With the release of their remix EP 5G, Northlane have earned membership of an exclusive club of heavy musicians who have seamlessly woven their sound with that of the electronic soundscape. To mark the release, EDM extraordinaire Cyclone Wehner dives head first into the world of heavy music remixes to discover the others who did it right, and those who maybe should have done less.
Two years after Alien, Sydney metalcore band Northlane are dropping 5G, a remix EP – and its curation will surprise. They’ve recruited Brisbane’s Mashd N Kutcher (of ‘Get On The Beers’ virality), Mr Bill and PhaseOne to recast largely Alien songs. Los Angeles electro-rockers HEALTH rework Marcus Bridge’s personal ‘Bloodline’, rendering it more haunting. Northlane themselves bassify the older ‘Ohm’. The quintet have previously dabbled with the remix format. In 2018 they flipped Fatboy Slim’s electro-house hit ‘Eat Sleep Rave Repeat’ for Fatboy Slim vs Australia.
In fact, heavy acts have long embraced the remix – enabling them to experiment with fresh hybrids, defying purists. The trend started in the ’80s with the emergence of hip-hop, with collabs between Run-DMC and Aerosmith, Anthrax and Public Enemy and more. Of course, it peaked in trend when industrial progenitors Nine Inch Nails inventively traversed rock and electronica.
Here Blunt digs out some key heavy remixes – the classic, credible and controversial.
Queen and Vanguard – ‘Flash’ (Tomcraft Remix)
Queen remixes are rare, the biggest originating as a bootleg. The little-known German duo Vanguard restyled ‘Flash’ – the single from Queen’s 1980 Flash Gordon soundtrack – into a techno banger. It blew up in the dance scene, Queen approving 2002’s release. Even better is a tech-trance remix of the remix by Munich’s Tomcraft – the kitsch glam of ‘Flash’ fully morphing into rave decadence.
Van Halen – ‘Jump’ (Armin Van Buuren Remix)
Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ is their signature hit – ’80s party metal. Dutch trance super-DJ Armin van Buuren’s 2019 remix might have been cheesy, but he transforms the exuberance of ‘Jump’ into peaktime euphoria. Notably, van Buuren hones in on Eddie van Halen’s synthline (controversially erasing the guitar solo).
Korn – ‘Falling Away From Me’ (Krust Remix)
Korn are the most consistently bold of the ’90s nu-metal bands, with the Californians having aired innovative remixes (including a 2000s chopped and screwed compilation). In 1999, Korn promoted the single ‘Falling Away From Me’ off their fourth album Issues – Jonathan Davis’ lyrics ruminating on domestic violence. The Brit drum ‘n’ bass DJ/producer Krust (of Reprazent fame) remixed it, his extended instrumental interpretation dark, subliminal and unsettling. This surely foreshadowed Korn’s foray into dubstep on 2011’s ‘The Path Of Totality’, with Skrillex’s input.
Metallica & DJ Spooky – ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls (The Irony Of It All)’
The hallowed Metallica received a compelling remix treatment in 1997 – when Hollywood was especially enthralled by metal, hip-hop and electronica crossovers. The illbient DJ Spooky reinvented 1984’s canon ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ for the superhero Spawn album. He reconstructs the dense song, distorting James Hetfield’s vocals, accentuating Cliff Burton’s bassline, and throwing in scuttling breakbeats – that bell now ominously percussive.
Megadeth – ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ (The Gristle Mix)
Dave Mustaine’s band Megadeth delivered their touchstone album Countdown To Extinction in 1992, as industrial and grunge entered the mainstream. The single ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ – about the corruption of power – was afforded a transgressive 10-minute Nine Inch Nails remix. Trent Reznor sheds the classical overture, warps the tempo, and ensures the heaving guitar riffs crackle. Crucially, he adds electronic textures, crushing beats and a militant groove.
Limp Bizkit – ‘New Old Songs’
The nu-metal Limp Bizkit initially polarised listeners with their fratboy rap-rock inclinations. Yet they lost any novelty status with 2001’s New Old Songs – a cred remix project anchored by DJ Lethal’s efforts. Songs from the band’s first three albums are remixed predominantly by hip-hoppers like The Neptunes, Timbaland and DJ Premier (plus Butch Vig and William Orbit) – guest rappers along for the ride. The stand-out? Premier provides a gritty, street remix of Fred Durst’s defiant grunge ‘My Way’ – more head-nodding than head-banging. Nirvana-meets-Beastie-Boys?
Linkin Park – ‘Reanimation’
Fronted by Chester Bennington, Linkin Park broke out at the zenith of nu-metal with 2000’s debut Hybrid Theory. They followed with Reanimation – an ingeniously curated remix album challenging even remix album conventions. Linkin Park radically reconstructed songs – bringing in guest vocalists, musicians and producers from alt-rock and underground hip-hop. As such, ‘Forgotten’ becomes The Alchemist’s boom-bap ‘Frgt/10’, featuring Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na, while The Humble Brothers rebuild ‘One Step Closer’ into the big beat epic ‘1Stp Klosr’ with Jonathan Davis.
Rammstein – ‘Mein Herz Brennt’ (Boys Noize Remix)
German groove-metal figureheads Rammstein connected with Berlin’s club subculture in the 2000s – their material remixed by the likes of WestBam. Besides, with Till Lindemann’s alternately dramatically pronounced and guttural vocal delivery, Rammstein are inherently remixable. Their best? Boys Noize’s 2012 reboot of ‘Mein Herz Brenn’ (‘My Heart Burns’), about night terrors. The Hamburg DJ/producer melds his electro-punk onto the narrative track from 2001’s Mutter – grinding beats dominating.
Nightwish – ‘Bye Bye Beautiful’ (DJ Orkidea Remix)
In 2005 the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish publicly – and contentiously – dismissed lead singer Tarja Turunen. They hired Swedish rocker Anette Olzon for their return, Dark Passion Play. ‘Bye Bye Beautiful’ was a kiss-off to Turunen, its most recriminatory lines sung by bassist Marko Hietala. Unusually, local DJ Orkidea remixed it, driving progressive house. He uses Olzon’s glitched vocals texturally, and the orchestral elements atmospherically, masterfully vaporising the gothic Scandinavian aesthetic.
Bring Me The Horizon – ‘The Sadness Will Never End’ (Skrillex Remix)
British metalcore overlords Bring Me The Horizon reformulated their sound post-2006’s messy debut Count Your Blessings with Suicide Season. The remix companion, Suicide Season Cut Up!, revealed the band’s affinity with EDM. It has an early remix by Skrillex, who’d just quit From First To Last to make dubstep. Understanding rock dynamics, he turns ‘The Sadness Will Never End’ – frontman Oliver Sykes joined by Architects’ Sam Carter – into an electronicore anthem with gamer synths, breakdowns, and vocal riffs (very neo-Prodigy).