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 10. 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. This time around we’re heading into the 90’s. The 90’s was a very strange time for hard rock/metal music. This is where a lot of the more popular bands were dying out but in the underground there were some really unique and very cool bands putting out some interesting and surprisingly timeless sounding material. This was a fun era to revisit.
Slik Toxik – Doin’ the Nasty (1992)
To me, Slik Toxik is the little band that should’ve. In 1992, I saw these guys not only open for Faster Pussycat but watched them mop the stage with them. Their live show made such a huge impact on me that I ran out and bought the CD the next day. To this day, this album blows my mind. The songs are so perfectly executed and the technical abilities of this band are astounding. ST could be commercial and fun with songs like “Helluvatime” and “By the Fireside” but at the same time really flex their abilities to stand out with songs like “Sweet Asylum” and the stellar “It’s Not Easy.” This album still sounds amazing to this day and it makes me wish they would’ve continued down this road a bit longer.
War Babies – War Babies (1991)
Lead by former TKO frontman Brad Sinsel, War Babies put out on fucking awesome album and they were gone as quick as they got here. I would have never heard of this band if I hadn’t seen them open for Ugly Kid Joe in 1992. While they didn’t blow Ugly Kid Joe away, they kicked a ton of fucking ass and their songs were just awesome. “Hang Me Up” was a moderate hit on Headbanger’s Ball and I love the lyrical content of this one as it addresses the radicalism of Christianity. The awesomely melodic “In the Wind” is one of my favorites but it’s “Blue Tomorrow” that closes the album and does just what a great song does; leaves you wanting more. This album is still a great listen, it sounds amazing, and is just another sign of how so many great bands were “here today, gone later today.” I would really have love to have heard what these guys could’ve delivered in the form of a follow up.
Collision – Collision (1992)
Collision was a weird fucking band. I still can’t quite figure out how to describe them. Like most of my favorite obscure bands, I saw Collision opening for a band (Ugly Kid Joe) sometime in 1993 or so. They were this crazy power trio with a really unique sound. They were kind of metal, kind of alternative, kind of Hendrix-esque at times. I loved their live show so much and their debut album is a fucking monster. “Who Do You Love” opens the album and they just got right for the face on this one. “Maximum Respect” is a really cool number with some cool dynamics and the acoustic “Tears are Fallin’” showcase this band’s ability to wear many hats. Collision put out a really forgettable follow up that didn’t come near the awesomeness of this one. This is an album that still gets a lot of play from me and reminds me yet again that some of the best hard rock/metal from the 90’s were here for only a very short time yet left behind timeless gems to be unearthed later.
Animal Bag – Animal Bag (1992)
My love for Animal Bag started with the video for “Everybody” on Headbanger’s Ball. Were they hippies? Were they metal? Were they psychedelic? Well, they were all the above and they did it so well. The band was metal as fuck (“Personal Demons”), they were psychedelic yet somewhat proggy (“Cheerful Mary in the Rain), and they were even mellow and melodically acoustic (“Oddball”, “City Song”). This debut is hands down one of the most versatile and dynamic albums I have ever heard and it remains a huge favorite of mine. I was lucky enough to see these guys 3 times live and even eventually become friends with them. Unfortunately both their guitarist (Rich Parris) and drummer (Boo Duckworth) passed away pretty much leaving no chance of an Animal Bag reunion. Thankfully, the band put out three amazing albums but it’s this debut that will always be a huge part of my life.
Lillian Axe – Psychoschizophrenia (1993)
Lillian Axe is a band that never truly got the credit they deserved. While the band definitely had a diehard fan base that seems to favor the Love and War album, it’s this one that I find to the band’s masterpiece. For some reason, Psychoschizophrenia seems to be the album where Steve Blaze and co. just quit caring about being “popular” and just made a stellar, dynamic metal album that covers a lot of ground. From the flat out metal of the title track and “Crucified” to the acoustically beautiful “The Needle and Your Pain” to the stellar “The Voices In My Walls”, Lillian Axe delivered a sadly over looked hard rock masterpiece that, in my opinion, is flawless from start to finish and in my opinion was their finest hour.
Raging Slab – Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert (1993)
The first time I ever heard this band was the song “Don’t Dog Me.” Raging Slab was described as Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Metallica back in the day. I’m still not sure it was the exact description I would’ve used but honestly, at the time it made sense. Raging Slab was a band that was behind yet ahead of their time delivering hard rock, in your face music that was rooted in the likes of Molly Hatchet, Skynyrd, and even Black Sabbath for good measure. Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert is my absolute favorite from this band. Songs like “Anywhere But Here”, “Pearlie”, and “Weatherman” are just a few examples of how the band could be heavy, groovy, and appealing to a much broader audience than many of their peers. I think Cliff Burton would have loved this band and this album is the perfect picture of this awesome band.
Desperado – Bloodied But Unbowed (1996)
When Dee Snider left Twisted Sister, after licking his wounds for a bit, he returned to the metal world with the band Widowmaker but between those two bands, Dee had another band called Desperado. Featuring former Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr and legendary guitarist Bernie Torme. The band recorded the album Bloodied but Unbowed but the album was shelved by the label and never officially released. Thanks to the internet, we got to finally get this album in all its glory. Taking on a sort of cowboy/roots laden Americana metal kind of sound, Desperado definitely wasn’t a “cool” band for the time but hearing their stuff I have to say is some of the best material to never come out. “Hang ‘Em High” is such a cool song with it’s cool acoustic intro, “Emaheevul” which would later appear as a Widowmaker song, and the should’ve been hit “There’s No Angels Here” are just examples of how great this band was. I don’t know if this band would have had been able to produce another album this great as this one just feels like they threw in all they had for this one. Honestly, I prefer this over the Widowmaker stuff and I would’ve loved the chance to see this stellar band live.
Wrathchild America – 3D (1991)
Wrathchild America was a cool fucking band. Even back in ‘91/’92 I knew I was hearing some really fucking awesome. They were up there with the likes of Exodus, Testament, and Nuclear Assault as far I was concerned and they were one of the best thrash bands around. They had elements of prog in their music and I loved all of their cool tempo changes. “3D Man” is such a great fucking song and the dynamic change in that song kicks so much ass. “Surrounded by Idiots” is still one of my theme songs to this day and this album still kills. Why this band never caught on is beyond me. They went on to change their name to Souls at Zero and make another three albums but to me, this is where they were kings. This album is all killer and no filler and still kills my face 20 something years later.
Life, Sex, & Death – The Silent Majority (1992)
LSD. Man, talk about a crazy fucking band. They were these three good lookin’ dudes fronted by a singer who was a hunched over, smelly (literally), greasy homeless dude named Stanley (it was all a show of course but he owned the role). The band had such pleasantly named songs as “Some Fucking Shit Ass”, “Schools for Fools”, “Big Black Bush”, and “Jawhol Asshole.” Say want you want but these songs, as well as the rest of the album, kick fucking ass. Gimmick aside, this album is a fucking monstrous heavy metal train ride that still sounds awesome today. I wonder sometimes if it was because they took the gimmick too far and pissed off a lot of the wrong people but either way, the band left behind The Silent Majority which is sadly one of the most overlooked/ignored albums of the era. I saw these guys live play to about 20 people and trust me, they should’ve been fucking huge.
Tora Tora – Wild America (1992)
Tora Tora was pretty much the hard rock/metal Black Crowes in my opinion. They were as deeply rooted in Americana or Roots music but the band definitely wore their Memphis heritage on their sleeves with songs like “Amnesia”, “As Time Goes By” and even included horns on the stellar “Dead Man’s Hand.” The band still showed their ability to be a heavy band with songs like the title track and the amazing closing song, “City of Kings.” “Faith Healer” is probably my favorite one on this album but honestly, this album is flawless from beginning to end. While Tora Tora had a few minor hit videos on Headbanger’s Ball, they never really got the recognition they deserved. Wild America is definitely one of my all time favorites from this era and musically, lyrically, and sonically it sounds every bit as fresh and exciting as it did back in 1992. A flawless album that gets many, many spins in Brainfart office.