When it comes to extreme music, we tend to venerate those with long and storied careers. However, some of the best and most important bands of all time were just a flash in the pan, dissolving after a single release to become the thing of legend.
Here are ten critical bands with only one record
Disembowelment – Transcendence into the Peripheral
Arguably the greatest doom-death record of all time comes from a band that only put out one album and never played a show. The 1993 debut of Melbourne’s pivotal Disembowelment skirts the line between mournful dragging doom dirges and a ferocious grind assault, all the while maintaining the kind of reflective, somber ambiance that Brian Eno would be proud of. If you don’t love this, you don’t love extreme music.
Weakling – Dead As Dreams
Epic in scope and execution, Weakling’s stunning debut is one of the first great melodic black metal albums to be written on American soil. Dead As Dreams is a landmark masterpiece, expertly weaving through moments of cinematic grandiosity and pulverizing aggression, creating a sonic landscape of such vastness that it nearly defies comprehension.
Repulsion – Horrified
The quintessential American grind album, Horrified is an incomparable sonic barrage of tumultuous riffage and caveman blasts brutal enough to separate your head from your body. Recorded in 1986 but not released until three years later, Repulsion’s music stands neck and neck with their British counterparts in Napalm Death. Instead of politics, these Flint miscreants’ prime interests are the graphic and grotesque, leaving an indelible mark on gore grind to this very day.
Nailbomb – Point Blank
Max Cavalera is responsible for some of the most brutal music the world has ever known. Even among a catalog that includes such juggernauts as Bestial Devastation and Chaos AD, this one-off project with Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport might very well tower above them all. Nailbomb‘s Point Blank is a sonic maelstrom of raw hardcore and sample-driven industrial madness, seamlessly invoking the spirits of Discharge and Skinny Puppy at their finest. A record that is as heavy as its provocative cover suggests.
Probot – Probot
Success is a paradox. Sure, it’s nice for your music to provide a degree of financial security and being recognized by the masses for your hard work is wonderful, but every inch of mainstream acceptance gained comes at the equal expense of underground cred. What’s a certified head like Dave Grohl to do? In his case, the answer is WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT! With mastermind Grohl at the curatorial helm and featuring contributions from Lemmy, King Diamond, Max Cavalera, Trouble’s Eric Wagner, Venom’s Cronos, Wino from Saint Vitus and Greg Anderson from Sunn O))). The resulting album is as cool as it sounds, with equal measures of titanic doom and blistering thrash expertly rendered with the kind of love and skill that could only come from a true connoisseur.
Mad Season – Above
Prolific as he was during his tragically short life, there will never be enough Layne Staley material to satiate our collective desire for his perfect, mournful voice. Short-lived supergroup Mad Season featured the aforementioned legendary vocalist along with Barrett Martin from Screaming Trees, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and John Baker Saunders from the Walkabouts, as well as contributions from Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell The project took a more experimentally varied approach to heavy music than the member’s main bands did, drawing on jazz, blues, folk and doom to create some of the most somber sounds of the grunge era. Sadly, most of the members are no longer with us.
Control Denied – The Fragile Art of Existence
Another band with amazing promise cut short by tragic circumstance, Control Denied was the brainchild of legendary Death mastermind Chuck Schuldiner. Formed as an outlet for Chuck’s more melodic material, their only album is The Fragile Art of Existence, a power metal masterpiece that expertly skirts the lines between the epic and the technical. The record is a soaring critical achievement and a cult favorite. Mandatory listening for all lovers of traditional heavy metal.
Demilich – Nespithe
One of the more agonized and complex records of death metal’s heyday, Finnish headbangers Demilich expertly merged brutal, blasting insanity with abstract harmony to create a bad trip like none other. With narration courtesy of some of the nastiest guttural grunts ever committed to tape, Nespithe is a seriously demented ride like none other. Approach with caution and handle with care.
Thorr’s Hammer – Dommedagsnatt
An impossibly short-lived doom-death metal project, Thorr’s Hammer nonetheless marked the beginning of one of the genre’s most prolific and important collaborations. Founded in Seattle by experimental hardcore musician Greg Anderson and artist Stephen O’Malley, the duo recruited Norwegian exchange student Runhild Gammelsaeter and set about sculpting a sonic monolith of unmitigated terror. Thorr’s Hammer only existed for six weeks, in which the band played two shows and recorded a handful of songs. O’Malley and Anderson formed Burning Witch upon the breakup of Thorr’s Hammer, later evolving into Sunn O))).
Thorns – Thorns
Helmed by mastermind Snorre Ruch, the man arguably responsible for the black metal tremolo riff as we know it, Thorns was an incredibly influential force in the second-wave Norwegian scene. However, the band was forced to go on hold when Ruch was charged as an accomplice to the murder of Euronymous and the hands of Varg Vikernes. Thorns’ lone studio album was released in 2001 and has become a cult classic. Musically adventurous in its use of electronics and embrace of industrial influences, the album is notable for the shared vocal talents of Satyr of Satyricon and Aldrahn of Dødheimsgard, as well as the presence of Mayhem‘s Hellhammer behind the drum kit. A cold, epic, and completely unique black metal ride.