music / Columns

The 411 Music Top Five 02.26.13: The Top 5 Musical Side Projects

February 26, 2013 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas


Criteria: What we were looking at this week are the musical projects undertaken by people who have a different primary musical act. It is important to note that there is a fine but definite difference between a side project and a “supergroup,” which is a new band formed by individuals who are well-known from other groups all coming together. (It is also worth noting that some supergroups are, in fact, side projects; the line is blurry and it was left up to individual discretion.) The idea here would be acts in which the artists are still involved with their primary group.

Honorable Mention:

Nailbomb – I knew of this band from listening to Pandora Radio many moons ago, but after looking them up, I shrugged them off as, “Eh, I don’t like industrial metal.” But another listen really helped me look at this mix of Max Caverlera from Sepultura (or at least he was at the time) and Alex Newport from Fudge Tunnel as more thrash than industrial. Honestly, it’s a fun listen, and it’s a gem that not many people that I know have heard.

Cannabis Corpse – This band is hilarious. They consist of Land Phil from Municipal Waste, his brother on drums, and the guy who is the new lead guitarist of GWAR on the geetars. Though the GWAR guy is new, because they had another vocalist and guitarist before 2011 hit. As their name suggests, they make Cannibal Corpse songs, as well as Deicide and Morbid Angels songs about weed and play them pretty close to what they were originally. It still sounds great, and gives me a chuckle every time I listen.

Lock Up – I had never heard of this band before my Google search to find more bands for this list. This band I can’t believe I’ve not listened to before, while I’m not much for grind, this band is royalty though and they kill. It’s basically a bunch of Napalm Death and Brujeria members, with Peter Tagtgren of Hypocrisy fame on the vocals for the first album, and Tomas Lindberg from At the Gates on vocals ever since. I’m headbanging right now, I can’t help it, the band is so killer that I have to stop writing to headbang.

5. Demons and Wizards

Has anyone ever wondered what would happen if Blind Guardian had a baby with Iced Earth? Well, wonder no more. For we have a band that takes the galloping guitars of Jon Schaffer (the leader of Iced Earth) with the soaring vocals and fantasy lyrics of Blind Guardian frontman Hansi Kursch. It’s a pretty great marriage for anyone who is a fan of power metal, or Stephen King (but that’s only for the second album). I’m happy I ran across these guys, because I had already ran across Iced Earth, I also came to love Blind Guardian through this band. So if you’re a fan of either band, or both, not at all, give these guys a look, they’re awesome.

4. Spiritual Beggars

This is yet another band that I discovered through internet radio. This time it was with iHeart radio, and this would always be the band that would play on my Grand Magus radio after Grand Magus would. So I looked into them, and oddly enough, they’re a Michael Amott project (he did it on the side during his Carcass days). Much like a lot of side projects in metal, you usually find people from other bands in here as well. In this band you get the drummer for Grand Magus, and for 2 albums, the singer, too (who is a favorite of mine). Also in this band is Per Wilberg, the keyboardist (now formerly) of Opeth, and now they have the former vocalist of Firewind, so yeah, pretty nice crew. They have a bit of a doom sound to them, but it’s not quite that, kind of like Grand Magus, but a bit different. You can see Michael Amott’s fingerprints all over this, and that’s a good thing. Kind of odd to see him playing stoner metal though.

3. Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.)

I had almost forgotten about these guys, I have no idea why, because they’re pretty much one of the better known early crossover thrash bands. Story pretty much goes that Charlie and Scott of Anthrax were bored after recording the new Anthrax album (‘Spreading the Disease’, I love that album), so they called up old band mate (and member of every random underground band ever) Dan Lilker and they started playing some Agnostic Front inspired hardcore riffs. Billy Milano got invited into the fold, and the rest was history. This band is definitely for the people with more obtuse senses of humor (like myself), like they have random stuff, like songs about Freddy Kruger, and Milk. But they also have songs like “Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues,” which is hilarious, and just has a woman screaming for part of the song. Overall, they didn’t have many albums, but they did have a pretty nice legacy, including their first album, ‘Speak English or Die’ being one of the few full albums on my iPod.

2. Bloodbath

I love almost everything Mikael Akerfelddt does, so the fact that this is here, should be no surprise. Granted, he left the band once to focus more on Opeth, and is now gone again because he doesn’t care much for death metal. Bloodbath started as yet another one of those, “Metal friends decide to make tribute to their favorite genre” bands. It consisted of Katatonia members Jonas Renske and Anders Nystrom, along with future Mikael Akerfeldt and Dan Swano (of Edge of Sanity). Eventually Akerfeldt left, and we got in Peter Tagtgren for arguable their best album, ‘Nightmares Made Flesh’. There have been other members of the band, especially because Swano left (and at the moment, they don’t have a singer), but these are the REALLY important dudes. I love this band, they have a mix of the guitar tone from Entombed’s, ‘Left Hand Path’, mixed with some love for Florida death metal and a dash of gore. There you have Bloodbath. I wish that this was honestly everyone’s main band, because this band could go some places if they had the chance. But I guess in the meantime, bands like Corrosive Carcass will have to do.

1. Down

Was there any other choice here? I know some people will be like, “BUT COOP, WHERE IS ____

Honorable Mention: Pavement, The Postal Service, Stone Sour

5. Stone Sour

Corey Taylor and Jim Root’s side project away from Slipknot may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally like them more than the base band itself. Taylor has a striking voice that he gives some breathing room as Stone Sour and while I dig Slipknot, I really enjoy what he does with this group. I remember hearing “Bother” and being in active disbelief when someone told me that it was two of the guys from Slipknot. The group gives the two a chance to explore something very different (though they still have the capability to rock when they want) and I appreciate that.

4. The Raconteurs

For some the Raconteurs may lean toward supergroup territory but they clearly fit the side project definition as well. Obviously Jack White is best known from the group but the other four are no slouches either; Brendan Benson has a solo career going strong, Jack Lawrence is a member in The Greenhornes, The Dead Weather and Blanche while Patrick Keeler is also in the Greenhornes. There were honestly times that I like what comes out of the Raconteurs more than what the White Stripes were doing. White has said that he feels that his work with the band has made him a better musician and it’s hard to argue with him.

3. A Perfect Circle

There are Tool fans that absolutely hate A Perfect Circle and they’re welcome to their opinions. For my money, Maynard’s side project is almost as good (if not equally good) as his main group. A Perfect Circle is possibly one of the most well-known side projects with four highly successful and critically acclaimed albums and their work remains an essential part of listening for some of the best that alt-rock has had to offer.

2. Atoms for Peace

Too soon? Probably, but what the hell. I should have a full review up soon, but suffice it to say that I love the debut album from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke new side project that includes Nigel Goodrich, Flea, Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco. The group formed over a mutual love of Afrobeat of all things and you can hear a bit of that influence in their work. It’s similar to Radiohead but has some very different twists and turns at the same time and makes for one of my early favorite albums of the year.

1. Gorillaz

If A Perfect Circle isn’t the most well-known side projects then it has to be Gorillaz. Damian Albarn of Blur teamed up with comic book artist Jamie Hewlett to create a “virtual band” that consisted of an entire fictional universe starring “band members” 2D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs. The music is incredibly well-constructed and Albarn was able to keep the sound consistent as the group changed the live lineup to suit schedules and needs. Unfortunately disagreements between Albarn and Hewlett appear to have ended the band but what we received during their run was spectacular.

The Final Word
As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We’re merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here’s what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week’s topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
4. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
3. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
2. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
1. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it

article topics

Jeremy Thomas
comments powered by Disqus