14 Greatest One-Album Wonders of All Time | Revolver

14 Greatest One-Album Wonders of All Time

From Mad Season to Minor Threat
mad season PROMO, Lance Mercer
Mad Season, 1995
photograph by Lance Mercer

Prolificness is something to be celebrated in an artist — but only when the output is as high in quality as it is high in quantity. For most, less is more (there's a reason why TOOL have only five full-lengths to their name), enabling the creators to focus, hone their vision and talents, and only put their very best out into the world. Some bands or projects take this premise to the extreme, releasing just one utterly phenomenal album and then calling it quits — either due to creative differences, a tragic death or other more consuming endeavors — tantalizing fans with what might have been.

We call these bands and projects one-album wonders, and we took a look back through heavy-music history and rounded up the the absolute best in this category. From formative death metal and foundational hardcore to shining gems from one-off supergroups, these are the 14 greatest albums that were never followed up.

Carnage - Dark Recollections

Carnage's "members of" roster — musicians from Entombed, Carcass, Arch Enemy, Dismember and more played in the short-lived band — managed to be just as great as the sum of their parts on their sole album, 1990's Dark Recollections. This early gem from Sweden's then-budding death-metal scene checks all the boxes that defined their region's world-renowned sound — savory riffs, croaking vocals, hair-whipping groove and loads of evil atmosphere. All of the members went on to great things in their other bands, but together, they were a beast. 

Disembowlement - Transcendence into the Peripheral

Disembowelment's premature ending still haunts death-doom enthusiasts to this day. The Australian band's 1993 debut violently oscillates between painfully slow, trudging doom crawls and ass-beating death-metal rages, with ghastly vocals that swirl throughout the mix like a demon's face forming in the body of a tornado. Their knack for switching between plodding and grinding tempos on a dime was exciting, but the album's inclusion of moody ambient passages is what gives Transcendence into the Peripheral its mystical sheen. 

Inside Out - No Spiritual Surrender

Before he became the most charismatically furious, lyrically incisive microphone fiend in rock as the frontman of Rage Against the Machine, Zack de la Rocha was going apeshit in Orange County clubs at the helm of his hardcore band Inside Out. His co-writer, Vic DiCara, went on to form 108 and eventually play in Burn, and fittingly, Inside Out's 1990 EP, the spectacular six-song No Spiritual Surrender, sounds like the midway between early RATM and the groove-driven post-hardcore that'd dominate the Nineties. 

Mad Season - Above

Anything Layne Staley touched with his otherworldly voice turned to gold, and such was the case with Mad Season's lone offering, 1995's Above. A grunge supergroup also featuring Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and Screaming Trees' drummer Barrett Martin, the band veered in experimental tangents — drawing on jazz, progressive rock, folk and blues — with Staley's world-beating, heart-wrenching vocals holding it all together, whether on the somber ballad "River of Deceit" or the sludgy stomper "I Don't Know Anything."

Minor Threat - Out of Step

While it's a shame that most bands on this list never made it to a sophomore album, Minor Threat never needed to follow up Out of Step. Released after their controversial return from a brief hiatus, Ian MacKaye and Co. snapped into action and wrote nine perfect songs that defined hardcore's early form (though they were much tighter musicians than 99 percent of their peers) and etched MacKaye's vigorous ethos — at once preternaturally nuanced and dripping with youthful self-seriousness — into the subculture's DNA. It's a spotless mic drop. No need for a round two. 

Nailbomb - Point Blank

Max Cavalera has been in a lot of bands over the years, but Nailbomb might be the nastiest, most unrelentingly heavy group of his prolific career. A joint project between him and Fudge Tunnel's Alex Newport, the short-lived band's savagely destructive Point Blank LP — adorned with one of the most viscerally intense covers in metal history, and comprised of songs titled "World of Shit" and "Sick Life"  — fused groovy death-metal and steel-enforced industrial into a Terminator-like musical cyborg emanating pure, stone-faced hatred for all of mankind. 

Palms - Palms

Featuring Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and three former members of the post-metal band ISIS, Palms' singular, self-titled 2013 album initially disappointed some fans of both groups by not leaning into either's heavier inclinations. Instead, seven-minute-plus epics like standout "Future Warrior" ride warm, shimmering waves of sunset-lit shoegaze, undulating beneath Moreno's warbly croon. It's gorgeous, art-metal comfort music that's aged unexpectedly well.

Peeping Tom - Peeping Tom

Mike Patton is heavy music's man of a thousand voices — and nearly as many projects, from Faith No More and Mr. Bungle to Fantômas, Tomahawk and Dead Cross. One of his most fascinating was the short-lived Peeping Tom, which the virtuosic vocalist described as "my version of pop music." The project's lone album, 2006's self-titled offering, is a stunning, fun and, yes, poppy affair packed with all-star assists from Massive Attack, Kool Keith and more — including Norah Jones, who nearly steals the show, playing against type on the slinky, profanity-laced "Sucker."

Probot - Probot

Leave it to Dave Grohl to curate one of the coolest heavy-metal supergroup albums ever. In 2004, the Foo Fighters frontman dropped an album under the name Probot that featured metal icons from across the spectrum — Lemmy, Max Cavalera, King Diamond, Venom's Cronos, Wino of Saint Vitus and tons more — joining him for a bunch of original ragers that careened joyously between blistering thrash and churning doom. Grohl's a busy guy, and he did just recently drop a new metal EP under the name Dream Widow, but no one would complain if he ever found time for Probot part two. 

Repulsion - Horrified

Repulsion's Horrified is sort of like the missing link between mid-Eighties American thrash and early English grindcore. The Michigan group technically recorded the LP in 1986, but the 18-song barrage of primitive blast beats, noisy thrash riffs and guttural vocal grunts that sound like a zombie-fied version of Slayer's Tom Araya didn't actually get released until 1989, several years after grindcore had gotten its legs. Nonetheless, it became retroactively influential — especially on grind's gorier proponents — and still whips total ass today, nearly 40 years later. 

Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols

Burning bright and fast was sort of the whole point of punk's first wave, so the fact that the Sex Pistols only released one album makes sense. Their contemporaries in the Ramones and the Clash had plenty of time to divide their fan bases over the span of many years and many questionable musical pivots, but Never Mind the the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols remains just what the title suggests — a materialization of a brief, albeit revolutionary, moment in rock history that said everything it needed to say in 11, no-bollocks songs. 

Snot - Get Some

Technically, Get Some isn't the only album released under the name Snot, but it's commonly regarded as the band's solitary full-length since it's the sole LP that OG vocalist Lynn Strait performed on before his untimely death in 1998, and the group's lone follow-up is a tribute album, 2000's Strait Up, featuring guest vocals by famous friends, from Jonathan Davis to Serj Tankian. This one hurts because the Santa Barbara band displayed a really unique, hardcore-inflected take on nu-metal. Strait was a compelling vocalist and the band had chops. Who knows how big they could've been had they been given the chance.

Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog

Temple of the Dog not only rank among the greatest one-and-done bands of all time, but they also stand as one of superest supergroups ever. Conceived by Soundgarden's Chris Cornell as a tribute to late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, the group's lone LP, 1991's self-titled offering, features future members of Pearl Jam including a then-little-known singer named Eddie Vedder. Remarkably, the music lives up to the all-star cast, who delivered timeless grunge anthems in tunes like "Hunger Strike," "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Call Me a Dog."

Weakling - Dead as Dreams

One of the first truly great American black-metal albums never got a follow-up. Weakling's masterful 2000 opus, Dead as Dreams, isn't universally beloved by kvlt purists who think the genre's European founding fathers did it best, but the album's cascading keyboard parts and long, climactic compositions that stretch upward like castle spires make for a truly epic and listenable — though still plenty dark and tattered — form of black metal. It's unquestionably a landmark moment in USBM.