When metal artists step away from their day job and away from their comfort zone it can often be a beautiful thing. There are groups that started life as side projects that are now as beloved as some musician’s main bands, but for every A Perfect Circle, Murderdolls or Damned Things, there are those projects that never take off.
Some are just rumoured ideas, others are bands that got it together for a short amount of time but never made it fully into the studio, but there are plenty of intriguing metal bands that looked great on paper who we never got to hear. This is the top ten we wish had sorted themselves out.
The hardcore punk band that was comprised of two parts Slayer (guitarist Jeff Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo), one-part Suicidal Tendencies (guitarist Rocky George) and one-part… some random kid that used to hang around near Slayer’s rehearsal room on vocals.
Pap Smear recorded a four-minute long, four-track demo, which you can hear online, but never made it out of the aforementioned rehearsal space. No gigs, no albums, mostly blamed on the fact that Slayer were about to become a dominant force in thrash metal, and they needed to concentrate on that. Which is fair enough. Still, we’d love to have heard Lombardo and Hanneman going full hardcore punk.
One of the most infamous lost projects of the 90s, Tapeworm was the brainchild of Nine Inch Nails men Danny Lohner and Charlie Clouser. During the recording of 1999’s classic The Fragile the pair would come up with ideas for songs that Trent Reznor felt were not quite right for NIN. So, wanting to release the music that they had made, they decided to rope in an A-list cast of musicians: Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, Helmet’s Page Hamilton, Prong’s Tommy Victor and Filter’s Richard Patrick to name a few, and name themselves Tapeworm.
Characters came and went, and by 2003 it was said the Tapeworm album was ready to mix, but legal problems getting clearance from Keenan’s label and Trent Reznor’s obvious apathy toward the project meant that a year later it was shelved completely. Reznor told the official NIN website in 2004 that “the bottom line is this: if the music had been great, all of this probably could have been worked out.” We’d still like to hear it though, Trent!
On the 9th of November 1990, The Gak played their first ever show, stepping out onstage at the Hollywood Palladium for the R.I.P. Magazine annual party. Pretty good debut gig for a new band… although these guys were more than used to playing big stages. The band was made up of Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, Metallica’s James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, and Duff McKagen, Slash and Axl Rose from Guns N’ Roses. Not bad!
The show saw The Gak run through a fast and loose cover of Narareth’s Hair of the Dog, and a bunch of Skin Row, GnR and Metallica classics. You’d imagine that a band of this pedigree would be a pretty exciting concern for any fans of heavy music, but that was all we got from The Gak, and a couple of years later the Metallica and Guns n’ Roses contingent fell out pretty spectacularly during their 1992 stadium tour. That’s that on the scrap heap, then.
A band that definitely do have music recorded… but have gone out of their way to make sure none of us can ever hear any of it, Sol Invicto is the meeting of minds between Deftones guitarist Steph Carpenter and British producer Richie Londres, formed in 2008, and later joined by UK drum and bass artist Technical Itch.
Deftones riffs with drum and bass beats is certainly a hell of an elevator pitch, but Sol Invicto are frustratingly operating as a private project only, recording music, but only releasing it to a small community that the general public like you and I are not privy to. In 2017 they actually recorded an album called Initium, but the only thing attached to the Sol Invicto name we can listen to is a couple of remixes of Asking Alexandria songs. Not as good, is it? Come on, chaps, don’t be shy, let’s hear what you’ve been up to.
The Sea Shepherd EP
Back in 2010, French metal heavyweights Gojira announced that they were in the process of recording an EP named Sea Shepherd, with all proceeds being donated to the anti-whaling organisation of the same name. That was exciting enough, but this was more than just new Gojira; the band announced that they would feature a host of metal legends on each song, and Devin Townsend, Randy Blythe, Max Cavalera and Anders Friden were just a few of those names mentioned. It was even put up on Gojira’s official website as an upcoming release.
Then disaster struck: the hard drive that the project had been recorded on crashed and the band, rather than try and recover the material, ended up cutting their losses and moving on to record 2012’s L’Enfant Sauvage album. A version of the song Of Blood And Salt did resurface a few years later, and the band have occasionally said they hope to revisit the project one day, but, to be honest, we’ve pretty much given up hope of ever hearing it at this point.
Back in 2002, Sammy Hagar found himself with a bit of downtime and decided to call up some of his mates to start a new band named Planet Us. He got some serious pedigree too, with Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and Deen Castronovo and Neal Schon from Journey originally coming onboard. Wanting a second guitarist, they added Joe Satriani to the lineup, to complete a mouthwatering quintet for any hard rock fans.
Unfortunately, the band never managed to show the world what they were up to, with initial recording sessions being delayed, and then Sony turning down the song Vertigo, one of only two Planet Us ever recorded, for the Spiderman soundtrack. Hagar says it was because the song was “Too fucking heavy”. The band only played live four times before it all fizzled out, and the songs that were written for the project ended up being peppered across the various members own projects.
S.K.I.N. was a US-based Japanese supergroup that was the brainchild of X Japan leader Yokishi, who conceived of the idea when he invited Japanese solo artist Gackt to his LA home and decided that they should make music together. The addition of other prominent Japanese musicians Sugizo and Miyavi meant that when S.K.I.N. announced their debut live show at the Long Beach Arena in Los Angeles in 2007 it was christened as “The Japanese rock concert of the century”, and demand was such that it crashed the ticket selling site.
It was confirmed that the band had written 8 songs, but as soon as the concert finished, so did S.K.I.N., with no further activity taking place, and no real explanation as to why. We’ve still never heard recorded evidence of the union…and we are still no closer to knowing why.
Benji Webbe’s country album
Skindred frontman Benji Webbe is a hugely creative individual, and a very busy boy! Not only does he front the both of the top two premier ragga-metal bands in existence in the ‘Dred and Dub War, he also has put out his own solo album, fronted the short-lived Diamond Spider and Mass Mental and guest-appeared on endless albums by other artists.
But back in 2015 he told us here at Hammer that there was an outlaw country album that he was working on; he even played us a bit! Telling us he was “inspired by The Soprano’s music”, it was dark, brooding acoustic country, fronted by a growling Benji, living out his gunslinger fantasy. And.. that’s the last we ever heard of it! It may well have been something Benji was just doing for fun, but we would certainly like to hear the finished product.
Ministry leader Al Jourgensen is seemingly in about a thousand bands, so we shouldn’t really be too shocked to learn that there was an industrial metal supergroup that he was part of that never managed to get fully off the ground. Al teamed up with Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre in 1989, in what would have been an incredibly exciting union for those fans of the industrial scene.
Sadly, nothing from the project ever surfaced, save for the song Noreen on a 1995 Skinny Puppy bootleg, even though it wasn’t listed on the track-listing, and elements of the song also appeared in the song The Fall from Ministry’s 1996 album Filth Pig. Apart from that, we got nothing.
The Beastie Boys were one of the biggest and most notorious artists on the planet in 1987, and so the last thing the world would expect them to do would be to form a hard rock band with members of NYHC peers Bad Brains and Murphy’s Law. Beastie’s Adam Yauch formed the band with a few friends, before asking Bad Brains bassist Daryl Jenifer to join on bass so he could concentrate on vocals. It was an attempt by Yauch to do something a world away from his rapidly expanding day job, invoking the classic rock of Zeppelin and Bob Dylan, according to Jenifer.
The band recorded a few demos and tapes were given out, which have since surfaced after getting into the hands of hardcore Beastie Boys fans. But even though there was said to be some label interest in Brooklyn, the band only played one single show, almost certainly being swallowed up in the mania that surrounded Beastie Boys at that time.