When it comes to pioneering goth bands from England, the top 3 entries are pretty set in stone: The Cure, Killing Joke, and Joy Division. While the latter had a brief run, ended prematurely due to the suicide of vocalist Ian Curtis, the band experienced an impressive progression in their 4 years together.
Leaving behind 2 full-length albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, as well as a large swath of singles and compilations, Joy Division’s feet are firmly planted in underground music infamy. Their influence has been cited by bands in the indie rock, metal, and hardcore scenes.
Even rapper Danny Brown named an album after the JD song “Atrocity Exhibition." The band was also immortalized in film with the Anton Corbjin-directed biopic Control, as well as the Factory Records fictionalization 24 Hour Party People.
Step inside while we discuss 5 great Joy Division covers.
Full of Hell, "Atmosphere"
Speaking of bands that have had an impressive progression, Full of Hell have found themselves from starting as a dark hardcore band to being at the top of the extreme music mountain. Early on in the band’s career, they recorded an absolutely crushing cover of “Atmosphere."
Originally found on a covers compilation put together by the hardcore blog Toxicbreed’s Funhouse (and later on the band’s FOH Noise Vol. 3 cassette), the band drones through the track, crafting a heavy version of the song while still maintaining its soul-crushing base. While Full of Hell usually play at blistering speeds, the Joy Division influence can be heard when the band slows down.
Unbroken, "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
No one can mention Joy Division without mentioning the band’s most well-known song, “Love Will Tear Us Apart." The track has been plastered the world over multiple times, with countless bands covering the gothic staple. The best version I’ve heard is by California metalcore pioneers, Unbroken. In a way, Unbroken is kind of like the Joy Division of '90s hardcore, paving the way for bands like Throwdown, Suicide File, Modern Life Is War, and many others.
If you’re aware of the aesthetic Unbroken crafted in their initial run, you’d know a Joy Division cover makes total sense. Originally released on the band’s split with Sweden vegan straight edge band Abhinanda, the California outfit turns the slow droning classic into an uptempo hardcore jam.
Sannhet, "The Eternal"
Brooklyn-based metal band Sannhet has garnered quite the reputation as a visually engaging and loud live band. I can attest to this firsthand. Their music has been described as dissonant and dense, which is ripe for a unique interpretation of a Joy Division track.
Sannhet delivered on their cover of “The Eternal”, the B-side to the band’s 2019 single “Short Life." The rendition is a haunting wall of noise and tone, eventually exploding into what sounds like an evil Explosions In The Sky, with the vocals by Josh Strawn floating through the many layers of the song like an apparition.
Nine Inch Nails, "Dead Souls"
Trent Reznor and company are another band that are obviously influenced by Joy Division, capitalizing on the trail of darkness blazed by bands like JD, Killing Joke, and many others. The Nine Inch Nails entry on the soundtrack for 1994’s The Crow, another piece of media drenched in goth vibes, finds the band tossing in a rendition of “Dead Souls," which is very much in line with the Full Of Hell and Sannhet covers found earlier in this list.
It’s slow, brooding, and sounds great. And if you’re not familiar with the soundtrack to The Crow, rectify that immediately. The album contains a few more covers, including Rollins Band tackling a Suicide track and Pantera’s rendition of “The Badge” by Poison Idea.
New Order, "Ceremony"
Is it cheating if you cover a song by your former band? Regardless of the answer, the post-Joy Division project New Order found fame with their dance club sound, crafting gigantic hits like “Blue Monday," “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and “Regret." The band really knocked their rendition of the Joy Division original “Ceremony” out of the park.
The lead song on the band’s Substance collection, “Ceremony” contains all of the despair and angst of the Joy Division original, but builds upon the foundation laid in the initial track, creating a sonic landscape that is both beautiful and depressing all at the same time. Between the two bands, I think this recording of “Ceremony” might be my favorite song.
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