Classic Cover: Gene the Werewolf – Thriller (original by Michael Jackson)

I’ve long been a fan of Pittsburgh’s Gene the Werewolf, pretty much since the Light Me Up EP was recommended to me not long after its release in 2009 and since then, they’ve released a couple of albums and some one-off tracks. And right in the middle of 2011’s Wicked Love is a cover of Michael Jackson’s seminal hit, “Thriller”.

You can balk all you want but it doesn’t matter how deep into rock and metal you are, you know this song and you damn well know the video; the dance, the make-up, and that chilling Vincent Price monologue. So it was on a recent revisit through the Gene the Werewolf discography that I was reminded of this cover and how damn good it is.

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Whilst Jackson did have some rock sensibilities in some of his biggest hits like “Beat It” and “Black or White”, this was a more straightforward pop affair. But Gene the Werewolf rock it up from the start and it becomes a more guitar-driven number rather than synths. There’s some fierce drumming on display as it pounds out its own corner against the crunching guitars, straddling themselves between a tribute to mid-80s sounds and modern tones. The titular Gene handles the vocals admirably and keeps it on track, running a similar range to Jackson himself, just a couple of octaves lower.

The only thing missing from the song is the Vincent Price monologue but I suppose that even if it were possible to licence such a thing – it would cost several arms and several legs. It means the song is drastically shorter than the original and there’s not an out-of-place guitar solo chucked in to bulk it out. Instead, this is a cover which pays homage to one of the biggest pop songs ever whilst sounding like Gene the Werewolf: straight-up no-nonsense hard rock from a band with chops who deserve to be massive.

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Header image by Brian Kaldorf

Check out our Classic Covers playlists from 2021 onwards

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