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The sideproject phenomena

Written by Thomas, September 2003

here to begin?
Sideprojects, superbands, monstergroups, just for fun, artistic freedom, all-star bands or whatever you choose to call this phenomena, there is a number of variations that faces us today besides the "original" bands. When I joined the crew at Metal Covenant I spotted the section with sideprojects and thought: hey, that is a great idea for an article, why don't I create a guide in this subject? And the more I begun to think about this the more I realised what a giant jungle this is, so in order to make it easier for myself I decided to divide this in to the four categories that I find the most common. And instead of being your guide, I will just share my views and thoughts on this with you. With this I can perhaps at least guide you to a start where you can begin a journey on your own to discover more about this matter.


little introduction
Many artists of today doesn't satisfy with just playing in one band, on no, they forces us heavy metal nerds to go out and buy a record with their "other" band as well. And for some of them two bands aren't enough, hell no, they need to have three bands or sometimes even more running at the same time. Dammit, some artists are more or less "project artists ", that leap from one band to the next so that we in the end can't possibly keep track of which band that is the original anymore. And if this isn't enough some even find the time to produce other bands in-between.

ands that sounds the same:
First out we got these project when a member from a band decide to put out a solo album or put together a sideproject, mostly this ends up to sound more or less exactly the same as usual. And even if it sounds great sometimes it never quite matches up with to their "daytime job". Usually you end up saying something like; it's an ok album but I like the stuff he normally does better. This is mostly because the song material isn't as good as one is used to hear, and it is the same thing with the production, the feeling you get is that it is done in a haste rather than have been worked through properly.
Sometimes it makes you wonder if this isn't a way for some to make some extra cash on their name. Or perhaps it is a just way to get ideas out of their system that doesn't really fit in their mainband but is too good to be wasted, like a cleansing process? Or maybe they just want to play with some mates besides those in their bands? And even if there is many great bands such as this, I tend to feel like there is something essential missing most of the time. And the real downside is that you rarely get to see these bands performing live,

Recommended listening: Full Strike

ands that sound different:
I prefer it when the project tends to be completely different from what you normally hear from the band. You have an expectation when buying this "sideprojectalbum" and when you starts to listen to it, it is nothing of what your expectations was and has nothing in common with their mainband. And after listening a couple of times to the album and you've come to senses after being totally confused for a moment, a new world has visualised in your ears. The music isn't the kind that you normally listens to, but you realise that this is something that you have completely been missing out, and this is a great way to broaden your horizons and filling out blanks in your taste of music.
When an artist gets involved in different bands playing music with great diversity, where does he put his main-focus? It must be difficult to maintain the necessary focus with the mainband when playing something completely different while on breaks from the band? And what happens if the sideproject gets more appreciation than the original band, where does the loyalty end up?
This has also the downside with rare opportunities to get to see these bands live, but it tends to be more often in this case.

Recommended listening: Spiritual Beggars

reative fusion's:
A less common constellation is perhaps projects where there are two great creators that join forces. When a member from a band who is the biggest and perhaps the only creative force collaborates with someone from another band that is in the same situation. And with this fusion you get music that ends up right in the middle of these two styles and you can still hear the music from both of the bands that it originates from.
And if you set your mind in motion and let the imagination flow freely you can easily come up with ideas for many bands in this category.
And it is the same thing here with live-performances, they seldom appear.

Recommended listening: Demons & Wizards

he big ones:
My own personal favourite is these great superprojects or rockoperas.
There is someone with a great vision about a story to be told by a number of guest artists performing different roles in order to create a grand opus. There is no way to discuss this matter without mentioning Tobias Sammet´s Avantasia, I find it amazing that he was able to gather that many prominent artists from the powermetal scene to make not one, but two records that hold superior quality according to songmaterial.
I find it great when instead of having one or maybe two artists you like on sideproject find a numerous number this makes an album interesting on more "levels", when you listen to the album you look forward to different parts on the album to hear that artist performance.
Another one perhaps not as metal but still with very high quality is Trans-Siberian Orchestra with long-time Savatage producer Paul O´Neill behind the steering wheel, with members from Savatage as well as artists from outside the metal realms it makes great listening pleasure. Musically it's more like rockmusical than hard rock, but besides Southpark, TSO has made the only two Christmas-albums that you can find in my collection and that says a lot.
Even if it is most likely that these projects has a story in the music there is also supergroups that just plays metal, like the band Voodoo Cult that was active in the early nineties.
A German disco-dude got an idea of doing metal instead of disco and managed to gather names such as: Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Mille Petrozza (Kreator) and Chuck Shuldiner R.I.P. (Death) among others to create a killer record with industrial metal.
And besides Trans-Siberian Orchestra I have a hard time imagining that you will see any bands like these perform live.

Recommended listening: Avantasia, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Voodoo Cult

nd to end it all:
These opinions do not apply on every sideproject but from my point of view this is generally the case, but there is no rules without exceptions.
And whether we "need" these bands or not they give us a lot to talk about. Ever been in a conversation for instance at a concert or at the local rock pub and talking to someone you just meet and the conversation ends up with that you are giving each other tips about other bands the artist you are listening to also has been with?


he Game
Just for fun to demonstrate the inbred within metalbands I decided to create a little game called: The Red Thread In Metal. It is about how many bands you can link together that has a common member.
In order to get you started, I have created two small examples, and it goes like this:
Chroma Key-(Kevin Moore)-Dream Theater-(Mike Portnoy)-O.S.I. -(Jim Matheos)-John Arch-(John Arch)-Fates Warning-(Ray Alder)-Engine-(Joey Vera)-Armored Saint-(John Bush)-Anthrax-and so on….

Or like this:
Freedom Call-(Daniel Zimmerman)-Gamma Ray-(Kai Hansen)-Helloween-(Markus Grosskopf)-Avantasia-(Timo Tolkki)-Stratovarius-(Jörg Michael)-Running Wild-(Axel Morgan)-X-Wild-and so on….

Just two simple ones from the top of my head to show you how the game is played, now you can play this game against your friends in the cold winter dark to see who can come up with the longest thread.
If you are betting with beers you can get a fun night on the town if you end up as a winner.

And always keep in mind that metal should be fun!

Thomas - September 2003