It never ceases to amaze me that in my 33 years of being a hard rock/metal fanatic I am still finding out about bands and albums that I never knew existed. It’s a testament to just how vast and deep the spectrum of music is when you can barely whittle down your list of obscure bands/albums to 11. The whole point of this series of posts is to try and share the wealth as many people have done for me.
There are so many obscure bands/albums out there that, thanks to my best friend James, I have grouped together by decade. I’m going to kick things off with the 70’s which was, without a doubt, the decade that spawned bands that would go on to influence and inspired many of the more modern bands that I love so much. Finally, why “11”? If you really need to ask that question, why are you here? Ok, because “11” is one louder! Let’s get this ball rollin’!
Electric Food was studio project that included that soulful, outstanding vocals of George Mavros with musicians from the band Lucifer’s Friend (who is also on this list). The band put out two albums but it’s their debut album that really blew my mind. My friend Jennifer played this band’s version of “Whole Lotta Love” on her radio show, Stonehenge, here in Atlanta and I was hooked. The album is absolutely outstanding and it definitely pulls from the sounds of the big “Z”, Uriah Heep, and classic Rod Evans era Deep Purple. This is a really fun listen and if you like what you hear, check out their 2nd and final album, Flash.
Black Widow – Sacrifice
I never even knew this band existed until my friend Johanna (lead singer for Lucifer) posted a live performance of this band. The legend goes that Black Widow and Black Sabbath were both under the same management or something and that when it came time to send a band to the US, they sent Sabbath instead of Black Widow because they felt that Black Widow’s performance was a bit too extreme. When the band would perform live, they would perform the album in its entirety opening with an incantation calling on the many names of Satan and ending with a mock Satanic sacrifice of a nude woman. As a whole, the album is absolutely fantastic and is a nice mix of psychedelic hard rock and even a touch of roots/folk influenced songs featuring saxophone and acoustic instruments. Without a doubt one of the greatest hidden gems of all time in my opinion.
Captain Beyond – Captain Beyond
An old friend of mine back in 2007 came to me one day with a burned CD. He just handed it to me and said, “Go home, smoke a joint, put on your headphones, and listen to this. It will change your fucking life.” Sure, whatever dude. Well, I did just that and he was so right. This album changed my life and was, and still is, without a doubt one of the most magical, cosmic things I have heard in my entire life. Featuring former Deep Purple singer Rod Evans, bassist Lee Dorman and guitarist Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt of Iron Butterfly, and Johnny Winter And drummer Bobby Caldwell, Captain Beyond’s debut album is a cosmic listening experience in the truest sense. This is an album that is meant to be listened to from start to finish. There isn’t a single bad song on this album and by the time it’s over, you will want another round I guarantee it. It’s a fantastic voyage of the senses without a doubt. Just do it. You can thank me later.
Fraternity – Livestock
When you hear the name Bon Scott, you probably immediately think of AC/DC and songs like “Highway to Hell” or “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” Would you ever imagine that Bon Scott was actually in a psychedelic /progressive band? I first heard about this via a bootleg compilation of band Fraternity and I was so blown away. You will be shocked to hear how absolutely amazing Scott’s voice is on songs like “Livestock”, “Summerville”, and the psych masterpiece, “Seasons of Change.” Hearing Bon Scott in such a different element blew my mind to pieces and this is an album that I find myself revisiting quite a bit. This is Bon Scott at such a great point in his early career before he would become the legendary rock icon that he became. So much soul, so much passion, and so much love in these songs.
Much like Bon Scott, the heavy metal legend Ronnie James Dio had a whole other musical life before the one that made him famous. Before he was throwing horns and penning anthems such as “Last in Line”, “Holy Diver” and “Man on the Silver Mountain”, RJD was fronting (and playing bass guitar) in a boogie woogie rock band called ELF. The band released three albums from 1972 – 1975 but it’s the debut self titled album that stopped me in its tracks. I mean, this sounds just like Ronnie James Dio fronting the Black Crowes and there is absolutely nothing about this scenario that sucks. The opening song “Hoochie Coochie Woman” is such a good time, barroom rock classic and how this album isn’t more known is beyond me. This is just good, old fashioned rock n’ roll with the voice of a future metal god. Get on this one.
Beggars Opera – Waters of Change
One of the many fucking reasons I love Spotify’s “Related Artists” tab is because I always end up stumbling upon some pretty whacky shit. Beggars Opera is one of those bands and their 1971 album Waters of Change is absolutely mesmerizing. Organ based psychedelic rock ala Deep Purple with a singer who sounds more like Kip Trevor from Black Widow. I absolutely love this album. It’s full of depth and atmospheric jams. The opening track “Time Machine” sets the tone for the album and from there is what I feel to be a flawless psych rock masterpiece. There are bits of Jethro Tull in there as well which comes through on the awesomely corny “Festival.” I can see, unfortunately, how this band got overlooked as they didn’t have much of a unique identity but they did it extremely well nonetheless. This album is definitely worth picking up and putting in your head.
Aphrodite’s Child – 666
In a time where so many bands were kind of doing similar things artistically, Aphrodite’s Child released an album that was not just controversial but was something truly unique that stood on its own. A concept album which served as a countercultural interpretation of the Book of Revelation, 666 is an album that is very heavy lyrically but even more musically interesting. It’s the kind of concept album where, if you really want to, you can immerse yourself into the story and let it guide you but you can also just put this album on and absolutely enjoy it as a prog rock masterpiece that never got the acclaim that it truly deserves. There is so much music on this album to take in and one of the things I love the most is that all the songs are pretty much standard length until you get to the epic “All the Seats Were Occupied.” That song right there is a sensory overload so just be prepared.
The first time I ever heard of this band was after hearing Scorpion Child’s awesome cover of the song “Keep Going.” Their singer Aryn told me I needed to check out this album and when I did, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Lucifer’s Friend is a nice heaping slap of bluesy, soulfilled psych rock that at boasts the sounds of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Captain Beyond. The song “Free Baby” is one of the most badass songs around and this album is a masterpiece from start to finish. Apparently the band put out a few albums after this one but none of them hold a candle to the awesomeness of this album.
Bolder Damn – Mourning
I wish I could tell you how I stumbled upon Bolder Damn. More than likely it was one of those nights were Mrs. Brainfart was out of town and I was hanging at home, smokin’ out and venturing down the proverbial Spotify/YouTube rabbit hole. Either way, Bolder Damn is a spectacular band with a short story. This is the only album the band ever recorded/released and what a smoker it is. The sound of Bolder Damn is definitely a pre-cursor to heavy metal and as a whole the album nothing but raw, relentless, and at times angry guitar driven hard rock with easily one of the best sounding rhythm sections I’ve ever heard. The 16 minute epic “Dead Meat” is a hell of a way to close out an album leaving behind a short lived but timeless musical legacy. Bolder Damn deserved way more that what they got but ya know? It’s never too late to give them their due.
Leaf Hound – Growers of Mushroom
At this point in the game, it’s hard to deny that so many bands from this era (specifically 70-73 or so) all started to run together a bit. It also helps me to understand why so many of these bands were thrown into obscurity. With that being said, bands such as Leaf Hound, while sonically not sounding much different than many of their peers, were amazing players and songwriters in their own right. “Sad Road to the Sea” just may be one of the coolest fucking songs I have ever heard and as a whole the album is a flawless platter of roots laden psychedelic hard rock. This is definitely an album that is worth giving a listen because on their own, the songs really do stand strong and firm against those of their peers who experienced all the success. I really feel that if given a chance, Leaf Hound could have been one of the biggest and baddest of their time.
I love the fact that this album opens with a song called “Smoking the Day Away” and what a stellar song it is. May Blitz is another band that I discovered thanks to the “related artists” tab on Spotify. May Blitz definitely had something going on and while they did have a lot of those same influences and styling of their peers, they also seemed to have a bit of Pink Floyd infused in their sound which is evident in the song “Dreaming.” This album is a truly great listen and it’s also one of the more sonically dynamic albums of the bunch. Just a great fucking listen and it’s one that I frequently revisit quite a bit.