomson is ripping his throat to shreds. You never thought a Michael Jackson song could be this intense. A cover like this makes you realize how versatile Jackson’s music was.
“Thriller” – Koritni
No matter what you think about Michael Jackson it’s hard to dislike “Thriller.” It’s a favorite among metal bands to cover, but most renditions are boring doing nothing more than adding beefed-up guitars and screaming vocals. While Australian rock band Koritni’s version isn’t the greatest; their version “Thriller” is at least exciting. There’s something exhilarating about hearing the iconic opening on an electric guitar. The vocals are a bit exaggerated and hammy, but they give the song a rousing makeover. It’s sure to please metal and Jackson fans alike.
“They Don’t Care About Us” – Saliva
Rock band Saliva covered Jackson’s 1995 single for their tenth album, Loves, Lies, & Therapy. The music is the best part here. The song was already intense, but the added guitars and the fiery solo adds a new heaviness to the track. As for the vocals, they aren’t as powerful as Jackson’s. When Jackson sang it he was tired, angry, and fed up with the way people and the media treated him due to the allegations lobbied against him. Bobby Amaru sounds fine, but there’s no fire in his voice. This version doesn’t have the same feeling coming from Saliva, but in terms of music and performance, they at least do a good job.
“Scream” – Annisokay
In 2016, post-hardcore band Annisokay released an EP of Michael Jackson covers titled Annie Are You Okay? And it’s actually pretty good. Their versions of “Beat It” and “Thriller” are intense, but it’s their cover of “Scream” that stands out. Not only is it a song that’s rarely covered, they take the song’s main riff and turns it on its head. The grinding guitars and pummeling drums give it an abrasive sound while the growling vocals add a new ferocity. With how in your face it is, it pulls you into the song. The vocals are kind of weak, but Christoph Wieczorek and Kiarely Castillo don’t sound terrible. Their vocals just don’t demand the same prowess and command as Michael and Janet. They did leave in Michael’s scream from the original, which is a nice touch.
“Beat It” – Raintime
Imagine if Dream Theater covered Michael Jackson. That’s what this cover is like. Raintime released this cover on their second album, Flies & Lies in 2007. This version sets itself apart from the countless others with its prog-metal influence. While the iconic guitar riff and the spiraling solo are still there, they make sure to incorporate dancing keys throughout. They even put in a keyboard solo before the main solo. Whereas the John 5 version translates the entire song, melody and all, on guitar, this version turns it into a full-blown metal affair. It’s loud, filled with dirty crunchy riffs, and snarling vocals to give it a new flavor.
There are lots of metal Micheal Jackson covers out there, so which ones did I miss? What are you favorite Jackson covers? Let me know in the comments!