Metal has had its share of supergroups over the years, from Hear ‘N Aid to Dudes of Wrath, but over the past two decades the metal underground has increasingly shown an aptitude for teamwork. Every year seems to bring an unexpected new experience in the studio between some of gaming’s best bands (and The Body is involved the most often). Over the past few weeks, for example, Mizmor and Thou have released their new epic song-inspired series, Myopia (which if you haven’t heard, go fix it right away). There are almost certainly many more on the horizon, but in the meantime, here are 10 of the best metal collaboration albums, ranging from math-metal newbies sharing the studio with a vocal acrobat, and a peak of gothic metal a half a decade in the making.
Dillinger and Mike Patton’s Escape Plan – Irony is a dead scene
In 2002 Greg Puciato joined The Dillinger Escape Plan as vocalist, replacing Dmitri Minakakis who left the band after 1999. Calculation of infinity. But during the brief period the band was without a full-time frontman, interim ringer Mike Patton stepped in for a four-song EP that pitted vocal acrobatics against feats of instrumental contortionism. Considering Patton is always between half a dozen projects at any given time, it’s understandable that this only resulted in one EP, but Irony is a dead scene, as it is, is staggering. The carnival math program of “Pig Latin”, the hyper-aggressive assault of “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things” and the cracking cover of Aphex Twin’s “Come To Daddy” – it’s a mind-blowing nightmare worth repeating.
Neurosis & Jarboe – Neurosis and Jarboe
Neurosis’ unique apocalyptic metal style has, since their 1992 album Zero Souls, had a special kinship with Swans’ sinister noise-rock vocals. Which, in hindsight, makes their long collaboration with former Swans frontman Jarboe seem almost inevitable. In 2003, Jarboe joined Neurosis for an album collaboration that already worked brilliantly on paper and proved considerably more interesting in practice. Not as terribly intense as an album like Through the money in the blood or Children of God, it’s a slightly more discreet performance by the two artists, a sort of slow-burning malaise that worries the air and coats the lungs. And even weirder than the potential for the collaboration suggests, by the way – it could have been a full-throttle blowout and end-times fanfare, but the fact that it’s only the suggestion of such things to come makes it all the more effective.
Boris and Michio Kurihara – Rainbow
A year after their epic 2005 album Pink– as well as collaborations with Sunn O))) and Merzbow – Boris found another kindred spirit in Michio Kurihara of Japanese psych band Ghost (not Swedish hard rock band, also called Ghost). It’s arguably a less explicitly metal record than most of their output, though there’s plenty of dense, muddy guitar in songs like “Rafflesia” and “Starship Narrator.” But it’s in moments like the bluesy psychedelic rock of “You Laughed Like a Water Mark” where the collaboration reaches its most glorious heights, with guitars both hypnotically beautiful and soaring into the abyss in style. Maggot Brain. Every Boris album is a necessary listen for anyone who loves guitars, but that goes double for Rainbow.
Sunn O))) and Scott Walker – soaked
The origins of the collaboration between Scott Walker and Sunn O))) soaked dates back to 2009, when the drone-doom duo contacted the legendary crooner/iconoclastic art rock to lend his voice to a track on their album Monoliths and Dimensions. When he couldn’t commit due to a scheduling conflict, he returned to work with the band on a new project, which eventually became 2014’s. soaked. It’s a couple coming works-although Sunn O)))’s music is mostly instrumental, they have long existed in a dark avant-garde space adjacent to Walker’s albums like The drift. But what’s most surprising here is how, at times, it becomes one of the most accessible offerings from either artist; that there’s a riff in “Brando” that includes an actual melody rather than an oozing drone is something of a eureka moment. Not that the ooze drones aren’t there, but when these two provocateurs join forces, they come upon some kind of oddity that neither of the two individually quite suggested.
Cult of Luna & Julie Noël – Marine
Singer Julie Christmas has lent her vocals to some pretty massive rock and metal songs through her bands Battle of Mice and Made Out of Babies, making her a sort of akin spirit to epic Swedish post-metal band Cult of Luna. Christmas’ vocals are a haunting counterpoint to the band’s soaring and progressive compositions on Marine, his melodic vocal style, a hypnotic and versatile instrument that offers a striking contrast to the group’s monolithic compositions. And that’s no understatement – none of these five epics are longer than eight minutes each – but when Christmas howls at full power on a track like “The Wreck of SS Needle”, even the most soaring moments end up becoming dazzling and immediate.
Sumac & Keiji Haino – American dollar bill…
Sumac is a band defined by a unique internal chemistry, the music they spawn from elements of improvisation, and a sort of telepathic connection between its three members as heard on the epic explorations of albums such as 2018. love in the shadows. The addition of a fourth musician might seem like something that would potentially change the very core of the band, but it’s also the kind of variable the band is particularly suited for. The first of two albums with prolific Japanese noise artist Keiji Haino, American dollar bill is overwhelmingly intense at times, yet both fluid and almost instinctive in the way the two artists combine their strengths in a display of total sonic annihilation. Working in unison, Haino and Sumac achieve a sort of ecstatic chaos, something akin to the spiritual exaltations of free jazz but through the filter of metal.
Uniform & Body – Everything that dies one day comes back
Blessed with a title borrowed from a lyric by Bruce Springsteen Nebraska and bathed in gothic darkness, the team’s second album Uniform and The Body saw the two bands take flight as collaborators. Moving further away from pure noise aesthetics and embracing more twisted melodic sounds, together they reach a pinnacle of industrial metal malevolence that ranks among the best works in either band’s catalog. Everything that dies one day comes back finds beauty in terror and glory in darkness – and sometimes even a real dance floor destroyer, as with the Reznor-worthy EBM pulse of “Vacancy”. It’s not without curve balls, like the trap beats of “Patron Saint of Regret” or the choppy, screwed sound of “Day of Atonement,” but even embracing their weirdest instincts, everything that dies finds both Uniform and The Body tapping into their greatest strengths.
Space Waste Orchestra – Synthesis
Finnish space-metal supergroup Waste of Space Orchestra features members of two aesthetically different yet cosmically aligned bands: Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising. The band reunited for an hour-long performance at the Roadburn Festival in 2018, and a year later translated that into a mind-blowing psychedelic metal odyssey, titled Synthesis. It plays to each band’s strengths, the dense, muddy guitars of Dark Buddha Rising and the alien invasion horror atmosphere of Oranssi Pazuzu. Each successive track feels like being sucked deeper into a demonic dimension, a weird, terrifying but weirdly fun experience all the same.
You and Emma Ruth Rundle – Let our rooms be full
Another pairing made possible by the collaborative nature of the only festival of its kind Roadburn, Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle’s Let our rooms be full is too good an idea to happen just once. The execution, however, is even better than the simple equation would imply, Rundle’s spacious and darkly devastating songwriting style backed by one of the best (and indeed most prolific) bands in metal. Americans. In seven tracks, they cover a lot of ground, from the hook-laden grunge of “Ancestral Recall” to the soaring and climactic closer “The Valley.” It’s one of Thou and Rundle’s most versatile and surprising materials; there’s a good reason we named it our album of the year.
Convergence with Chelsea Wolfe and Stephen Brodsky – Blood Moon: I
Converge first designed the seed of Blood Moon: I in 2016, when they put together a one-off live set that featured none of their two-minute mathcore piledrivers and instead included the longer, more spacious dirges from the band’s post-Jane Doe release. This set included a number of notable guest musicians, including Chelsea Wolfe, who joined the band – along with Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky – for a set of newly recorded songs tied together by a similar aesthetic. It’s a very different kind of album for Converge (the opening d-beat of “Viscera of Men” being the most recognizable hardcore moment here), if not a bit less for Wolfe, very much in his element, but through and wide it’s a magnificent set of songs, a grand, gothic concept pulled off by a team of metal heavyweights with both the vision and the chops to pull it off.
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