Bands don't split up and stay split up any more. Even the bitterest break-up or most definitive reunion tour will be forgotten up a few years later if some promoter or record label trousers up enough money to make it worthwhile. But occasionally, something good comes out of a reunion in the shape of a comeback album that either matches what came before or, in some cases, outdoes it. Don't believe us? Here, in no particular order, are 10 killer comeback albums that prove reunions can be more than just a cynical cash-grab.
Faith No More – Sol Invictus (2015)
Faith No More are famously allergic to clichés, so their reunion in 2009 was a surprise. Thankfully, when they did finally release a comeback album in 2015 – 17 years after their apparent swansong, Album Of The Year – it was just as awkward, offbeat and brilliant as they always were
Black Sabbath – 13 (2013)
It arrived as a major landmark: the first Black Sabbath album with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978. And now, it has even greater significance, as the last Black Sabbath album, period. Drummer Bill Ward was absent due to a contractual dispute, but in the bigger picture, the Rick Rubin-produced 13 was a triumph, with echoes of the band’s classic early albums in key tracks such as The End Of The Beginning and God Is Dead?. 13 was released, Geezer Butler called it “a perfect way to finish”. He’s been proven right.
Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue (2009)
Fourteen years on from the release of their self-titled third album – late, great frontman Layne Staley’s studio swansong – Alice In Chains blew us away with an album that showcased the talents of new singer William DuVall while honouring the band’s legacy with tons of enormous riffs.. Behind the churning psychedelic sludge of Check My Brain and the primal snarl of Last Of My Kind, Black Gives Way To Blue dragged the band’s sound into the new millennium with a stunning vitality, although it's the heart-opening balladry of the title track – a tribute to their fallen singer, with Elton John on keyboards – that steals the show.
Carcass – Surgical Steel
Returning after a 17-year hiatus, Carcass smashed their comeback out of the melodic death metal park. Driven by a fresh lineup and an infectious sense of urgency, songs such as Captive Bolt Pistol and Thrasher’s Abattoir were every bit as monstrous, precise and distinctive as the band’s early classics. A triumphant return in every respect.
Exhorder – Mourn The Southern Skies (2019)
New Orleans groove metal pioneers Exhorder should have been as big as their buddies Pantera, only for a series of bad career decisions to sink them after 1992’s The Law. Fast forward 27 years, and the reunited band released the pulverising Mourn The Southern Skies. This long-awaited return was an absolute feast of great songs written by guitarist Vinne LaBella and sung with towering command by an apparently ageless Kyle Thomas.
Iron Maiden – Brave New World (2000)
With Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith joyously reinstated in the Iron Maiden ranks, Brave New World was always destined to be a stormer, and so it proved: The Wicker Man was their finest single since the ‘80s, Ghost Of The Navigator was a thrilling reinvention of the classic Maiden sound, Blood Brothers was a ballad with incisive emotional clout… and so on. Only the slightly cack-handed Out Of The Silent Planet let the side down, but no one noticed because they were too busy bellowing along to Dream Of Mirrors… “I only dreeeeam in blaaaack and whiiiiiite…!”
Celtic Frost – Monotheist
Not just an act of atonement but a momentous entity in its own right, Celtic Frost’s first album in 16 years finally slayed the ghost of the misjudged Cold Lake, while bringing Tom G Warrior’s biblically imposing muse back into full, earth-shattering effect. It would prove to be a fitting swan song for a band whose influence on extreme metal remains immeasurable.
Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know (2009)
Three years before the Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath released 13, the band’s Heaven And Hell-era line-up* made their own comeback – albeit under a different name to avoid confusion (and, quite possibly, lawsuits). Still, this //was// a comeback in all but name, as proven by Tony Iommi’s monolithic riffs and the best Ronnie James Dio performance since the 80s. Sadly, it would prove to be their sole album – and the last thing Dio ever made. But what a send-off for the great man.
* OK, and the Dehumanizer one, too
At The Gates – At War With Reality (2014)
Swedish melodeath visionaries At The Gates reunited in 2007 after over a decade of inactivity, but it would take another seven years before they released the follow-up to 1995’s monumental Slaughter Of The Soul. Instantly shaking off any ring rust, At War With Reality bristled with ideas and ambition, not only validating the band’s return to action but surpassing the rightly-lauded classics with which they made their name.
AC/DC – Power Up (2020)
The comeback every AC/DC fan hoped for but none truly expected. With the Aussie icons effectively reduced to Angus Young after the death of his older brother Malcolm and the departures of Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd, it looked like it was all over. Instead, the guitarist tempted his surviving bandmates out of retirement to record Power Up. The result was their finest album since the 90s and a fitting tribute to Malcolm Young.