Let's be real, the vast majority of musicians are lucky if they're in one good band, let alone one great one. Two great bands? Yeah, that's impressive. But three (or more) genuinely top-notch acts on your resume? That takes some major league skill, and in the world of heavy music, it doesn't happen often. We looked at 12 musicians who achieved triple-threat status and, in some cases, even gone beyond that — from extreme-music mavens to hard-rock wailers.
Bands: Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual
No one could ever accuse Philip Anselmo of coasting or playing it safe. After making it big with Pantera, the New Orleans-bred singer could have easily adopted a more accessible course and perhaps made it even bigger. Instead, he turned to the underground and went way heavier. Pantera got heavier, culminating in the ferocious Great Southern Trendkill, and with NOLA supergroup Down, Anselmo enlisted his friends in COC, Crowbar and Eyehategod to tap into the lysergic sounds of sludge. He channeled his love for vitriolic hardcore into Superjoint. His many other projects are well worth a listen — the black metal of Christ Inversion, the gothy folk of En Minor, the unclassifiable extremity of his solo material — but these three are his best.
Bands: Napalm Death, Godflesh, Jesu
Justin Broadrick is the Michelangelo of extreme noise, a gifted sculptor of guitar dissonance who's reinvented his approach three times over (not counting his other projects: Final, Techno Animal, Greymachine, etc.) and never failed to reach higher and higher planes of sonic majesty. First, he set the foundation for grindcore as a primary songwriter on Napalm Death's Scum, but he quickly abandoned the full-speed-ahead approach, pioneering instead the scrap-pile-on-fire industrial metal with Godflesh. From there he segued into Jesu, reupholstering the thwacking drum machines with waves of smoggy shoegaze riffs and a more downtrodden and vulnerable vocal approach.
Bands: Sepultura, Nailbomb, Soulfly, Killer Be Killed
If Max Cavalera only had Sepultura to his name, he'd already be a metal legend, but the prolific Brazilian vocalist-guitarist wasn't content with blazing a trail through death metal, thrash, groove-metal and nu-metal. With Nailbomb, he left his mark on industrial metal. With Soulfly, he rose from the ashes of Sepultura's acrimonious split. And with the alt-metal supergroup Killer Be Killed, he cemented his legacy by teaming with members of the next generation: Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato, Mastodon's Troy Sanders and Converge's Ben Koller.
Bands: Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog
The late, great Chris Cornell owned one of the greatest voices in rock history, an at times rafter-shafter, at times subtle and heartbreaking instrument too powerful to be limited to just a single band. With Soundgarden, he was on the front lines of the grunge revolution. With Temple of the Dog, he paid tribute to a fallen friend, Mother Love Bones frontman Andrew Wood, and set the stage for Pearl Jam. With Audioslave, he teamed with three-fourths of Rage Against the Machine to superlative results. Throw in a fruitful solo career to boot, and you have a true icon whose music will never die.
Bands: Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures
Dave Grohl has been an inescapable fixture of rock music for over 30 years now, having been in at least 10 bands since his Eighties hardcore upbringing and collaborated in some fashion with easily twice as many in the decades since. Obviously, he was the drummer for Nirvana, and ever since he stepped out from behind the kit to front his next band, Foo Fighters, he's been one of rock's most lovable mouthpieces. While he played on acclaimed records by Queens of the Stone Age, Killing Joke and Tenacious D — not to mention the one and only album from his metal all-star project Probot — his tag-team with Joshe Homme and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Them Crooked Vultures, counts as his third great bona fide band.
Bands: Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Them Crooked Vultures
With a prolific resume of guest appearances and production credits, Josh Homme has graced many a band with his Godzilla-sized riffs and sonorous croon, but he also boasts three legit awesome groups of his own. In the early Nineties, he and his Kyuss bandmates set the bar for every stoner-rock outfit who'd follow along the dusty trail they blazed, but it was obvious that he had the potential for even greater things. Enter Queens of the Stone Age, one of the best hard-rock bands of this century, whose popularity gave Homme the pedigree to link with the heroic John Paul Jones (and the aforementioned Grohl) for Them Crooked Vultures.
Bands: Death, Dethklok, Dark Angel, Testament, Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory
If you chucked a dart at a wall of famous metal band names, chances are it would land on something Gene Hoglan has been a part of. The gob-smackingly prolific drummer came up in the early Eighties thrash scene, roadie-ing for Slayer before joining their Bay Area peers in Dark Angel, and has since inhabited every corner of the metalverse. He played in Death during their Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic era, made a bunch of albums with Devin Townsend, gave cartoon band Dethklok a dose of real-life brutality and more recently did stints in Testament and Fear Factory. Dude gets around.
Bands: Nails, Terror, Carry On
Todd Jones is a hardcore jack of all trades. The guitarist-vocalist burst onto the California hardcore scene at the turn of the century, playing in a slew of good bands before christening his growing legacy with Carry On's 2001 classic, A Life Less Plagued. From there, his youth crew-inspired songwriting got heavier and meaner as he spearheaded the early incarnation of Terror (and returned to co-write and produce their 2022 masterpiece, Pain Into Power). But he truly came into his own with Nails, the ferociously heavy metallic hardcore unit that piles together elements of grind, death metal and crust with an unmatched level of brutality and concision.
Bands: TOOL, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer
When your main band can take as long as 13 years to make an album, you can't be blamed for taking on some side projects. But side projects are rarely as compelling as those of Maynard James Keenan. TOOL, of course, are untoppable, a third-eye-opening psychedelic thrill ride as challenging as they are captivating. But the arguably more accessible APC — a.k.a. "TOOL Lite," to some — are no slouches. Then there's Puscifer, maybe the strangest of the bunch, a theatrical art-rock troupe in which Keenan can fully indulge his love of DEVO and his passion for the absurd.
Bands: Slayer, Misfits, Suicidal Tendencies, Testament, Fantômas, Mr. Bungle, Dead Cross
He's arguably the greatest metal drummer of all time, so of course, he would be in demand. Dave Lombardo, a.k.a. "The Godfather of the Double Bass," could forever rest on the laurels of Slayer's Reign in Blood, were he so inclined, but no rest for the wicked. Instead, this hyperactive time-keeper has kept himself busy playing with a who's who of heavy-metal and punk institutions, from Misfits and Suicidal to his many high-quality undertakings with one of the few musicians even more prolific than him: Mike Patton.
Bands: Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Tomahawk, Dead Cross
Speak of the devil: The man of a thousand voice and even more projects has very few clunkers on his resume. And while Patton has lent his pipes to everyone from Sepultura to the Dillinger Escape Plan, he's also led some of the most singular — and singularly important — bands in left-field heavy music. Faith No More unwittingly pioneered nu-metal; Mr. Bungle destroyed all genre lines. As for Fantômas, Tomahawk and Dead Cross, they've offered up their own distinct visions of sonic heft and visceral aggression.
Bands: Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, Rival Schools
Walter Schreifels has helped guide the sound of hardcore in every decade of its existence. In the late Eighties, the Youth of Today guitarist and his pals formed Gorilla Biscuits, whose canonical album, Start Today, helped give NYHC a facelift with spirited shout-backs and melodic riffs. In the Nineties, he formed Quicksand, turning hardcore's fast-and-furious cliches upside down with groovy, metallized riffs and a whole new singing style. Then he metamorphized again with Rival Schools, blending the power of grunge with the explosive hooks of emo, influencing crucial 2010s bands like Title Fight, whose 2011 breakout, Shed, Schreifels produced.