Some cover versions don’t make a lot of sense. Witness Exhibit A: Almost everything on Youtube. Or Exhibit B: Any of the thousands of extreme metal covers of Britney Spears songs, none of which have ever been anything other than turgid shit and an affront to the Princess of Pop.
UK orchestral metal band Xerath’s cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Speed Demon,’ on the other hand, makes an awful lot of sense. In fact, most Michael Jackson songs translate well to the sphere of heavy metal, particularly those from the run of Thriller->Dangerous when he self-consciously attempted to incorporate heavy rock into his music.
‘Speed Demon’ is far from the best track on Bad – in fact, it’s probably one of the worst – but that’s just to say it doesn’t rank up there with his innumerable classics. It’s a good song and one that suits a band who attempt to balance melody with harsh vocals, and to contrast fairly basic guitar riffs with frenetic polyrhythms (just check out the hummingbird-like synth work on the original).
Speaking of the original, it’s probably best to start at source before listening to the cover. Better still, start with the bonkers/insane/awesome video for which words could never truly do justice. I’m not a fan of quoting Wikipedia for a variety of reasons, but the crowd-sourced summary of the video was too perfectly-worded to ignore:
In the video, Jackson, in an attempt to avoid overzealous fans (even The Noid), disguises himself as a rabbit named Spike, but ends up taunting the fans into chasing him. During the chase, he morphs into other celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone, Tina Turner and Pee-Wee Herman. After finally losing the fans, he removes the costume, which comes to life and challenges him to a dance-off.
Watch it fullscreen. It’s more fun that way.
Michael Jackson – ‘Speed Demon’:
Xerath – ‘Speed Demon’: