Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
It’s been a pretty insane week for comebacks. The first new music from Godflesh in 13 years came out this week, as did a second song from the new Judas Priest album. That, combined with an article in Guitar World ranking the best and worst comeback albums and last year’s Carcass album being way better than it deserved to be leads us to this week’s Headbanger’s Brawl, in which we pick our favorite comeback albums and explain why.
Bram: I think I’ll go with the last amazing In Flames record, 2006’s Come Clarity. There was nothing particularly wrong with Soundtrack to Your Escape, but it kind of felt like the band had lost their way. Come Clarity was heavy, streamlined and a return to form for the band. Most bands are on auto pilot by their eighth album, playing the hits and playing it safe. This was not only a really good album for a band at this stage in their career, but one of their best albums overall, and they haven’t really been able to match it since. Also, I’ve heard the new Arch Enemy album, and considering it’s their first without two key members and essentially a new beginning, it’s pretty damn good.
I ’m pretty sure another one of my favorite comeback albums came out just as I was starting to get into heavy music, and it’s one Guitar World picked. That’d be Deep Purple’s Perfect Strangers. At the time, I didn’t even know it was a comeback. I’d heard “Smoke on the Water” and “Woman From Tokyo” a million times, but wasn’t super familiar with the band enough to know that they’d broken up eight years prior. All I knew was that as soon as I heard that organ intro to the title track that kicked off the album, I was immediately hooked. Not to mention, “Nobody’s Home” and “Knocking at Your Back Door” were also amazing tunes.
Chris: Kamelot’s latest album, Silverthorn, is not only my favorite comeback album, but also one of the best examples of a comeback album in recent memory. Kamelot fans everywhere (myself included) were despondent when Roy Khan left the band in 2011, and many thought that the band was over. Then Kamelot recruited Tommy Karevik and released some of the best material of their entire career. Much like Bram’s example with In Flames, most bands aren’t on an upward trajectory of creating new and unique material on their tenth album, but Kamelot did it very well on Silverthorn, and I look forward to the follow-up album with great anticipation.
Another of my favorites that some might not see as a comeback album is Soilwork’s The Panic Broadcast. While 2007’s Sworn to a Great Divide wasn’t a poor album, the band was clearly lacking the creative spark that Peter Wichers had given in the past. When he rejoined the band, it was a complete turnaround – The Panic Broadcast had the perfect mix of melody, heaviness, and groove to stand alongside Soilwork’s classic albums as one of the best in their career.
Zach: Two (more recent) comeback albums come to mind. The first would be Anthrax’s Worship Music. I’ve always been a John Bush fan (still love We’ve Come For You All), so quite frankly I wasn’t completely sold on Anthrax doing another album with Joey Belladonna. Plus, let’s not forget all of the drama Anthrax endured just to get Belladonna back in the band. That’s why I still remember how shocked I was the first time I heard songs like “Fight Em Till You Can’t” and “In The End.” Not only were the songs stellar, but Belladonna actually sounded awesome! So as I always say in regards to Worship Music, it’s a miracle the album ever saw the light of day, but even more amazing it turned out as incredible as it was.
The second album that comes to mind is Alice In Chains’ Black Gives Way To Blue. Before 2005, it would have been impossible to imagine Alice In Chains touring without the late Layne Staley, let alone record an album without him. Even after the three surviving members starting touring under the name with William DuVall, the idea of an album seemed far fetched. Yet 2009 came along, and Alice In Chains did the impossible. Songs like “Check My Brain” and “Acid Bubble” sound like the Alice In Chains we use to love without sounding like a complete rip off of the band’s past. It’s an album that truly revitalized a band that no one expected could make an impactful comeback.
Richard: I’m going to cheat a little bit with my number one choice because they never actually disbanded, but I’d have to go with Heaven and Hell by Black Sabbath. This band was dead in the water by the time they got the balls to fire Ozzy and hire Dio. Never Say Die was wrought with filler and rumor has it Van Halen was blowing them off the stage on the proceeding world tour. Enter Dio (and a new approach to songwriting) and you get not only one of Sabbath’s greatest albums but one of the greatest metal albums ever. Period. (Shut up Zakk Wylde).
My other choice for greatest comeback record has to be Monotheist by Celtic Frost. Even with a few missteps along the way Celtic Frost is one of the most influential metal bands of all-time. The fact that they finally got back together to record an albums worth of new material was somewhat of a dream come true scenario for fans. Monotheist did not disappoint. The opening track, “Progeny,” is one of the best songs in their canon and the entire album is stellar.
Kodi: They never really left, but is it too early to call Crowbar’s new album a huge comeback? I think a lot of fans felt skeptical when Kirk Windstein departed Down to focus on his own band, but Symmetry in Black is the best record Crowbar has made in YEARS, easily. Have you heard that thing? Holy mother does it ever smoke.
But let’s look more in the longview: Iron Maiden’s Brave New World has to be in the discussion, though in my mind, it took until The Final Frontier for Maiden to match their 80s heyday for songwriting quality – take your pick, as either one is a major comeback from the Blaze Bayley years. Candlemass’s King of the Grey Islands was the band’s first album with Rob Lowe on vocals, and it’s easily their best album since Nightfall, which is no small praise…for me, there’s a lot of only-sort-of-memorable stuff in between there. And more recently, there’s Carcass’s Surgical Steel, which may not have been the most forward-thinking comeback (a rarity in their otherwise spotlessly innovative discography) but made up for that by shredding absolutely everything in sight despite nearly 20 years between albums. I’ll also argue for Byzantine’s self-titled from last year because of the sheer balls required in making it – not only did it succeed without a record label, but it’s hands-down the most fully realized and future-forward album in the band’s discography, which is the biggest reason why I still go back to it more than Carcass out of last year’s best records.
Anthony: Wow. This was a tough question for me, but there are two comeback albums in particular that come to my mind. The first is Candlemass’ self-titled comeback album. It was their first album with Messiah Marcolin in years, and it came after the band put out what many consider to be three lackluster albums in a row (even though I have a soft spot in my heart for Chapter VI), followed by a breakup. A lot of people thought the masters of doom were done, but not only was that reunion amazing, but it showed the band aged like a fine wine. They blended their classic sound with a modern approach so well. Not only that, but the self-titled also gave the band the moral to try new things, and create more great albums with Robert Lowe, like Kodi mentioned.
If I want to go further back, I’d say one of my favorites is Helloween’s Master of the Rings. It’s not a comeback in the sense that the band broke up and came back together, but it was a comeback in the sense that Helloween was failing miserably. After the band put out the utter bombs known as Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon with Michael Kiske, a lot of people thought Helloween was going to be a three album (two if you count the Keeper records as one album) flash in the pan. Bringing Andi Deris into the band revitalized their sound as well as modernized it. They’re still putting out amazing records to this day, and it was all thanks to this album.
As for runner-up albums, of course, both Dio reunion albums Dehumanizer and The Devil You Know with Sabbath are masterpieces, and incredibly underrated albums overall. I also will always stand up for Judas Priest’s Angel of Retribution, which was their first album with Halford since Painkiller. I think it’s a great record. It’s honestly one of my favorite Priest albums. Other than that, of course, I was glad to see Kodi mention Brave New World because that album should always be mentioned when talking about comeback albums.