The topic for May is "The Perfect Supergroup." We each played god and imagined what would make a perfect supergroup. Looking at the wide range of metal styles, time periods, and skill levels, the choices and line-up possibilities are endless. To keep things consistent, here’s the guardrails we used for our selection process:
1) Musician can be either alive or living.
1) One musician per instrument, except for guitar (you can choose up to two).
2) For the musicians in your supergroup, you can choose from a particular era if you like.
Who would be in your ‘super group’?
Since most other genres are covered, I thought I’d chip in with some Death Metal supergroups, and I’ve split this into living and dead.
Even supergroups from the land of the departed need a solid yet flamboyant bass player, and it was a tough choice between Roger Patterson (Atheist) and Jared Anderson (Morbid Angel/Hate Eternal). Jared was vastly important to death metal as a whole, cutting his teeth in Morbid Angel and then joining Erik Rutan, Doug Cerrito and Tim Yeung in Hate Eternal. Some of his most furious playing can be found on 1999’s CONQUERING THE THRONE, Hate Eternal’s debut album. However, I think Roger just shades it, simply for his contribution to one of death metal’s most important albums ever, 1990’s PIECE OF TIME. His playing and his bass tone was simply superb in that album, and his technicality and speed on four strings added so much oomph to Atheist’s first album.
One guitarist’s spot is a no-brainer. Yes, Chuck Schuldiner is still sadly missed to this day, and his guitar-work and songwriting for Death and Control Denied show us what a fine musician we were robbed of. His work on HUMAN and SCREAM BLOODY GORE is untouchable in terms of combining complexity, brutality and, counter-intuitively enough, finesse.
The other guitarist’s spot should go to Jon Nodtveidt of Dissection. The Swedish band’s work trod the line between death and black metal, but there is enough melodic death metal playing (on REINKAOS at least) to qualify Jon. His sense for melody never deserted him, and he combined dark evil riffing with some amazingly well-written acoustic passages.
Since I can’t think of any deceased death metal vocalists, I’m going to nominate Jeff Becerra of Possessed. Jeff nearly lost his life when he was shot in a robbery in 1990, paralysing him from the waist down. His story is one of the most inspirational in metal music, when after four years of depression and drugs after the shooting, he turned his life around, gaining a degree and kicking the drugs. In 2007 he reformed Possessed with his friends from Sadistic Intent, and played in Wacken Open Air that year to thousands of metalheads from a wheelchair. However it is not for his inspirational story that gets him a place in this supergroup; it is his evil maniacal performance on Possessed’s seminal SEVEN CHURCHES album, the album generally credited with turning thrash faster, heavier and more brutal on the road to becoming death metal.
When mentioning departed death metal drummers, Vitek Kieltyka from Poland’s Decapitation immediately springs to mind. Tragically killed in a road accident while on tour in 2007, he left us all at the impossibly young age of only 23, but his whirlwind drumming on THE NEGATION and WINDS OF CREATION (which unfortunately suffered from below-par production) left no one in doubt of this kid’s future in death metal had he lived.
However, the drummer’s stool in the supergroup can only be filled by another Pole, the one and only Doc Raczkowski from Vader. BLACK TO THE BLIND and DE PROFUNDIS were both stellar albums, but it was on 2000’s LITANY album that Doc delivered his best drumming performance, as well as the best sound in death metal drumming I’ve heard. The bass kicks and toms were absolutely thunderous; if the Angel of Death had feet, this is what he would sound like when coming to get your ass. It baffles me why I’ve never heard any other band try to emulate Doc’s drum sound on LITANY.
From the land of the living, the range is wider and the choices are harder. On bass, I hate to leave out names like Mike Flores (Origin), Eric Langlois (Cryptopsy), Tony Choy (Pestilence, Cynic, Atheist), François Mongrain (Martyr, Kataklysm), Sean Malone (Cynic), and Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), but for me, Steve DiGiorgio has to take that spot. His death metal pedigree is undeniable, having played on Death’s seminal HUMAN and INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS albums, in Autopsy and in his own death/thrash band Sadus, where his unique phrasing and tone firmly takes centre stage. Having also played for such diverse bands as Quo Vadis, Iced Earth, Testament and Vintersorg, his talent and skill is undeniable.
The first guitarist’s spot must definitely go to Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel. No question about it. ALTARS OF MADNESS featured some of the fastest and most evil riffs ever, taking up what Slayer had done and pushing it to its logical conclusion. Trey’s soloing wasn’t half bad either! By FORMULAS FATAL TO THE FLESH, Trey had honed his craft to a deliciously unholy T.
The second guitarist’s spot might seem slightly contentious and out of left-field, but I’d nominate Christofer Johnsson from Therion. His early work with Therion, especially BEYOND SANCTORUM, is classic Swedish death metal from the suburbs of Stockholm, but his ability to push Therion in different directions throughout their glittering career is a testament not just to his ability on the guitar, but to his ambition and his songwriting skills.
Other guitarists I’d have loved to fit in were Nergal (Behemoth), Karl Sanders/Dallas Toler-Wade (Nile), Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal), Brian and Eric Hoffman (Deicide), Bill Steer (Carcass), Tony Lazaro/Dave Suzuki (Vital Remains), Peter Tagtgren (Hypocrisy), Ralph Santolla (everywhere) and Pat O’Brien (Nevermore, Cannibal Corpse)
I’d never be able to look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t pick Corpsegrinder for his rightful spot at the mic. Although my favourite Corpse albums are from the Chris Barnes era, I have seen the might of Corpsegrinder live, and the man is a force of nature. The power of his growl is one thing, but his conviction and passion makes the whole experience simply…intense. Honourable mention goes to Frank Mullen of Suffocation and Lord Worm of Cryptopsy as well.
Choosing a death metal drummer for a supergroup is like taking a big swig from the poisoned chalice right after someone’s taken a big dump in it, i.e., it tastes awful and you’re going to die anyway.
The obvious names pop up like clockwork. Clockwork at 300bpm. Derek Roddy for his work on some of the classic death metal albums of the 90s: Malevolent Creation’s IN COLD BLOOD, Nile’s BLACK SEEDS OF VENGEANCE, Hate Eternal’s I, MONARCH (as well as being a tight and speedy death metal drummer, he also plays Latin and jazz with equal proficiency). Dave Culross as the almost permanent drummer for Malevolent Creation. Sean Reinert for his work in Cynic and Death. Pete Sandoval for Morbid Angel. Nicke Andersson from Nihilist/Entombed. George Kollias at almost inhuman speeds for Nile. KC Howard for Decrepit Birth/Odious Mortem.
After all that, it’s still got to be Flo Mounier of Cryptopsy though, doesn’t it? THE UNSPOKEN KING will never be able to taint the legacy of BLASPHEMY MADE FLESH and NONE SO VILE. Mounier took speed, heaviness, brutality, and technicality in death metal drumming to whole new, almost impossible levels, turning his vocation into almost a competitive sport, and death metal has been the better for it!
So because I’m a total dork and think about stuff like this a lot, I took a few different approaches on this one. I put together three line-ups based on my three most frequent listening moods: Prog, Thrash, and Doom.
IHSAHN (post-Emperor): Vocals, Guitar – Ihsahn’s solo albums pushed the boundaries of progressive metal, black metal, you name it metal. As good as Emperor was, his guitar work and vocals were light years beyond anything he did with the Evil “E.”
ANDY LA ROCQUE (King Diamond): Lead Guitar – Quite possibly the classiest guitarist in metal? Imagine Andy and Ihsahn covering “The Invisible Guests” live; pretty stellar, right?
JOSH SILVER (Type O Negative): Keyboards – Every progressive metal band needs a killer keyboard player. Is there anyone better for this gig? Not in my mind.
MIKE PORTNOY (Dream Theater): Drums – Because he’s the most amazing drummer I’ve ever seen live, period.
LEIF EDLING (Candlemass): Bass – The dude’s written some of the most evil riffs of the last 20 years and he’s a decent bass player to boot. Why not?
THRASH UNDER PRESSURE:
CHUCK BILLY (Testament): Vocals – Because the guy can sing “Return to Serenity” as well as “Do Not Resuscitate.” Chuck’s a survivor and a vocal monster.
GARY HOLT (Exodus): Guitar – Gary gets better with every release and is arguably the quintessential thrash metal guitarist. The solo on “Riot Act” blows my mind every time I hear it.
DAVE MUSTAINE (Megadeth circa 1992): Guitar – Dave from RUST IN PEACE, when he was drinking and angry, not the kinder, gentler Dave. How many amazing riffs has Dave given us over the years? I can’t count that high…
SHANE EMBURY (Napalm Death): Bass – A band with this much energy needs a strong bottom end to keep things together, and Shane’s got the heaviest bottom end in metal.
PETE SANDOVAL (Morbid Angel): Drums –The fastest drummer in metal (at least the top 10)?
HEAVIER THAN YOUR SISTER:
JOHN BUSH (Anthrax): Vocals – Heir to the vocal throne of Ronnie James Dio, Bush is one of the most underrated and underappreciated voices in metal. He can sing it smooth, he can sing it hard, and he’s the consummate frontman.
BILL STEER (Carcass/Firebird): Guitar – A good doom band needs the right combination of angry riffs and groovy rhythms, Bill Steer’s the total package.
WINO (The Obsessed): Guitar – Wino = Riffs-a-plenty.
GEEZER BUTLER (Black Sabbath): Bass – THE heavy metal bass player. The guy wrote “Iron Man,” ‘nuff said.
MIKKEY DEE (Motorhead): Drums – See the above comment about angry riffs and groovy rhythms. From providing King Diamond’s evil backbeats to Lemmy’s rock-n-blues mayhem, Mikkey’s got it all.
I was much more hard-nosed than my fellow Metal Rulers as I limited my mentions and choices to ONE person per band position by not even picking any runners up. This made it hard as I wanted to name drop some other great players but I wanted to keep it to one potenial line-up of musicians.
This was a hard one to pick but after narrowing down my list I decided to go with Mike Howe from 1989. Mike is the former vocalist for Metal Church and in 1989 they released the album BLESSING IN DIGUISE which to me features some of the best vocals ever. He has the range, the grit/gruffness when required, and the awesome melody lines. Very often I think to myself, “What is Mike Howe doing today?” With a voice like that, the guy just dropped off the planet after the criminally under-rated 1994 album HANGING IN THE BALANCE…..such a shame that he packed it in as he was a vocal GOD!!!!!
James Hetfield from 1986 was still a thrash metal riff-miester. At this point in his career he was at his creative peak. Sure, great material came both before and after, but this is the timeframe that for me holds the most magic….and this is my dream band so deal with it. Since he’s in this imaginary band band of mine, I’ll let him do some backing vocals and duets with Mike heh!
Paul Gilbert is one of my favorite shredders. Of course, James will have to write and play lots of slower melodic solos like the godly one in “Master of Puppets” but Paul is the man when it comes to tearing it up. Yeah, I could of picked another shredder that I love but I think some of them would overshadow the band with over the top soloing and attitude. Paul can write some ass-kickign metal riffs as evidenced with his Racer X stuff so not only is he a shred-god, he’s also a great song writer.
On bass I’d like to have Markus Großkopf of Helloween. I know I could of chosen a more technical bass player, but I don’t particularly like over indulgent bassists. Markus is a great well rounded player who plays both finger and pick style. He’s also gotten better over time and even has a few bass solos here and there which is a nice addition. His stage presence is also great as he’s such a ham to watch on stage.
Jürgen ‘Ventor’ Reil of Kreator on drums! How can you go wrong with Ventor?? Impossible! Maybe he might think some of his band members are wusses but I’m sure with the level of musicianship he’d be challenged and come up with his jaw-dropping thunderous drums.
Choosing Jens Johansson of Stratovarius for keyboards is a no-brainer for me. The guy can “shred” on the keys like Yngwie on guitar and he can write super memorable keyboard melodies that would sound amazing over this bands music.
The music of this band would be a mixture of thrash and power metal. Often technical, but due to the great songwriters it would never get too over indulgent. After thinking about this one and getting excited thinking of the possibilities, now I have to come back to reality and the realization of the the impossibility of this line-up. Ha! Buy hey, that was the point of this article….to dream.
When I think of who would I pick for a virtual heavy metal all star dream team my answer has remained pretty consistent over the years when it comes to the twin axe factor.
Kevin Heybourne of Angel Witch always makes the list ;songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. Kevin is a very talented individual with a rich history in the NWOBHM. Unlike many of his NWOBHM counterparts Kevin has stayed hip to the many developing subgenres of metal throughout the years. Anyone who has heard his later demo’s with the Bay Area lineup of Angel Witch can attest that he is far from dated, Kevin remains relevant in my book.
On second guitar I would have Jack Starr; original axeman for Virgin Steele and a solid heavy metal player through and through. With Jack’s face melting fretwork I think we could build a bridge between British and American Heavy Metal with the tandem of Heybourne and Starr and create something unique yet unmistakably metal.
Stepping up to the plate on bass guitar would be Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead. Lemmy’s no bullshit attitude and loud and proud thumping sound would enforce a pulsing backdrop to the band; bringing a beer soaked, amphetamine laced, atmosphere to the forefront.
Skin basher extraordinairre Bobby Jarzombek is seated at the drum throne. As adaptable as they come, stop on a dime tight and ready to inflict some serious damage. Bobby has experience on his side with a resume that includes "Thundersteel" era Riot, Halford, Iced Earth and Sebastian Bach to name a few.
I’ve created a Heavy Metal supergroup now all that’s left is an outstanding vocalist. Mid range is a must but hitting the higher range is also of concern. Someone aggressive but also melodic. Representing Germany is Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear. He can really belt out some classic sounding metal vocals and you know…he harmonizes with Kevin Heybourne’s banshee wails pretty fucking awesome. Now the circle is complete.
Lord of the Wasteland
Vocals—Rob Halford (Judas Priest)
The “Metal God” didn’t come by that name as a fluke. Halford’s voice personifies all that we hold dear about heavy metal.
Runners-Up: Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Dio), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Tom Gabriel Fischer (Celtic Frost), Lord Worm (Cryptopsy), Philip Anselmo (Pantera, Down), Tom S. Englund (Evergrey), Gaahl (Gorgoroth), Matt Barlow (Iced Earth), A.A. Nemtheanga (Primordial), Klaus Meine (Scorpions), Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Chuck Billy (Testament), Peter Steele (Type O Negative), Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.)
Lead Guitar—Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne)
Possibly the toughest choice to narrow down in a field that is so reliant on the guitar, but Zakk is the full package rolled into one. He can shred, groove, strum an acoustic or buckle down with one of those 20-minute solos live.
Runners-Up: Tom Gabriel Fischer (Celtic Frost), Gary Holt (Exodus), Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Tim Roth (Into Eternity), Jeff Loomis (Nevermore)
Rhythm Guitar—James Hetfield (Metallica)
Come on, no one can touch that lethal right hand Hetfield possesses.
Runners-Up: Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth), Malcolm Young (AC/DC), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions)
Bass—Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Testament)
The way DiGiorgio milks that fretless bass to produce deep, bottom-end grooves is pure heaven.
Runners-Up: Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Joey DiMaio (Manowar), D.D. Verni (Overkill)
Keyboards—Jon Lord (Deep Purple)
No one rocks a Hammond better than Lord when he was in Deep Purple. The cheeseball showmen, lace-cuffed dandies and neo-classical ninnies of today have nothing on the power of Lord’s work with MKII and MKIII Purple.
Runners-up: Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Josh Silver (Type O Negative)
Drums—Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)
Skill, technique and spectacle combined put the Dream Theater skinsman at the top of the list.
Runners-up: Chris Adler (Lamb of God), Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Dark Angel), Flo Mournier (Cryptopsy), Eric Carr (KISS)
When I heard this month’s topic was to create a “supergroup”, my nerdometer leaped. Who hasn’t dreamed of having their own Heavy Metal Fantasy Draft? Aside from people who, you know, don’t listen to metal. Initially, my roster was filled with nothing but the heaviest of the heaviest. All Thrash Metal legends. I set aside my bias, and put some restrictions on myself. I also decided not go with anyone who has passed on just for the challenge. So here we go:
James Hetfield – Rhythm Guitar
Was this one too obvious? Hetfield is the epitome of rhythm guitar—practically defined the position. Heralded as the king of the down stroke, his style remains a source of inspiration directly and indirectly (just because of how widely it has been adopted). There are superior technical guitarists than him, but none match his ferocity and attack.
John Bush – Vocals
This guy really deserves more credit and tribute. Whether he is performing with Armored Saint or Anthrax, throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s, he’s been a consistently phenomenal singer. Even in his finer moments, there’s a quiet rage about his voice.
Charlie Benante – Drums
He’s always been subtle. I can’t find one Anthrax song where the drums completely dominate a track or straight up kick me in the teeth. However, if examined carefully, his style is intricate and focused on complementing a song as a whole. It’s when you really zero in on the drums do they pop out and make you say, “Holy shit, that’s awesome.” He handles a kick drum like a lady: with grace and pounding roughly only when necessary.
Jerry Cantrell – Lead Guitar
I wanted someone who played with more style and feeling than flash and quickness. While he is certainly proficient at the latter, he excels at the former. He knows when to hold a note and when to drop them like a cascade.
Mark Lamb – Bass
Deciding on a bass player was difficult. I needed someone with an amazing amount of versatility; someone who knew when to hang back for awhile and when to let the fuzz explode. In Acid King, Mark Lamb thunders through down-tempo doom. In Scorched-Earth Policy, it’s like he’s speaking another musical language. His unique nuances enable him to punctuate songs with his own eloquence, and that is more vital than having someone who is just “totally badass”.
Singer – Sebastian Bach
There were so many great voices I considered— Bruce Dickinson, Joe Lynn Turner; Ronnie James Dio; smooth and sexy like David Coverdale, Silvio Massaro or JP Leppäluoto; or fast and fit like Tony Kakko, Johnny Gioeli Andre Matos and Tobias Sammet, but I chose the most versatile metal singer who can sing anything from ballads to growls to Broadway tunes. He’d rip any given song.
Drums – Mike Terrana
Very few drummers have inspired awe with their live performance but Mike grabbed my attention from a great distance when Rage were playing at Wacken.
Keyboards – Tuomas Holopainen
His playing may not be as good as Jens Johannsen, Janne Warman, Henrik Klingenberg and Oliver Palotai but Tuomas would bring masterful writing and arrangement magic to the band. Plus he has proven ability to work with cowriters will make sure he lets the other great writers in the band
Guitars – Jerry Cantrell and Jani Liimatainen
Two very different guitarists, songwriters and not too bad on vocals either. Jerry would keep Tuomas’s flamboyant symphonics in check and bring some dark grungy sounds to the band, while Jani would be able to continue his stage flamboyance plus I’d like to see his song writing encouraged after the awesome number he wrote for Sonata Arctica, My Selene.
Bass – Dennis Ward
I considered many—Jim Shepherd, Markus Grosskopf, Nobby Noberg, Frédéric Leclercq, Steve Harris and Magnus Rosen. I need a bassist who’s savvy with the vocals to add more depth to the band but Marco Hietala’s voice just wouldn’t gel with Bach’s and Glenn Hughes’s vocal style is just too flamboyant to be in the background. Dennis Ward does it all—plays, sings, writes he’s also paid his dues in the studio as well with engineering, producing, mixing and mastering. Perfect for my supergroup’s recording needs.
The name – Perun
Being that I’ve chosen gods in my eyes, I’ve called the band Perun—the Rus pagan god of thunder and lightning.
I wouldn’t dream of coming up with a name for the supergroup, but the line-up would be:
Matt Barlow (Iced Earth, Pyramaze) – Vocals
Victor Smolski (Rage) – Guitar
Mike Terrana (Rage, Masterplan, among others) – Drums
Cliff Burton (Metallica) – Bass
Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) – Keyboards
The band would play agressive power metal with an incredible range of sounds.
Vocals Dave Wayne (Metal Church; Reverend)
Guitars Dimebag Darrell Abbott (Pantera)
Bass Cliff Burton (Metallica)
Drums John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
Vocals John Bush (Armored Saint; Anthrax)
Guitars Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society)
Guitars Steve Vai
Bass Les Claypool (Primus)
Drums Vinny Paul Abbot (Pantera)