With the announcement earlier this week that Mastodon‘s Troy Sanders has joined up with the ‘supergroup’ formed by Max Cavalera of Sepultura/Soulyflyfame and Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan, we thought it would be prime blogging real estate to hit up our staff and come up with our top ten superbands.
These particular musical endeavours don’t always work, but when they do it can be spectacular. Some of the most diverse, interesting work has been produced by these groups of talented musicians, and when their individual talents mix just right, you might have a tough time choosing between these projects and their full-time bands.
#10 – The Sound Of Animals Fighting
The first, and biggest (in terms of roster size) supergroup on our list is The Sound Of Animals Fighting, an experimental, art-rock band based in California. With twelve members in its live setup, as well as myriad others in the studio, TSOAF featured a plethora of talent from a variety of post-hardcore, indie and rock groups.
Founded by Rich Balling and featuring several other members of Rx Bandits, the group’s other notable figures included Randy Strohmeyer of Finch, Anthony Green of Circa Survive and Craig Owens of Chiodos.
Their three albums are each very different affairs; from the post-hardcore leanings of Tiger and the Duke, through the Bjork and Blur-inspired Lover, The Lord Has Left Us…, to The Mars Volta-esque weedling and experimental noise offering of personal favourite The Ocean and the Sun. Each has a distinct character, with various members contributing parts – most notably the vocalists, which rotate song by song between Green, Balling and Owens, as well as various vocal spots from other instrumentalists. Sometimes hit and miss (Lover… gets a bit odd in the middle), it was nevertheless a highly-regarded project.
#9 – ORBS
Psychedelic rock supertroupe ORBS came together a few years ago after Dan Briggs, bass wizard of Between The Buried And Me, and Ashley Ellyllon of Abigail Williams/Cradle Of Filth, started corresponding online, which eventually evolved sending each other music files, and ORBS was born. Fleshed out by Adam Fisher (guitar, vocals) and Clayton Holyoak of Fear Before The March Of Flames and Chuck Johnson of Torch Runner, the band released Asleep Next To Science in 2010; a tour de force of off-kilter space rock.
The music plays particularly off Ellyllon’s skilful keys and the unique qualities of Fisher’s vocals, which like Brian Molko and others before him are like marmite to some, lend an innocent and childlike quality where suitable. Dan Briggs shifts to guitar with this band, which contrasts to his normal rhythmic role in his ‘day job’ band.
The themes deal with (as you might expect) science, nature and childhood amongst others – the latter of which is explored in pitched-battle epic ‘People Will Read Again‘.
More is expected from the group in the future, despite Briggs’ growing success with BTBAM – but no solid word as yet.
#8 – Shrinebuilder
Shrinebuilder are a doom supergroup which features Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (Saint Vitus and about half a dozen other awesome doom bands), Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om), and Dale Crover (The Melvins). They released their first (and to date only) album in 2009 to great reviews, and one single in 2011. A live album was also given unoto the world.
Built upon rock solid rhythms, stoner grooves, and the monolithic riffing of the Scotts, Shrinebuilder stand firmly in the category of stoner doom. Their sound has a slight sense of unease that washes in along with the blissed out waves of fuzz and smoke.
Unlike most stoner doom, which tends towards a slower pace, this band know how to speed things up and still keep the groove. Shrinebuilder also have a new album in the works for release sometime in 2013.
#7 – Narrows
It’s hardly surprising that Seattle-based mathcore band Narrows channel the very spirit of fellow Washingtonians Botch, the seminal Tacoman four-piece, given that both band have the towering vocal colossus that is Dave Verellen in common. Botch‘s waves pervade throughout this band, in fact, which partly says something about their influence, but partly how fantastic Narrows are.
Besides Verellen you’ve got Ryan Frederiksen on guitar, formerly of post-hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes, which also featured Verellen’s ex-Botch-mate Brian Cook. Also featured is Jodie Cox of London’s own Tropics, Sam Stothers of Makeout Boys on drums, and Rob Moran of the now defunct hardcore bands Some Girls and Unbroken on bass.
Their self-titled debut EP dropped in 2008, they’ve released an album called New Distances in 2009 and have since followed it up with this year’s Painted, all via Deathwish, who are generally a barometer of that which is good in hardcore and the like.
All are intelligent records from a mature band who have honed their respective crafts elsewhere, and come together to pool their respective talents. They’re essentially part-time at this point in their lives, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t be making more music in the future.
#6 – Murder Construct
Murder Construct are a ferocious deathgrind band from Los Angeles, California. Their devastating line-up is comprised of members from a number of notable extreme metal acts including Impaled, Phobia, Exhumed, Jesu, Cattle Decapitation, Intronaut and Fetus Eaters (amongst others).
Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation) is easily one of the best vocalists in death metal currently, and has dominated the scene this year through his agonising howls and terrifying barks. His new “clean singing” style is inspired in its approach to spewing his vitriol. The rest of the band are incredible playing insanely tight, groovy deathgrind played with incalculable technical proficiency and blistering riffs. Danny Walker is a sensational drummer and the driving force behind the band. Results, their debut album (they had a self titled EP in 2010), was released this year and while many were worried that they wouldn’t be producing anything original those fears were proven unjustified. Their combined might rips apart most other bands of their genre (and even rip apart entire scenes in their lyrics ala ‘Compelled By Mediocrity‘). Listening to their work, it truly feels like a meeting of titans. A lot of supergroups really don’t live up to that pretty glamourous title, these guys redefine what it means to be super, and they do it with fucking aplomb.
#5 – United Nations
A powerviolence band of the utmost calibre, United Nations are one of the best and worst kept secrets in alternative supergroups. Channeling the punk leanings of the likes of Refused and Orchid, the identities of the famous members nevertheless remain an official secret – all barring found Geoff Rickly, vocalist of the now defunct Thursday.
Due to contractual obligations, when the band formed sometime in 2008, most of the members were unable to be named on any official press releases or appear in any official photography, and as such the band adopted a practice of wearing rubber Ronald Reagan masks. Nevertheless, their identities aren’t all that secret, and the band’s rotating roster reads like a who’s who of hardcore: vitriolic crooner Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw/Head Automatica, Converge drummer-extraordinaire Ben Koller, Christopher Conger of The Number Twelve Looks Like You, Made Out Of Babies bassist Eric Cooper and Lovekill‘s Jonah Bayer. A rare live performance in 2009 consisted of Rickly, Koller and Bayer, as well as Lukas Previn of Acid Tiger and Ryan Bland of Home 33.
Their only record so far, a 25-minute self-titled effort of unbridled ferocity, is at the same time a socio-political critique and a comedic mirror on absurdity. Rickly himself has stated “speaking sincerely about things isn’t enough to make people pay attention. Maybe you have to make fun of people — and be a mirror — to show them how stupid they look, to get their attention.”
The record was released in 2008 through Eyeball Records. Follow ups have been rumoured, but nothing has raised its head as of yet – most likely due to the success of the ‘non-members’ other musical projects.
#4 – Down
A sludge supergroup formed in 1991 out of members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, EyeHateGod and Crowbar. Recently, the members decided to make Down their main project, but up until then, it’d been a side band, only sporadically releasing albums; NOLA in 1995, A Bustle in Your Hedgerow in 2002, and Over the Under in 2007.
All three albums are top quality, and now that Down are a full time band, one might expect more frequent doses of that quality. Down’s sound is one soaked in southern pride and bayou moonshine, featuring heavy riffing, whiplash-inducing grooves and brilliant vocal work from Phil Anselmo. Their debut album, NOLA, is named for their home city, New Orleans, Louisiana. Down are currently planning the release of four consecutive EPs, each with a different sound, the first of which – Purple – was released in September.
#3 – Old Man Gloom
When you take members of the likes of Isis, Converge, Cave-In, and Zozobra, and combine their talents to create a sludgey, doomy post-metal project, what you get is a band of unimaginable power and precision. Originally formed in Santa Fe, New Mexico by Aaron Turner of Isis and Santos Montano of Zozobra, Old Man Gloom released their debut album Meditations in B on August 22, 2000. The following year saw the simultaneous release of two albums, Seminar II and Seminar III, and saw the band expanding their reach by relocating to Boston and joining forces with Nate Newton of Converge and Cave In’s Caleb Scofield, whilst also bringing in the use of electronics thanks to Luke Scarola.
More a recording project than a live band, Old Man Gloom nevertheless solidified their cult following in the hardcore and metalcore scene in Boston. Their 2004 effort Christmas was their last for eight years, but was a masterpiece of driving sludge and creepy electronica.
Despite that extended period of inactivity, the band is in fact still going strong, and in fact released their most recent album, NO, through Turner’s Hydra Head Records this year, garnering a positive reception by both fans and critics alike.
Old Man Gloom are a true supergroup in a way, with all the members behind the project bring to the table tangible elements from each of their own styles of music. Each album is a journey that any fan of the selected groups that make up OMG should take the time to explore.
#2 – Bloodbath
When it comes to supergroups, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch before the name Bloodbath crops up. The group, formed by Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt, was based around a desire to bring back some of the filth and grime that infested death metal of yore. Bands like Grave and Dismember should come to mind when blasting through Resurrection Through Carnage or The Fathomless Mastery, both chock full of solid and recognizable tracks.
Not that Åkerfeldt is the only eminent musician in this band; Jonas Renske and Anders Nyström from Katatonia are in on the act as well, rounded out by Per Eriksson (Katatonia) on guitar, and either Opeth compatriot Martin Axenrot or the ubiquitous Dan Swanö on drums, depending on the lineup. As if that wasn’t enough, Peter Tägtgren took over vocal duties for the middle of the three albums, resulting in one of the catchiest death metal tracks ever, ‘Eaten‘. Bloodbath inject some mudslinging fun amidst a horde of serious-looking promo shots. Regardless of what you think of the members’ respective bands, it is impossible not to sing along with a hint of glee to the lines “Carve me up, slice me apart/Suck my guts and lick my heart.”
#1 – Fantômas
Fantômas are, without a doubt, one of the greatest supergroups ever formed; a literal embodiment of the title if ever there was one. Yes, I went there with the superlatives, but in this instance it’s justified.
The band is fronted by Mike Patton, who is a whirlwind of talent in of himself, having helmed the likes of Faith No More, Tomahawk, and of course that highly regarded EP with The Dillinger Escape Plan. Throw in the likes of The Melvins‘ King Buzzo on guitar, Slayer‘s Dave Lombardo on drums, and Patton’s Mr. Bungle compatriot Trevor Dunn, and you’ve got a who’s who of alt-rock and metal.
Their seminal 2001 ‘covers’ album The Director’s Cut is quite ingenious in its execution. Taking point from sixteen varied film scores – from The Godfather to Rosemary’s Baby – Patton and co. morph the source material into a plethora of different styles, from thrash-metal scat to theatrical sludge.
It’s such a unique album, but it’s hardly surprising, sitting amongst a number of unique recordings from the band as it does, including an album designed to serve as a soundtrack to a comic book, and a 74:17-long, single-track concept album dealing with a theme of surgery without anesthesia.
A truly remarkable and diverse selection of music from a group of musical savants.