One Track Mind: Sepultura, “Bullet the Blue Sky” (2003)

There are a couple of reasons I shouldn’t like this song.

First, it’s a cover of my favorite U2 number, and while I’m not a huge U2 fan, covers of my favorite songs by other bands generally don’t work for me – with a few notable exceptions, this being one. Second, I’m not a big fan of the more hardcore-oriented Derrick Green version of Sepultura that arose after the departure of Max Cavalera.

But somehow everything comes together perfectly on this piece from the band’s Revolusongs album, which also featured versions of Public Enemy, Devo and Jane’s Addiction songs among the more expected metal covers.

The main reason this one works is the simple fact that I always thought “Bullet the Blue Sky” was a darker and heavier tune than the way U2 delivered it. At its root, the Brazilian thrashers offer up a quite faithful version of the song. There are no break-neck metal sections, nothing extra thrown in to heavy it up. It follows the original very closely. But Sepultura drops the funky semi-clean guitar parts of The Edge, in favor of a dirty, fuzzy sound that, again, follows the basic melody of the original. That rumbling bass line gets pushed to the front, really driving the song and the mood, and the drums thunder, punctuating the verses.

And Green, well, I’ve got to give him credit, he’s what really makes it. His snarls put all of the rage and anger of the song right out there without resorting to getting all growly with it. While Bono’s delivery on the original was a little more sardonic, Green is pissed off, and it works like a charm.

Though I had a good 15 years or so of listening to the original, when I reach for “Bullet the Blue Sky” today, it’s more often this version. It’s not likely to win over any hardcore U2 fans, but it definitely works for me.

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Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.