Here Are Eight Tribute Albums That Are Actually Good
I have a soft spot for tribute albums. It’s always cool to hear a band put their own unique spin on a metal classic, and sometimes I want to listen to songs I know but not in their original incarnations. When a band really nails a cover of one of my favorite tunes, I always give them props, even if said tribute album is the only place I’ll ever hear that band.
What’s a shame is that most tribute albums gargle sack. The songs thereon are often either a) hastily-recorded bonus tracks that weren’t worth the studio time it took to record them well; b) performed by a weird mash-up of artists from other bands, thus lacking any unique attitude (I love Alice Cooper, but that Humanary Stew album is confused as fuck); or c) overly-reinterpreted by mainstream artists inappropriately chosen for this tribute due to their ability to give the album some cred (looking at you, Ramones tribute album with the Pretenders on it).
However, there ARE some great tribute albums out there, that both do their honorees justice and provide some awesome new tunes to the listener. Below is my list of the best tribute albums out there. Think I missed one? Let us know in the Comments.
1. Slatanic Slaughter I & II
It felt unfair to make these Slayer tributes two separate entries, but man, do each pack a wallop. Featuring tracks by Dissection, Enslaved, and At The Gates, the original Slatanic Slaughter is an excellent who’s-who of metal bands that have since grown huge (notice a “Mandatory Suicide” cover by Crown Of Thorns, an early incarnation of The Crown). But it’s Slatanic Slaughter II that brings the less-traditional versions of Slayer’s greatest hits, including a murky cover of “Seasons In The Abyss” by Disaffected that drenches the song in morbid horror. For any Slayer fan, these tribute albums are a must-have that showcase the band’s undying influence on extreme metal.
2. Nativity In Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath
A huge success that spawned two follow-up records, Nativity In Black was ahead of its time and heralded the coming of Ozzfest. Though it has one or two lemons–I could never get into the Ugly Kid Joe version of “NIB”–the bizarre and atmospheric Sabbath covers by White Zombie, Type Of Negative, and Bullring Brummies all breathe new, crunchy life into Sabbath’s classic material, proving that a straightforward cover isn’t always the best one. While Nativity In Black II featured more recognizable metal artists–Slayer, Pantera, System Of A Down, Godsmack–it’ll be the weirdo covers of the first tribute that stand the test of time.
3. Violent World: A Tribute To The Misfits
Believe it or not, there was a time when The Misfits were as obscure as any other ‘7os/’80s punk band and didn’t put the Crimson Ghost logo on fucking everything. Violent World is an awesome product of that time, showcasing punk and metal’s weirdo underdogs and their love for Danzig & Co.’s brand of horror-fueled aggression. Highlights include Snapcase absolutely losing it on “She”, Prong doing a grimy industrialized version of “London Dungeon”, and NOFX taking the piss on “Last Caress.” A great example of everyone doing their own thing and getting it right.
4. Originators of Northern Darkness: A Tribute To Mayhem
It’s easy to think of black metal as one-note music, but this Mayhem tribute showcases the variety within the genre. Put back to back while covering the original black metal band (here come the scholarly comments–Um actually Rhombus it was ____ before Mayhem, should you even be writing for a metal site? Eat my taint), each of the black metal greats featured on Originators sound uniquely interesting. You’ve got Immortal’s blackened wrestling thrash, Vader’s rumbling death metal, Emperor’s baroque noise-scapes, Carpathian Forest’s speed-filth, and plenty more. Though not often referenced when tribute albums are being discussed, Originators is meat and potatoes for the black metal soul, a treat for any kvltist who wants to put on something entertaining yet true.
5. This Is Your Life: A Tribute To Ronnie James Dio
Yeah, yeah, so it was loaded with popular artists like Halestorm and Corey Taylor, and it got Tenacious D the Metal Grammy. But the cover songs on This Is Your Life are fucking solid. Adrenaline Mob’s “The Mob Rules” has that heavy punch to the gut, Doro’s “Egypt” is some mystic metal perfection, and the Killswitch Engage “Holy Diver” just rips. On top of that, it is a considerable triumph that a Dio tribute album made as much of a mainstream splash as it did, especially considering they didn’t put a bunch of inappropriate Top 40 hard rock artists on it. Corey Taylor? Dude, imagine if they’d given “Rainbow In The Dark” to Nickelback or Five Finger Death Punch. Yeah.
6. Panther: A Tribute to Pantera
One of multiple Pantera tributes that came out during the late ’90s/early 2000s when it was decided that Pantera was the only legitimate mainstream metal band, Panther is loaded with weird but reliable covers of the band’s biggest hits. Ill Niño doing “Five Minutes Alone”? Anal Cunt performing “The Great Southern Trendkill”? Yes please. One or two songs could be better–the Nok version of “Fucking Hostile” is no match for Crematorium’s cover of the track from the Southern Death tribute album–but overall the crunchy, groove-laden garage thrash present here is a cool and oddly-satisfying look into an interesting time in metal’s history.
7. Twisted Forever: A Tribute to Twisted Sister
If you can’t get behind a little cheese now and then, I don’t know what to tell you. And that’s what Twisted Forever is–cheesy as Hell. It opens with a cover of “I Wanna Rock” by Lit, for God’s sake. But while ridiculous in many ways, the great tracks stand out. Anthrax’s “Destroyer” and Motörhead’s “Shoot ‘Em Down” are spot-on, and Overkill’s “Under The Blade” is one of the ultimate covers I’d love to see live. If you can get over the silliness–and you really should be able to, if you’re a metalhead–this tribute is the perfect album to pop on in the car and pump your fist to.
8. A Tribute to the Beast
Nothing like a Euro metal-heavy Iron Maiden tribute to brighten your day and give you a great collection of covers with which to dot the mix you make your girlfriend. Don’t expect any surprises here, folks–it’s all polished power-thrash, the whole time, and that’s 100% okay. There’s Children of Bodom’s “Aces High”, Rage’s “The Trooper”, Iced Earth’s “Transylvania”, and Darkane’s “Powerslave”. The one exception might be Dark Tranquility’s “22 Acacia Avenue”, easily the most brutal interpretation of a song about falling in love with a hooker out there (“MEET A LADY THAT I KNOW!”). Maiden fans will have a field day with this tribute, and more modern death metal lovers will find it a great way to ease themselves into the older clean-vocal stuff.