Sunday Sesh: Off-Album Tracks

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In which we discuss the merits of releasing one-off tracks, either on soundtracks or as digital singles, in the lulls between albums.

Metal is an interesting genre. I consume it differently than I do most other forms of music. Generally, with pop or hip-hop, I’m purely a track man. Whole pop albums tend to be full of filler, and the skits on rap albums are often embarrassing enough to warrant skips. Metal, on the other hand, is generally gulped down in whole rather than in part. My typical work day can be tracked by how many full albums I’ve devoured. While obviously there are always stronger songs and weaker songs on every album, I’d much prefer an entire traipse through Arrayed Claws than a single session with “Disharmonic Feticism.” The song just feels somehow less complete without the whole.

The same can be said of the new Dodecahedron album. While I enjoyed both “Tilling the Human Soil” and “An Ill-Defined Air of Otherness” individually, neither track made as much sense outside of the context of all of Kwintessens. Metal, as an extreme subgenre that often demands careful, patient listening, is best enjoyed in whole rather than in part in order to behold the entire artistic scope of an album. Whether that album is a full-length or an EP, individual tracks just always seem to be stronger, make more sense, and contain more power when linked to their counterparts on a specific, artistically contrived release.

Curious, then, are the one-off tracks that bands write between releases. It’s obvious why these tracks exist. They may be commissioned pieces for soundtracks and paid singles, but it isn’t surprising at all to see creative artists sitting atop collections of songs that just didn’t fit in with other tracks on official releases. Sometimes these songs resurface on deluxe reissues, EPs, or soundtracks. Other times they surface as digital singles to slake the thirst of hungry fans. Whatever the circumstances, they’re often odd, denoting stylistic shifts or allowing the artists to dabble in indulgent pursuits.

Take Metallica‘s “I Disappear” for instance. The track was released in 2000 as part of the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack and showcases the formerly brilliant thrash band at an odd point of their creative arc. No longer a thrash band but no longer really a southern rock band, Metallica was soaring on the height of commercial success with very little artistic direction. “I Disappear” is purely a metal song with no true leanings one way or the other and remains a strong anomaly in the biggest band in metal’s oeuvre, a strange quintessence of their binary struggle between their extreme roots and massive popularity.

Consider also the Decibel Flexi Series of releases. This excellent and free* series of releases often gives bands opportunities to cover influential artists or explore sides often unfitting full releases. It also grants exposure to terrific young bands prior to major releases. Take Crypt Sermon‘s resplendently gloomy track “De Mysteriis Doom Sathanas” released exclusively as part of the Flexi line. It’s heavy and brooding and completely subverts what makes Mayhem so pivotal for metal’s evolution while marking the upward progress of one of the preeminent doom acts in modern metal.

What, then, do these one-off tracks accomplish? It is my hypothesis that they offer better glimpses of future artistic direction than full releases while simultaneously stoking the fires of devotion. Our dedicated writers also offered Mastodon‘s cover of “A Commotion,” The Sword‘s “Hammer of Heaven,” and Primus‘s cover of “N.I.B.” with Ozzy on vocals as excellent examples of special releases that captured specific moments in those bands’ histories. Full releases tell us where we’ve been, but off-album tracks can tell us where we’re going.

On that note, what are some of your favorite odd singles? Sound off in the comments below.

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  • Rick Chard

    First thing I thought of….
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBISfxoORj0

    • NDG

      ICE DALE!

  • Spear

    Mastodon has a bunch of good ones, this being my favorite. https://youtu.be/Xr9_e4ySRYA

    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs
      • BOBSON DUGNUTT BOBSON DUGNUTT

        Goddamn I love Brann’s King Diamond vocals.

      • GoatForest

        Ok. Yeah, that one is actually really good.

    • BOBSON DUGNUTT BOBSON DUGNUTT

      Came here, saw this article, went to YouTube, copied the link, came to post it here saw you did it. lol

  • Señor Jefe El Rossover

    HAMMER! OF HEAVEN!!

    I love that song, it was an outtake from Age of Winters that laid dormant until the Thor movie was being made. They submitted it for the soundtrack, but after it was turned down they released it as a picture disc 7 inch instead.

  • Señor Jefe El Rossover

    Oh, and Crypt Sermon’s cover is freaking amazing.

  • AndySynn
    • Rain Poncho W.

      Do you think that Sea Shepherd EP will ever see the light of day?

      • AndySynn

        I very, very strongly doubt it.

        It’s become something of a running joke amongst the NCS crew that it’s still “coming out” one day… but that day is probably only just going to precede our sun collapsing in on itself.

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    I’m gonna go with a not so worthwhile one; I’m a huge Deftones fan, but the “Back to School (Mini Maggit)” track is the worst piece of crap they’ve ever created. It’s just fucking horrible.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMPtIhAPnn4

  • Doom Scientist
    • Sid Vicious Promos

      I loved their cover of Doctor Doctor. They had some really good B-sides.

  • Al Bvndy

    Only the one off tracks released on one sided vinyl are real:
    https://youtu.be/poQgKvVOZGY

  • xengineofdeathx

    I probably have to go with Swallow the Sun’s cover of Solitude with dude from Reverend Bizarre https://youtu.be/lR4hxEo2sac

  • Al Bvndy

    This song instantly came to my mind. Whilst not really metal, it’s a quality quiet/loud/quiet/loud ‘post rock’ kinda jam. I guess it was released stand alone because it’s 20 mins long.
    https://youtu.be/U4WYnSFqh6k

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    BrB buying script to decible

    • Rain Poncho W.

      I was subscribed to Decibel for several years. I got to where the articles didn’t do as much for me anymore, but I liked the Flexis a lot.

  • High on Vallenfyre
  • Zeke

    This has always been my favorite hypocrisy song. It was originally recorded during the 4th dimension sessions, but wasn’t released on an album until much later https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nH7-BvluI5g

  • Rap album skits ARE embarrassing. Especially 90s gangsta rap or Wu-Tang albums where the skits are, like, “slices of street life” or drug deals gone bad or whatever, or Raekwon pretending he’s a cocaine kingpin. What the fuck was everyone’s obsession with cramming CDs full of 78 minutes of shit?

    • Also, I realize this isn’t a one-off in the sense you’re describing, it’s just a Sound Of White Noise leftover, but goddamn if “Poison My Eyes” by Anthrax isn’t one of their best songs ever.
      https://youtu.be/4EFxVkJ_ic4

    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

      The Eminem skit in which two dudes pretending to be Shaggy Dope and Violent J suck off some guy remains the worst skit of all time

      • GoatForest

        By the way, Eminem and Marilyn Manson should do a tour together with Shining as the supporting act. They can call it Return of the Edgelords.

    • Hans Copronym

      Deltron 3030s debut had a number of nice skits, while the sophomore had exactly one that was worthwhile (is it still a skit if there’s music?):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpXHWxJp3DY

    • Doom Scientist

      Yo Meth, where my Killah tape at?

    • Al Bvndy

      I couldn’t agree more! IMO, the only thing worse than skits is additional songs unnecessarily added to the beginning or end of a main song- sharing the same track. The worst example of this is Aerosmith’s Pump.

      Albums with 99 songs (82 silent songs before the secret track) also annoy me for shuffle reasons.

    • Jack Rabbit

      I also don’t like when rap albums are littered with random freestyle tracks. I don;t mind one per album if they feel its necessary, but mire than that is annoying.

    • GoatForest

      The sad thing about it is, musically, 90’s gangsta rap is rap’s pinnacle, imo, but those bullshit sketches often taint otherwise awesome songs. Example:
      https://youtu.be/99C23Y8l5hU

    • lagerbottoms

      I actually quite enjoy the skits on Enter The Wu Tang. But that’s about it 😀 The intro to “Method Man” is my favorite skit on any hip hop song ever. Just a few dudes really fuckin stoned talkin total crap followed by one of the best rap songs in history

  • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

    HUH HUH HUH!!! THIS IS COOL!!!!!! HUH HUHHUHUHUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    https://youtu.be/1g00ddQ3LS8

  • IronLawnmower

    The early Venom singles are some of their best material.

  • Jack Rabbit
  • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs
    • atchdav

      When I read this article Eye was the first track I thought of. Apple of Sodom is another good track. Lost Highway soundtrack is an awesome album. Lost Highway is an awesome film.

  • BOBSON DUGNUTT BOBSON DUGNUTT

    I don’t know if this is considered a b-side or off-album track, but either way it’s one of my favorite Napalm songs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck4EVh1E34k

  • more beer

    I just saw the best headline. I have seen in a long time. The Gathering of the Juggalos will not be taking place in Denver or anywhere in Colorado.

    • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

      THAT THING HAPPEN IN TOILETTO ONCE!!!!!!!!! EVEN ICP NOT ABLE STAND ICP FAN THAT NIGHT!!!!!!!!

    • Sid Vicious Promos

      I’m amazed it’s not going to NY. We have a lot of juggalos and that’s just my area.

    • GoatForest

      Fuck Juggalos. I know that’s kinda abrupt and mean spirited, but I don’t give a fuck. I goddamn hate those proud-to-be-ignorant motherfuckers.

      • more beer

        Agreed. That is why I am glad they aren’t all coming here.

  • JWG79

    Only released as the one song on their side of a split:

    Funeral Circle ‘Hades Triumphant’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfxALfmpmZ8

    Only released as a Single:

    Black Wizard ‘Eliminator’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-wK1-3uY0g

    Only on YouTube:

    Nylithia’s version of the Super Mario (Castle) Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBgMk4X9MzA

  • GL

    Hi, guys.

    GL

    • Hans Copronym

      Hi, GL.

      – Guys

    • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

      GL!!!!!!!!
      GL!!!!!!!!
      GL!!!!!!!!

  • Hans Copronym

    Not really odd stylistically, but the first release in about 10 years, the last one being an album that could hardly have been more divisive. I daresay people were waiting with baited breath, which, you know, isn’t healthy if you do it for 10 years.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isWusjdhrDs

  • Max

    Oh, that’s easy. Megadeth’s “Go To Hell” is easily my favourite song of theirs. I’m not even sure what soundtrack it’s from (there was a time when having a Megadeth song on movie soundtracks was apparently some sort of Hollywood by-law) but eventually it re-surfaced on a compilation called “Hidden Treasures” which I bought purely to have that one song. It would easily have fit on something like Rust in Peace or even Countdown to Extinction.

    • Zeke

      It was from bill and teds bogus journey. Rust in piece era

    • Old Man Doom

      I listened to “99 Ways to Die” about a million times after watching Beavis and Butthead Do America when I was in middle school.

  • Doom Scientist

    Apart from 2-3 songs the new Mastodon album is amazingly mediocre, but you didn’t hear it from me. #leak

  • Óðinn
  • lagerbottoms

    My favorites are Meshuggah’s Pitch Black and The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Happiness Is A Smile