Supergroups seem to fall into three categories. Firstly we have the superb ones, where every member lives up to the excellence for which they are known, unfortunately these bands seem to be extremely rare. Most supergroups seem to fall into the ‘meh’ category; these are bands whose music, although satisfactory, wouldn’t grab your attention if it wasn’t for the high profile of its members. Lastly we have the failures; the bands who forgot that to be a supergroup requires more than just a headline-grabbing lineup.
In this, the first in a series of 3 blogs, I will look at a prime example of each type of supergroup from the world of metal, before moving onto rock and prog in the following installments.
The Miserable: Hellyeah
In 2006 Mudvayne duo Chad Gray and Greg Tribbett joined forces with Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, drummer Vinnie Paul, of Pantera fame and (short-lived) bassist Jerry Montano, to form metal supergroup Hellyeah. Their debut was a solid attempt at groove metal, filled with whiskey-soaked riffs and enraged vocals, but failed to highlight the musicianship of the five-piece. Stampede followed in 2010 and was more of the same; a few gems hidden beneath a collection of fairly-average metal tracks.
It wasn’t until their third attempt, Band of Brothers, that they earned this place on the list. This release played like a self-parody, with cheap vocals that talked of alcohol, aggression and band brotherhood, riffs stolen straight from Pantera and ultimately a lack of creative ideas that had been affecting their work from day one. The inspiration for this blog came with the announcement of a fourth record and the premiere of two new tracks that once again fail to live up to what a Mudvayne-Nothingface-Pantera collaboration should be.
The Meh: Adrenaline Mob
When Mike Portnoy and Russell Allen, from progressive metal titans Dream Theater and Symphony X respectively, came together with an extremely talented guitarist in the form of Mike Orlando, the results should have been stupendous. However, as their first lead single summed up quite nicely, the results were decidedly Indifferent. Their first two albums Omerta and Men of Honor are littered with great pieces of guitar work (like the pinch harmonics in Psychosane), as well as Allen’s trademark powerful vocals, but sadly they rarely seem to coexist. It’s a shame that this band’s true potential hasn’t been met, but with a constantly evolving lineup (three out, two in, including the departure of Portnoy), Adrenaline Mob aren’t a full-gone conclusion just yet.
The Magnificent: Down
Down shows Hellyeah just what a Pantera supergroup should be and that southern-tinged metal doesn’t have to be all about cries of “Booze!”. Down was formed in 1991 when Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo came together with Crowbar duo Kirk Windstein and Todd Strange, Corrosion of Conformity guitarist Pepper Keenan and Eyehategod drummer Jimmy Bower. Their debut album Nola, is an hour of supreme sludge/stoner metal and although nearly twenty years old, it is still one of best modern metal albums.
Unfortunately 2002’s Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow (notice the Led Zeppelin reference) didn’t quite have the same effect as their first record, but all was corrected when the supremely focused Down III: Over the Under was released five years later. Down are currently in the process of releasing a string of EPs; the first of which, The Purple EP, is a raw and dark effort, showing that the five-piece are still at the pinnacle of the metal world.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this week’s blog, please like, comment and subscribe. I hope you like RockAtlantic’s new look! Part 2 should be up on Friday!