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10 Bands That Should Have Been Huge, Part 2

George Marks, Hulton Archive

After we posted a list of ten bands that should have been phenoms rather than footnotes, up came the cry of “What about Handsome? What about Dragpipe?” from none other than editor Carlos Ramirez. Oh s—! Forgot ‘em.

Clearly, there was room for 10 more “Bands That Should Have Been Huge” — so here they are: another grippe of unsung metal and hard rock heroes that have sadly been relegated to the $3.99 bin at your local used CD store.

Big Chief


Motor City Mofos, Big Chief can take credit for recording the greatest Blaxploitation soundtrack ever – to a movie that never existed! ’93′s ‘Mack Ave Skullgame’ gave even the Beastie Boys a run for their cheddar with its share of rich grooves, ambient funk and cool incidental sounds, not to mention some blazing, OG hardcore moves. No surprise really that it was none other than Barry Hensseler, ex-throat with Detroit HC heroes, The Necros and brainstrust behind the legendary ‘Motorbooty’ zine was the man at the center of this smarter-than-average aggregate featuring Soundgarden ’Badmotorfinger’ cover artist Mark Dancy on guitar. Sadly, Big Chief’s Capitol Records debut, ‘Platinum Jive (Greatest Hits 66-99)’ – a career sweeping Greatest Hits collection for an imaginary band – failed to capture the ears and imagination of the initiated and uncool. Everybody, that is.

Blitzspeer

These New Yawkuhs never quite pulled off on vinyl what they were capable of in a sweaty, Lower East Side dive bar. Blitzspeer‘s Epic Records debut, ‘Saves’ (following a much better EP simply titled ‘Live’) never kicked the jams that made the band such a killer live proposition. Take the drive of Guns N’ Roses, the so-stupid-its-smart velocity of the Ramones and give it a thrashy metallic sheen. In a nutshell, that was Blitzspeer. Fronted by future Monster Magnet axeman Phil Caivano. Blitzspeer shared many a bill with the likes of the Cro-Mags, Biohazard and a very primal White Zombie way back in the early ’90s. Damn shame they never connected with the Headbangers Ball demo the way they should have.

Head of David

Think Killing Joke reborn as stoners and that’s a pretty good approximation of what these heavy-minded Brits from the Black Country sounded like. Head of David are probably notable for Fear Factory covering one of their songs as well as serving as a pit-stop for future Godlflesh member Justin Broadrick after leaving an antediluvian version of Napalm Death, While their name is still muttered in legend, Head of David’s 1988 Steve Albini-produced ‘Dustbowl’ LP remains an unheralded and severely unappreciated artifact for fans of dusky resin and heavy grooves.

Die Kreuzen

Hardcore was too small a genre to contain these Wisconsinites whose name was a clunky German translation for “The Crosses.” Sure, Die Kreuzen‘s self-titled 1983 Touch & Go debut remains one of Ameri-core’s most scalding artifacts; subsequent offerings like 86′s ‘October File’ and 88′s ‘Century Days’ rip apart that framework and slather on a sort of discord, darkness and melody that sounds like Aerosmith‘s ‘Seasons of Wither’ played over and over again in Bizarro World. Die Kreuzen more than earned their place in history – avant-thrashers Voivod still constantly name-check ‘em and at one point Rick Rubin wanted to add ‘em to the Def American stable. Luckily, they’ve reformed to play Holland’s Roadburn Festival and some Midwestern gigs later this year. If ever a band should be canonized for fucking with hardcore’s formula and rewriting its oft-lunkheaded language, it’s Die Kreuzen.

Handsome

When guitarist Peter Mengede parted with Helmet, he was quick to pull together an alterna-metal supergroup featuring then-former Quicksand guitarist Tom Capone, Cro-Mags skinsman Pete Hines and vocalist Jeremy Chatelain (who would later blaze some indie-rock glory with Jets to Brazil). With a Sub Pop single under their belt, Handsome netted some serious major label cash and made a self-titled post-hardcore classic for Epic Records that surfaced in 1997 to some serious kudos. As is often the case, it took only a year for the New York quintet to fracture and split, leaving a shamefully unfulfilled legacy.

Kinghorse

Any fan of Metallica art-scribbler Pushead will recognize the cover art to these Kentuckians’ self-titled Caroline Records debut. Under the tutelage of pal and producer, Glenn Danzig, these backcountry volume dealers belched up what may be the lost Samhain record. Unforunately, like any combustible collection of intense and brilliantly fucked-in-the-head characters (culled together from Kentucky hardcore heavies including Melignant Growth and Maurice), Kinghorse split in 1993; but not before some serious underground praise and a Danzig tour. Think the Birthday Party played by mongoloids and you’ll have a good approximation of what Kinghorse sounded like.

Last Crack

More Wisconsin cheese-heads bending the rules of late ’80s/early ’90s metal. Two decades later, it would be perfectly acceptable to call Last Crack “prog” as they desecrated musical boundaries with a complicated aural potpourri of psychedelia, blues, thrash and rock ‘n’ roll channeled by a caterwauling frontdude named Buddo. While Last Crack’s Roadracer album debut, ‘Sinister Funkhouse No. 17,’ got ‘em a bit of notice, it was the Dave (Alice in Chains) Jerden produced follow-up ‘Burning Time’ that set the stage for alterna-metal greatness. Unfortunately, it was more like “Bummer Time” when internal and managerial stress got the best of ‘em and caused the band to split just three months following the release of their sophomore effort.

Little Caesar

Y’might remember Ron Young, the all-inked-up frontman of LA blues-meisters Little Caesar getting tossed through a window in ‘Terminator 2.’ That may have been his biggest brush with the mainstream. Damn shame. Where their tattooed dirtbag image (remember, this is long before all of So-Cal fell under the ink-slinger’s needle) may have put off the masses, Little Caesar’s Bob Rock-produced self-titled debut is a smart-as-shit balancing act betwixt post GNR Holly-Rock and Stax blues Try ‘I Wish It Would Rain’ or their cover of Don Covay’s ‘Chain of Fools’ and there’ll be some head scratchin’ as to why this bunch weren’t massive. According to legend, it had a bit to do a key executive on their team at Geffen getting busted masturbating under his desk in front of his secretary. Ah, the glorious ’90s!

Mind Over Four

Phil Anselmo name checked these waaaaaay-before-their-time Cali prog-heads by wearing one of their T-shirts on the back of ‘Vulgar Display of Power.’ While categorization may have eluded them (as did success), Mind Over Four‘s 1990 opus ‘The Goddess’ is a motherf—er of rhythmic twists and turns, soaring vocals and sundry sonic smarts – not to mention a cameo from Dag Nasty/Bad Religion axe-slinger Brian Baker. In a fair world, Mind Over Four would have found an audience somewhere between Jane’s Addiction and Dream Theater. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way. Guitarist Mark Jensen ended up touring with KMFDM and frontman Spike Xavier started up insurrectionist metal-rap crew, Corporate Avenger, who released a head-scratcher of an album on his younger brother, Kottonmouth Kings‘ Brad X’s Suburban Noize label.

The Nymphs

Nymphs frontwoman Inger Lorre will likely go down in history for taking a whiz on Geffen A&R supremo Tom Zutaut’s desk when she lost her producer to Guns N’ Roses. That tidbit aside, the Nymphs 1991 self-titled debut is a driving slice of pre-Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction-era glitter-punk not far removed from the chaos-to-come of Courtney Love and Hole. However, like the best of artists Ms. Lorre wasn’t exactly playing with a full deck and shortly after she refused to go onstage to sold out crowd opening for Peter Murphy, the band threw in the towel and opted for normal jobs – like guitarist Geoff Seigel ending up as an A&R guy! Postscript: Geoff’s desk was never urinated on.

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