The 25 Best Goth Covers Ever

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May 312024

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

Sisters of Mercy

As regular readers know, here at Cover Me we put together a Best Covers Ever list every month for a celebrated artist. We’ve recently done the Pet Shop Boys and Sheryl Crow. And before them we did the biggie – The Beatles – and before them, Bob Dylan! But every now and again, there’s a particular genre that’s crying out for the Best Covers Ever treatment – and this month it’s the Dark Genre. It’s goth!

So why now, you ask? Are goth covers really a thing? And why don’t Alien Sex Fiend or Fields of the Nephilim have their own Best Covers Ever features?

Fair questions, all. First off, goth music is everywhere right now. It may have emerged out of the UK post-punk scene and enjoyed its most innovative period from 1980 to 1982, but it’s now the reason we have Whitby Goth Weekends in April and November (well, that and Count Dracula), World Goth Day on May 22, and goth nights down the Hatchet Inn in Bristol most nights, particularly Thursday. It’s also why we have heaps of goth books on the market right now, from John Robb’s The Art of Darkness to Lol Tolhurst’s Goth: A History and Cathi Unsworth’s Season of the Witch, all trying to explain goth’s lasting influence as a musical subculture: the fixation with death, the dark theatricality, the Victorian melodrama, the leather, the thick black eyeliner, the fishnet tights, the deviance, the sex, the deviant sex, and, of course, spiders.

So you could say that bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Cure really started something back in the ’80s. But you may not want to label them as goth. They hate that. And many of their fans hate that. They say you can spot the pioneers by the arrows in their backs, and most goths prefer to be the ones in control of their piercings, thank you very much.

That said, we’re here to celebrate the goth cover, which is an absolute artform in itself, responsible for a hell of a lot of absolute bangers of the gloomy variety. The key to it, generally, is for an artist to take a dark song and make it darker. Sometimes it’ll be a band associated with goth in the act of reinterpreting a goth song, but sometimes it’ll be a band from the dark side reinterpreting a song that is in no way considered goth, yet has something twisted lurking within it.

We’ve made sure these tracks all have the right goth ingredients, with a fine array of baritone voices to choose from, and much in the way of taboo subjects and sinister moods. Indeed, we try to “keep it real” here, without straying too much into novelty goth, like Doctor and the Medics doing Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” (even if it was a UK #1). Similarly, we try not to stray too much into psychedelia, industrial, or dream pop. For instance, we resisted the temptation to include This Mortal Coil doing Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” despite the dark unearthly beauty of Elizabeth Fraser’s voice and the mother of all goth band names in This Mortal Coil.

One final word: We did our best to limit this list to just one artist covering, and one artist covered, to make 25 songs of extraordinary variety. Didn’t quite make it. It was mighty hard to choose just one Sisters of Mercy track, because of course it was. It was also mighty hard to include just one Bowie cover. Impossible, in fact.

Anyway, as we consider a Best Covers Ever feature on Alien Sex Fiend, let’s get down to gory business. Pour yourself a snakebite, paint your lips black, and enjoy our 25 Best Goth Covers Ever!

– Adam Mason

25. Fields of the Nephilim – In Every Dream Home a Heartache (Roxy Music cover)

You might feel Roxy Music is about as far from goth as could be, but if you squint a bit, lyrically at least, it isn’t too hard to imaging our Bryan in a floor length leather coat and studded gloves. OK, it is, but Fields of the Nephilim (the Neffs to fans) do quite a feat in applying a gloomy undead vocal vibe to their cover of “In Every Dream Home a Heartache.” Quasi psychedelic atmospherics quake and stir in the background until it comes to “But you blew my mind,” and then it proceeds to do just that, going gloriously over the top with sonorous chords that could summon up Hades. A real WTF rendition. If you woke up the day after a Neffs gig and half remembered hearing this, you’d blame your pharmaceuticals. And of course there’s a fade and return! – Seuras Og

24. Depresión Post-Mortem – Yo Voy (Zion & Lennox feat. Daddy Yankee cover)

There are countless genre-swapped goth covers floating around on the internet, but how often does one run into a stunningly catchy Spanish one?

The song “Yo Voy” was first released in 2004 by Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Zion and Lennox, featuring Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee. The collaboration is still one of the most well-known examples of Latin-feeling modern reggaeton.

Then Depresión Post-Mortem came along and released a post-punk/goth-infused version of the tune. The rockers began their version of “Yo Voy” with a bright violin and an assured Brit-goth feeling drumbeat. This isn’t the artist’s first genre-swap, and we’re pretty certain it won’t be their last. Depresión Post-Mortem also has released similarly dark versions of other tunes, such as “Soy una Gargola” and “Besos Mojados.” – Aleah Fitzwater

23. Ultravox – King’s Lead Hat (Brian Eno cover)

One hallmark of Brian Eno’s music is its control and restraint, but every once in a while, he lets loose a little, and 1977’s “King’s Lead Hat” edges towards chaos (without ever fully embracing it). It’s a rocker with mostly nonsensical lyrics (Eno appeared to be more concerned with the sound of the words than their meaning), although I’ve always loved “The passage of my life is measured out in shirts.” Its title is famously an anagram for Talking Heads, a band that was just beginning to make waves, and which Eno would later produce. You can hear some proto-New Wave influences in the song, particularly in the uptempo mechanical rhythms.

Ultravox, a goth precursor (whose first album had included some production assistance from Eno), released a live cover of “King’s Lead Hat” in 1980 as a B-side to their “Passing Strangers” single, recorded at a live performance that year at London’s Lyceum Theatre. Considering the amount of studio layering that Eno did on the album track, Ultravox’s live cover is pretty faithful to the sound of the original, if even more chaotic, and Midge Ure’s vocals are a little more emotional than Eno’s. Unfortunately, for some reason, Ultravox felt it necessary to toss in a “sieg heil,” which never is appropriate. – Jordan Becker

22. John Cale – Frozen Warnings (Nico cover)

Did Nico inadvertently invent Goth? It sure seems like it. Her dark, austere, brilliant music, striking looks, and enigmatic persona encapsulated the genre’s entire aesthetic, sonically and visually, well over a decade before post-punk. Both Siouxsie and Robert Smith, arguably Goth’s Queen and King, cite her as a key and crucial inspiration (the former had Nico open for her and the Banshees in 1978). So it’s not a stretch to characterize Nico as the Gothmother™ (sorry, had to do that).

Nico’s 1968 album The Marble Index isn’t for everyone. It is demanding. It is idiosyncratic. It is the opposite of infectious. Yet it is unequivocally stunning in spots. And its singular sound so transcends the era in which it was made that it seems far younger than it actually is. The album seemed so modern to my ears that when I first heard it in the early 21st century, I genuinely thought it was from the ’70s and had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it was older (it’s hard not to be awed by its prescience).

If Nico ever had a stadium song, it was the soaring ballad and Marble Index highlight “Frozen Warnings.” Her former Velvet Underground bandmate and comrade John Cale’s 1995 cover is featured at the end of the emotionally-draining documentary Nico:Icon (Sidebar: This was especially fitting as he was responsible for all the arrangements on the album). A floppy-haired Cale performs the song solo on piano, his handsome, blustery voice leading the way. And man oh man, is it beautiful. – Hope Silverman

21. Rasputina – Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)

Cello-goth trio Rasputina released a phenomenal cover EP in 2001 called The Lost & Found. Any one of its tracks could appear on this list (their “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “Rock & Roll” are also worth seeking out), but best by a hair is “Bad Moon Rising.” Like a few others on the list, the lyrics of “Bad Moon Rising” sound gothic as hell, even if the original music did not. So it’s not a huge stretch to intone them over ominous cello wails and shrieking-distortion assaults. – Ray Padgett


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  4 Responses to “The 25 Best Goth Covers Ever”

Comments (4)
  1. Great post!

  2. Missing – Dear Prudence , Gimme Shelter , Alone Again Or , and Laibach’s Sympathy for the Devil

  3. Ummm… so you don’t include Echo And The Bunnymen’s cover of People Are Strange… but you include Three Days Grace, Orgy, and Evanescence- none of which are even remotely goth. PFFFT!!! Giving me an effing break

  4. And not includes Lords Of The New Church’s cover of “Like A Virgin”?

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