In this edition of Top Shelf Tuesday, we will take a look at thirteen (unlucky for “some”) bands who have released somewhat underrated albums.
Sometimes we should go back and have another listen. So here’s your chance to re-spark some old flames even if it’s just for one last burn.
Vision of Disorder: From Bliss to Devastation (2001)
The fourth studio release for New York Hardcore outfit Vision of Disorder turned some heads. Unlike the debut self-titled LP, Vision of Disorder (1996) or the crushing follow-up, Imprint (1998), both released via Roadrunner Records, a change in label to TVT Records, home to Alternative Metallers Sevendust, saw a focus on Alternative Metal. A year later the group split with vocalist Tim Williams and guitarist Mike Kennedy breathing more life into Alternative music with Bloodsimple.
So if the band never took a risk with music that they wanted to play, we never would have got to see two great albums from Bloodsimple; A Cruel World (2005) and Red Harvest (2007). No need for VOD fans to threat as both Williams and Kennedy have restarted the beast, unleashing both The Cursed Remain Cursed (2012) and Razed to the Ground (2015), via their new home with Candlelight Records. Great things are on the horizon for VOD with these two albums being critically acclaimed as a incredible return to form. But in all honesty the form was never gone to begin with, only a much needed break was on the cards, as everyone needs a holiday.
Standout tracks: Living to Die, Southbound, On the Table, Pretty Hate.
Slayer: Diabolus in Musica (1998)
With their eighth record, produced by Rick Rubin, Slayer who was known for their relentless thrash, having released such classics as Reign in Blood (1986) and the like shocked the masses with this slab of groove metal known as Diabolus In Musica.
Leaning more towards Nu-Metal rather than thrash it is also an album which got those who only listened to Alternative metal into Slayer which is a good thing. The Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King duo as always were in fine form with Paul Bostaph (Forbidden, Systematic, Grip Inc.) also an underrated drummer behind the kit.
Standout tracks: Bitter Peace, Stain of Mind, Death’s Head, and Scrum.
Anthrax: Volume 8: The Threat is Real (1998)
It seemed to be the thing to do at the time for thrash bands, either that or coincidence also in 1998 and with their eighth record, like Slayer, thrash outfit Anthrax, produced what somewhat sounded a great deal like Alternative/Groove Metal.
With the help of an expert in the genre of groove metal from none other than guitar legend, Dimebag Darrell (Pantera, Damageplan), providing solos on both Inside Out and Killing Box. Dime would make a return appearance on the follow-up, We’ve Come for You All (2003)
This album, in particular, is one that you either love or loathe. It may not stand up to what some would refer as the highlight of the John Bush era with the iconic, Sound of White Noise (1993) or where Dime made his debut cameo with King Size and Riding Shotgun, on Stomp 442 (1995); however it is one record which has stood the test of time as an underrated gem.
Standout tracks: Crush, Inside Out, Born Again Idiot, Killing Box, Harm’s Way, Hog Tied.
Mötley Crüe: Mötley Crüe (1994)
The sixth record for glam rockers, Mötley Crüe was the only not to feature Vince Neil on vocals, which allowed a heavier side of the Crüe to unravel. Record sales for the album were a flop due to fan base not agreeing with the change in vocalists. John Corabi (The Scream), however, does a mighty fine job and with songs like the hard hitting ‘Smoke the Sky’ and ‘Hooligan’s Holiday’ it is one underrated album which deserves your attention.
Standout tracks: Hooligans Holiday, Misunderstood, Smoke the Sky
Machine Head: The Burning Red (1999)
Produced by Ross Robinson (Korn, At The Drive-In, Slipknot), the third album by groove metallers, Machine Head, borrowed a page or two from Nu-Metal, a genre which some say destroyed metal at the time, however metal never really went away.
Guitarist Logan Mader (Once Human, Medication) was replaced by Ahrue Luster (Ill Niño), who provided a melodic style of guitar to the music. Many fans weren’t impressed with the change and accused their beloved band of ‘selling out’ after the back to back masterpieces, Burn My Eyes (1994) and The More Things Change… (1997)
Through the Ashes of Empires (2003) saw a return to the earlier sound Machine Head was known for, thanks in part to additional guitarist Phil Demmel, Rob Flynn’s bandmate from the thrashing Vio-Lence. Say what you will but Flynn’s ego trip of a single ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ (2015), a stab at Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Superjoint, Down, Scour), is much worse than anything off the 1999 album, cringe worthy, to say the least. So give “The Burning Red” another listen, as it truly is an underrated album.
Standout tracks: Desire to Fire, From this Day, The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears, Nothing Left, Message in a Bottle.
Rancid: Indestructible (2003)
The sixth album for Californian punk rockers, Rancid, received its criticism from fans due to its poppier side however it had your fair share of hardcore infused outburst in the form of ‘David Courtney’, ‘Out of Control’ and the like. Mixing in just the right amount of ska and inclusion of Skinhead Bob, a bandmate from Tim Armstrong’s project, The Transplants, who raps on ‘Red Hot Moon’. This underrated album makes for a great summer record, worthy of a spin.
The album also dealt with Armstrong’s divorce from with Brody Dale (The Distillers) and the death of Lars Frederiksen‘s brother, Robert. The inspirational Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone also both died during the recording of the album, with Strummer mentioned in the title track, “And I keep listening to the great Joe Strummer cause through music, we can live forever.”
Rancid is one of those bands who doesn’t seem to age in sound, with their most recent, Trouble Maker (2017) a return to form. Produced by Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion), it was last to feature original drummer, Brett Reed before he was replaced by current drummer, Branden Steineckert. (The Used)
Standout tracks: Fall Back Down, Indestructible, Red Hot Moon, David Courtney, Travis Bickle, Out of Control and Arrested in Shanghai.
Clutch: Blast Tyrant (2004)
Sixth album for the hard-rocking Clutch fused stoner rock with hardcore punk and the heavy blues they are renowned for. All of Clutch’s records are great in their own right however, Blast Tyrant, is one of the groups best, yet underrated offerings.
From the heavy opener, Mercury to album closer, WYSIWYG, there is something in there for every mood. Check out the cool music video below of The Mob Goes Wild, which was created by the late Ryan Dunn, better known for his tom-foolery as one of the pranksters off MTV’s Jackass.
Standout tracks: The Mob Goes Wild, Burning Beard, The Regulator, Profits of Doom, Mercury.
Pantera: Reinventing the Steel (2000)
The ninth and sadly final release for Pantera is overshadowed by its predecessors with the likes of Cowboys from Hell (1990), Vulgar Display of Power (1992), Far Beyond Driven (1994) and even the darkness and demons unleashed with personal favourite, The Great Southern Trendkill (1996).
Reinventing the Steel must be listened over to understand how much of an underrated masterpiece it really is. There is not a dud track on the album. Quite simply Pantera never released a dud and this album may be no Cowboys from Hell, however it is a beast of a record in its own right. Groove metal at its best with the likes of ‘Revolution is My Name’ and ‘Goddamn Electric’. You even have your onslaught of ‘Hellbound’ to start things off in the style of ‘Strength Beyond Strength’.
Standout tracks: Revolution is My Name, Death Rattle, Goddamn Electric, Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit
Life of Agony: Soul Searching Sun (1997)
Ever since the debut, River Runs Red (1993), with its groove/sludge metal on display, Brookyln’s Life of Agony, a capital known for its hardcore punk scene; have been turning heads in the music scene. This album perhaps turned heads for the wrong reasons with similarities to post-grunge. Core-member, Sal Abruscato (Type O Negative, A Pale Horse Named Death) left after the recording of Ugly (1995) and was replaced on drums by Dan Richardson.
For what it’s worth this is a brilliant hard rock album, showcasing the vocal abilities of one Keith Caputo. Having split not long after with Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe) replacing Caputo on tour, a comeback album, Broken Valley (2005) was short-lived after a second break-up, however, the original line-up is back now with Abruscato returning behind the kit on A Place Where There’s No More Pain. (2017) Caputo, now known as Mina breathes new life in the LOA camp where the sky’s the limit.
Standout tracks: Hope, Weeds, Heroin Dreams, Lead You Astray, and Tangerine
Soundgarden: Down on the Upside (1996)
With Soundgarden‘s fifth effort, less heavy than previous material, self-produced by the band, the album was ahead of its time. Tensions between band members caused a split the year prior with the band, of course, reuniting and the tragic loss of talented frontman, Chris Cornell only recently. It without a doubt only now the album is getting the attention it should have years ago as it is truly one of those underrated classics, showing the experimental side of one tight group of musicians.
Standout tracks: Pretty Noose, Rhinosaur, Blow up the Outside World, No attention, Burden in My Hand.
Pearl Jam: No Code
With a lengthy back catalogue of ten full-length records, there is bound to be one underrated album’s which stands out and that would have to be the iconic “grunge” acts’ fourth release. Grunge is a term many bands, which were part of the Seattle sound are pigeonholed into, nothing has changed as bands are thrown into genres, where other’s may disagree, there is no right or wrong.
This album, in particular, gave birth to some classic Pearl Jam tunes. ‘Hail, Hail’ and ‘Off He Goes’; unlike songs such as ‘Alive’, from the debut Ten (1991), the follow-up Vs (1993), with ‘Daughter’ and even Vitalogy (1994) with ‘Better Man’; had no music videos to promote the album. It is one underrated classic that belongs in your vinyl or CD collection.
Standout tracks: Hail, Hail, Who You Are, Off He Goes, Sometimes, In My Tree
Alice in Chains: Alice in Chains (1995)
The final release for legendary frontman Layne Staley; before the reformed William Duvall lead AIC, who are releasing great material might I add since the release of Black Gives Way to Blue (2009); sadly the last time for the vocal harmonies of Staley and guitarist, Jerry Cantrell which work wonders on this album.
Way ahead of its time and the inspiration behind many bands that you hear today. Godsmack, for example, named their band after the track from the masterpiece, Dirt (1993) and the vocal style of Staley, known as “crooning” is one which vocalists have imitated however cannot match the originator. Definitely a must-have!
Standout tracks: Grind, Again, Frogs, Heaven Beside You.
Live: Secret Samadhi (1997)
Although the album did well on the charts, debuting at number one in The Billboard Charts on its release in 1997, it remains a personal favourite from Live. For people into heavier music, it is a great album to start on with the song most know, ‘Lakin’s Juice’, however, there are hidden gems in the form of the music violence of ‘Heropsychodreamer’ and darkness of ‘Ghost’.
Published by Jay Healy, his first since their cassette EP Divided Mind, Divided Planet (1990), the album will surely turn some heads and hopefully gain more fans as it is an underrated classic, which stands up there with the one album, which brought a breakthrough in the mainstream, Throwing Copper (1994).
Standout tracks: Rattlesnake, Heropsychodreamer, Lakini’s Juice, Freaks, Turn my Head, Ghost, Century.