Celebrating the best of heavy metal's odd couples

Sometimes your favourite band either accidentally or deliberately loses the plot and does something so batshit crazy you fear for their sanity. Often, this involves teaming up with another band or artist so unlikely that no one could have even conceived of it. Occasionally, these unions work – but more often they end up leaving both parties looking like utter gibbons. These are those unions that straddle the fine line between genius and utter idiocy…

Metallica and Lou Reed

Metallica once sang the lines “What doesn’t kill you makes you more strong”. It’s easy to see why Lou Reed thought they might have the intellectual chops to deal with his interpretation of the story of Lulu, a sex and morality play written by a German expressionist at the turn of the century. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich pointed out that Reed and Metallica singer James Hetfield had a somewhat different approach to songwriting when they came together: “They use different words,” Ulrich pointed out. “Hetfield has never yet used the word ‘armpit’ [in a lyric] but it’s one of my favourite words on the record.” The results of the odd coupling was, as everyone expected: utter garbage.

Korn and Skrillex

The coming together of Korn and Skrillex seemed a weird one unless you had had access to what Korn singer Jonathan Davis had been up to in the preceding months. While on tour, he had turned the front lounge of Korn’s tour bus into an electronica studio and stayed up all night experimenting with screeches, beats and sounds. He played the odd thing to select journalists and the results were not half bad. They just needed someone a little more experienced to help mould them. Step in Skrillex (and Noisia, Excision, 12th Planet and other dubstep artists) and the results were The Path Of Totality – an album which split critics into two camps. Most thought it was best album Korn had made in a decade: bold, daring, and a better dubstep record than any ageing nu-metal band had a right to make. The rest thought it was horrible: they were wrong, it was a genuinely brave, if surprising, piece of work.

Alice Cooper and Xzibit, Within Temptation and Xzibit

The rapper Xzibit has made quite a habit of popping up in surprising places, often emerging as the most credible member of the ensuing car crash. In 2005, Alice Cooper figured that the best way to drive his career onwards was not to rely on what he’d been doing so well for so many years, but instead to reinvent himself as a rap-rocker. With that in mind Xzibit was recruited for the song Stand and he subsequently delivered a rap that was the only thing not toe-curling in the entire song. Having not apparently learned a lesson from this (or, indeed, Xzibit’s ‘work’ with Korn), symphonic metallers Within Temptation signed the rapper up to stick out like a sore thumb on the over-the-top And We Run. Again, only one person emerges with credibility intact.

Coal Chamber and Ozzy Osbourne

Coal Chamber and Ozzy Osbourne teaming up is not perhaps too much of a stretch of the imagination. The nu-metallers were managed by Sharon Osbourne for a start and, frankly, what better way to get them a little profile than to encourage her husband to guest on their 1999 album Chamber Music. What was odd, however, was that they chose to cover a Peter Gabriel song and that they did so incredibly badly. Ozzy’s contribution is, largely, just to wail “Monkey” over and over again, pre-empting Johnny Vegas in that PG Tips advert by a good few years.

Metallica, Swizz Beats and Ja Rule

There is little that’s more amusing than watching Metallica’s Some Kind Of Monster documentary and seeing the rap producer Swizz Beatz first explaining the concept of his rap-metal crossover We Did It Again to Metallica and producer Bob Rock, and then bounce up and down rapping in front of an entirely bemused Kirk Hammett – who couldn’t look more out of his comfort zone if he tried. Swizz is given an unused Metallica track, which he fiddles with before allowing Ja Rule to do his thing over the top. “Who loves a little rock and roll mixed with a little hip-hop soul?” Ja yelps. “We do!” Metallica howl back. No-one is convinced.

Puff Daddy, Jimmy Page and Tom Morello

When TriStar pictures were looking for the perfect song to soundtrack their 1998 Godzilla movie, they obviously turned to the rapper Puff Daddy, what with his white suits and rap-lite being such a good match for a monster movie. He, in turn, wondered if he might set about making things worse by recruiting the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to help him out by demolishing the towering Kashmir and turning it into Come With Me, in which all the glorious majesty of Led Zep’s original is replaced with Puffy going “Uh-huh, yeah!” a lot. Tom Morello lent a hand in destroying Led Zep’s legacy by playing bass on the travesty.

Kiss and Michael Bolton

Never ones to miss out on a commercial opportunity, Kiss took a look at the charts at the end of the ‘80s and realised that idiot-haired, smooth-rock balladeer Michael Bolton was putting out hit after hit by drizzling his music in honey and ramming it down people’s throats. Deciding that they needed to get a piece of that action, they headed into Electric Lady Studios with the mulleted crooner to knock out what is almost certainly one of the worst songs of their career – the power ballad Forever. It rocketed straight into the Billboard Top Ten, was their first hit for a decade and remains their last Top 20 US single. Which just goes to show that people have no taste.

Sum 41 and Kerry King

When the Slayer guitarist Kerry King lent a hand to the pop-punk band Sum 41 on What We’re All About, thrash aficionados spat the dummy, while pop-punk fans simply wondered who the aggressive looking dude was who was shredding all over the place. King took serious pelters for it but, typically, came out swinging. “Sum 41 are cool dudes, they’re big Slayer fans,” he growled. “If you wanna call me a sell-out, call me a sell-out, but I’m still in Slayer, ripping people’s faces off.” Fair point.

Carcass and Bjork

It was reasonably eye-opening when British melodic death metal pioneers signed to major label Columbia Records in the early ‘90s and so, when the label began to shy away from the music that the extreme metal band they had signed were making, there were many lining up to tell the label “I told you so”. Columbia had given the band $200,000 to record their fifth album but then decided they weren’t ready to record – something not helped by the fact the band were in the process of all falling out at the time. So it was a little surprising when the only thing of any real substance that emerged from the expensive sessions they had undertaken at Rockfield Studios with producer Colin Richardson was a remix of the Bjork track Isobel in which they ripped apart the entire song, then re-recorded it with the Icelandic chanteuse’s vocals over the top. She even released it as the B-side to 1996’s Hyperballad.

Tom Bryant

Tom Bryant is The Guardian's deputy digital editor. The author of The True Lives Of My Chemical Romance: The Definitive Biography, he has written for Kerrang!, Q, MOJO, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, The Mirror, the BBC, Huck magazine, the londonpaper and Debrett's - during the course of which he has been attacked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player and accused of starting a riot with The Prodigy. Though not when writing for Debrett's.