The 10 Best Comebacks In All Of Rock And Metal
Let’s face it: no one will ever have a comeback tour like Jesus. After only a three-day hiatus caused by dying on the cross for the sins of mankind, the King Of Kings rose from the grave to give us life eternal with the sacrament of his body and blood (a lot like Dracula). He then started a two-millennium reunion tour that saw words of his exploits and power travel to every corner of the Earth, increasing his flock about a billion-fold and inspiring countless brilliant thinkers and artists, most notably Stryper. Even if Mötley Crüe decide to play more shows together, they’d have to work pretty hard to beat that.
But while it’s impossible for your average band to beat J-Chrizzle on the reheat, there have been a handful of pretty incredible comeback stories in rock and metal. Whether due to pressure from fans, chilling out in their old age, or just finding new creative inspiration after they thought they’d lost it, these acts all decided to rage against the dying of the light and take the stage together once more, to their excitement of their devoted flock.
Here are the ten best comebacks in rock and metal history…
Guns N' Roses
Of all the bands people assumed would never reunite their classic line-up, G’N’R might be at the top of the pile. While the band never fully split up — Axl Rose carried the name on with a series of live musicians for a number of years — it wasn’t until the Not In This Lifetime… Tour of 2018, with Axl, Slash, and Duff sharing the stage together for the first time in 25 years, that the band’s comeback was truly complete.
Alice In Chains
No one would’ve begrudged grunge pioneers Alice In Chains a split after the death of original singer Layne Staley. But the fact that the band found a new singer in current frontman William DuVall and decided to soldier on speaks to their dedication to the craft. More so, that the albums released with William are considered welcome additions to AIC’s stellar catalog only shows that a band this good can’t be scuttled by even the most heartbreaking of setbacks.
Black metal progenitors Celtic Frost had become so popular in underground circles that reuniting in 2005 to write a new album could’ve done more harm to their legacy than good. Thankfully, Celtic Frost did things right with 2006’s Monotheist, a punishing blackened doom album that completely changed the band’s identity to the metal world. On top of that, it also created a groaning, heavy sound that other extreme artists would try to copy for the next thirteen years. Rehashing your old material is one thing — redefining the genre you helped create is another.
What’s most interesting about Black Sabbath’s comeback is how it progressed. The band’s classic line-up first came together again in 1998 for the Reunion album, followed by several live-appearances on Ozzfest. Then they joined forces once more (sans drummer Bill Ward, mind) fifteen years later for 13, before embarking on a multi-year farewell tour. Who needs one comeback when you can have a handful of them?
Like Guns N’ Roses, Judas Priest never entirely split up, touring and releasing albums with new vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. That said, it was the return of original singer Rob Halford and the release of 2005’s Angel Of Retribution that saw the band truly reconquering the throne. It’s hard to be satisfied with the vocals of a mortal man when what you really want is the metal god.
It feels unfair when a legendary band goes out on a ‘meh’ album. For British grindcore pioneers Carcass, that album was 1996’s aptly-titled Swansong, considered a confusing disappointment by most fans. But the band more than made up for it with Surgical Steel, their masterful 2013 comeback release, considered by many to be as great as any of their previous material. Good on these guys for refusing to go out with a thud.
Maybe the most amazing move a band can pull is to break up and come back before they release the most revered material of their career. California punks Bad Religion split in 1985 due to addiction issues and a keyboard-driven prog album, only to reform three years later and release the four most important albums of their discography: 1988’s Suffer, 1989’s No Control, 1990’s Against The Grain, and 1992’s blistering Generator. Further proof that sometimes, a band needs to break up to reach their full potential.
When arena rock legends Queen began performing with American Idol star Adam Lambert, many wondered if this move was nothing more than a calculated cash grab. Instead, Lambert surprised everyone with his incredible voice and dedication to the band’s material, introducing a whole new generation of fans to Queen’s music. On paper, this one might have looked cheap, but in reality it was solid fucking gold.
At The Gates
It was only after they broke up in 1996 that Swedish death metallers At The Gates got their due. As every metalcore band in the world ripped off their signature sound, the band went from a talented underground act to the most important artists in the genre’s history. Their 2007 reunion proved just how big a milestone their 1995 album Slaughter Of The Soul had become, launching a whole new era of ATG’s career and giving millions of fans a chance to yell, “GO!” in unison.
Given the egos at play and how long they’d been broken up — original singer Glenn Danzig hadn’t performed with his bandmates since 1983 — no one believed that the original line-up of horror punks The Misfits would ever reform. But not only did the band get back together, they did so in massive fashion, headlining arenas to hundreds of thousands of rabid fans. Who knew that the guys who wrote Last Caress would one day stage the biggest comeback in rock history?
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“I remember I was really locked in that coffin and they actually buried myself alive…”