Supergroups, side projects, solo albums—who doesn't love 'em? Sure, for every Velvet Revolver (Stone Temple Pilots + Guns N' Roses), there's a Fieldy's Dreams. But more often than not, a solo album or side project is a chance for an artist to indulge in some creative impulse that wouldn't quite fit the framework of the band that pays the rent. A “supergroup” throws a bunch of well-known talented people together and sees what happens; it’s generally exciting even when the results fall short of expectations. Guys from Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees made a single, brilliant album as Mad Season. The unlikely combination of Fall Out Boy, Every Time I Die and Anthrax gave us the Damned Things. Dave Grohl played drums, guitar and bass on an entire album's worth of heavy metal songs he released as Probot, with a different singer on each track—Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint Vitus), Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead), King Diamond and eight other metal/punk legends (oh, and Jack Black).
2014 was a particularly robust year for supergroups, side projects and solo albums in the AltPress world. In fact, there were so many good ones, it was easy to miss a few. So here is a handy roundup of the best solo, side project and supergroup songs Of 2014.
AKANI – “Who's To Blame?”
Not only did 2014 give us a new album from the long-dormant (yet no less influential) At The Gates (Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying and Darkest Hour all owe a debt to them and probably more than a few riffs), but fans of The New Wave Of Swedish Death Metal got a supergroup, to boot. Anders Bjorler (At The Gates, the Haunted), Daniel Antonsson (Soilwork, Dark Tranquillity), Victor Brandt (Entombed, Satyricon) and Anders Lowgren (Dead Reprise) came together as Akani, rounding out the lineup with the awesomely unlikely Jorge Rosado, from New York Hardcore legends Merauder, on vocals to create something altogether new with added sludge and hardcore bite.
ANDY BLACK – “They Don't Need To Understand”
Andy Black, also known as Black Veil Brides frontman Andy Biersack, introduced us to himself as a solo artist with this song, which featured a straightforward hook and lyrics about finding strength as an outsider. Visually, longtime BVB collaborator Patrick Fogarty delivered the song’s black and white video, which is at once decidedly modern yet timeless, with the '50s style mic, teen-idol pinup closeups, and a peek into Andy's pre-BVB world. Come to think of it, the backdrop for much of this video ties right into The Making Of Andy Biersack cover story in AP 305.
††† (CROSSES) – “The Epilogue”
Counting the number of times a band has told AP they love Deftones would be like counting the number of starter van breakdowns on a young band’s first tour. Chino Moreno has had many side-projects over the years, including Team Sleep and Palms. But none are as enveloping, mesmerizing and altogether potent as the synth-heavy band who stylizes their name as †††. The Deftones singer supplies the croon, Shaun Lopez (Far, the Revolution Smile) supplies the grooves and producer Chuck Doom rounds out the trio. The band gave music away for free for a while, but something about this year's full-length, Crosses, made it feel more like a real band.
THE DEAD RABBITTS – “My Only Regret”
Craig Mabbitt may be best known as the singer for Escape The Fate, but let us consider the rest of the dude's resume for a moment. He fronted Blessthefall on their first EPs and debut album. Side projects? He started the Word Alive after he'd already joined ETF (with whom he's now been featured on three out of four albums). Not bad for a guy who still hasn’t entered his thirties, right? This year finally saw Mabbitt reconnecting with his screaming roots on the debut album from the Dead Rabbitts. In late November, Mabbitt posted a photo of the band, which counts Alex Torres (Alesana, Eyes Set To Kill, Greeley Estates) and ETF's TJ Bell in the lineup, with this caption: “As all the fakes expose themselves and disappear, you begin to realize how precious the real friends are who keep near.” (Don't worry, he shouted out the rest of ETF, too!).
DEVIL YOU KNOW – “Seven Years Alone”
All Shall Perish guitarist Francesco Artusato didn't set out to make a supergroup when he began collaborating with Australian-born drummer John Sankey, who has played with Devolved, Divine Heresy and Fear Factory. But once former Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones heard the songs and came onboard, the buzz in the metalcore scene was undeniable. Bleeding Through bassist Ryan Wombacher and Hiss Of Atrocities guitarist Roy Lev-Ari came onboard after the completion of The Beauty Of Destruction, arriving in time to show up in this music video and for all of the year's touring.
FRONZILLA – “Turn It Up”
It's not quite a nü-metal revival and it doesn't sound like rap-rock a la Rage Against The Machine, but there's definitely something happening with the convergence of Warped Tour and modern rap flows. Earlier this year, Chris “Fronz” Fronzak's dropped this video, flying the Southern Rap party flag both lyrically and visually, under the hip-hop pseudonym Fronzilla. Attila flirted with hip-hop, too (look no further than “About That Life”), but this jam is straight-up diabolical Dirty South grit and grime.
KILLER BE KILLED – “Wings Of Feather And Wax”
When the Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato and Soulfly's Max Cavalera started telling the press they were writing songs together, nobody had any idea what to expect. After all, Cavalera co-founded heavy metal institution Sepultura, churning out ridiculously heavy riffs, which can be found on countless Soulfly albums, records from his Cavalera Conspiracy side project (which also released an album this year) and in the legendary Nailbomb one-off project. Metal Sucks crowned Puciato their #1 Modern Metal Frontman. So whatever they were working on, it was sure to be loud. And then things got even more awesome: Mastodon's Troy Sanders came onboard as bassist and third vocalist, resulting in a mash-up truly as good as the sum of its parts.
MATTY MULLINS – “My Dear”
Give Matty Mullins a budget decent enough to build a studio in his new house and a bunch of quality creative time with producer Cameron Mizell (Sleeping With Sirens, Capture The Crown, the Word Alive) and this surprise eponymous solo effort is the result. Mullins and Mizell had collaborated on plenty of Memphis May Fire albums before, but this was something different. Mullins solo album hearkens back to much of the praise and worship music he grew up on. His voice soars to melodic heights through moving, earnest love letters to his Creator, his wife and his joyous victory over anxiety and depression.
NO DEVOTION – “Stay”
What's-his-name from Lostprophets has been rightly vilified (imprisoned) for unmentionable crimes we won't give any more press to here. But what about his bandmates, Richard “Jamie” Oliver, Stuart Richardson, Luke Johnson, Mike Lewis and Lee Gaze? Why should their careers be sidelined? Enter Geoff Rickly, the frontman for screamo cornerstone Thursday. As No Devotion, the ex-Lostprophets dudes and Rickly craft warm, atmospheric and melodic new-wave-infused pop-rock, heavily influenced by New Order.
NYVES – “Fall Behind”
Demon Hunter co-founder/band leader Ryan Clark has indulged his love of all things dark pop and Depeche Mode as one-half of Low & Behold, his collaboration with Jason Martin of Starflyer 59. But where Low & Behold have quietly released a series of mostly vinyl-only, low-key singles, NYVES (pronounced “knives”) looks to be more ambitious. Randy Torres (ex-Project 86) has filled in with Demon Hunter before. Both he and Clark once worked at Tooth & Nail Records (Clark as Art Director, Torres in A&R). Their friendship, musical chemistry and shared love of classic new wave like Psychedelic Furs has produced something special. NYVES surpassed a $50,000 Kickstarter goal within days of the announcement. “Fall Behind” is dark and delicious.
RONNIE RADKE Ft. ANDY BIERSACK – “Asshole”
Ronnie Radke's hip-hop skills on the mic have grown leaps and bounds since Falling In Reverse shocked the scene with “Alone.” The self-deprecation/bravado mixture in his wordplay on “Asshole,” from the free mixtape he's released song by song over the past year, are reminiscent of his rap idol, Eminem. But that comparison is perhaps too easy. Radke didn't grow up in 8 Mile, but he has plenty of life experience of his own to mine, and an arguably much more interesting backstory and haranguing from internet haters. Black Veil Brides knows a thing or three about social media smack talkers too, making Biersack the perfect choice for this hook.
WE ARE HARLOT – “Denial”
Danny Worsnop has made no secret of his love for Van Halen, Skid Row, Guns N' Roses and every other hair-sprayed purveyor of sex, drugs and rock ‘n' roll to ever trash a dressing room. Harlot (since sorta renamed We Are Harlot) is the Asking Alexandria singer's chance to fully indulge that part of his personality. The band's record has been finished for quite some time, but legal, business and record label maneuvers held up its release. The band finally played their first show, at Rock On The Range, no less. 40,000 people. No big deal, Danny.
WOVENWAR – “All Rise”
Wovenwar's story isn't too dissimilar from how No Devotion came together. As I Lay Dying's singer is now in prison which left Nick Hipa, Phil Sgrosso, Josh Gilbert and Jordan Mancino with an uncertain future, to say the least. Enter Hipa's old pal Shane Blay, best known as lead guitarist, primary songwriter and “clean” vocalist for Oh, Sleeper. The guys took the high road and ducked the headlines, opting to channel their emotions, hopes and passion into a brand new band with a brand new album before anyone even knew they'd hit the studio. “All Rise” is a song of triumph, or overcoming adversity, performed by a group of men who have had to live those lyrics in a more profound way than most bands ever will.
WRONGCHILDE – “Falling In Love Will Kill You”
Originally intended to be a coed duet, “Falling In Love Will Kill You” was flipped upside down when former My Chemical Romance vocalist Gerard Way entered the studio with Wrongchilde—Mat Devine of Kill Hannah—for the recording of his album Gold Blooded. “It was Gerard who had the vision to take a chance on it as two guys,” Devine told us when we premiered the song. The result is a breezy folk song combining two contrasting male voices dreamily warning of love’s perils that is not only sweet, but also boundary-challenging.
XTRMST – “Conformist”
AFI's Davey Havok and Jade Puget already have Blaqk Audio to indulge their love of dark electro-pop. Havok wears his vegan, straight-edge lifestyle as prominently on his sleeves as his love for Tim Burton, but XTRMST recalls the pure, singularly focused urgency of short-lived outbursts like Project X. Havok and Puget's insistence that “God Free” is as fundamental to straight edge as “drug free” doesn't square with the views and lyrics of iconic predecessors like Ray Cappo and Porcell (Youth Of Today/Shelter), Karl Buechner (Earth Crisis), xDisciplex A.D. or modern bands like Sleeping Giant and Saving Grace. But otherwise, XTRMST doesn't try to reinvent the wheel—which is why it stands out. In an era where so-called counterculture seems to celebrate reckless hedonism more than ever, XTRMST's vintage declarations of abstinence and metallic Earth Crisis style riffs are fresh all over again.
*Full disclosure: Downey is the manager for Ryan Clark/Demon Hunter and Greg Puciato/the Dillinger Escape Plan.