The greatest metal records that never were

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From Lemmy's last solo tracks featuring Dave Grohl and Joan Jett to Tapeworm: The Nine Inch Nails supergroup feat Phil Anselmo and Maynard James Keenan... (What do you mean you never heard of them?) there are a surprising number of projects we were hyped as fuck for that just vanished into the abyss.

How about the late, great Layne Staley's last, unfinished recordings? Judas Priest's collaboration with legendary hit-makers Stock, Aitken and Waterman? Did you know Deftones shelved an entire album?

Alright, you're forgiven, it's unlikely these forgotten projects will ring any bells. Let's take a look at the albums from some of metal’s biggest names that were left unfinished, abandoned or lost in the sands of time...

Tapeworm: The all-star NIN side project

It was one of the most eagerly anticipated records of the alt-metal era, a supergroup featuring some of the biggest names in 90s rock that had fans chomping at the bit. A Pantera and NIN mash-up? A duet between Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan? What’s not to get excited about? So why did Tapeworm never see the light of day?

“Hey, I was just as excited about it as all of you,” laughs former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Charlie Clouser. “I mean, you see it on paper and it does look really cool. I can see why people were like, ‘Just release it, man!’ but it’s really not as simple as that.”

Tapeworm was formulated after Nine Inch Nails finished the end of the gargantuan touring schedule of 1994’s The Downward Spiral album. With Trent Reznor keen to continue writing, he asked his band to reconvene in New Orleans to start the process of constructing a new NIN album.

“We were told that we would play a part in that process and that our ideas were welcome,” Charlie says. “But in reality, we knew that 90% of the record would be from Trent. So, he told Danny [Lohner, NIN bassist] and I that any ideas we had that wouldn’t work for Nails could be expanded on by us for our own project, and he’d
put the results out on Nothing Records. It felt like a win-win.”

As Charlie and Danny worked in isolation on songs, they began to dream up their own wishlist of musicians to duet alongside Trent.

“Maybe we were aiming way too high,” Charlie shrugs. “But we approached Phil Anselmo, as we were all fans of Pantera. Maynard Keenan was an obvious one, I love Jaz Coleman, one of the most apocalyptic voices in music, Alec Empire had toured with Nine Inch Nails and we love Atari Teenage Riot, and we had a song that we thought would be perfect for Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode. The idea of these great vocalists trading verses with Trent excited us hugely.”

It’s become this mythical thing now. I like that

Charlie Clouser

Unfortunately, the lure of a new Nine Inch Nails album began to pull the pair away from concentrating on Tapeworm too heavily.

“When the behemoth that is a new Nine Inch Nails album is on the horizon, you want to be part of it,” says Charlie. “Do I want to have a writing credit on that, or do I want to use my idea for this little, unevolved thing? It’s a no-brainer, really. For example, I had a drum loop for a song that I was working on for Tapeworm and Trent really liked it. He took it away and it became the genesis for the song Starfuckers, Inc., which is a far bigger deal, really.”

Tapeworm was put to one side as NIN put all efforts into 1999’s epic double album, The Fragile. After its release and subsequent world tour, Trent was exhausted, leaving Charlie and Danny hanging in the studio while he went to recharge his batteries. Alone, and with hours of tapes and ideas for Tapeworm left unfinished, the project simply fizzled out. A couple of reworked tracks appeared via Maynard James Keenan – A Perfect Circle’s Passive and Puscifer’s Potions (Deliverance Mix) – but nothing else has surfaced.

“It’s like a leaf on a branch, isn’t it?” Charlie explains. “If you don’t water it then it dies. Lots of other leaves were getting watered at that time, and the Tapeworm leaf wasn’t. So, it just died. I left the band and went off to work with Page Hamilton from Helmet [on 2004 comeback album Size Matters]. We do have a whole load of recordings from that time, but they’re not ready, they’re in no fit state to release.”

And so, one of the most exciting supergroups in metal history remains just a rumour. “I kind of like it that way,” smiles Charlie. “It’s almost cooler that we never did release it. It’s become this mythical thing now. There will always be an air of intrigue and mystery around it. Not many albums you’ve heard have that.”

(Image credit: Fabio Diena/IconicPix)

Slayer's Repentless rejects

Their reign of terror as a live band may be coming to an end, but Slayer still have unfinished business with their studio work. As Kerry King explained to us in 2016, the sessions for the band’s last album, Repentless, were so fruitful that another studio record remains a real possibility. 

“I think I never really got out of writing mode for the last record,” the guitarist told Hammer. “There’s so much extra material recorded – seven, eight or nine songs with guitar, drums and bass. They’re just sitting there and as long as lyrics don’t change them musically, they’re done.”

Whether this arsenal of unheard material is unleashed in standard album form or as bonus material on some future retrospective, we do at least know what it will sound like: fucking Slaaayyyeeeeerrrr! And wouldn’t it be cool for the legends to bow out, leaving us with brand new evil anthems ringing in our ears? Yes. Yes it would. It’s concerning that there’s been no mention of these tantalising leftovers since Slayer announced their retirement, though. Let’s have ’em!

(Image credit: Will Ireland/Metal Hammer Magazine)

Gojira's Sea Shepherd EP

When they keep releasing records as gloriously monstrous as 2016’s Magma, it’s easy to forget that Gojira have been promising us their much-discussed Sea Shepherd EP for absolutely bloody ages. Conceived in support of the titular anti-whaling organisation, the record is due to feature guest appearances from the likes
of Devin Townsend, Randy Blythe, Max Cavalera and Anders Fridén. Only one song has emerged so far – Of Blood And Salt, released in 2011, featuring Devin and Meshuggah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal. It ruled, obviously.

But it’s definitely on its way, as frontman Joe Duplantier told Hammer earlier this year. “We’ve been so busy that it’s been hard to get it finished,” he said. “We have some
of the music and some of the vocal takes… it’s kind of a nightmare to piece it all together. But it really needs to come out. I want to put it out there before the next record.”

Metallica's Presidio Sessions

Considering how long it generally takes them to make a new album, Metallica should probably release the much-rumoured Presidio Sessions. Recorded at a rented army barracks, at the same time as sessions for the controversial St. Anger, the material is known to be more melodic and straightforward than the clattering riff-jigsaw of that troubled album. 

“Presidio was a place that we were recording in, in San Francisco, before the Headquarters was built and before I went into rehab,” Papa Het told The Blitz 99.7 FM in 2004. “There was probably, I don’t know, 15 songs or something, that didn’t quite make it onto St. Anger. Maybe more. And those things, we’ve got ’em. They’re cool. They’re not finished, but they’ll appear sometime somewhere. There’ll be a right time for those.”

Hopefully these hidden treasures will be unearthed soon. Either that or a new album. Or both. Crack on, chaps.

Layne Staley's unfinished recordings

When original Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley died on April 5, 2002 after many years of drug addiction, rock lost one of its most distinctive voices. In 2016, Jesse Holt, a Seattle musician and audio engineer, suddenly announced to Twitter that he was working on unfinished tracks that he had recorded with Layne.

One of the tracks is thought to be Things You Do, which later appeared
on the soundtrack to the 2012 film Grassroots, and was credited to ‘The Bondage Boys featuring Layne Staley’. Layne reportedly recorded his vocals for the song in 1997, although by that point the singer was deep in the grip of addiction, and as a result, his vocals are almost unrecognisable.

Tweeting Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, who played alongside Layne in grunge-blues side-project Mad Season, Jesse asked if he would help put the finishing touches to the tracks, typing: ‘Hey Mike McCready, help me produce eight unreleased tracks with Layne Staley singing on them. You’d love several of them.’

Mike never responded publicly, so who knows what’s happening with the tracks now, but we’re crossing our fingers that one day they’ll be released and we’ll get to hear what very well might have been the last things Layne ever recorded.

(Image credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

Lemmy's star-studded solo tracks

Humanity may be circling the plughole, but hope is at hand: before Lemmy passed away in 2015, he recorded a solo album and it looks relatively feasible that it will be released at some point.

Recorded in Berlin, London and LA over 12 years, it reportedly features collaborations with Joan Jett, The Damned, German 90s rock icons Skew Siskin and US punkabilly hero Reverend Horton Heat. It was pieced together with producer Jim Voxx during breaks in Motörhead’s festival schedule.

“The songs are composed by Lemmy,” Jim told Metal Talk in 2017. “I was able to provide him the studio time he needed. As you know, during the summer, Motörhead were always doing festivals here in Europe and he used Berlin as a springboard so he had the time in the summer to be here and work on further tracks.

“He also recorded some tracks in America with Dave Grohl or Reverend Horton Heat and in London he was working with The Damned. All these tracks came to me in Berlin.”

With tragic timing, Lemmy’s solo album was effectively completed not long before he became seriously ill at the end of 2016. Understandably, the 10 tracks were shelved following the great man’s death and no official announcement about their release has been made to date. 

Jim stated he didn’t know when the record would be released, because it was in the hands of Motörhead’s management. Motörhead seemed to confirm that the record’s emergence was imminent, sharing the story on their official Facebook page and posting, “Exciting things in the works.”

One song believed to be part of Lemmy’s final studio sessions was released in 2017: the thundering We Are The Ones. Meanwhile, late Motörhead guitarist Würzel’s final band, Leader Of Down, released their debut album in 2017, featuring Paradise Turned Into Dust, a Lemmy-led rocker recorded in 2015. But so far, no solo album.

You don’t need to have paid close attention to Lemmy’s 50+ year career to know that his solo work is unlikely to have deviated far from the straight-ahead rock
’n’roll that made him such an icon. This elusive solo record is almost certainly going to be full of cranked-up and belligerent rock’n’roll anthems, any semblance of diversity coming instead from a dazzling roll call of star contributors. 

Lemmy’s brilliant team-up with Dave Grohl on the latter’s Probot side-project in 2004, Shake Your Blood, would suggest that anything those two rock lifers did together is likely to be magnificent, and it’s those tracks that we are most excited about hearing. Most of all, it’s just comforting knowing there’s MORE LEMMY TO COME.

(Image credit: Mick Hutson)

Judas Priest's collab with Stock, Aitken And Waterman

In the mid 80s, pop production team Stock, Aitken And Waterman were the kings of the UK charts. Thanks to scoring shitloads of mega-hits with artists such as Kylie Minogue, Bananarama and Rick Astley, they were also widely hated and scorned for their factory production line approach to making music and its overpowering ubiquity on the airwaves. 

Metal fans, in particular, were not at all in favour of S/A/W and it’s no idle boast to claim that literally no one wanted the six-legged cash cow to go anywhere near any of our favourite bands.

So quite what possessed Judas Priest to nip over to a studio in France to work on some songs with the creators of Never Gonna Give You Up remains a mystery. But it’s an actual thing that actually happened. 

As frontman Rob Halford revealed in a 1988 interview, Priest recorded three songs with their unlikely collaborators toward the end of sessions for Ram It Down. And, despite what you might assume, Rob believes the songs were actually pretty decent.

“They’re hidden away in a vault in our office in London, and some day, at some point, people will hear them – it’s just getting the timing right,” the singer noted. 

“They’re three very powerful songs, you know, so maybe you’ll hear them in 1990 or the year 2000, I don’t know. We would like people to hear them, because I think people are very curious about what’s happening and we had a fantastic time with them…” 

In fact, 60 seconds of one of the songs – a cover of soul crew The Stylistics’ You Are Everything – emerged online in the summer of 2015 and you can still hear it on YouTube. It’s a bit odd and undeniably misconceived, but not quite as horrifying as you may have predicted. 

What we really want to hear is the two other songs the band recorded, S/A/W-penned numbers Runaround and I Will Return, which guitarist Glenn Tipton described in a 1988 interview as “two real good rock tracks”. That sounds vaguely promising, right?

Actually, maybe we don’t want to hear them. Or maybe we do. Arghh, it’s all so very confusing.

(Image credit: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty Images)

Velvet Revolver jamming with Corey Taylor

After Scott Weiland was fired from supergroup Velvet Revolver in 2008, some big stars auditioned for the vacant vocalist spot. One such hopeful was Corey Taylor, who tried out for the band in 2010 but was ultimately unsuccessful – Slash admitted he thought his vocal style was ultimately too “macho” for the band’s snake-hipped hard rock.

In an instalment of Loudwire’s Wikipedia: Fact Or Fiction? series, Corey confirmed he’d recorded “nine or 10” original tracks with Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and Dave Kushner, although the demo has been consigned to the vaults. 

“There were three songs we wrote together, which were pretty sweet, and there was a handful that I kind of rearranged based on music that they already had,” he said. 

Although Corey said he’d love to dust off the tracks and have another crack at perfecting them, don’t get your hopes up, as he also said, “the world will probably never hear them”.

Clown's Slipknot splinter group

As we drool in anticipation of We Are Not Your Kind's release, it’s worth remembering that there is another album still awaiting release. As Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan explained to Hammer last November, four members of the band – Clown, Corey Taylor, Jim Root and Sid Wilson – recorded a batch of additional material during the sessions for 2008’s All Hope Is Gone. One song, Til We Die, emerged on a special edition of the album, but the rest remains in the ’Knot vaults.

“I’ve held on to them for 10 years because it hasn’t been right,” Clown said. “And I’m going to let you know now that it’s feeling right. Is it Slipknot? No, it’s not Slipknot. Is it four members of Slipknot? Yes. It’s four members of Slipknot. Is it music being written at the same time as All Hope Is Gone? Absolutely.” Whatever it is, we want it. Just saying.

Zack De La Rocha's delayed solo material

While his former bandmates have been ever-present with the likes of Audioslave and Prophets Of Rage, vocalist Zack de la Rocha has been mostly absent since Rage Against The Machine’s demise – although he did join in with the reunion shows. 

Remarkably, the last studio album the firebrand appeared on was covers record Renegades in 2000. There has been the odd flash of excitement, with guest appearances and the One Day As A Lion EP with QOTSA drummer Jon Theodore, but the elephants in the room are Zack’s much-anticipated collaboration with Trent Reznor and a solo album that have yet to surface in their entirety.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Trent material –the sole track to emerge from those sessions was We Want It All, from 2004’s Songs And Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11

The solo album, however, has been achingly within reach as recently as 2016, with the emergence of single Digging For Windows, produced by Run The Jewels’ El-P. On Zack’s habit for keeping fans waiting, Trent told MTV: “Over time, I think it was a matter of Zack not knowing what direction to go. He wants to make an important statement when he makes it. And he will when he gets around to making it.”

Korn's Kovers album

Alright, Korn’s version of Word Up! didn’t set the world on fire, but we still reckon it’s a banger. Nonetheless, 15 years ago, there were rumblings of a full-on, nu metalified covers record, naturally dubbed Korn Kovers

And that piqued interest – candidates included Nine Inch Nails’ Head Like A Hole, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and, er, the brooding God Of Emptiness by death metal legends Morbid Angel, which was allegedly tracked during 1999’s Issues sessions.

On that unreleased NIN cover, vocalist Jonathan Davis got his knickers in a Twist, Twist, Twist over the verses. As guitarist Munky teased at the time, “Jonathan originally sang the verses and he just was bugging out because he wasn’t enunciating the way Trent Reznor, on that song, does the original. It was really just kind of difficult for him. 

"So we thought, ‘Well, you know what? That may work out if Chester [Bennington] sang on the verse.’” And it did, the late Linkin Park frontman proclaiming it “awesome”.

Originally slated to arrive in 2005, between Take A Look In The Mirror and See You On The Other Side’s album cycles, Korn Kovers died a slow death. Bits and pieces emerged, like Public Enemy’s Fight The Power and The Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way – and Hammer managed to snag their recording of Faith No More’s We Care A Lot, which took centre stage on our Decades Of Destruction tribute disc for the mag’s 30th anniversary in 2016.

Last year, Jonathan detailed the project’s (sort-of) resurrection, mentioning Korn had worked on the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down To Georgia

When pressed on other titles, he told journalist Matt Pinfield, “We’re still picking [covers] – it’s been a work in progress for a long time. But whenever we get a little free time, we go ahead and do a couple songs. One day it’ll see the light of day.” 

We’re not holding our breath, mate.

(Image credit: Korn)

Deftones' missing record

In contrast to the tumultuous recording environment for 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist, the atmosphere had completely shifted when Deftones began to write what should have been their sixth album in 2008. 

“We were getting along so well during the Eros sessions. It’s like the music actually was even taking a backseat to our friendships,” Chino Moreno told journalist Matt Pinfield in 2016. 

“We’d go into the studio, and we were way into playing the board game Risk at the time, so we’d set up this elaborate game of Risk that would last for weeks at a time. 

Terry Date was producing that record and he’d come in and be like, ‘C’mon guys, let’s get to work’ and we’d be like, ‘One more game.’ We were having so much fun together as friends and reconnecting – then during those sessions is when Chi had his accident.”

The album that emerged from the sessions, titled Eros, was all set to be released around the turn of 2009, with a new song, Melanie, tested during live dates. 

But tragedy befell the Sacramento visionaries when bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a horrific car crash, leaving him in a semi-comatose state. Chi would sadly never recover from the crash, eventually passing away in 2013. 

Understandably shocked and saddened, Deftones shelved the album and started afresh, with Quicksand’s Sergio Vega taking on bass duties for the exceptional Diamond Eyes, released in 2010. Koi No Yokan and Gore have since followed, but as of yet the Eros recordings remain in the Deftones vault, for the most part.

There is some fucking bad-ass stuff on there

Abe Cunningham

To mark the one-year anniversary of Chi’s passing, Chino uploaded a song, Smile, to YouTube. Though it was taken down by the band’s label, it’s the only tantalising glimpse of an album that the band have been asked been questioned about ad nauseam in the years since, but are understandably apprehensive about revealing to the world. 

In an interview with The Independent in 2016, Chino was still unresolved on the matter. “Musically it’s probably 75-80% done and lyrically it was about halfway there, but honestly, I wasn’t too happy with the material we had. Some of the music was lacking a little bit. I had faith it was going to come together and be great in the end, but we never got to that point.

"Once Chi had his accident, everything came to a halt with the Eros sessions, so the idea of going back to that batch of songs, finishing them and have Sergio learn Chi’s parts just hasn’t felt like something that we’re interested in doing. 

"If the record were finished and we were just sitting on it, we probably would have put it out by now, maybe even given it away, just so that people can hear it, but it would take a lot more work to get it done.”

However, in 2017 drummer Abe Cunningham seemed more optimistic that Chi’s final recordings could see the light of day. “If anything at all, I see some tracks from it coming out in some form or another,” Abe told Irish website Overdrive.

“There is some really fucking bad-ass stuff on that album, but also stuff that’s not that good in my opinion. We know that there is interest in the album from the die-hards but I’m sure we will do the right thing at the right time with it… it’s something that could surface in the coming years.”

With the band currently expected to release album number nine before the year’s end, it seems Deftones are too busy to tidy up Eros for the time being. But compared to other albums, the door certainly seems far from shut on the final material recorded by Chi and his friends in those halcyon days of creativity and reconciliation.

(Image credit: Martin Philbey/Redferns via Getty)
Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.