The 12 Greatest Heavy Metal And Hard Rock Supergroups Of The Modern Era

By Doc Coyle (@DocCoyle)

I have a soft spot for supergroups. It gives me the same feeling as when Ghost Rider and the Punisher would crossover into The Amazing Spiderman for a few issues. It’s the same reason why I love the NBA All-Star game, and why I like ice cream with a bunch of stuff in it; Oreos, Reese’s peanut butter cups, cookie dough, and literally everything else. I am a glutton for the things I like, and I fantasize about what they would be like all mashed up. Heavy supergroups are like fantasy football for metal nerds.

I have an eerie feeling that many metalheads subtly despise the cash grabbing cynicism in the formation of supergroups, and secretly wish them to fail. We demand a lot of our rock heroes. We expect them to be artistically impervious without ever being too heavy-handed with capitalistic intent. This is a delicate balancing act: Musicians pretending to be earnest with their intentions in putting together an all-star act, while internally salivating over the marketing opportunities. Perhaps, I’m the cynic here.

Here are some disclaimers and factors that went into making the list: I factored the number and stature of rockers involved, quality of material produced, and how it influenced the music culture since it’s release. Reverse supergroups don’t count. I.E., Alter Bridge can’t be considered a supergroup, since Miles Kennedy wasn’t famous at the time of the band’s formation. Please keep in mind that this is just one man’s opinion, and although I think my opinion is way more awesome than yours, I’ll understand if you think I’m a dumbass. So, please no hate mail from the nerds who are butthurt that I didn’t include Liquid Tension Experiment.  Also, for future reference, I spend a lot of time making fun of nerds. I’m a lot like Ogre from the Revenge of the Nerds, so I apologize in advance.

12. Conquering Dystopia

“Ashes of Lesser Men” (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw9iofrBIvg
Members: Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), Keith Merrow, Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), Alex Rudinger (The Faceless)

This band is a modern metal nerd’s wet dream. In Jeff Loomis and Alex Webster, you have a couple of Hall of Famers who have been around for years in classic bands. If you don’t respect these guys, you don’t know metal at all. Keith Merrow found notoriety as a YouTube guitar virtuoso and gear aficionado. Alex Rudinger is the go-to drummer you hire because Terminators don’t exist yet. But he’s as close to a machine as you’ll get. Every one of these players is A+, and their instrumental debut absolutely slays! The riffs riff hard as fuck and the shred shreds all day.  It’s proggy while dodging the djent bullet. I hope they do another record soon.

 

11. Audioslave/Velvet Revolver

Audioslave, “Show Me How To Live”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVXIK1xCRpY
Velvet Revolver, “Slither”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKz2U4fvA4U
Members: Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) with Rage Against The Machine, Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) with Guns N Roses and that dude with the shaved head and sweet ‘stache that no one knows

I am considering this one band because the composition formulas were identical, and the band’s debuted at relatively the same time. Velvet Slave is the best combo name I could come up with. Their career arcs were very similar as well. Both released promising debut albums with a number of big hits, only to fade out of the spotlight with their follow ups, and became inactive due to strife with their enigmatic lead singers. Metalheads might not appreciate these bands, but they did their part to keep hard rock relevant and it reminds me how few true stars are left in heavy music that move the needle.

 

10.  Dimmu Borgir – Puritanical Eurphoric Misanthropia line-up

“Blessings Upon The Throne Of Tyranny” (Live In Wacken 2001)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs6UHh5HDdo
Old Members: Shagrath and Silenoz. New Members: Mustis (Susperia), ICS Vortex (Borknagar), Galder (Old Man’s Child), Nick Barker (Cradle of Filth)

By the late 90’s, Dimmu Borgir had already made it’s mark as a respected band in the Norwegian black metal underground . Although Mustis and ICS Vortex had joined on 1997’s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, Dimmu pulled off a 2010 Miami Heat by grabbing the most talented members of their black metal peers and creating a masterpiece album, Puritanical Eurphoric Misanthropia. Keyboardist, Mustis, was the architect behind the band’s new found John Williams-esque arrangements and orchestration. Bassist ICS Vortex, brought operatic backing vocals that made Dimmu truly stand out. Galder, the head honcho from Old Man’s Child, brought guitar riffs that ripped your face off. It’s somewhat ironic that Cradle of Filth’s scorned, exiled and legendary ex-drummer, Nick Barker, came on to help Dimmu Borgir supplant Cradle as the world’s most successful symphonic black metal act. The line-up didn’t last, but the material created with this nucleus is exquisite.

9. The Damned Things

“We’ve Got A Situation Here”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMANR-wrg7o
Members: Keith Buckley and Josh Newton (Everytime I Die), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Rob Caggiano (Anthrax, Volbeat), Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy)

I have to give full disclosure in that this pick is completely biased on my behalf. I am in love with their sole release, Ironiclast. It’s hooky without feeling contrived, and has more in common with Thin Lizzy than the cookie cutter bands that dominate Active Rock radio. I have no data or even a feel for how much of an impact this band has made on the public at large, but I think their praises should be heard just based on how random the unification of the members was. Prior to the album’s release, no one could presume what we going to get. What we got didn’t sound like any of the member’s original bands, and that shows boldness and creative fortitude. Check out Iconiclast if you can.

 

8. Brujeria

“La Migra (Cruza La Frontera II)”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0kCRbSyjmo
Former and Current Members: Dino Cazares and Raymond Herrera (Fear Factory), Jello Biafra (The Dead Kennedys), Shane Embry and Jesse Pintado (Napalm Death), Jeff Walker (Carcass), Billy Gould (Faith No More), Nick Barker (Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir), Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates, The Haunted), Daniel Erlandsson (Arch Enemy), Patrik Jensen (The Haunted), Tony Campos (Static X, Soulfly), and many, many more

My feelings on Brujeria are pretty much the exact opposite of how I feel about The Damned Things. I am actually not a huge fan and haven’t spent a lot of time listening to their music. But the band’s roster reads like a fucking Dream Team of metal musicians that just can’t be ignored. If you continuously attract A level talent to your band for 20 years, you are doing something right. Brujeria was formed in part to pay homage to the Latino metal community. I had a chance to see them perform live in L.A. in 2007, and the Latino metal scene came out in full force and went absolutely apeshit. It’s not my bag, but Brujeria earned my full respect by creating a signature sound for a crowd that was underrepresented in heavy metal.

 

7. Them Crooked Vultures

“Caligulove”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMARYFxJOqY
Members: Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)

In terms of the collective resumes and pure talent, no other band on this list is really in the same class as Them Crooked Vultures. These 3 gentlemen are true heavyweights and rock royalty. What their self-titled debut lacked in hit-worthy singles, more than made for in capturing a vibe that transported you to an atmosphere of smoky cool. Josh Homme has the uncanny ability to vicariously make you feel as cool as he is. This is seductive, cinematic, trippy desert rock. Collaborations of this magnitude need to be appreciated. And oh yeah, they also have a guy from Led Zeppelin. Checkmate.

6. Killer Be Killed

“Snakes Of Jehovah”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg3mhoHjdXE
Members: Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Dave Elitch (Mars Volta)

Killer Be Killed is one of the few examples of a supergroup where the sum is exactly what you imagined the parts would sound like all together. The crux of KBK’s sound draws mostly from Cavalera’s catalogue, but everyone’s mark is felt. One of the elements that makes them so interesting is that you have 3 different lead singers in one band, and each guy gets their chance to shine. It’s particularly awesome to hear Puciato wail over music that is a bit more straightforward than Dillinger. The world also needs to pay attention to drummer, Dave Elitch, who is a star in his own right. I’m crossing my fingers I get a chance to see this band live.

 

5. Testament – The Gathering line-up

“D.N.R (Do Not Resuscitate)”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfIUhR875as
Old Members: Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson. New Members: Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Sadus, Autopsy, Iced Earth, etc), James Murphy (Death, Obituary) Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson. New Members: Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Sadus, Autopsy, Iced Earth, etc), James Murphy (Death, Obituary)

I love when bands take the path less traveled. Like many of their thrashing peers, Testament seemed to be following the trajectory of thrash to hard rock like Metallica and Anthrax with the release of The Ritual in 1992. In the midst of big line-up changes, the band pulled an about face and went heavier and heavier with each subsequent release culminating with 1999’s album entitled, The Gathering, which may even be a nod to the assembly of talent. I love old Testament, but I think The Gathering is their best album, from top-to-bottom. It’s thrashy, but also modern and groovy. Dave Lombardo brought one of his most electric drum performances to a band not known for standout drumming and engineer Andy Sneap’s mix is still sonically mind blowing. A timeless album.

 

4.  Fantomas  The Dillinger Escape Plan with Mike Patton

“When Good Dogs Do Bad Things”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27X4J6pElIc
Members:  Ben Weinman, Liam Wilson, Greg Puciato, Billy Rymer, James Love

When I was assembling this list, I penciled in Fantomas as a no brainer because any band featuring Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo, and King Buzzo HAD to be included. Then, I went back to listen to their debut album. I was unmoved. On the other hand, the 4 song EP, Irony is a Dead Scene, which Patton recorded with The Dillinger Escape Plan, still makes me turn my head sideways by it’s inventiveness.  The EP accomplished a few things that still matter today: It gave DEP a credibility that essentially graduated them to an elite class of bands. It further let us know that Mike Patton was someone with his ear to the underground and was a true artist. Vocally, Patton set the bar so high, that it forced them to find a star as their next vocalist. Greg Puciato might not be here without Mike Patton.

3. Bloodbath

“Church of Vastitas” 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whjf6LKmFYQ
Former and Current Members: Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström, Jonas Renske, and Per Eriksson (Katatonia), Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain),Martin Axenrot (Opeth, Witchery), Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost)

Bloodbath has a lot going for them on this list. First off, the collection of musicians is unfuckwithable. Secondly, almost no other supergroup can boast such a vast and stellar catalogue. I am not the death metal aficionado I was in my youth, but Bloodbath delightfully hearkens back to the 1990’s Tampa death metal scene and early Dissection. Bloodbath is refreshing in the modern era where many of the plateaus of extremity have already been breached, and the genre is searching for new paths of innovation.  They may have started as a side project, but the quality of the material is regarded as such that now the band has a following that rivals many of death metal’s elite. What they’ve done is commendable.

 

2. S.O.D. aka Stormtroopers of Death
“Sargent D and the S.O.D.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQG57-fONPI
Members: Scott Ian and Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Billy Milano (M.O.D.), Danny Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth, Anthrax)

I was only a little kid when S.O.D. premiered, but in a time before YouTube and Spotify, the legend of certain bands would circulate around the hardcore scene. If you weren’t there to experience the old Bad Brains shows or Gorilla Biscuits or Cro Mags, you just missed it. The band members were legends in their own right, but S.O.D. carried an influence that swarmed around my upbringing as a fan of heavy music, and permeates to this day. S.O.D. was a band that seemed to carry equal sway with hardcore kids and metalheads alike. They still matter. They are probably still the flagship for the Crossover music culture that was distinct to that era of the New York music scene.

 

1. Down

“Stone The Crow” (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8cUUtOJVSQ
Members: Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown(Pantera), Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity), Kirk Windstein and Todd Strange (Crowbar), Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod, Crowbar), Pat Bruders (Crowbar, Goatwhore)

Although the numerical order of this list is mostly inconsequential, I would undoubtedly site Down as the greatest heavy supergroup of the modern era.  There have been several member changes in the past few years, but I am speaking to the core line-up that wrote and recorded the bulk of the material released. The amazing thing is that in Phil, Pepper, Kirk, and Jimmy, you had 4 guys who were essentially the band leaders of their respective original bands, yet somehow found a way to not let egos interrupt the chemistry and flow. Kirk and Pepper are great singers in their own right, but let Phil own his lane. It’s the New Orleans best of the best in one band, and had no stench of cash grabbing opportunism. Down produced one all-time great album in the history of hard rock and metal, Nola, and several other very good releases. Perhaps with the loss of Dimebag and Pantera, some of the novelty and sheen of Down has worn off since we never thought they would be the active band they are currently. Down is as good a consolation prize we are going to get in Pantera’s absence, so let’s do our best to appreciate them while they still exist.

Honorable Mentions: The Winery Dogs, Temple of the Dog, Kingdom of Sorrow, Capharnum, Arch Enemy (Current line-up), Mad Season, Old Man Gloom, Corrections House

[Photo: Getty Images]