The 14 best comebacks in rock and metal history
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.
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 14 best comebacks in rock and metal history…
Guns N’ Roses
Of all the bands people assumed would never reunite their classic line-up, Guns N’ Roses 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, with Axl, Slash and Duff McKagan 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 vocalist Layne Staley. But the fact that the band found a new singer in 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 catalogue only shows that a band this good can’t be scuttled by even the most heartbreaking of setbacks.
My Chemical Romance
After seven years in the wilderness (aka experimenting with solo careers, Netflix series and other extra curricular pursuits), My Chemical Romance announced their highly-anticipated return on Halloween 2019. Following various cryptic images and teaser clips on social media, the band reformed onstage at The Shrine in Los Angeles to a hero’s welcome less than two months later, as the Jersey boys reminded us all just why they were so loved and missed in the first place. COVID has since put a halt to their epic worldwide reunion tour, but with more dates still being added, when things go back to normal it’s safe to say we will all be part of The Black Parade.
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) 15 years later for 13, before embarking on a multi-year farewell tour. Who needs one comeback when you can have a handful of them?
Rage Against The Machine
Mere days after My Chemical Romance announced their comeback, political metal heavyweights Rage Against The Machine unveiled their own plans to reform for a series of shows in the United States, before adding more across the globe including Reading & Leeds in the UK. COVID has, of course, put a pause on what is sure to be one of the most ferocious and vital tours of the decade, but when those opening bars of Bulls On Parade finally blast out the PA, the wait will be so worth it.
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.
In 2016, AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson was forced to step down from his duties due to hearing loss, resulting in the band embarking on a globe-trotting stadium tour with none other than Axl Rose in his place (to the delight/confusion/annoyance of ’DC fans, depending on who you ask). The following year, guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young passed away. But the appetite for new Acca Dacca music never subsided, and the ravenous rumour mill was in overdrive for years, speculating on a new album and how/when Brian would return to the fold – oddly, it was Dee Snider who kept stoking these fires with his insider info. And wouldn’t you know it, last year, the band – Angus and Stevie Young, Phil Rudd, Cliff Williams and Brian Johnson – released their 17th studio album POWER UP, reaching Number One in charts across the world, proving they’re still one of the greatest.
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, the singer 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.
While so many bands have undertaken a farewell tour (sometimes more than one) to say goodbye to their fans, only to return some years later, it was only Mötley Crüe who drafted a legally binding document that forbid them from ever touring again following their huge final show in LA on New Year’s Eve, 2015. That should have been the end of it, right? But such was the success of The Dirt movie – and a still passionate fanbase – the Saints Of Los Angeles reformed by literally blowing up their contract. The band subsequently announced a huge tour of The States, which has since been postponed due to COVID.
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?
Read this next:
- Reliving Guns N’ Roses’ reunion five years on: The ‘inevitable disaster’ turned unprecedented success
- Jerry Cantrell: “I knew what being a rock star was from an early age, I knew it wasn’t a safe path, but I’ve always been a gambler”
- Tom G Warrior: “We played radical music that pushed everybody away and we loved that… fuck them all!”
Guns N’ Roses unleashed ‘new’ song Absurd (a revamped version of Chinese Democracy track Silkworms) in Boston on August 3.
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