A Tribute to The Beast
by Scott Hefflon
Covering Iron Maiden is tricky, and seeing as lots of these picks are “old school’s old school” (’80 and ’81 for those who didn’t draw Eddie on anything and everything in high school), two decades of often-shitty metal bands have paved the way for this thing all the way up my ass. But that’s not always the case here. Sure, there are plenty of ignorable covers (not to mention competent covers by good bands who simply know better than to tinker with a great song), and the dark’n’eerie bands fail to mesmerize (Cradle of Filth, Therion, Opeth), while near-glam hard rockers (take your pick) get to strut and swagger in the chugged powerchords and warbled falsetto, but we’ve all heard worse…
Highlights include Children of Bodom ripping through “Aces High,” and even though the vocals don’t get to work their usual magic (Alexi and Devin Townsend are two of my faves), maybe this track’ll get old metalheads to realize fleet-fingered metal has skyrocketed in recent years. Fuckin’ unreal guitarwork. Kinda like when “Ripper” and Yngwie covered “Mr. Crowley” on some otherwise dogshit Deadline/Cleopatra Ozzy tribute, this is how I always dreamed this song could’ve be done. And Cradle of Filth, while they get the scariest song Maiden’s got, “Hallowed be Thy Name,” there’re only so many freaky demon howls’n’screams you can work into that guitar-wanking epic. Kinda goofy and fun, but not really as spine-chilling as their own stuff. I kinda wish they’d done some freaky harmonies with the sparse half-steps in the middle (King Diamond would’ve), but the whoa-whoas and “Red Rum” barking at the end is pretty cool. And while I’m more into Lullacry than Sinergy, I like the ballsy howl of “The Number of the Beast.” The whole chased-through-the-woods-by-ignorant-townsfolk-with-torches-and-pitchforks is lost, but that’s cuz even good cover bands screw up great originals sometimes.
But the one that knocked me outta my chair was Dark Tranquillity‘s “22 Acacia Avenue.” Dark T has been going more from the throat recently (they did some Gothic sobbing and crooning a while back which, while cool if yer in the mood, was kinda goofy), and this fuckin’ rips. Killer roaring, snarling production (the best-sounding by a long shot): It’s a dirty, dangerous song about a brothel and a favorite whore named Charlotte (the harlot, ring a bell yet?), and it works… Seeing as I pretty much learned to “chug” to this song, it kinda irks me that they missed a lot of vocal nuances (“if you’re waiting for a long time/for the rest to do their… piece.” How do you not pause and tilt your head there? Maybe clear your throat or cough or arch you eyebrows in a “nod-nod, wink-wink, say-no-more” kinda way) and completely jumbled the rather un-PC “beat her, mistreat her, do anything that you please” during that pummeling bridge. It’s a seedy song that slithers through the underbelly of the city. Politically, we can’t say this stuff anymore (or you get buffoons like Kid Rock glamorizing a fuckin’ right of passage [get over it, it’s not the oldest profession by accident]), and sonically, everything’s now so fuckin’ polished, there’s rarely a gritty feel left to gritty topics. Everything sounds safe and smooth and mom-approved.
One final geek-out: Therion’s cover of “Children of the Damned” is, I think, from six or seven years ago, and besides, if you want an absolutely killer cover of it, check out MeteorCity’s stoner double-trib, Slave to the Power, where Sebastian Bach absolutely rips the motherfucker. Fuckin’ wow, dude…
Feasting on the Beast: Steel Prophet, Rage, Grave Digger, Burden of Grief, Sonata Arctica, Iced Earth, Disbelief, Tierra Santa, Six Feet Under, Darkane.