Sunday Sesharoo: The Three-Album Hat Trick

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The number of bands who have released three stellar albums in a row is somewhere between 0 (zero) and <∞ (less than infinity). Come inside, help yourself to some coffee and count them with me.

Very few bands burn brightly for a long time. Heck, it’s arguable that on even the most modest of scales no bands burn brightly for a long time. Most either burn dimly for a long time or brightly for a short time or not at all (because they suck eggs). The lucky few somehow manage to put out one stellar album before capitulating to mediocrity. The luckier fewer can pull off this miracle twice in a row. But three times in a row? That’s practically impossible.

Dispensing with quibbles over what criteria could objectively constitute a stellar album, let’s explore some bands who we (I) perceive to have succeeded in writing, recording and releasing three back-to-back career-redefining albums without seriously fucking up. We are not going to talk about good albums. Nor are we going to tarry with great ones. We are exclusively going to consider those albums without which life, in retrospect, appears meaningless.

Who, in my stupid opinion, hath achieved the unholy Hat Trick? A ton of bands come instantly to mind–until I subject them to scrutiny, brutal honesty and a bit of light torture. I really wish I could throw Opeth on the list but c’mon, while My Arms Your Hearse and Still Life are to this day unrivaled in their folk-death grandeur, Blackwater Park is only half an album worth of amazing ideas stretched out over a full album’s length. And even the really juicy parts do little to differentiate themselves from the juicy juices already juiced on the previous album.

Maudlin of the Well might have made the cut with Bath, Leaving Your Body Map and Part the Second if not for the fact that the first two are just one double-album released in two separate packages.

I want to nominate Solefald. I really do. (I still might.) Buuuuuuuuut . . . Gosh, this one is really going to screw up my circadian cycle. I don’t know how I’m going to get to sleep tonight if I don’t give the trio of Neonism, Pills Against the Ageless Ills and In Harmonia Universali their due. There is no way to overstate the effects that these albums–especially the first two–have had on me, not only as a listener but also as a writer. Aside from being a couple of recklessly avant-garde disruptions to black metal’s international image, Neonism and Pills contain thought-provoking lyrics rife with socio-political criticism and mind-bending imagery. I’ve looked to these lyrics for literary inspiration throughout the years–hell, I even wrote out the words to “Hyperhuman” and pinned them to the wall above my writing desk. And as for In Harmonia Universali, the lyrics to “Buy My Sperm” are pretty neat; otherwise it is just flat-out one of the most lush, well-produced and unpretentious experiments in symphonic metal I’ve ever heard. The problem with this trio of albums is that I actually hated Pills when it came out, to the point where I sold it. It wasn’t until years later that I gave it another shot, fell in love with its black-metal-meets-punk-meets-Vivaldi charm and bought it again. Even so, there are two songs on there that I skip every time, so . . . I guess Solefald doesn’t quite measure up.

I’ve just sifted through my entire music collection, and no one will be more surprised than I was that there is only one band in there that has ever pulled out the Hat Trick . . .

That band is Faith No More. Here are the facts:

The Real Thing

There are no bad songs on this album. Even the goofy or intentionally anachronistic ones are still charming as fuck. Enduring single “Epic” is sort of annoying for its indebtedness to The Red Hot Chili Peppers and its contribution to rap-rock fads to come; that said, They still play it on the radio all the time and I never change the station when They do.

Angel Dust

There are no bad songs on this album. It trades in the zany eclecticism of The Real Thing for a louder and darker sound, bolstered by lyrics that are much more relevant to the experience of living in this world. And, whereas The Real Thing sounds perhaps a wee bit dated, Angel Dust has aged like fine gorgonzola. “Midlife Crisis” sounds even more menacing now than it did when I first heard it. And the goofy songs?–they’re still funny to this day.

King for a Day . . . Fool for a Lifetime

There are no bad songs on this album. It’s got a more stripped down rock edge than the vibrant Angel Dust, and lucky for us, Faith No More excels at stripping down just as hard as they do at dressing up all fancy. Not that King for a Day serves up nothing but grit: It also boasts more wild genre diversions than its predecessor. It suffers a dual personality disorder, at one moment possessed by a raw punk attitude, the next by shades of soul, R&B and, uh . . . let’s just be lazy like every record store on the planet and call it world music.

Faith No More has released two more albums since King for a Day, both of which leave a little something to be desired. That’s fine. There’s negligible shame in slowly petering out after releasing three of the strongest, most forward-thinking commercial rock albums of all time.

That’s all for me. Whatchoogot?

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  • Lacertilian
  • Lacertilian

    Definitely agree on FNM though.
    We’ll have to see what Tempel bring on their third effort, but if they continue on this trajectory it’s bound to be amazing.

  • I’m no FNM fan but I’ll grant “charming as fuck” to much of The Real Thing. I put “Falling to Pieces” on in the car sometimes to bug the missus and my 10-year-old because we find Patton’s delivery in the pre-chorus (“Because the plot thickens every day…”) to be one of the funniest/cheesiest/cutest sounding things ever.

  • Marvel Mills

    I know this one isn’t completely the same band, but one of my favorite 3 album runs is:
    Relationship of Command, De-Loused in the Comatorium, Frances the Mute

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    Metal bands releasing three superb albums in a row? In my subjective opinion? Lots.
    Black Sabbath (6), Iron Maiden (7), Slayer (6), Opeth (5), Death (7), Neurosis (7), Agalloch (3), Amenra (3), Akercocke (3), Morbid Angel (3), At The Gates (3), Tool (4), Blind Guardian (3), Bolt Thrower (4), Candlemass (4), Isis (4), Carcass (4), Cobalt (3), Coroner (5), Cult of Luna (4), Danzig (3), Type O Negative (4), Crowbar (4), Dark Tranquillity (3), Suffocation (4), Darkthrone (4), Metallica (4), Deathspell Omega (4), Deftones (7), Moonsorrow (4), Pagan Altar (3), Summoning (4), Destruction (4), Fates Warning (5), My Dying Bride (3), Gorguts (5), Immolation (5), D666 (3), Judas Priest (3), Saint Vitus (3), Pain of Salvation (4), Katatonia (3), Paradise Lost (4), Ulcerate (4), The Dillinger Escape Plan (3), Kreator (4), Sepultura (5), Mastodon (4), Sodom (4), Pestilence (3), Manilla Road (5), Psychotic Waltz (4), Mayhem (3), Virgin Steele (3), Melvins (5), Rotting Christ (3), Mercyful Fate (3), The Chasm (6), Voivod (3), Taake (3)

    Of course I cheated a bit by including EP’s and live albums in the calculation – but winning streaks aren’t that uncommon at all.

    • You’re not being brutally honest with yourself.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Matter of fact, I am as brutally honest with myself as is humanly possible. I don’t overcomplicate things. When an album is finished, I only have two categories to divide them into:
        Category A) Rules
        Category B) Sucks
        I don’t have clear “favorites”; I don’t busy myself with what score I’m gonna hand out to which album. “Rules” or “Sucks” that’s all there is to it. And when a band ends up releasing 5 albums in a row that got a spot in my “Rules” column – then 5 in a row it is.

    • EggBeater

      The King of NY gets it.

    • GoatForest

      Yesssssssss.

    • GoatForest

      Also, Anaal Nathrakh has put out multiple killer albums in a row. So has Watain. And Shining(the one that Axl hates.)

  • dr.derelict

    I feel it should be noted that Patton dropped another near-perfect album during this three album run with his other band, Mr. Bungle.

    • Óðinn

      That’s true. What you say is very interesting.

  • i appreciate your Opethian hot take.

  • Al Bvndy

    All three of Nails’ albums are outstanding. Listening to them back to back is definitely 53 minutes Well spent.

    • But they sound the same…

      • GrumpDumpus

        AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR VARIETY, THERE’S A TREEHOUSE THAT NEEDS DEFENDING FROM POSERS AND NON-ELITE PEOPLE

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    OT:

    Watched Aronofsky’s new movie Mother! last night. It seems to be rather divisive, but personally I quite liked it a lot. Good atmosphere, great performances – the leads are great as well as the supporting cast (Ed Harris is, as per usual, outstanding and Michelle Pfeiffer is exceptional as well) – and lots of weird shit happening = my kinda flick.

    • Edward

      I liked it a lot. Ending kinda tanked it. My wife thought it was pretty dumb.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Yeah that “I create” speech near the end sorta made me cringe for a second, but everything that came before was great.

        • Edward

          You never loved me, you only loved how much I loved you…

          HOLY SHIT

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Rush.

    • Señor Jefe El Rossover

      Way nore than 3!

      • KJM, Blood Farmer

        Even being “brutally honest”, the streak from Fly By Night to Grace Under Pressure is amazing.

        • Señor Jefe El Rossover

          Damn straight.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        It’s all of them.

    • i wanted to say this as well, but i can find one average song on pretty much every album of theirs.

      • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

        MOVING PICTURES IZ FLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWLLLLLLEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        NO SMASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • i stand corrected. that is one flawless album. i prefer Farewell to Kings to Moving Picturez, but even that one has a stinker on it.

          • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

            MADRIGAL KINDA POINTLESS & CLOSER TO HARRT IZ OVERPLAY BUT GUD!!!!!!!!!! FAREWELL TO KINGS ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • KJM, Blood Farmer

    Monolord just did it. In fact, tons of bands have(mostly “classic” bands”).

  • KJM, Blood Farmer

    Sorry, but this take is hot enough to flash fry a 2″ thick steak within seconds,

  • Edward

    I’d say Pyrrhon’s three studio albums: An Excellent Servant…, The Mother Of Virtues, and What Passes For Survival. All different enough to qualify here and all stellar.

    • Edward

      Also, what about Gaza?

      • Edward

        Not a lot of Gaza fans around these parts. Duly noted.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      I know Pyrrhon are a favorite around this neck of the woods, but to be perfectly honest they’re a band I’m just completely unable to get into. I see them being mentioned in the same breath with Ulcerate and DsO (two bands I’m quite a huge fan of) but they just don’t do it for me. Every time I give one of their albums a go again…20 minutes in…and I can’t wait for it to end.

      • Edward

        Sad face.

    • CT-12

      EDWARD!!! Good to see you!

      • Edward

        What’s up CT!!!!

        • CT-12

          NOTHING MUCH!!!!

    • Count_Breznak

      For me it’s the other way ’round: I found them too similar. It’s not that every song sounds the same, but after Servant I guess I got used to their style of writing songs…and then it was just “yeah, it’s Pyrrhon, alright”.

  • KJM, Blood Farmer

    King For A Day is the only FNM album that has done anything for me really. I’ll take Fantomas(another band that has released 3 great albums) anyday.

  • Señor Jefe El Rossover

    This statement here is the kicker:

    “three back-to-back career-redefining albums”

    The idea of have 3 REdefining albums back to back is going to push a lot of the bands i had in mind off of the list. Will ponder and return.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      Oh I guess I skipped the “RE(defining)” part…

    • Bingo. Also, 1 bad song = disqualification.

    • KJM, Blood Farmer

      If we’re going by those stringent standards(way too harsh imo), NOBODY HAS, certainly not Faith No More. Then again, there is no objective standard to measure this type of thing.

    • GrumpDumpus

      EMPEROR DID NIGHTSIDE ANTHEMS AND IX BOOYAKASHA

  • KJM, Blood Farmer

    In fact, I can only think of one artist(not Metal) that has reinvented themselves every time he’s made an album, completely different with no bad songs.
    My personal favorite
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa5iG6FdaQc

    • Señor Jefe El Rossover

      Tom Waits rules.

    • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

      Tom Waits is pretty much the best, but there’s no way for me to try and look at his discography objectively-ish.

      • KJM, Blood Farmer

        That’s okay. This isn’t an objective premise by any means.

  • Señor Jefe El Rossover

    Allow me to beat the dead horse once more and declare Clutch as supreme lord commanders of the hat trick, and with their first three albums, nonetheless!

    Transnational – heavy-handed, gritty, hardcore-infused, angry metal that kickstared the band’s career

    Self-titled – complete 180 flip into a 70s inspired jam band utilizing groove instead of anger, focusing on the songwriting instead of atmosphere

    Elephant Riders – thick, fuzzy tones, elaborate storytelling, 2nd guitar on songs and other instruments to include trombones and sleighbells. Their sound became fully encapsulating, no room to breathe as every sonic range is covered.

    And before anyone starts any bullshit about them “trying to find their sound,” I’m stopping you right here. Clutch have continued to evolve with each album, never falling into any specific category and have redefined themselves on multiple occasions. They knew what they were doing.

    • Señor Jefe El Rossover

      And i must include the first 3 Black Sabbath albums as each one hs its own unique sound and are flawless masterpieces.

      • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

        Haven’t listened to Elephant Riders ( least I don’t recall), so I’ll refrain from making fun of you for the time being. But Black Sabbath’s self-titled is definitely not up there with the others.

        • Señor Jefe El Rossover

          I’LL WALK TO FINLAND AND KICK YOUR ASS FOR THAT STATEMENT

        • KJM, Blood Farmer

          Sure it is, even by these stringent standards. It sounds different from the other 2 and doesn’t have a bad track on it.

          • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

            Half of it isn’t so good, not bad, but kinda just there.

          • KJM, Blood Farmer

            Nope.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            S/T would actually be my favorite Black Sabbath, if it weren’t for the existence of Master of Reality.

      • C’mon now. Fairies wear boots?

        • KJM, Blood Farmer

          Damned straight, excellent song.

        • Señor Jefe El Rossover

          FUCKING AMAZING SONG

          • Do I gotta believe you?

          • Señor Jefe El Rossover

            YEAHHHHHH

          • GoatForest

            I agree. I saw it with my own two eyes.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        I would agree with this statement…if the 3 were to be changed in a 6.

        • Señor Jefe El Rossover

          Well the term Hat trick is traditionally 3, but I agree with you.

    • Señor Jefe El Rossover

      Inb4 Karhu makes fun of me.

  • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

    Blind Guardian hits pretty close with Tales/Somewhere/Imaginations.
    But… I’m not sure if there really is a band that’s ever made three or two flawless, career-(re)defining albums at all, in a row or not. Which isn’t to say quite a few wouldn’t have made several 5/5 records.

  • Commodore Chomp

    Those three FNM albums had a huge influence on my bass playing. If more metal bassists listened to Angel Dust, the world would be a better place.

  • Pink Floyd had a hat-trick with Dark Side, Wish, and Aminals

    • Óðinn

      Should I say Tool, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, and System of a Down just to watch the poutrage.

      • GoatForest

        I could agree with Nirvana.

      • GrumpDumpus

        IM IN FOR RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

      • classic Odinn, trying to get folks riled up

  • i got one for ya: a band whomst has only released three full-length albums, and all three are amazing. a band with a batting average of 1.000 (if we’re just discussing LP’s).
    that band is StaaaaaaaaarGaaaaaaaaaaaazer!!!!!!!!

    • Scrimm

      Hail of Bullets

  • JWG

    There’s much more than a hat trick in the Amon Amarth discography (so several permutations of h/t within) up until Surtur derails the streak.

    They’re far from ‘perfect’ albums, but solid throughout.

  • CT-12

    Voivod (pick any from Rrroooaaarrr – The Outer Limits), Alice in Chains (first 3), Type O Negative (any).

  • EggBeater

    This article blows. Death, Atheist, Autopsy, Bathory? This article should’ve just been about Dissection and that’s it.

  • EggBeater

    Dude you could’ve wrote this about Metallica and it would’ve been better.

  • GoatForest

    Carcass, Metallica, Morbid Angel, DsO, and, arguably, Dissection all pulled off the three in a row feat, in my opinion.

    • Morbidly Obese Angel

      Definitely agree about Morbid. Altars, Blessed and Covenant is as good of a hat trick as any band is gonna get

  • Scrimm

    Pffft Maiden did it seven times in a row. And I’d argue Bruce did it with his last 3 solo albums.

    • Every Maiden album has at least 2 songs that blow. They rule, but let’s be honest.

      • Óðinn

        Live After Death is the most recent Maiden album that I like. They’re great live though. I just prefer their earlier material.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Sonic Youth with EVOL, Sister and Daydream Nation. Though I’d argue Bad Moon Rising to Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star are all fantastic.

    • I did not enjoy Daydream. I prefer Goo for some reason. Despite the trash songs.

      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

        I love Goo, but slightly prefer the fully commercial ambition of Dirty.

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    Night On Brocken, Spectre Within, Awaken the Guardian

  • Jeremy Riegel

    NINE INCH NAILS: Pretty Hate Machine -> Broken -> The Downward Spiral.

    • Dubby Fresh

      Bingo!

  • lagerbottoms

    Dillinger had Calculating Infinity, Miss Machine and Ire Works. Everything afterwards was still great but flowed badly.

    Meshuggah had Nothing, Catch 33 and ObZen, which are my favorites. But you could obviously include DEI and Chaosphere, I just hate the production on the latter.

    Pyrrhon’s had Excellent Servant, Mother and Survival, which are all flawless.

    Spawn Of Possession released 3 of Tech Deaths finest works back to back

    Same goes for Psyopus and Mathcore

    Car Bomb did it with last years meta

    Dreadnought and Ne Obliviscaris will probably do it later this year

    Sikth have also done it for me