All of these bands covered reflect the Age of Aquarius rotting, with their twisted psychedelia or progressive rock, doom-laden or whirlwind riffing, or dissonant arrangements; and you can hear their echo throughout heavy metal’s many sub-genres today.
(1976, No Rest for the Wicked)
The sole LP from Iowa trio Truth and Janey, 1976’s No Rest for the Wicked, is a little late in the piece chronologically compared to the rest of this list, but you can’t ignore its swagger—and it sounds like it could have been recorded in 1970. The band formed in 1969, and took its name from Jeff Beck’s Truth album, throwing on the surname of Truth and Janey vocalist and guitarist Billy Janey. The roots of UK psychedelic rock and hallucinogenic prog ring loud on No Rest for the Wicked, and Truth and Janey is a masterly wielder of Cream-like heavy blues. The band remained wholly obscure throughout its career, only 1,000 copies of No Rest for the Wicked were sold on release, and Truth and Janey dissolved soon after. That would have been it for the band, but a late ‘90s reissue of No Rest for the Wicked caught the ear of vintage rock fans, a buzz built, and the band found itself with a horde of new fans celebrating its zestfulness and its riffs, riffs and riffs. See also: Morly Grey (The Only Truth) and Zipper (Zipper).
Bang’s 1971 self-titled album was clearly influenced by UK acts such as Black Sabbath, but the band took that inspiration and cemented it in granite-like US hard rock on debut. The power trio had its career derailed by management and record company wrangling with its first recorded album, 1971’s Death of a Country, being shelved by label Capitol in favor of Bang—which was finally released in 2004. Strife aside, Bang was able to produce two gems of North American hard-hard rock in Bang, and 1972’s more commercially orientated Mother / Bow to the King (1973’s Music can be safely avoided). Bang contains plenty of bombastic riffing and confident blasts of proto-metal—and the glam-infused “Questions” even took a shot at the charts. While Bang didn’t ramp up the revolutionary zeal like many of its brethren, the band was an immensely enjoyable and enthusiastic rocker nonetheless, and the best way to appreciate its oeuvre is on the 4-CD collection Bullets. See also: Bloodrock (Bloodrock 1 & 2) and Randy Holden (1969, Population II).
(1970, Hard, Heavy, Mean and Evil)
Über-hard, über-heavy, über-mean, and über-evil is a more fitting a title for New Jersey-based Negative Space’s 1970 release, Hard, Heavy, Mean and Evil. The ‘mean and evil’ portion of the album’s title was a reference to guitarist and vocalist Rob Russen’s dying marriage—and dying is probably an apt reference point for the album as a whole. Negative Space loaded the LP with noxious, fuzz-ridden tunes, all delivered with a crypt-like production—forget proto-metal, Hard, Heavy, Mean and Evil is proto-noise in parts. Original copies of the album are incredibly rare, but a reissue in 2000 with additional material brought the band some overdue attention. Hard, Heavy, Mean and Evil isn’t for everyone. If you sat Steppenwolf in an acid bath for 72 hours, and then had the band jam (non-stop) with Cream and the Stooges for a week on blown-out amps, you’d be getting close to the abrasive rawness here. See also: Poobah (1972, Let Me In) and Witch (We Intend to Cause Havoc).
(1967-69, Baby Grandmothers)
Swedish band Baby Grandmothers only existed from 1967 to 1969, yet the band’s role in convincing many a subsequent Scandinavian group to let loose instrumentally has been profound. In 2007, label Sublime Sounds re-issued the band’s only recorded single, along with unreleased live recordings on Baby Grandmothers, and an entirely new generation got to experience the band’s trippy and improvised rock. Baby Grandmothers served as a house-band for Stockholm nightclub Filips, and the group managed to jam with Hendrix and the Mothers of Invention on their Swedish tours—which goes some way to explaining the mind-bending contents of Baby Grandmothers. The album is one of the finest heavy psych reissues of the last decade, and its catacomb-echoing rawness only adds to all the intrigue. Baby Grandmothers launch into drones, avant-garde dirges, and fevered hard rockin’ wig-outs throughout the album, and the entire LP is as heavy lidded as it is heavily overblown with jams rocketing into surreal spheres. See also: Pärson Sound (Pärson Sound) and International Harvester (Sov Gott Rose-Marie).
(1972, For Love or Money)
Label RCA demanded an accessible tune to promote Highway Robbery’s sole album, 1972’s For Love of Money, and when the band delivered the syrupy puke of “All I Need,” it really signed its death warrant. The track didn’t remotely capture For Love of Money‘s cyclonic energy, as lead guitarist Michael Stevens, drummer Don Francisco and bassist John Livingston Tunison IV, had actually crafted one of the early ‘70’s heaviest LPs. The band had backing from big time management, recorded its debut before ever performing live, and For Love or Money even included a declaration on its back cover: “Highway Robbery hereby dedicates itself to roar, to drive, to sensitive joy and, above all, the emission of the highest levels of energy rock.” The drive was all there, as was a deafening roar, but RCA barely promoted the LP, and For Love of Money was a commercial failure. Of course, like the best lost rockers, you can ignore sales figures, because For Love of Money is a complete artistic victory—a roisterous collision of proto-metal and volcanic rock ‘n’ roll. See also: Damnation: (The Second Damnation) and Ursa Major (Ursa Major).