Recently on an episode of The Metal Dad Radio Show we had a brief discussion about bands that put out one record and promptly vanished from the face of the Earth. There’s a ton of them out there – some have become cult favorites, others lost to the ages. Regardless of their current status I thought I’d give a list of some of my favorite one-and-done albums.
I’ve seen a bunch of lists like this floating around the interwebs so I thought I’d lay some ground rules. First, the band in question can not have released any other material over 10 minutes in length. So if Band X released a five-song EP to go along with their lone full-length album then they are unfortunately disqualified from this list. (See the Honorable Mentions below for some of the bands that get included on other lists but won’t here.) Lastly, we aren’t going to count comp tracks, demos or splits releases. If we did, then this list would literally consist of about three bands, if that.
The last thing to keep in mind is that this is by far a comprehensive list. My hope is to just shine a light on some of my personal favorite albums that may eventually be forgotten by the metal historians. Presented in (pseudo) chronological order…
Sentinel Beast – Depths of Death (1986)
Five demos and a comp track are all that exist from Sacramento’s Sentinel Beast outside of their lone full-length released in 1986 via Metal Blade. I have no idea why this band broke up after only one album but with the recent reissue of this record there’s hope they will soon rise from the grave and record again. Sentinel Beast not only played a ripping brand of thrash metal they were one of the first metal bands to feature a female lead vocalist. Outside of Warlock and Bitch that was relatively unheard of in 1986 – and Sentinel Beast was heavier and darker than both those bands. It could be argued that if Sentinel Beast had held it together long enough we’d be heaping a ton more praise on them as thrash metal pioneers in a sense.
Repulsion – Horrified (1989)
This one is a slam dunk. One of the greatest grind/death metal albums of all-time. This band not only helped invent grindcore with this album but they took the still young death metal genre and threw down the gauntlet, challenging anyone to even attempt to be as extreme. Yet, even though they’ve been reunited for over ten years now and continue to play festivals all over the world, they have still never recorded a follow up to this masterpiece. From what I’ve read I don’t think they plan to either. I guess they subscribe to the idiom that if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it. Or in this case, if you’ve already come so close to perfection…screw it.
Carnage – Dark Recollections (1990)
Another easy one. You know that awesome, buzz-saw guitar, “Swedish sound” that took over our collective metal psyche throughout the 90s and completely set the bar for a worldwide scene? It would be an understatement to say that Carnage and their one full-length album had a hand in that. Carnage is one of the few bands on this list whose members would also go on to bigger and better things. Mike Amott would, of course, join Carcass before forming both Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars. Three of the four remaining members would go on to form Dismember. Needless to say this was a death metal super group before we even knew what such a thing was.
Demilich – Nespithe (1993)
One of the most infamous and brutal bands to ever come out of a pretty infamous and brutal scene. Finland’s Demilich spent years toiling in demo hell before finally releasing their lone full-length album in 1993, then promptly imploded two years later. With some of the most brutal (or ridiculous depending on your perspective) vocals to ever be belched from the bowels of the death metal scene, Demilich instantly stood out from other death metal acts. They also stood out though for being one of the first death metal bands to play around with interesting time signatures and some off-kilter riffs. (I promise you Gorguts didn’t actually invent that style of death metal contrary to current popular beliefs…)
Disincarnate – Dreams of the Carrion Kind (1993)
There are those that would argue that this was nothing more than a James Murphy vanity project. I’m of the mindset that if you’ve spending time shredding in Death, Obituary, and Testament (among others) in your career you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want. The best part about this album is, obviously, the guitar work but it has a lot more to offer than just some of the nastiest and catchiest riffs/solos you’ll ever hear on a death metal record…but those riffs and solos are worth the price of admission alone. There’s been rumors for at least a decade that Murphy is working on a follow up Discarnate album. We’ll believe it when we see it and until then this album can rest happily on this list and ever other of its ilk.
Siege – Drop Dead (1994)
Emerging out of the Boston punk/hardcore scene, Siege played a nasty, violent style that appealed to metalheads just as much as it did the punk kids. Credited with helping to perfect the crust/d-beat sound, Siege are today considered one of the most influential punk bands to ever crossover onto metal record players and tape decks. Drop Dead was technically a compilation album that culled together songs from the original Drop Dead demo and comp tracks. It stands as the only “full-length” album the band ever put out. Bless those bastards at Relapse for gifting all this sonic violence to us in one place.
Acme – To Reduce the Choir to One Soloist (1996)
Speaking of metal-friendly hardcore acts, allow me to introduce some of you to Germany’s Acme. In the mid-90s the term “metalcore” wasn’t the dirty word it is today. Bands like Assück, Integrity, Coalesce, and Converge (among many, many others) were taking their punk rock education to metal campuses with aplomb. Acme though was one of the heaviest acts yet. Their lone U.S. release in 1996 through Edison Recordings was a comp album filled with songs from various splits and demos that were virtually impossible to find in the States. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to name my three favorite hardcore records of all-time this album would be one of the three. It’s pure aggression from beginning to end (plus includes one of the best movie samples you’ll ever hear).
Agents of Oblivion – s/t (2000)
In the late 90s one of the most underrated bands in the entire metal world was New Orleans’ Acid Bath. After only two albums and the untimely death of their bass player, Acid Bath decided to call it quits. Their guitar player, Sammy Pierre Duet, would go on to play with Crowbar and eventually help form Goatwhore (who he still plays with today). But vocalist, Dax Riggs, would go on to form Agents of Oblivion. Their lone, self-titled album, released in 2000 through Rotten Records, is quite honestly a landmark in psych/stoner rock. It’s as beautiful as it is devastatingly emotive, and covered in a thick sheen of New Orleans sludge. Certainly not the heaviest album you’ll ever hear but a pretty powerful one nonetheless
The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight – s/t (2000)
Again, not the heaviest band you’re going to find on this list, or anywhere else for that matter, but any band that starts as a side project from members of EyeHateGod and Crowbar is worthy of any list. Clearlight, as it was often shortened to, was an instrumental project whose sole purpose was to jam the eff out. Long before the entire stoner rock scene was fixated on simply regurgitating the entire decade of the 1970s, Clearlight took the old psych and acid rock of the era and infused it with a little Southern charm. Besides a couple splits with Acid King and Pentagram, Clearlight has been relatively silent since this one full-length release. I can remember at one point back in the day the band openly inviting people to try out for the vacant vocalist spot. There was also a rumor that Pepper Kennan of C.O.C. fame would become the permanent vocalist after he filled the role for their Lynyrd Skynyrd cover that was recorded for the split with Pentagram. Alas, the correct answer was apparently none of the above.
Mythical Beast – Scales (2008)
Last, but certainly not least, the band that started this whole conversation on our radio show. Mythical Beast has a long and complicated history that included being displaced after Hurricane Katrina and stops in multiple cities. But along the way they delivered one of the most unique and magical records you’ll ever hear. 2008’s Scales was a masterwork of minimalist doom metal. One part sonic nightmare and one part sacred ritual, Mythical Beast were unlike any band I have heard before or since. (Ed. Note: I reached out to the label that originally released this album to find out just what the hell happened and received a quick response. Apparently the singer and guitar player are living off the grid in a yurt in New Mexico and the bass player returned to New Orleans. The true essence of a once-in-a-lifetime album it looks like.)
Two bands that always pop up on these types of lists are Winter and Disembowelment. Unfortunately for the rules we’ve set up here both bands released relatively lengthy EPs to go alongside their lone full-length albums. Two seminal acts for sure, just not eligible for inclusion thanks to my completely arbitrary rules of the game. That also goes for a band from my own backyard, blasphemous black metal horde Ipsissimus, who if it not for an EP to go along with their lone full-length album would absolutely be on this list.
If I cheated a bit and included compilation albums from the likes of Siege and Acme I probably should have included Rad Jackson, the 2002 compilation album from Hemdale. It was the closest thing they ever had to a full-length album, featuring songs from a ton of splits. The reason why I didn’t comes down to splitting hairs. The releases from Siege and Acme were packaged and marketed as full-length albums. The Hemdale record never was, and was only ever considered a catch-all for the songs that appear on still-available split releases. Frankly, I think the only reason Relapse even put it out was because Hemdale was supposed to actually deliver a full-length album to them, but never did. A somewhat cranky reason to not include them, I know. Regardless, go listen to Hemdale. You’ll be weirder for it.
Lastly, I confined my list to bands who released one full-length album. I’ve often seen Hellhammer on these lists but Hellhammer never released a full-length record. Just an EP that was re-released six years later. Also in that boat is Human Remains. Their seminal Using Sickness as a Hero release often pops up on similar lists. However, those seven manic blasts of grind amount to only 17 minutes run time. Not a full-length album. Again, go listen to Hellhammer and Human Remains anyway.
While the metal world is littered with long-running acts like Iron Maiden and Slayer, sometimes you just need to catch lightening in a bottle to leave your mark on the scene.