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The 50 greatest cult metal bands of all time

Nashville Pussy

Let Them Eat Pussy screamed the title of Nashville Pussy’s 1998 debut album, as Amazonian guitarist Ruyter Suys and bassist Corey Parks got head from two hapless sex slaves on the cover. The Atlanta band could have been the new Motörhead, were it not for the fact that the world had a perfectly good Motörhead already. But shitkicking late-90s rock’n’roll doesn’t come any finer.

Listen to: Go Motherfucker Go (Let Them Eat Pussy, 1998) 


Dir En Grey

Even with their albums only available as imports, Japan’s visual kei turned J-rock standard-bearers Dir En Grey inspired outright, Beatles-esque hysteria in Sweden and Germany before hitting the UK in 2007. If you weren’t tuned into J-Rock culture, seeing their obsessive following in action was like stepping through a looking glass, and they still inspire devotion from hardcore fans.

Listen to: Shokubeni (Vulgar, 2003)


Grotus

This 90s San Francisco outfit weren’t a cult band by design, but their mash-up of alt-rock, funk, dub and whatever else they fancied throwing in made for a thrilling whole, yet fell between so many stools that finding a fellow worshipper is as much a revelation as the music itself. 

Listen to: Up Rose The Mountain (Slow Motion Apocalypse, 1993)


Sarcófago

Arguably more than Sepultura, Sarcófago represent the true, sacrilegious spirit of South American extreme metal. Their 1987 debut album, I.N.R.I. – a primitive but potent stew of caged-animal proto-black metal, death and thrash, with its iconic graveside cover – inspired innumerable bands to swear to the dark. A true game-changer.
Listen to: Satanic Lust (I.N.R.I., 1987)


Handsome

Like a best-of 1990s NYC hardcore, Handsome saw ex-members of Helmet, Quicksand and Cro-Mags team up alongside legendary producer Terry Date to create an overlooked alt-metal gem. Somehow finding cohesion within conflicting elements, Handsome were equal parts obtuse, dissonant and groove-oriented, all tied together with demanding post-hardcore lyricism and gigantic pop choruses. 

Listen to: Needles (Handsome, 1997)


Dog Fashion Disco

Well-versed in the wild, wacky world of Mike Patton, Dog Fashion Disco also threw System Of A Down and Frank Zappa into a blender for their own madcap take on avant-garde metal. The fans adored them for it –  funding everything from recording new albums and music videos to overseas tours.

Listen to: Wait (Erotic Massage, 1997)


The Workhorse Movement

Released at the dawn of the new millennium, Sons Of The Pioneers’ bold fusion of metal, funk, rap and blue-collar rock looked set to make Detroit’s The Workhorse Movement household names. Fans and critics adored it. Problem was, the band didn’t adore each other, and broke up. Shame. 

Listen to: Keep The Sabbath Dream Alive (Sons Of The Pioneers, 2000)


Queenadreena

Formed from the ashes of the briefly massive Daisy Chainsaw, this Brit alt-rock band were fronted by KatieJane Garside, whose childlike voice conveyed astonishing emotional vulnerability and strength, whether she was singing sweetly or screaming in anguish. Onstage, she was similarly unrestrained, a theatrical performer who did the cutesy/strong ‘kinderwhore’ look before Courtney Love made it popular. A true original.

Listen to: Pretty Like Drugs (Drink Me, 2002)


Amebix

Born from the original punk movement, Amebix tore their way through the UK toilet circuit in the 80s, leaving crusty fingerprints on everything from black metal to grindcore. Cited as an influence by everybody from Sepultura to Neurosis and Bathory, Amebix are the oft-overlooked missing link between Britain’s punk and metal scenes. 

Listen to: Arise! (Arise!, 1985)


G.I.S.M.

A genuinely threatening entity in the punk rock secne, G.I.S.M.’s notorious reputation stems from attacks on audiences, use of flame-throwers, and uncompromising, metal-laced mayhem. Their first show in 14 years and first outside of their native Japan, at 2016’s Roadburn festival, brought in fanatics from across the world.

Listen to: A.B.C. Weapons (Detestation, 1984)