Let’s be honest. Most side projects are side projects for a reason- they scratch a particular creative itch that isn’t being fulfilled in the artist’s main gig. They often times are fun, but cooler sounding on paper than they are in actuality. That said, some side projects do end up creating something magical that has longevity (or at least a lasting musical impact). Here are 10 of our favorite side projects that ended up being fantastic:
Disfear – a now legendary Swedish d-beat and death metal band that has existed in various bursts of activity since the late 80’s, Disfear is perhaps most widely known due to the fact that the legendary At the Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg is on the mic along with Uffe Cederlund of Entombed fame. The band doesn’t sound much like their famous members’ other musical endeavors, though- it’s more of a polished version of Portland d-beat legends Tragedy (to our ears at least). Album Live the Storm is the place to start, followed by their incredible split with Doomriders featuring Nate of Converge (and now Cave In) fame.
Killer Be Killed – ‘supergroups’ are more often that not cursed from the start. All stars coming together in a new musical setting often delivers more misses than hits. Because of that, this band seemed destined to overpromise and underdeliver- the line up was just a little too good, being comprised of Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan, Max Cavalera, Troy Sanders of Mastodon (and now Ben Koller of Converge). But they knocked it out of the park with their debut record, somehow putting everyone’s unique talents together in an an extremely complimentary melting pot of sound. The follow up record was pretty sick, too!
Mad Season – A true 90’s grunge supergroup made up of the formidable Layne Staley of Alice in Chains & members of Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees. While not heavy in a sonic sense, lyrically it brought the devastation in true Layne fashion. Their one full length was not as widely heralded as the rest of the members’ musical outputs, but the album is considered a classic by anyone who has spent proper time with it.
Bars- Bars was an early 2000’s hardcore supergroup made up of A-listers from American Nightmare, Suicide File and The Hope Conspiracy. They put out an absolute ripper of an album on Equal Vision Records that was essentially Motorhead-goes-hardcore in the year 2002. The album has been unfortunately lost to the sands of time due largely in part because the band literally put out the album and dropped off the face of the earth. They MAYBE played a few shows when it came out, but definitely broke up within a few months of the street date. A true shame as this is a gem of a band and album.
Crosses – Some guy you might’ve heard of named Chino Moreno started this project back in 2011 with Far’s Shaun Lopez and bassist Chuck Doom. While not a heavy band in the traditional sense, aesthetically they still dabble in the heavy realm, albeit through a more poppy filter than what you’ve come to know Chino for via Deftones. The band seem to reemerge with more music and sporadic shows every few years, so clearly it still scratches a fulfilling itch for Chino and crew. And for what it’s worth, the output quality is consistently high. So if it ain’t broke, why stop?
Down – a band that probably needs the least amount of introduction or explanation on this list. You know ’em and the members. You know the origin story. NOLA is an absolute classic and perhaps one of the best metal side ‘side projects’ of all time. So good that they’ve been basically functioning as a real band ever since the full length dropped. Hail the Leaf forever.
Nailbomb – Formed in 1994 as a side project by Max Cavalera (while still in Sepultura) & Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel fame, the band’s recorded output only really consisted of one long-heralded full length called Point Blank. The album included appearances by some all star peers like Dino of Fear Factory, but like most great side projects, basically vanquished after a few live shows around the time of the album’s release.
END- Originally started by the current “Dr. Dre of metal”, Will Putney, as a fun side project with current and ex-members of Counterparts, Reign Supreme and Shai Hulud, END quickly caused a stir because their debut EP was so fucking good. While still not a full time touring band due to other musical commitments, the band does seem to be taking effort to tour more frequently these days. The recent incarnation also features Billy, ex- Dillinger Escape Plan, on drums. We’ll die on this cross- the breakdown in ‘Necessary Death’ (below) is a top 5 all-timer.
Beyond The Sixth Seal – a melodic metal band started as a side project by Mike and Greg from The Red Chord that borrowed just as equally from death metal as it did the Gothenburg sound popularized by At the Gates et al. Their debut Earth And Sphere is a banger from start to finish. The band unfortunately disbanded a year after its release, due to line up struggles while balancing the sudden popularity of The Red Chord. They’ve since returned and are currently signed to Metal Blade.
Mutoid Main – the brain child of musical genius Stephen Brodsky of Cave In fame & drum prodigy Ben Koller of Converge, the project came to be during some downtime from both bands when the two friends found themselves both living in Brooklyn. A deservedly well-received 2013 EP called Helium Head basically put the band in full throttle mode, touring heavily and going on to release a few albums since (apparently there’s a new one already recorded and awaiting release once Cave In is ready to take a break from their current Heavy Pendulum promo cycle).