“History is written by the winners” goes the old saying, and that’s no less true in metal than it is in the real world. For every Metallica, Black Sabbath, Slipknot or Ghost, there are thousands – no, make that tens of thousands – of fantastic bands who have been cruelly snubbed by fortune.
Well, we’re here to shower a little love on some of those bands. Over the next 16 pages, you’ll find our countdown of the 50 Greatest Cult Bands Ever. By ‘cult’, we mean those bands whose brilliance and influence never gets the respect or attention it deserves beyond a handful of clued-in diehards.
Some of these bands were destined for greatness, only to have it snatched away by bad timing, music industry idiocy or heartbreaking tragedy. Others were so far ahead of their time people just couldn’t get their heads around them (and frequently still can’t). Then there were those who weren’t even aware of their own genius, and blinked out of existence before their influence could even register. And let’s not forget those who have reunited or are still forging their own, unique path.
All life is here, from obscure classic metal warhorses to subterranean noise terrorists, from the unsung founders of entire genres to acts who existed entirely in a field of their own. The one thing that unites them all is that they deserve to be heard by everybody. It’s time for the forgotten heroes to rewrite history…
Fall Of Efrafa
These enigmas meshed post-metal, post-hardcore and crust during their three-album run. The trilogy retold Watership Down’s storyline, using it to voice anti- fascist and vegan ideologies. Despite enjoying underground acclaim, the Brits split after 2009’s Inlé, claiming they’d said everything they wanted to.
Listen to: Last But Not Least (Owsla, 2006)
Formed by guitarist/vocalist Joey Eppard and his brother Josh on drums, these American progressive rockers have long been touring buds with Coheed And Cambria, who nicked Josh for themselves during the early 2000s. Though 3 haven’t achieved the same degree of success, they certainly deserve it, their albums crafted with a heartfelt intelligence.
Listen to: The End Is Begun (The End Is Begun, 2007)
Super Junky Monkey
From 1994-1999 four Japanese women took the Day-Glo hued world of angular and balls-out funky rock/metal by storm, becoming darlings of the JNCOs and backwards baseball cap scene via two Sony-issued full- lengths. Their second, 1996’s Parasitic People, attracted worldwide attention and even a Sick Of It All collaboration before they disbanded following vocalist Mutsumi Fukuhara’s suicide.
Listen to: A.I.E.T.O.H. (A.I.E.T.O.H., 1995)
These avant-garde Italians weren’t afraid to follow their artistic urges, branching off into jazz and hardcore while embracing esoteric concepts. Second album The Painter’s Palette linked songs to colours, while fifth album Through My Dog’s Eyes whimsically delivered exactly what the title promised – a record told entirely from a pooch’s perspective.
Listen to: Listen to: Gift (Through My Dog’s Eyes, 2009)
As if possessing an indescribable discography that falls somewhere between minimalist composer Steve Reich interpreting Neurosis in a 1930s blues joint isn’t enough, their legendary shows open up dangerous dimensions. Attendees may find themselves on the wrong end of MMA moves administered by their larger-than-life, but more-than-half-naked frontman, Eugene S. Robinson.
Listen to: The Last Good Time (Serenade In Red, 1996)
The Toilet Böys
A bunch of fire-breathing, spark-shooting New York gutter punks fronted by a blonde bombshell drag queen named Miss Guy, Toilet Böys were just too much for nu metal’s frat boy contingent to handle. If they’d waited 20 years, they’d have cleaned up on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Listen to: Another Day In The Life (Living Like A Millionaire, 1998)
The Strength to Dream (1999) was a decent slab of Sabbathian doom metal, with its roots firmly in the St Vitus camp. The band then did nothing for years, while Pat Walker concentrated on an acting career that took in Pixar films and Terry’s Chocolate Orange ads. After seven years off, no one was expecting the gut-wrenching follow-up, Watching from a Distance. While the doom world seemed fixated on amps and aping Electric Wizard, it took its cues from the slow-core vibes of Low and Red House Painters; less riff-based and more about a stripped-back despondency. Somehow able to capture the very essence of heartbreak, tracks such as Bridges and Footprints are a slow-motion unravelling of emotions that have brought the most hardened of doomsters to tears – just ask Pallbearer. For those in the know, Watching from a Distance is possibly the finest doom album of the 21st century.
Listen to: Faces (Watching From A Distance, 2006)
Made Out Of Babies
You might know Julie Christmas from her work on acclaimed Cult Of Luna album Mariner, but before that she fronted Brooklyn noise rockers Made Out Of Babies, singing and screaming her lungs out with abrasive authenticity. The band split in 2012, but their three albums still stand as brilliant monuments to catharsis.
Listen to: Cooker (The Ruiner, 2008)