Metal is built on longevity. Black Sabbath racked up almost 50 years on the clock, Metallica are hurtling towards their ruby anniversary, Korn are closing in on three decades, and even ‘newbies’ Mastodon and Trivium chalked up 20 years in 2020.
But there are other bands who burn brightly before disappearing. Many barely make a ripple to anyone outside of their close circles of friends or a small group of fans, but handful of make one killer record before vanishing from the face of the earth.
They’re the ones we’re celebrating here – those bands who touched greatness with their one and only album, only split up, fall apart or, more tragically, die. Here are they are - music’s 10 greatest one-album wonders.
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Thorns – Thorns (2001)
Snorre Ruch, aka Thorns, is responsible for initiating the clinical, futuristic take on black metal that transformed Satyricon, mid-period Mayhem and beyond. A decade after the Grymyrk demo transfixed the scene – and eight years after Snorre drove Varg Vikernes for his fateful meeting with Euronymous – a full album finally landed. Cosmic, visionary, ruthlessly efficient yet bewildering, it remains a towering black metal landmark, even though no one’s heard a peep from its progenitor since.
Sevenchurch – Bleak Insight (1993)
This Oxford quintet had their own rustic, eccentric take on doom metal, tempos pushing the envelope of grinding extremity, singer Martin Spear’s possessed monastic voice prefiguring Reverend Bizarre’s deep, plummy tones. Sevenchurch looked set to dominate the underground, but after this LP’s release they seemingly dropped off the planet, only resurfacing online in 2013 to offer unreleased archive material confirming their heady singularity.
Snot – Get Some (1997)
In 1997 nu-metal was barely out of infancy, and was yet to produce the cavalcade of characters that it became known for, which makes the fact that we only had a brief moment with Snot all the more galling. Debut album Get Some is full of funk rock perfection, punk attitude and the kind of riffs Wes Borland would sell his granny for. All tied together by the imperious presence of frontman Lynn Strait, those in the know knew he was a star in the making, sadly his death from a traffic collision a year later meant it never happened.
Repulsion – Horrified (1989)
Recorded in ‘86, the one and only Repulsion album was released via Carcass frontman Jeff Walker’s Necrosis Records imprint three years later. Underground diehards already knew the band from the tape-trading scene, however: formed in 1984, the Michigan quartet arguably invented grindcore single-handedly with their early demos, inspiring a generation of noise-hungry metalheads in the process. Horrified remains an unassailable benchmark and one of the most righteously ferocious records ever made. No follow-up necessary.
Nailbomb – Point Blank (1994)
Off the back of three genuine Sepultura classics in Beneath The Remains, Arise and Chaos A.D., Max Cavalera’s stock couldn’t be much higher. So when he teamed up with Alex Newport from Nottingham noise provocatuers Fudge Tunnel as Nailbomb, fans expected something special. And they got it. Point Blank is a frightening record, with Cavalera’s love of early death and thrash metal being amped up and combined with Newport’s ear for industrialised, avant-garde extremity. Wasted Away has become an underground classic, and song like Cockroaches and Blind And Lost still sound as heavy as anything you care to mention today.
Temple Of The Dog – Temple Of The Dog (1991)
Chris Cornell stepped away from Soundgarden to record this tribute to his former room-mate, Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, who died from a heroin overdose a year earlier. But what could have been an epic downer turned out to be one of the greatest albums of the grunge era. Cornell dialled down the wailing, imbuing Say Hello 2 Heaven and the Eddie Vedder-assisted Hunger Strike with a nobility that was alien to the plaid-shirted hordes, while Reach Down was a glorious exercise in rocking-out-as-emotional release. Grunge had never been so moving, and it would never be again.
Pulkas - Greed (1998)
Heavily based on bowel-loosening low-end guitars, London malcontents Pulkas added British steel to a sound that mirrored State of World Address-era Biohazard and Killing Joke in equal measure. Greed remains an unbelievable slab of alt. metal perfection. That it was Pulkas’s sole album is criminal in the extreme.
Floodgate – Penalty (1996)
Led by Kyle Thomas, former frontman of New Orleans groove metal pioneers Exhorder, Floodgate only made one album, but what an album it was: a fearsome, heroic, brooding assault of swamp metal riffs and Marlboro-ravaged bellowing. Despite being released by powerhouse metal label Roadrunner, it smashed headfirst into a wall of apathy,
Pride & Glory – Pride & Glory (1994)
Zakk Wylde had been Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist for five years when the Prince Of Darkness announced his ‘retirement’ from touring (somewhat prematurely). So Zakk launched this Southern rock outfit – his first experience as singer and frontman – which he originally named Lynyrd Skynhead. Traces of metal are discernible in Horse Called War’s swampy stomp, but banjos, mandolins and mouth organs predominate on P&G’s one-off Geffen LP.
Control Denied – The Fragile Art Of Existence (1999)
The late, great Chuck Schuldiner’s career was a constant series of evolutions. By 1999, he’d left behind both his original band, Death, and the genre they’d christened. His new band, Control Denied, even found the erstwhile Evil Chuck handing vocal duties to operatic frontman Tim Aymar. Death metal fans grumbled that he’d taken the progressive/power metal leanings too far, but this was Chuck doing exactly what he wanted, just as he’d always done. Sadly, it would prove not just to be their only album but also Schuldiner’s last – he died two years later.