Very few bands have the guts to attempt it, but there’s a micro-niche in the wide world of heavy metal, consisting of albums that are just one, lone, overarching track. Attempting such a venture is incredibly risky: not only is it essentially commercial suicide, but to try and make a 40-, 50- or 60-minute song not boring is a herculean task. A very select few have succeeded, however. Below, Metal Hammer’s compiled 10 classic heavy metal albums with a one-line-long track listing.
Meshuggah – Catch Thirtythree (2005)
By 2005, Meshuggah were peerless in progressive metal. Their style of polyrhythmic djent with a headbangable backbeat had yet to be emulated despite being 10 years old, and every new album was reaping critical acclaim. Catch Thirtythree pushed their scope even further as one 47-minute song, which flowed seamlessly through countless skull-smashing riffs.
Edge Of Sanity – Crimson (1996)
Already the most progressively-minded band of the Swedish melodeath heyday, Dan Swanö’s Edge Of Sanity went for broke in 1996 with Crimson. This 40-minute concept piece about a dystopian empire was a flurry of heroic riffs arranged in mind-boggling sequence, yet proved a monster success. Want proof? The band released a sequel in 2003.
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper (2017)
It was only a matter of time before funeral doom heroes Bell Witch said “Fuck it!” and made an album of one song. The Americans’ prior two releases boasted longer and longer tracks, so, when Mirror Reaper dropped, it felt like the final form of their droning, horrific vision. Rave reviews naturally followed.
Insomnium – Winter’s Gate (2016)
Even by the usual standard of one-song albums, Winter’s Gate was ballsy. Insomnium had just reached new heights of popularity with 2014 single While We Sleep, now they were going to eschew individual tracks entirely?! It likely wasn’t kind to their wallets, but the death metal favourites made an ambitious masterpiece of frosty melodies.
Sleep – Jerusalem (1999) / Dopesmoker (2012)
Spite against the music industry inspired Sleep’s hour-long behemoth, but it’s since gone down as a masterclass in both the stoner and doom metal genres. Jerusalem (later re-released as Dopesmoker) is a grinding and hypnotic cocktail of filthy riffs. Grab your bong and copy of Dune and get stuck in this thick sonic stew.
Fates Warning – A Pleasant Shade Of Gray (1997)
Following the similarities of prior albums Parallels and Inside Out, Fates Warning wanted to make a drastic statement. And, yep… writing a 53-minute song that contains your darkest, most progressive stuff is pretty damn drastic. The band were apparently proud of themselves, as they played the song live and released the recording in 1998.
Green Carnation – Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness (2001)
Before Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness, Green Carnation mastermind Terje Vik “Tchort” Schei both lost his daughter and welcomed a new son. That complexity of emotion could only be summarised in a 60-minute-long progressive doom odyssey, which delves from hard-nosed riffs to ambient, emotional segues. The release remains a cult classic in prog.
Fantômas – Delìrivm Còrdia (2004)
Of course Mike Patton’s made a one-song album – what hasn’t he done?! Delìrivm Còrdia – released by Mike’s supergroup with Dave Lombardo, Buzz Osborne and Mr Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn – is an eclectic yet nightmarish concept album about surgery without anaesthesia. It remains one of the most horrific creations to crawl from the polymath’s brain.
Jesu – Infinity (2009)
An unsung genius of heavy music, Justin Broadrick has been breaking boundaries with Godflesh and Jesu for more than 30 years. The latter project’s 2009 album is a 50-minute post-metal experiment that takes its time to sweep you up in its dense textures. Once you’re there, you’re stuck in the most astonished way.
Pig Destroyer – Natasha (2008)
Although Pig Destroyer are usually grindcore wildmen, they changed lanes for this sludgy doom detour. Natasha plugs 37 minutes with sinister ambience, sluggish riffing and a claustrophobic atmosphere. History’s demoted it to a one-off curiosity and given it EP status despite its album length, but this is much more than an obligation for completists.