30 insanely obscure underground rock albums that only connoisseurs know about

A grid of obscure rock record sleeves from the 60s and 70s
(Image credit: Deram/Phillips/Deroy/Rare Earth/Polydor/Baccilus/Trend/Island/Vertigo)

Lee Dorrian is more than just the owner of flagship British metal label Rise Above and North London record shop Rise Above Records & Relics –  the former Napalm Death and Cathedral singer is also a devotee of the most underground of underground music. What he doesn’t know about the late 60s and early 70s rock/prog/pysch/metal scenes isn’t worth knowing.

This is much is proven by the famous Buried Treasure column he began writing for Classic Rock magazine was back in 2008. Each month finds Lee celebrating some of the most obscure yet brilliant albums to have fallen down the back of the sofa of history.

Since then, he’s written about close to 200 albums - 30 of which we’ve pulled randomly from the wizards hat here. It’s unlikely you’ve heard of Toryka, Power Of Zeus or High Speed And The Afflicted Man, but they come with the Dorrian seal of approval and are well worth tracking down – if you have the time, contacts and money (original copies of these albums sell for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of pounds).

So if you fancy a change from the usual suspects, here are 30 insanely rare underground rock albums that only connoisseurs know about. Take it away, Lee…

Metal Hammer line break

Jerusalem  – Jerusalem (Deram, 1971)

The earth-shattering sounds that crash forth from this band’s one and only, self-titled album are a combination of the nastiest late-60s garage production values, along with an almost overwhelming proto-metal extremity that was seldom this raw and intense until more than a decade later with the advent of thrash. In fact it’s fair to say the album’s primitive and uncompromising nature has more in common with today’s heavy underground doom metal scene.

Championed, ‘produced’ and managed by Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan, the rough-and-ready Salisbury band looked how they sounded. With their long hair and dirty leathers they were like Motörhead before their time. They formed just eight weeks prior to entering the studio to make this album, and the recording captures a young band in almost primal form. 

Song titles such as Murderer’s Lament and Beyond The Grave give an inkling as
to what you’re getting into with this album. The standout track has to be Primitive Man, with its tidal wave of churning riffs and frantic lead playing topped off by the throat-ripping shrieks of Lynden Williams. 

Following mixed reviews and a lack of any significant success the band made one more single for the Deram label before calling it a day. One expert of the period described the band as ‘immature teenies making bone-crunching hard rock’. Which itself justifies hunting down this sledgehammer-heavy masterpiece of underground British rock. 

Bachdenkel – Lemmings (Phillips, 1973)

Described as “Britain’s greatest unknown group” in the short-lived UK edition of Rolling Stone magazine in 1969, progressive hopefuls Bachdenkel formed in Birmingham in 1968 and have, for various reasons, remained an enigma ever since. Frustrated at their lack of homegrown success, they relocated to France in 1970, and recorded this captivating album there that summer. Unfortunately Lemmings wasn’t released until three years later, and only in France. 

Thematically there seems to be a religious feel running throughout the record. It’s a very dramatic work, packed with well-crafted atmospheres, hypnotic melodies and repetitive structures, which have a genuinely psychedelic presence. Each of the seven tracks bleeds in and out of the next, as if it’s one continuous passage. An Appointment With The Master is a shining example of the overall Bachdenkel formula, with Beatles-meets-Pink Floyd-style vocal lines droning over pounding drums, and blinding acid guitar workouts that seem to penetrate consistently in the background. The Settlement Song and Come All Ye Faceless – clocking in at 11 and nine minutes respectively – are in themselves brooding early prog-rock masterpieces. 

After the eventual release of Lemmings, Bachdenkel continued to be active until 1975, when they recorded a follow-up album titled Stalingrad. Again they struggled to find a label to release it, leading to the band’s inevitable demise. It was released posthumously in 1977. 

Yesterday’s Children – Yesterday’s Children (Map City, 1970)

Mean, lean and hairy acid rock for fans of such greats as Blue Cheer, Savage Resurrection, Euclid and Dragonfly, Yesterday’s Children were formed in 1966 by brothers Denis (vocals) and Richard (rhythm guitar) Croce. Hailing from the Cheshire and Prospect towns of Connecticut, they started out as a typically fuzz-driven garage-punk outfit, releasing their debut single, To Be Or Not To Be, in 1967.

By 1969 they had become a harder-hitting rock band, with elements of their grinding garage roots still to be heard. Sad Born Loser sounds like something Monster Magnet would have recorded on their seminal Spine Of God album over two decades later, while opener Paranoia is a glorious assault on the senses.

Album highlight She’s Easy has a lead riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Motörhead or Tank album. Their charged rendition of Evil Woman is also worthy of a mention. 

The production is raw and loud, with solid performances all round. As the heavy 70s were approaching, Yesterday’s Children, like many bands of the era, seemed to be plagued by being ahead of their time in terms of aggression, but somewhat behind it too, with 60s psychedelia still playing a prominent part in their sound. Unsurprisingly, the album didn’t sell well, and the band split not long after it’s release. These days it’s a cult classic, of course. 

Bent Wind – Sussex (Trend Records, 1970)

Bootlegged countless times, Sussex is the Holy Grail of Canadian underground psychedelic rock albums. Originally released on the small Trend label in a pressing of just 300, it’s sought after by collectors worldwide. And it’s easy to see why: raw, basement production values and adequate blasts of fuzz guitar are what give it a large amount of kudos, along with its eye-catching psychedelic sleeve.

Formed in early 1969, Bent Wind evolved from the band scene of Toronto hippie neighbourhood Sussex Avenue (hence the album title). Shortly after forming, they recorded the excellent 45 Sacred Cows/Castles Made Of Man, the B-side of which was their most ‘out-there’ track. In fact, it’s the trippy wah-wah soloing of lead guitarist Gerry Gibas on this track that led to the idea of the band name – while stoned during a rehearsal, someone suggested that Gibas’s playing sounded like “bent wind”.

Rarity aside, Sussex, released in early 1970, captures a moment in time when the 60s haze was drifting into the heavy 70s. Sacred Cows perhaps exemplifies this most, with its shuffle beat, heavy boogie riffing, spaced-out vocals and punky background screams. The brooding Riverside is excellent, while Going To The City has a budget Stooges/MC5 street-level vibe. In all, there really isn’t a dull moment. 

The band split not long after Sussex was released, but since the late 80s they have continued recording, on and off, in various guises. 

Art – Supernatural Fairytales (Island, 1967)

Art were originally known as the V.I.P.s, who formed in Carlisle in late 1963. They released a handful of decent beat/R&B singles, the third of which, I Wanna Be Free, gave them a hit in France. Due to the lack of success with follow-up single Straight Down The Line, and in a bid to get with the psychedelic times, in ’67 there was a change of personnel. They were joined briefly by Keith Emerson, who soon left to form The Nice, at which point The V.I.P.s changed their name to Art. 

Housed in a fantastic period sleeve, designed by Hapshash And The Coloured Coat, Supernatural Fairytales is an important, under-acknowledged album. With opener Think I’m Going Weird, the subject of drugs makes an instant mark. Room With A View, Rome Take Away Three and Brothers, Dads And Mothers are heavy hitters, while the hypnotic African Thing displayed genuine experimentation. Come On Up is a pure groovy dancer, with heavy guitar and organ, and features a ripping mid-section guitar solo by Luther ‘Ariel Bender’ Grosvenor that makes you wanna get up and move. And the title track, macabre lyrics aside, is as frantic, upbeat, esoteric and psychedelic as it got for a UK band in 1967.

Their cover of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, retitled What’s That Sound?, was released as a single, and their label had high hopes for it, but it flopped. Shortly after, Art became Spooky Tooth and Supernatural Fairytales was all but forgotten. 

N.S.U. – Turn On, Or Turn Me Down (Stable Records, 1969)

Glasgow-based N.S.U. took their name from the Cream song of the same name, which gives you a good indication of how they sound. Turn On, Or Turn Me Down is a very bluesy, often heavy, slightly psychedelic hard rock album that may be patchy but contains moments of greatness.

Although a four-piece, they have all the hallmarks of a classic power trio, though occasionally the guitars are doubled up in the studio to nice effect. There are also prominent female backing vocals throughout, giving the album a wider scope.

Things get off to a promising start, with three hard hitters in succession, namely the aforementioned title track, followed by the upbeat His Town and the heavy boogie blast of You Can’t Take It From My Heart. They hit a wall with the dismal Love Talk, a love song that goes nowhere, and from there the album struggles to regain momentum. 

There are further cool moments though. All Aboard is a psych-rock pounder, while Stoned is just that. Lead guitarist Ernest Rea is the star, adding glorious flashes of acid-fuzz soloing to otherwise dull tracks such as Pettsie’s Blues. In fact while every member has merit, they sometimes just don’t seem to gel. Whether that’s down to lack of chemistry or rather flat production is difficult to tell. N.S.U. split up not long after this release. It’s a shame they weren’t given more time to develop. 

Power Of Zeus – The Gospel According To Zeus (Rare Earth Records, 1970)

Rare Earth was a subsidiary of Motown, aimed at cashing in on the blossoming post-psychedelic underground hard-rock scene, and Detroit greasers Power Of Zeus were by far the heaviest band to be signed. But while the label’s main act, also called Rare Earth, achieved notable success, Power Of Zeus were barely recognised at the time, and The Gospel According To Zeus became a common sight in bargain bins throughout the US after its release. 

In the intervening years it has become something of a cult record, with the opening beats of heavy album closer The Sorcerer Of Isis being a popular break lifted by many respected hip‑hop DJs. However, it’s hard rock fans who have found a genuine affection for this guitar-driven beast of an album, comparable to the heavier aspects of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Iron Butterfly and Bloodrock, with occasional nods to the soulful elements of Grand Funk.

Storming opener It Couldn’t Be Me is the most immediate track, although other rockers of note include No Time, Realization and In The Night. Meanwhile, doom fans will appreciate the epic dirge of The Death Trip. Although Power Of Zeus were a Christian rock band, that’s only really evident after close scrutiny of their lyrics.

Despite the sublime production and musicianship, each track becomes somewhat indistinguishable from the next. However, this is still a great album, and a must for aficionados. 

Grail – Grail (Metronome, 1971)

Grail is one of the most enigmatic underground UK rock albums of its era. It’s ambitious in its use of many different instruments, and it also features a multitude of ethnic influences, such as the Egyptian-tinged flute melodies on Camel Dung, manic Cossack-style riffing on Czechers, and the psychedelic sitar of the excellent title track. Such experimentation in rock would be almost unthinkable these days.

Grail were formed in 1968 by Terry Spencer, lead guitarist of London freakbeat legends The Game. However, by the time this, their sole album was recorded, Spencer had already departed, although he is credited as a co-writer. 

The album is notable due to the mysterious involvement of Rod Stewart as producer. Apparently Rod was close friends with Grail manager Bob Pearce, and was thus roped in. It’s hard to see him being a fan of what Grail were doing!

Opening track Power will be the one of main interest to headbangers here, with it’s hard-hitting, doomy power chords, pounding drums, occult lyrics, wild soloing and the snarling vocals of Chris Williams. Elsewhere there are heavy moments interspersed with mellower folky moods and general weirdness.

Recorded at London’s Tangerine Studios in 1969, the album didn’t receive a UK release. It was first issued in France by Barclay in 1970 (with strikingly different artwork), then by Germany’s Metronome in 1971, by which time Grail had unfortunately ceased to exist. 

Jeronimo – Jeronimo (Bellaphon, 1971)

Jeronimo were a hairy power trio from Germany. Formed in 1969, they achieved success with their first two singles: Heya and Na Na Hey Hey (originally a hit for Steam, and later others, including Bananarama).  Jeronimo, their second album, is considered to be their creative pinnacle. Considering the band’s popularity, it’s strange why it’s so rare and was pressed in such small numbers. 

Within a short period of time the group had transformed from pop-rock to the full-blown progressive hard rock on display here. Excellent playing, a heavy sound, psychedelic passages, raw, melodic vocals and interesting arrangements are the key ingredients.

Starting off with two weighty tracks, Sunday’s Child and Shades, the heaviness simmers down for the mellow contemplation of Reminiscences, before slamming right back in with the rifferama of highlight How I’d Love To Be Home. Elsewhere, the infectious boogie of Understanding is the most commercial offering, while the epic instrumental Hugudila is essentially a five-minute drum solo.

Following the release of their superb third album, Time Ride, the band split, with leader Ringo Funk going on to join fellow German progressive act Atlantis. Jeronimo have reunited at various times over the years and regained the rights to their recordings, and reissued this beast on vinyl and CD themselves several years ago.

Morly Grey – The Only Truth (Starshine, 1972)

Responsible for one of the better locally released US heavy-psych LPs of the early 70s, Morly Grey formed in Alliance, Ohio by brothers Tim Roller (guitars) and Mark Roller (bass, lead vocals). Initially a four-piece, they released a single on their own label in 1969, before stripping down to a power trio, with two different drummers on each side. Limited to 1,000 copies, it has rightly become a sought-after rarity.

Opening with Peace Officer, you’re given a good indication of what the rest of the album has to offer; essentially heavy but not all-out bludgeon, featuring West Coast vibes morphing into folk-rock and progressive blues, with a vast array of acid guitar motifs. There appears to be an element of Christianity in their general message, though it’s hard to ascertain.  But it’s the 17 minute title-track, The Only Truth, which is the standout here. It features some truly in your face hard-rock action, with atmospheric moves and mesmerising guitar dream sequences. 

Not long after this release, Morly Grey changed their name to The Roller Bros band, releasing a more commercial sounding album the next year. The brothers continued to play locally up until recent times, recording another Morly Grey album during the mid-90s, yet to see the light of day.

The Only Truth is a very accomplished musical work, which should have had a bigger audience. A proclamation on the back sleeve states: “This record was specifically recorded to be played at a high volume”. Amen to that. 

Homer – Grown In U.S.A. (Universal Recording Artists, 1972)

Formed in 1967 while the members were studying at Texas State University, San Antonio-based band Homer released three decent psychedelic-rock 45s prior to recording Grown In U.S.A. But when their deal with Columbia Records fell through, the album was eventually released locally in late 1972 with a pressing of just 1,000 copies. 

Recording and producing the album themselves took the best part of a year, which may have cost them some important momentum, as up to this point the band had built up a significant local following and were at the forefront of the Texas rock scene. And they should have had a wider audience, as Grown In U.S.A. is an excellent album that mixes rural rock with occasional psychedelic progressive touches, aided by frequent, tasteful use of Mellotron. 

Homer were fronted by two lead vocalists, Phil Bepko and Frank Coy, and the guitar playing of Galen Niles and Howard Gloor is exceptional. Opener Circles In The North, displays all of their talents perfectly and is a great slice of melodic hard rock, Taking Me Home and Dawson Creek take a detour into country, and so the band come across like a strange mix of The Byrds and The Moody Blues. There aren’t really any all‑out heavy tracks, although there are some good heavy moments, contrasting well with the rural pastures.

Due to lack of airplay and national media coverage, Grown In U.S.A. wasn’t re-pressed, and Homer folded in 1974. 

Banchee – Banchee (Atlantic, 1969)

Originating from Long Island, with connections to Boston, Banchee formed at the tail end of 1968. Full of melody and eclectic ideas ranging from psychedelia to blues, folk, orchestral and early hard rock, they released this excellent yet overlooked album for Atlantic the following year.  

Every band member contributed a few complete original tracks to the pot, which makes the album come across slightly unevenly as a whole. However, each track is well crafted, from the wonderfully gentle and ethereal beginnings of opener The Night Is Calling, which explodes into a massive melodic chorus, to the glorious fuzz-fest of Evolmia. That’s followed by the instantly catchy, guitar-driven heavy power-pop of I Just Don’t Know. Vocals throughout the album are shared by all four members to great harmonious effect.

Follow The Dream is perhaps the most reflective piece, which builds to a majestic ‘dreamlike’ mid-section aided by a horn and string arrangement. However, it’s the eight-minute-plus Tom’s Island that displays the most progressive ambition. During the latter four minutes of the track, they lock into an enduring, heavy riff. Not much is known about the general success or touring activity of Banchee, but the album was, unfortunately, a common sight in bargain bins across the country. 

Following a two-year gap, they released an excellent second album for Polydor, titled Thinkin’, which has an overall harder-edged rock sound. While maybe less eclectic in style than their debut, it’s equally worthy of investigation. 

Linda Hoyle – Pieces Of Me (Vertigo, 1971)

Perhaps best known for her work with jazz-rock/pop greats Affinity, singer Linda Hoyle is a largely unsung British artist. After her departure from Affinity in early 1971, manager Ronnie Scott instigated a collaboration with Karl Jenkins (then of Nucleus, later of Soft Machine), which led to Pieces Of Me. The album – now one of the rarest Vertigo releases – is a reflective album of twists and turns, seemingly documenting a turning point in Hoyle’s life. Unfortunately it would prove to be her swan song as a recording artist, at least until 2015’s excellent comeback album The Fetch. 

The album begins with a strong rendition of Backlash Blues, previously recorded and co-written by Nina Simone, which is followed by the beautifully crafted love ballad Paper Tulips.  While the performances are striking and the quality of compositions outstanding throughout, there’s perhaps too much variation. Black Crow is a fantastic pop-rocker, but it’s the rip-roaring title track that will be of most interest to hard rock fans. It seems to blast out of nowhere with manic wah‑wah guitar (by Chris Spedding), fuzz bass, distorted organ, pounding drums and energetic vocals. One can only wonder how great an entire album of such mayhem would have been.

Elsewhere there are melancholic piano and vocal tracks alongside orchestral moments, best exemplified by the beautiful Journey’s End. 

Troyka – Troyka (Cotillion Records, 1970)

Troyka is a weird and wonderful, primarily hard rock album, but which defies description and is all the better for it. 

Formed in the Canadian town of Edmonton, from the ashes of garage rockers the Royal Family, Troyka consisted of three musicians of Ukranian descent. It’s clear that this was a trio who understood each other well and that their craft had evolved out of intensive jam sessions. The album has a large portion of mind-bending instrumentals, from gorgeous slices of psychedelic rock (Beautiful Pink Eyes) to funky jazz-rock (Life’s OK), trippy semi-classical (Early Morning) and traditional Russian folk (Introduction).

Apparently it was the wild and raw singing style of drummer/vocalist Michael Richards that caught the attention of Atlantic Records A&R department, leading them to be signed to its subsidiary Cotillion. His gravelly tone adds caveman rowdiness to the fuzzy acid blues of Natural and the garage dirge of Rolling Down The Road. Lyrically, Troyka didn’t seem to take things too seriously and there appears to be quite a bit of satire going on (Rub-A-Dub-Dub Troyka In A Tub, for example). 

For all its diversity, ambition and madness there seems to be a controlled anarchy behind Troyka’s bizarre chemistry, making it very listenable. Skillful musicianship helped, too. Unfortunately the band fell apart following the untimely departure of guitarist Robert Edwards towards the end of 1970. 

Silberbart – 4 Times Sound Razing (Philips, 1971)

Silberbart were an unconventional-sounding heavy progressive power trio from the German town of Varel, whose sole album has become an in-demand artifact among collectors. 

Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Hajo Teschner had been a member of Hamburg beat group The Tonics. Frustrated with their increasingly commercial sound, he quit and formed Silberbart with future Trio drummer Peter Behrens and bassist Werner Klug.

Comprising just four lengthy tracks, 4 Times Sound Razing is uncompromising, and it can be a challenge to sit through, but when it clicks it hits all the right spots. While there may be obvious references (Groundhogs, Led Zeppelin, Cream etc) in the bluesier rock moments, extended passages of improvisation and experimentation are in a world of their own, bordering on avant-garde.

Opener Chub Chub Cherry is chock-full of heavy riffs, off-kilter drum patterns, wild vocals and psychotic solos. The 16-minute Brain Brain begins with soft melancholic textures before spiraling into cascades of noise, feedback, killer riffs and improvisation. God returns to heavy distorted, Sabbath-y riffs and power chords. Head Tear Of The Drunken Sun closes the album with more mind-bending antics. While there is beauty in their unpredictability, hard rock fans might be frustrated with the drawn-out nature of the material. 


Tucky Buzzard – Coming On Again (Hispavox, 1971)

Evolving from UK mod/psych legends The End, Tucky Buzzard released five albums during the early 70s. Having had some success in Spain as The End, they relocated there in an attempt to capitalise on that. As a result, not all of their output was released in the UK, including this, their third, which only came out in Spain and Brazil. Coming On Again is arguably their finest moment, and is certainly their most adventurous, progressive and sought-after album with a wealth of ideas and instrumentation. 

The ambitious opening title track, a suite in six parts covering the whole of side one, moves from heavy Led Zep-style hard blues to Deep Purple-esque keyboard-driven heavy prog, to folk with classical passages and strings, then into dreamy psych and back. 

Side two comprises some excellent and varied tracks. You’re All Alone is a beautiful and moody progressive number aided by synth/Mellotron interplay. You Never Will seems to jump out of nowhere with its contrasting mood. Free Ticket has a jazzy groove and features tasteful guitar soloing by Terry ‘Tex’ Taylor. 

As musically diverse as it is, Coming On Again never feels like it’s drowning in pomposity, having an atmosphere of sincere musicianship throughout, despite being somewhat disjointed in places. Tucky Buzzard released two further albums for Purple Records, before disbanding. 

C.A. Quintet – Trip Thru Hell (Candy Floss Records, 1969)

If there’s one album that epitomises the creativity, philosophy and musical integrity of underground American psychedelic rock of the late 60s, then perhaps Trip Thru Hell is it. Released locally on the bespoke Candy Floss imprint, in very small quantities, it has become one of the most revered and sought-after genre albums of its time.

Minneapolis-based C.A. Quintet were the brainchild of young trumpeter-turned-guitarist Ken Erwin. In 1967 they released a couple of solid pop 45s before venturing into weirder, darker, fantastical realms on the album Trip Thru Hell

The epic and eerie 12.30 title track is split into two, which open and close the album retrospectively, like the credits of a very strange movie, or in this case an acid trip. Sandwiched in-between are five tracks of musical excellence. Colorado Mourning, Cold Spider, Sleepy Hollow Time and Smooth As Silk are shining examples of garage-tinged psychedelic acid rock, hitting the darker end of that mystical decade. Tasteful use of trumpet, crude-sounding organ, studio effects and haunting female vocals add further spice. 

Housed in a befittingly macabre and surreal sleeve, at the time Trip Thru Hell must have seemed like an epic voyage into the unknown. With the dawning of progressive rock and an abundance of dark concept albums, it might now seem relatively tame in its lysergic terror, although it’s still a monumental work. Perhaps surprisingly, no drugs were used during the making of this album.

My Solid Ground – My Solid Ground (Baccilus Records, 1971)

My Solid Ground formed in Russelsheim, Germany in 1968, and included 14-year-old guitarist Bernhard Rendel. By 1970 they had become popular in the local scene, and later in the year recorded an epic 24-minute psychedelic/progressive track titled Flash which won them second place in a competition for SWF Radio and led to a record deal.

In early 1971 the band recorded what has become one of the most sought-after LPs of the early Krautrock era, although to describe the album purely as Krautrock would be misleading, as a lot of it is simply great hard/heavy rock. 

Opening track Dirty Yellow Mist is a prime example of the strange sonic assault associated with the Krautrock genre. It’s a captivatingly dark 13-minute drone monster with haunting piano/organ, scary distorted voices, eerie female mantras, repetitive beats, mega-distorted guitar chords and post-apocalyptic vibes. Bringing to mind Ummagumma (in the studio)-era Pink Floyd, it’s the album’s most out-there cut.

Elsewhere, proto-metal headbangers That’s You, Flash Pt IV and Handful Of Grass will appeal to hard rock fans, while gentle prog moves of Melancholie, the ballad-like Devonshire St W1 (seemingly about a surreal encounter by one of the band during a trip to London) and the outright weirdness of The Executioner make this album a surreal journey. Following its release, several line-up changes took place before they finally folded in 1974. 

Hairy Chapter – Can’t Get Through (Bacillus Records 1971)

Can’t Get Through is one of the wildest, most uncompromising and beautifully schizophrenic hard rock albums of its time.  The underground German rock scene was really happening during the late 60s/early 70s, and by 1971 these guys were shaking and screaming from right at its core. 

Coming together in 1966 in Bonn, they started out as the Concrete Movement, before releasing their debut album in 1969 under the pseudonym Chaparall Electric Sound. Their first as Hairy Chapter was the bluesy, progressive and slightly psychedelic album Eyes

Sharing the stage with Black Sabbath on several occasions obviously impacted their sound and aggression, although the complex/off-the-wall nature of the material is unlike anything else from the time. The masterful yet out of control vocal delivery of Harry Unte shrieks and howls gloriously over a backdrop of bewildering time changes, experimental studio effects and some truly mind-shredding, lysergic guitar assaults.

Opener There’s A Kind Of Nothing comes across as a heavy Led Zep on LSD, the 10-minute title track is an epic progressive acid workout, eight-minute beast It Must Be An Officer’s Daughter, follows the same unpredictable path before exploding into free-form jazz-rock, with crazed soloing panning from speaker to speaker over solid drum and bass improvisation. Unfortunately, Can’t Get Through proved to be this astonishing band’s final release. 

Thrice Mice – Thrice Mice! (Philips, 1971)

Formed in Hamburg by brothers Werner (guitar) and Rainer (bass) von Gosen, Thrice Mice initially came together as a three-piece beat group in the mid-60s. Their first real break came in winning a 1967 ‘beat competition’ hosted by a Hamburg newspaper, which led to an appearance on an EP alongside the other contestants.

As the 60s drew to a close, their musical ambitions began to expand, gradually incorporating elements of classical, jazz, blues and rock. As a result, Thrice Mice became a sextet, adding sax, flute and organ. By 1970 they had become justified contenders on the German progressive scene

Thrice Mice! is an excellent and wildly eccentric album, consisting of four long tracks. Jo Joe brings to mind proto-prog legends such as Raw Material, Web, Czar and Van der Graaf Generator.

Their 11-minute instrumental adaptation of Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto In D Minor is a mind-bending mix of wah-wah guitars, improvised organ and dual sax workouts, with only the beginning and ending following a recognisable path. 

Twelve-minute Torakov is the high point. Apparently it tells the tale of a free-love/drug encounter between a band member and a strange Finnish girl. It builds and moves with spooky/distorted vocals, eerie organ and laid-back drums, between mellow atmospheres and heavy boogie sections, before climaxing with gloriously distorted acid guitar.

Thrice Mice! is a classic collectable from the Krautrock era.

Museo Rosenbach – Zarathustra (Ricordi Records, 1973)

Museo Rosenbach formed Bordighera in 1972. Zarathustra, a crown jewel of the underground Italian progressive rock scene during its bustling golden era, is a stunning example of the desire to break standard rock boundaries of the time. Italian prog was way more musically explorative (some might say pompous) as a whole than its European counterparts.

Based on Nietzsche’s Superman, the 21-minute title track (split into five parts and taking up the whole of side one) is very classical in its construction, with bold dynamics, superb playing and memorable melodies. It ranges from dreamy and symphonic to heavy, doomy and bombastic. Dazzling use of Mellotron brings to mind early King Crimson, Genesis and, of course, Yes. 

Side two consists of three mini-epic tracks, which are captivating in their delivery, with raw, distorted guitar blasts making them seem more intense than the work of a lot of their more ‘symphonic’ contemporaries. 

On close inspection of the sleeve there’s an image of Mussolini which, mistakenly, sparked controversy amongst anti-fascist groups in Italy. This and lack of commercial success led to the untimely demise of the band.  As with many adventurous cult acts of the time, Museo Rosenbach continued to enjoy cult status over the years.

Darius – Darius (Chartmaker, 1969)

Cleveland-born Darius (real name Bobby Joe Ott) arrived in the mystical playground of psychedelic Hollywood during the hazy summer of 1967. Within a short space of time he had pieced together enough material to record this highly acclaimed cult album. Backed by (un-credited) labelmates Goldenrod (session players who’d also played alongside Elvis), Darius is a tantalizingly melodic album, with transcendental textures ranging from folk-rock, to blues (Dirty Funky Situation), pop, funky soul (I’m The Man) and groovy psychedelic rock.  

Opener Shades Of Blue is a prime example of the latter. Controlled upbeat verses are interspersed with fuzzy wah-wah guitars and chimes, as Darius weaves in and out of calm and tortured reflection. It’s fair to say that he had a star quality in his voice; heartfelt and strangely unique. I Feel The Need To Carry On is a simply beautiful slice of moody, sitar drenched West Coast psychedelia, while Hear What I Say closes the album with melancholic atmospherics.

Work on a follow-up began later in ’69, but new record company administration led to Darius losing his deal. He returned to Cleveland, playing the local club circuit, until he was struck by a nasty car accident in 1974. Following years of re-constructive surgery, he returned Hollywood with new band, The Earthlings, in the early 80s but failed to secure a deal. Darius died of cancer in August 2006.

England – England (Deroy, 1976)

Deroy was a Lancashire-based recording service, enabling unsigned artists to release custom recordings to vinyl at their own expense, usually manufactured in extremely limited runs of 99 copies. Although a small label, Deroy released some of the most sought after UK recordings of the 60s and 70s.

One of their most acknowledged releases is this excellent album by London-based power-trio England. Originally formed by guitarist/vocalist Olly Alcock in the Cumbrian town of Kendall in 1971, they embarked on a life on the road. But despite building up a dedicated following, a major-label deal wasn’t forthcoming.

England follows an unconventional line somewhere between early progressive hard rock and pub rock, while displaying fragments of early NWOBHM, which might have made them seem somewhat out of place at the time. But there’s some fine and fluid musicianship here, particularly in Alcock’s stunning guitar work.

Opening track The Osprey, is a particular highlight, showcasing a heady blend funky hard rock with complex jazz guitar motifs, topped off with Alcock’s distinctly gravelly vocals. How Does It Feel follows a similar path, while Beauty & The Beast, is an infectious prog party number, complete with sax. Paradise Lost is harder hitting, yet never overdoses on heaviness, much like the rest of the album. A competent and enjoyable album, which just lacks a little spark. 

Out Of Focus – Wake Up! (Kuckuck, 1971)

Out Of Focus (named after a Blue Cheer track) were a hard-working band, building up a strong local following before signing to cult label Kuckuck (‘cuckoo’ in English). Formed in Munich in 1968, they were amongst the most genuinely progressive bands to evolve from the krautrock era, combining rock, folk, jazz and blues with a strong psychedelic presence. Their lyrical content was often satirical and anarchic, yet always entertaining. Releasing three studio albums during the 70s, their style became steadily more improvisational. 

For underground hard rock fans, debut, Wake Up! is OOF’s most appealing release. Recorded over two long weekends and housed in a suitably surreal sleeve design, it contains their heaviest songs. Main songwriter Moran Neumüller’s abstract storytelling has an intriguing charm – though his vocal style is an acquired taste. Undoubtedly a talented musician, he also contributed flute and sax to the Out Of Focus sound. God Save The Queen, Cried Jesus is a particular highlight, with its bulldozingly heavy lead riff, psychotic flute melodies, spaced out soloing and whacked out subject matter, topped off with Neumüller’s theatrical vocal delivery.

Wake Up! is undoubtedly a product of its time, reflective of free-thinking hippies creating heavy sounds under the influence of mind expanding substances – with ten-minute plus mini-epics such as World’s End and the discordant blues rock of Dark, Darker. 

Aubrey Small – Aubrey Small (Polydor, 1971)

Aubrey Small formed at Highbury College, Portsmouth in 1969 as part of the musical appreciation society. Before long they brought in former Lace guitarist, Peter Pinckney, who had made connections in London.  Championed by both John Peel and Bob Harris, the band recorded numerous BBC sessions, resulting in a record deal with Polydor. 

Recorded at Trident Studios with future Queen & Roxy Music producer John Anthony, Aubrey Small is an excellent, consistently melodic album which covers an eclectic mix of styles and textures. Overall it’s progressive, dreamy pop/rock, occasionally bordering on mainstream, but songs are often psychedelic in treatment, with interesting arrangements and layers of sound. 

Opener Country Road is a beautiful, reflective introduction to the world of Aubrey Small: mellow, harmonised verses make way for Eastern-flavoured breakdowns. The Painted Lady is a treat for prog fans; enigmatic, with Moog-enhanced verses merging into a memorable chorus. Elsewhere, Trying To Find My Way is a power-pop killer. If I Were You features strong vocal lines and a mesmeric continuous guitar solo. Smoke Will Blow is undoubtedly the album’s freakiest moment, featuring synthesisers, eerie child voices and a surreal string arrangement. One of the better, if lesser-known, UK albums of its time. 

Fire – Could You Understand Me (Kilroy Records, 1973)

Could You Understand Me, is one of the most uncompromising, viciously raw records of any genre released during the 70s. Formed in the then Yugoslavian (now Croatian) town of Cakovec, Fire met as members of a military marching band. Upon finishing national service, they regrouped and rehearsed solidly for a whole year, honing their craft. Named after the Hendrix song, Fire were clearly too wild for their native rock audience to comprehend. Having relocated to Germany they played regularly, sharing stages with major bands such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, UFO and Birth Control, and soon built up a respectable following of their own. 

Recorded in one night, Could You Understand Me was released on the small Dutch label Kilroy. Heavily influenced by the classic power trio moves of Cream, Blue Cheer, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and others, Fire took psychedelic blues rock to another level, the grinding fuzz noise pretty much unparalleled. 

The opening title track gives an indication of what’s to come: loose, often sloppy yet thoroughly accomplished and convincing playing is par for the course. Memory Of You is a mellower blues number, proving there was more to Fire than all-out visceral assault. However, it’s only a slight diversion from the general barrage of killer riffs, maniacal drum fills, pissed-off vocals and skilful soling. The album is a must for fans of primitive-sounding, no-frills underground rock. 

Aunt Mary – Loaded (Philips, 1972)

Aunt Mary are one of the most popular names in the history of Norwegian progressive rock. Formed in the late 60s, they signed a deal with the Danish arm of Polydor and released their excellent self-titled debut album in 1970. The sound was groovy, post-psychedelic rock merging into early progressive, featuring tasteful use of Hammond organ, flute and distorted harmonica. 

With 1972’s Loaded they’d progressed to a formula very much of its time, and which still sounds great today. Hard rock elements are more to the fore, with progressive twists and turns adding to the overall allure. While by no means in the same league as Deep Purple, they displayed a lot of similar characteristics. Upside Down is a prime example, with its upbeat Jon Lord-esque Hammond motifs and infectious bluesy lead guitar riff. Joinin’ The Same Crowd has a similar aesthetic, while mini-epic Blowin’ Tiffany follows a more progressive doom vibe. Delight is a melodic highlight, with its contrastingly high-pitched harmonised chorus tastefully executed. Perhaps the best is saved to last, with G Flat Road, which sounds like it could have been a made-up-on-the-spot jam based on Black Sabbath classic The Wizard.

The band’s swansong album, Janus, released in 1973, is considered by many connoisseurs to be Aunt Mary’s definitive work. It’s certainly their most outright progressive and complex statement, although for many Loaded has the most charm.

Aguaturbia – Aguaturbia (Arena Records, 1971)

Aguaturbia are considered to be Chile’s premier psychedelic rock band. Formed in 1968, they released this self-titled debut album in 1970, in a micro-pressing of (allegedly) just 300 copies. Housed in a very fragile paper sleeve, it has become a much sought-after artefact among hard-core record collectors.

Mainstream record shops refused to stock the album, and they were greeted with condemnation by the church, largely due to the ‘controversial’ nature of the cover, which featured all band members sitting naked and seemingly wasted on drugs.

The band were gifted by the strong feminist presence of mesmeric frontwoman Denise Corales, whose excellent, soulfully out-there vocals weaved their magic over the groovy, fuzzed-out dynamics of the music. Carlos Corales was a psychedelic guitar wizard, his cosmic skills perhaps displayed most on Carmesi Y Trebol, a mind-melting, kaleidoscopic, 10-minute, acid-drenched rendition of Tommy James & The Shondells classic hit Crimson And Clover.

Largely made up of covers, the album thankfully doesn’t suffer from pastiche, as each track has a life of its own. Their excellent cover of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love displays a sisterly salute to that bands singer, Grace Slick, while their take on Muddy Waters’s Rollin’ And Tumblin’ is perhaps the most gloriously distorted blues cover you’re likely to hear.

High Speed And The Afflicted Man – Get Stoned, Ezy (Bonk Records, 1982)

Get Stoned Ezy is no ordinary album. The project was one of several spin-offs from London-based late-70s underground punks Afflicted. Much like Sham 69, Afflicted had, for whatever reason, garnered a very unsavoury right-wing following. This began to plague them and, as a result, they stopped performing live.

Band leader Steve Hall was a striking guitarist, and his squatting lifestyle, solvent abuse and heroin addiction certainly added a dose of grime to his musical approach, even more so in relation to this album. His acid-drenched solos, soaked in reverb, fuzz and wah-wah often reach levels of sensory overload. Get Stoned Ezy is psychedelic rock for noise addicts and comes with the disclaimer: “WARNING: THIS RECORD IS VERY POWERFUL AND COULD GIVE YOU EARHOLE DAMAGE”.

Recorded live to four-track – and almost certainly under influence – it’s kind of how Pink Fairies should have sounded on record. Of its three lengthy tracks, Zip Ead and Sun Sun are lysergic garage jams, pre-dating the likes of UK psych revisionists Loop, Spacemen 3, Bevis Frond etc by several years.

This is by no means an album for those who like their rock music tight and nicely produced. It is, however, a perfect mix of dirgy punk embracing the looser, free-thinking jams of the 60s at a time in the early 80s where it didn’t really have a place to sit.

Charge – Charge (SRT Records, 1973)

Charge were an excellent progressive hard rock band, with blues and psychedelic touches, from the south coast of England. Their self-financed album is nowadays a major rarity (pressed without artwork in a modest run of 99 copies), coveted by collectors. ‘Rediscovered’ and re-released by Kissing Spell records in the early 90s, little, or nothing, was known about the band at that time. 

Prior to the release of Charge, the band were known as Baby Bertha, who released another privately pressed album the year before, with a miniscule pressing of just 50 copies. It too contains several excellent bluesy rockers, bringing to mind a more rough-around-the-edges Groundhogs, Cream and early Stray. 

Comprised of four tracks, side one features the most accessible tunes with, enigmatically titled, Glory Boy From Whipsnade, sporting a lead riff which wouldn’t have seemed out of place on the Blind Faith album. To My Friends is a gloomy sounding affair, laced with nice wah-wah effects throughout, whilst Rock My Soul is an all-out 70s funky rocker.

Side two is, essentially, a 16-minute hard rock suite, titled Child Of Nations.
It’s split into three parts, all seemingly relating to singer Dave Ellis’ time spent as a soldier in the British Army several years earlier. Whilst it may appear to be somewhat drawn out for regular rock fans, it’s nonetheless enjoyable due to the accomplished nature of musicianship. 

Check out Rise Above Records here and visit the Rise Above Records & Relics shop here

Lee Dorrian

Lee Dorrian is best known as a former member of grindcore band Napalm Death and later frontman of doom metal band Cathedral. Currently a member of stoner metal supergroup With the Dead, he founded his own record label, Rise Above Records, in 1988. They've released albums by Ghost, Twin Temple, Orange Goblin, Pentagram, Sunn O))) and many more. He writes the Buried Treasure column for Classic Rock magazine, about rare underground rock records.