Every band goes through a rough patch or two. Although many groups fold when the chips are down, a special breed perseveres to turn their misfortunes into creative gold. These are the best metal comeback albums of all time.
Iron Maiden – Brave New World
Blaze Bailey got a bum rap. Although a completely competent vocalist, his style never really fit Iron Maiden. Due to reasons both personal and professional, the band was in a slump. When Bailey was asked to leave and both Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith rejoined, the Iron Maiden magic clicked back into place. There is a tool for every job, and Bruce Dickinson is most definitely Iron Maiden’s tool. Make of that pun what you will…
Carcass – Surgical Steel
After the nightmare Swansong recording session, a demoralized Carcass packed it in and called it a day without playing so much as a farewell show. Band members got busy with other projects and life went on. After a brain hemorrhage in 1999, drummer Ken Owen was forced to stop playing altogether for many years. To the surprise of many, Carcass regrouped (with the aid of Arch Enemy drummer Daniel Erlandsson) to play a few festival dates in 2007 before embarking on a full reunion tour in 2008. Although they were initially reticent about recording new music due to prior commitments, the band slowly warmed up to the idea. In 2013, the band released their first new album in 17 years, Surgical Steel. A ferocious return that successfully builds upon all of Carcass’ most-loved melodic elements without sacrificing any of the grinding venom.
Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell
Although most die-hard Black Sabbath fans will happily go to bat for Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die!, the albums were nonetheless flops at the time. Things looked bleak on the heels of two critically reviled flops and the loss of one of the most identifiable voices in rock and roll, but a chance encounter between Tony Iommi and Rainbow’s Ronnie James Dio kicked new life into the floundering band. Heaven and Hell is easily one of Black Sabbath’s best records and an undisputed heavy metal masterpiece.
AC/DC – Back In Black
For most bands, successfully replacing a frontman is an insurmountable task. Audiences often associate the presence at the microphone as the emissary of the group. On top of that, it’s just physically harder to mimic someone’s human voice than it is a guitar tone. If replacing a frontman is an insurmountable task, then replacing an actual legend is nothing short of fucking impossible… Unless your band is AC/DC, that is. All hope seemed lost for the band after the 1979 death of Bon Scott. However, they regrouped with Geordie singer Brian Johnson to deliver the haymaker album Back In Black. Highway To Hell might have been AC/DC’s commercial breakthrough, but Back In Black turned them into a fucking institution.
Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue
Few voices are more readily identifiable and captivating than that of Alice In Chains late frontman Layne Staley. A tragic figure throughout his short life, Layne did more than write hopeless lamentations of addiction and acute suffering; he lived them. Having not played a show since 1996, Staley’s death in 2002 all but guaranteed an end to the band. However, surviving members Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, and Sean Kinney decided to do a one-off benefit concert for tsunami victims in February of 2005. The experience was deeply meaningful for all involved, so they followed it up in 2006 with a performance at the Decades Of Rock concert, honoring Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson. Decades Of Rock marked the first public appearance of new vocalist and rhythm guitarist William DuVall. DuVall’s haunting presence helped the band harness their collective pain to create the remarkable Black Gives Way to Blue. As powerful of a testament to grief and hope as anyone has ever made.