The 13 greatest songs that didn’t make it to a studio album
There are many reasons that, come the conclusion of writing and recording, bands often leave some of their best work off of the finished LPs. Pacing. Tone. Space on the vinyl. The fact that just because something’s a glistening nugget of metallic brilliance doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily be on message with the bigger picture.
There’s an argument that the tantalising mystery of tracks that slipped between the cracks has been lost somewhat in the internet era. The ability to release anything you damn well fancy at the tap of a keypad, coupled with fans’ ever more ravenous appetite for content, means that those hard choices need to be made less often. Fortunately, though, it also means that those tracks that would’ve been otherwise lost, can be shared and rehabilitated, and sometimes, just sometimes, they even go on to become fan favourites in their own right.
Digging deep into the archives, we present our (not so) humble Top 13…
13. My Chemical Romance – Kill All Your Friends
‘Cause we all wanna party when the funeral ends, ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba…’ My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way has gone on record (well, on Twitter) that the B‑side for Famous Last Words should’ve really been left on The Black Parade. He’s not wrong. A jaunty observation on how ageing friends somehow only seem to come together when one of the group dies, it’s a wry, pitch-black continuation of the record’s core themes that plays out like the moody younger cousin to the Pixies’ seminal Where Is My Mind?. Fortunately its appearance on 2009 compilation The Black Parade: The B‑Sides – and an intervening decade of replays – has healthily grown its cult appeal…
12. Morbid Angel – Lord Of All Fevers And Plague
Legendary Morbid Angel frontman Trey Azagthoth was obsessed with the occult writings of H.P. Lovecraft during the writing and recording of the Floridian death metal legends’ skull-cracking 1989 debut Altars Of Madness. Lord Of All Fevers And Plague unfolds as a tribute to ‘The Unspeakable Ones, The Ancient Ones, The Old Ones…’ chock-full of potent Necronomicon incantations. It’s unclear why exactly the track was deemed surplus to requirements for the album’s original release, but its unconventional inclusion as a ‘bonus track’ in the middle (well, ‘at the end of Side A’) of subsequent CD and digital versions of the album has ensured its legendary status as an extreme metal anthem.
11. Twin Atlantic – Sparkly Touch
Twin Atlantic’s 2012 breakthrough LP Free is not an album light on anthems. Even still, the relegation of this raw, goosebump-inducing cracker to bonus track status on the Deluxe Edition feels pretty mind-boggling. ‘I don’t know what I’m waiting for’, sings frontman Sam McTrusty, tapping into oceans of emotion churning beneath the surface, ‘but I’m ready if you’re ready too. I’m obsessed with the feeling that I want to fly with you. I’d fix it all with ‘I’m sorry’, but I’m not willing to give up and lose…’ Bridging his the band’s angular beginnings and the main stage straddling grandeur that would soon follow, Sparkly Touch remains an indispensable listen for true fans.
10. Judas Priest – Fire Burns Below
A period of transition between the commercially-oriented Turbo era and the far more blistering intensity of Painkiller, the sessions for Judas Priest’s eleventh LP Ram It Down would spawn a whole spectrum of would-be classics. This languidly paced, acoustically oriented tale of two lovers pulling apart was deemed ultimately unworthy and committed to the vaults. Resurrected and belatedly attached to the 2001 re-release of Stained Class, it was offered a well-deserved second shot and found acclaim amongst hardcore fans keen to explore the Metal Gods’ softer side.
9. Biffy Clyro – Paperfriend
There are a whole record’s worth of Biffy Clyro deep-cuts that could have made this list, but our pick is this strangely haunting, characteristically twisty cry for help. First dropping as a B‑side on the seven-inch picture disc version of all-conquering single Mountains, then again on fifth album Only Revolutions’ cleverly-titled companion piece Lonely Revolutions, it’s a textbook case of a perfectly cut song that deserved to be immortalised on the album, but which just didn’t fit the bigger picture. Still, as Simon Neil tears through the scattershot lyrics, though, you can’t help but nod along and wince at each stroke of anguish: ‘How long since you called me? How long since you’ve tried to help me through this nightmare, make it to the other side?’
8. Architects – Silver Bullet
More than most, it feels like every scrap of creativity from Architects’ mid-2010s sessions should be held close and treasured. Part of the last batch of songs with which guitarist Tom Searle was involved before he passed away on August 20 of the same year, 2016’s Silver Bullet is charged with the same earth-shattering, gut-wrenching power that flows through seventh LP All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us. Lyrically, however, it feels like an unparallelled swoop into darkness, hopelessness and nihilism. ‘There’s no price to life when you’re high on the white lie’, ring the deeply-troubling lyrics. ‘So lost. I’ve beat death. (White!) Kill us. (Lie!) Don’t tell us…’
7. Entombed – Carnal Leftovers
There’s a legitimate argument that Entombed’s 1989 landmark Left Hand Path might just be the greatest death metal record of them all. A merciless exercise in brutality named after the belief system of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible and supercharged by their trademark ‘buzzsaw’ guitar tone, it is 10 tracks of blood-stained steely perfection. The CD release featured two ‘bonus tracks’ which may as well have made it onto the main track-listing, too, though. The crazed, demonic sounding savagery of Premature Autopsy was violently great in its own right, but the aptly-titled Carnal Leftovers is a more prototypical example of the death‘n’roll aesthetic the Stockholm brutalists would so famously go on to popularise.
6. Iron Maiden – Total Eclipse
Having swapped frontmen while still cranking out NWOBHM masterpieces like pies on match-day, it’s hardly surprising that Iron Maiden didn’t have the time top sit and too carefully consider the track-list for 1982’s third LP (in three years!) The Number Of The Beast. When the propulsive bang around that was Total Eclipse cropped up as the B‑side to smash single Run To The Hills, though, even the most forgiving fans were scratching their heads over its omission from the actual album. Mainman bassist Steve Harris has even admitted that it would’ve probably been a better inclusion than Gangland, which eventually took its place…
5. System Of A Down – Marmalade
It’s no secret that in the late ’90s System Of A Down were a creative powerhouse, churning out essential, unhinged bangers at a rate of knots. Even still, it’s a mystery how a track with the atmosphere, invention, loose-screw attitude and sheer limb swinging swagger of Marmalade only saw the light of day thanks to inclusion as bonus content for the Japanese release of the Californians’ 1998 self-titled debut, and as part of the soundtrack for Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider’s risible (but undeniably sadistic) horror thriller Strangeland of the same year. Then again, the lyrics do fit that grubby reassignment: ‘Stretching, filing against her skin. Blessed are those who are not kin. In sin we breathe, in sex we tie. Duct tape her legs to the red sky…’ Quite.
4. The Gaslight Anthem – Blue Dahlia
Another example of a great track that just wasn’t deemed to fit on the regular version of an equally great album, Blue Dahlia lives easily up to the lofty standards of The Gaslight Anthem’s 2012 masterpiece Handwritten, but is only available as a bonus track on the extended version. A bittersweet tale of romance and longing loaded with the New Jersey punks’ staple feelings – tragedy and history, memory and melancholy – and with one of their greatest ever choruses, they’ve never really explained why it didn’t make the cut but – especially in the wake of the band’s extended hiatus – that shouldn’t stop fans from lapping up another brilliant nugget loaded with hangdog heart.
3. Sabaton – Swedish Pagans
It has become part of banterific Sabaton lore that the Swedish meatballs’ frontman Joakim Brodén hates performing Swedish Pagans live. That might be a more tongue-in-cheek statement about the song’s now established ubiquity as a fan-favourite in the live set, but in all seriousness the track really wasn’t deemed fit to grace any LP’s main tracklist and only actually saw the light of day as a bonus inclusion of the 2010 ‘Re-Armed’ version of 2008 landmark The Art Of War. A cheesy-as-hell, comparatively narratively simplistic ode to The Vikings always destined to be a singalong favourite, it’s now obviously one of the Falun battalion’s greatest hits.
2. Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter
An outtake from sessions for Seattle icons Pearl Jam’s landmark debut LP Ten, Yellow Ledbetter marks perhaps the greatest off-cut victory of all. Selected as the B‑side for the iconic Jeremy, the track was seized on by radio DJs and eventually rose all the way to number 21 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. Becoming a fixture in the live set, the track reappeared on 2003 compilation Lost Dogs, but would receive ultimate vindication with its place on 2004 greatest hits collection Rearviewmirror. Raised high on Eddie Vedder’s soaring vocals and Mike McCready’s Hendrix-alike guitar work, it’s easy to understand why…
1. Nirvana – Aneurysm
There’s an argument that Aneurysm isn’t just the best Nirvana non-album track, but their best song period. Perhaps its absence from any of the grunge icons’ three ‘proper’ albums should be put down to the song’s split-identities. It first appeared – in slower form – as the B‑side to mainstream-crashing hit single Smells Like Teen Spirit, then on the 1992 Hormoaning EP. Its full potential was only realised, though, when the band sped things up for a BBC session of the song that was (obviously) far closer to how it would normally be performed live. This is the version – all quiet/loud/quiet drama – that appears on compilation album Incesticide and has gone on to earn fan favourite status in the 27 years since that understated initial appearance. An almost-lost landmark.
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