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5 Underrated Funk Metal Bands

For months, I was working in small bits and pieces on a feature that was going to be called "Funk Metal of the '80s and '90s: Won't You Take Me to Funkytown?" It was to journey from Fishbone to Mordred and beyond. But, it was taking forever... and, let's face it: most people simply hate funk metal. So, I shelved it. (Possibly forever.)

Amidst my research, however, I discovered that there have been far more funk metal bands than I ever would have anticipated—some of whom I had never even heard of; and, additionally, some of whom were actually quite good. Originally this list was going to be a companion piece to the aforementioned feature, but I always enjoy trying to bring attention to obscure bands that don't seem to get enough love, so… here it is.

Now, sit back and enjoy the slap bass!


Total Eclipse

While researching the more obscure realms of funk metal, Total Eclipse was a last-minute discovery, and as soon as I heard 'em I completely flipped out and immediately bought the CD for a few bucks on Amazon. There was no question, Total Eclipse absolutely had to top this list. The Los Angeles-based outfit cranked out a hard rockin' brand of funk metal à la Living Coloür meets 24-7 Spyz, but despite their lone self-titled album (Tabu Records, 1992) being packed with phenomenal songwriting and musicianship, it seems almost no one has heard of 'em.

The band's lineup consisted of two ex-members of Sound Barrier (vocalist Bernie K. and drummer Dave Brown) and two ex-members of the Bus Boys (guitarist Victor Johnson and bassist Andre Berry)—the former a heavy metal act that released a couple of albums in the early- to mid-'80s (the last of which was on Metal Blade); the latter a bluesy, funk-tinged rock 'n' roll group that had tracks featured in 48 Hours and Ghostbusters, and even opened up for Eddie Murphy on the Delirious tour (he also appeared in their video for "Never Giving Up").

Such experience might explain why Total Eclipse is super slick and professional across the board—right down to the badass cover of The Commodores' "Slippery When Wet"—and only increases perplexity as to why Total Eclipse never managed to get within spitting distance of Living Coloür's success. They certainly deserved to!

[Edit: Apparently some equally impressive unreleased Total Eclipse material exists, too. Just a couple of weeks ago, their vocalist, Bernie K., uploaded to YouTube the first of what is said to be "many" unreleased cuts… and it's a keeper!]



Heads Up!

I can't find shit on Heads Up!, which is sort of weird since these New Yorkers are the only troop included herein whose material has been reissued. They released one full-length and a handful of singles/EPs in the late-'80s/early-'90s, two of which—Soul Brother Crisis Intervention (LP, 1990) and Duke (EP, 1991)—were on Emergo Records, which had ties to Roadrunner, and were (shockingly) reissued by Metal Mind Productions on one CD in 2009.

Heads Up! indeed flirted with some wackiness, but never got too "out there." Despite a few silly song titles and some dance moves that could be perceived as goofy, their lyrical messages tended to be serious, and I quite enjoy their solid, funked up grooves and memorable songwriting.

The lack of significant details floating around about the quartet certainly speaks to their underrated status…



Atom Seed

The only band on this list boasting a Wikipedia page, this UK group formed in 1989 and released one full-length (Get in Line) and a few EPs. London Records dropped the band with an unreleased sophomore album called Hard Sell Paranoia in tow—produced by Simon Efemey (Paradise Lost, Cancer, Amorphis, Napalm Death, etc.), no less—and they called it quits in 1993.

While somewhat "typical" funk metal in terms of their overtly colorful artwork and frantic energy, Atom Seed did look more like a "real" metal band—forgoing the garish fashion sense often associated with such funky acts—and never got too nutty with their delivery. In fact, they had already started heading in a "grungier" direction by the time of their final EP, Dead Happy, in 1992.

Their first EP and LP are available digitally on iTunes, and you can check out additional tracks on a very '90s-looking website run by former Atom Seed bassist, Chris Dale—including a number of mp3's from the unreleased Hard Sell Paranoia.



Scat Opera

Also hailing from the UK, the unflatteringly named Scat Opera fell on the zanier side of the funk metal spectrum. Much weirder and more off-the-wall with the quirky variety of their approach—not to mention more outlandish and over-the-top with their fashion aesthetic—their atypically structured compositions were peppered with everything from occasionally jazzy flare to electronic flourishes.

Scat Opera released two full-lengths (About Time and Four Gone Confusion) on Music for Nations in the early-'90s, both produced by Colin Richardson (sandwiched amidst classics from Carcass, Bolt Thrower, and Fear Factory, to name but a few), and didn't rein it in on their second album either. Both records are just as peculiarly funky, and they're probably the most diverse and experimental band herein.

I haven't been able to dig up a great deal of information on Scat Opera, but they are the only band covered whose material has proved a little harder to find for rock-bottom prices, if that means anything.

Fun fact: apparently they scored a slot opening for Faith No More in 1989, which seems about right.



Style Monkeez

A worse band name than Scat Opera? You be the judge. In any case, the Style Monkeez were from Minneapolis, MN and issued their lone album, Schmelt Fry in Antigo, in 1992 on Entercor Records.

As with several other inclusions on this list, Schmelt Fry's brightly colored album cover is fairly indicative of the genre; but its grungy, midpaced grooves actually get surprisingly heavy at times, and the vocals even have a bit of a Sean Killian (Vio-lence) thing goin' on. All that, and they still manage to sneak in a cover of Madonna's "Justify My Love"!?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there seems to be a lack of information about the Style Monkeez floating around out there. What does tend to surface is that, unfortunately, their bassist, Brent Alwin, passed away in 2012. R.I.P.



And the Funk Don't Stop…

Considered but ultimately falling just short of the list were Atlanta, GA's Follow for Now—whose bluesier, soulful approach on their self-titled album (Chrysalis Records, 1991) could be deemed "not metal" by some. Not to mention Ignorance—yet another funky UK outfit that dropped two full-lengths on Metal Blade in the early-'90s (and had taken things a little "too far" on the latter, 1992's Positively Shocking). And, finally, Lock Up—quintessential major label funk "metal" from Los Angeles, featuring a pre-Rage Against the Machine Tom Morello. Their lone album, 1989's Something Bitchin' This Way Comes, certainly boasts one of the finest album titles in the genre's history.

As mentioned, I'm well aware that funk metal is generally looked upon unfavorably, but—as always—if you happen to feel there are other such bands worth noting, please do post a comment below!

SEE ALSO: Kevin Keith: Smooth Jazz Chapman Stick Funk Master

Comments

  1. Marty who used to play with Blind Approach formed a band called Soul Reaction that was incredible, Sort of a more accessible "I Against I."  He moved to Toronto and went on to produce The Weeknd among others under the nom de plume Doc Martin.

    12.15.2014 | By Rudy

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to see if I can find any of the Soul Reaction stuff…

    12.15.2014 | By Andrew Aversionline

  3. Thanks for the review.  Feel free to share the unheard Total Eclipse and the video.  Peace Bernie K.

    12.15.2014 | By Bernie K.

  4. Thanks, Bernie! I just added a link to the video in the Total Eclipse segment above. I’m really, really looking forward to hearing more of the unreleased tracks!

    12.15.2014 | By Andrew Aversionline

  5. Bernie I am super huge fan of your work with Sound Barrier, Masi and Total Eclipse!!

    12.16.2014 | By Matt

  6. I saw FFN at my opening weekend in college (1990) with about 20 people in a field.  They blew me away.  Great band.  The singer did a solo album later for Sony.
    http://www.davidryanharris….

    12.16.2014 | By Matt

  7. I will toss another couple oddballs out there from NC scene.  TOXIC POPSICLE.  The bassist went on to Ben Folds Five.  SEX POLICE and BILLYCLUB FEST.

    12.16.2014 | By Matt

  8. I fell pretty heavily for funk metal at the start of the 90s as a 16 year old. Mordred were always my favourite and at one point it felt like we were seeing them live at the Marquee in London every 6 weeks or so invariable supported by either Scat Opera or Ignorance. Reading this reminded me of excellent times going to gigs wearing Dr Martin boots, shorts and waistcoats which must have been the London funk metal uniform!

    12.19.2014 | By red5standingby

  9. NICE!

    12.19.2014 | By Andrew Aversionline

  10. Head Up drummer Matthew played in the Vegas Blue Man Group band on drimkit for a decade, among other projects. He was and still is a beast of a drummer. The singer Dave lives in Madrid, Spain. That’s all I got for ya.
    They will always be one of my favorite and inspirational bands.

    2.1.2015 | By James

  11. Stumbled on this website by accident and dig the selection. I do have a personal bias with the Style Monkeez as I spent a lot of time with the band during their playing years, and Brent Alwin was my best friend. He would have been humbly blown away to be included in this list. I still keep in contact with Troy Sennett, the guitarist and Greg and Shawn have gone their own ways for personal reasons. There were many others in the band that I was not familiar with but I understand great guys. Ironically they also lost another bass player under circumstances I am not aware of. These guys were an awesome force. It was at a time in Minneapolis when music was still pretty prevalent…. just before the scene in Seattle exploded… but in the end they were just a little too short on time. Their financial backing were old school…. meaning they were a start up with just not quite enough money to get the job done…. screwing people over left and right… and then there was no money to actually promote the band. Again a biased opinion but I think had they been given the chance to be nurtured and grown…. they would have been a force. More and more I see their names pop up. I wish Brent would have been here to see what they had done be recognized.

    7.13.2015 | By Dan Jay

  12. Thanks for the comment. Glad you stumbled upon this piece, and appreciate you posting some thoughts.

    7.13.2015 | By Andrew Aversionline

  13. I was in a band called crowforce…and we played with scat opera…nice bunch of blokes…and actually quite good musically…abut time was a good lp….still have one of there long sleeves that we were given with "about fucking time" written down the sleeve!!lol. Interesting article…

    10.22.2015 | By me

  14. Crowforce seems pretty intriguing as well!

    10.22.2015 | By Andrew Aversionline

  15. Actually it was on the back not the sleeve….lol.older age for ya….there was another band called F.F.W(freaky fuckin weirdos)that were out about the same time as well…..

    10.22.2015 | By me

  16. Thanks….our stuff is on you tube…we were more metal and dance influenced than funk..tho..

    10.23.2015 | By me

  17. I might have to pick up the CD from Amazon!

    10.24.2015 | By Andrew Aversionline

  18. Thanks…hope you enjoy it….;O)

    10.28.2015 | By me

  19. Big Hair, 90’s Avant-garde Funkore Metal practitioners from Rochester, NY.  The play a mean cross of Primus x Victims Family mixed with a wild fiddle.
    01 http://www.4shared.com/zip/... | http://www.discogs.com/Big-...
    02 http://www.4shared.com/zip/... | http://www.discogs.com/Big-...
    03 http://www. 4shared.com/zip/dAShhYviba/... | http://www.discogs.com/Big-...
    04 http://www.4shared.com/zip/... | http://www.discogs.com/Leth…
    05 http://www.4shared.com/zip/... | http://www.thelastexit.org/...

    3.9.2016 | By Ohad Oren

  20. A split with Lethargy, eh? Innnnnnteresting…

    3.10.2016 | By Andrew Aversionline

  21. Were 24-7 Spyz going to be part of your piece?  If possible, they’re even harder than you!  When done right, Funk Metal is one of my favorite genres including Token Entry’s often disregarded Weight of The World.

    3.10.2016 | By Ohad Oren

  22. They absolutely would have been mentioned if I ever finished writing the full piece. I was probably even going to touch on stuff like White Trash, Electric Boys, etc.

    3.10.2016 | By Andrew Aversionline

  23. Big Hair’s drummer Drew Verstraete then went on to Gaylord, an Avante-garde SurFunk Crossover band.  They’re brutally violent and funky as well, like a soulful Mr. Bungle.  Check ‘em out…http://www.4shared.com/zip/UWkW7KF…

    3.10.2016 | By Ohad Oren

  24. Thank you for writing this, I’ve always been a huge fan of funk metal and rediscovering music from this era is a blast. Sweet Lizard Illtet wasn’t funk metal by definition but some songs were. I never understood why they only made 1 album.

    7.28.2016 | By Frédéric Barras

  25. I had never heard of Sweet Lizard Illtet. Checking them out now!

    7.28.2016 | By Andrew Aversionline

  26. I recently discovered another Crossover Metal classic, Skrapyard, featuring DK guitarist East Bay Ray.  Let me know your thoughts…
    http://www.4shared.com/zip/...

    9.8.2016 | By Ohad Oren

  27. Can’t get the download to work for some reason. Can’t find any tracks on YouTube either. Weird!

    9.8.2016 | By Andrew Aversionline

  28. The link works for me, I wouldn’t bring it to your attention if it was easy to find ;)  Try this one… https://mega.nz/#!olp2jBTQ!...

    9.8.2016 | By Ohad Oren

  29. East Bay Ray later did a project with Flea from RHCP, Cheikha Rimitti - Sidi Mansour, that can be found on youtube => https://www.youtube.com/wat…

    9.8.2016 | By Ohad Oren

  30. Thanks! I’m on the fence about the Cheikha Rimitti stuff, but Skrapyard seems curious…

    9.9.2016 | By Andrew Aversionline

  31. 90’s Hardcore Death Progressive FunKore band https://soundcloud.com/thom…

    9.24.2016 | By Ohad Oren

  32. i used to own their vinyl and even wrote review for some zine called Merchandise. It was in early 90’s

    1.29.2017 | By hut

  33. I finally bought the 12" from someone in Germany last month. It’s pretty damn good.

    1.29.2017 | By Andrew Aversionline

  34. You forgot to mention my favorite PSYCHEFUNKAPUS from San Francisco https://youtu.be/E6pTI8XYp3Q
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…

    1.29.2017 | By hut

  35. Skrapyard LP/CD was put out by Alternative Tentacles. You can still get it on Ebay or Discog for $1.00 .But I wouldn’t say crossover/metal its more like Talking Heads/Elvis Costello thing.

    1.29.2017 | By hut

  36. Nice article. Although I never heard of Total Eclipse.Good stuff definitely worth checking out. My story goes like this.In late 80’s i was little bored with punk hardcore and went to listen to Rhythm Pigs,Victims Family,fIREHOSE,GOD (dutch group) later on it was rap/hiphop and then those metal/funk bands.
    My favorite is PSYCHEFUNKAPUS.

    1.29.2017 | By hut

  37. Can you post some MP3. THX

    1.29.2017 | By hut

  38. Follow for Now is another funk band I’ve just remembered. Musically between Living Colour and 24-7 Spyz https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…
    https://www.youtube.com/wat…

    1.29.2017 | By hut

  39. Yeah, I mentioned Follow for Now in the outro above. I highly recommend the Total Eclipse album, too. I got it used on Amazon for dirt cheap and it’s really, really good. I’ve got some Psychefunkapus stuff as well, but I’m on the fence about that band…

    1.30.2017 | By Andrew Aversionline