Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Some songs are tied in music fans’ minds to a particular instrument. “Under Pressure” would be nothing without the bass. “In the Air Tonight” conjures four bars of epic drums. No Jimi Hendrix song can be separated from the guitar. But these are all common instruments, with many rock songs tied to them. The cowbell is only associated with one song. But through that single song two words have forever entered the pop culture lexicon: More cowbell.

The irony, of course, is that more cowbell is almost never a good thing. Luckily, musicians covering Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” realize that. The five artists we’ve chosen for this feature suppress the tendency to wail away at the cowbell, delivering novelty-percussion-free covers. Do they honor Gene Frenkle’s arrhythmic legacy? Not in the slightest. And thank Göd for that.

1. English rock quintet the Beautiful South start us off with a pleasant calypso sway, enticing us with chiming acoustic guitars and south-of-the-border percussion. “Baby, there ain’t nothing to be scared of,” they seem to say.
MP3: The Beautiful South – (Don’t Fear) the Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult cover)

2. HIM beg to differ. This plaintive piano piece stays plaintive and piano-ey for exactly nine seconds. From there on, all hell breaks loose as the Finnish metal band gives you quite a few reasons to fear the reaper, the devil, and whatever other dark forces they’re channeling.
MP3: HIM – (Don’t Fear) the Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult cover)

3. Need to slow your heart after that? Unto Ashes are just the ticket. This cover drifts along so languidly you wonder if the reaper’s got his grip on them already or if they just need an energy drink or ten.
MP3: Unto Ashes – (Don’t Fear) the Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult cover)

4. Cover Me favorites (and Commissions alumns) the Peptides liven things up again gently, presenting a similar slow burn for a couple minutes before kicking into flamenco high gear. Reaper shmeaper. We just want to dance!
MP3: The Peptides – (Don’t Fear) the Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult cover)

5. And dance you shall with this four-on-the-floor club banger. If the reaper’s coming for you, you might as well go out partying.
MP3: Van She – (Don’t Fear) the Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult cover)

Check out more at our Blue Öyster Cult covers archive.

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9 Responses to “Five Good Covers: (Don’t Fear) The Reaper”

Comments (7) Pingbacks (2)
  1. Margaret says:

    Gus does a terrific acoustic version from the ‘Scream’ soundtrack.

  2. janet jean says:

    lovit…want more..more..more

  3. zak says:

    Heaven 17 does a nice cover too

  4. silsurf says:

    Did you pass on Wilco? They played Reaper as an encore number for a little bit

  5. Ray Padgett says:

    silsurf: We covered that one, and dozens more Wilco covers, here: http://www.covermesongs.com/2010/10/live-collection-wilco.html

  6. musicevangelist says:

    The Muttonbirds ( a New Zealand band) did a cool cover of this for Frighteners.

  7. Dave H says:

    Guess you’ve never heard the Stingray’s surf-rock version. (Brilliantly re-named “Don’t Fear The Reverb”.)

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