Top 10 Obscure Diseases That Turned Into Musical Acts


When naming a band, some people take the easy way out, naming it after themselves or a combination of influences.  But others, they go into the depths of the medical encyclopedia in order to find the rarest and most ominous diseases known to man.  Unfortunately, obscure diseases usually lead to obscure musical acts.

10. Cataract

The Disease: A cataract occurs when the lens inside of your eye becomes cloudy.  The disease is rare in young people, yet it is a common side effect of the disease diabetes in the elderly.  Cataracts are also often the by-product of eye injuries and eye infections.  If you are over 50, a cataract is a medical term you are more than familiar with, as opposed to…

The Band: Sadly, the Swiss metalcore band of the same name broke up shortly after the release of 2010’s Killing the Eternal album.  They had a nice little run of a few albums on Metal Blade Records.

9. Cotard Delusion

The Disease: Also known as the Walking Corpse Syndrome, it is a very rare disease linked with depression where the sufferers believe themselves to be dead, decomposing, or non-existent.  Despite numerous extensive case studies, the number of actual patients seems to be only in the dozens over the past century.  The most effective cure seems to be a good, old-fashioned dose of electroshock treatment.

The Band:  Deep, deep, deep in the Russian wilderness, there is a Black Metal band called Cotard Delusion.  So underground is the band that the Metal Archives simply lists its description as the symptoms of the real disease.  On the Triangle Records label, don’t be afraid to check out 2007’s hard to find opus, Le Delire De Negation.

8. Leprosy

The Disease: Leprosy is well known due to its multiple references in the Bible, but once modern medicine started to take hold, leprosy was nearly eradicated in North America and Europe.  Once diagnosed today in the third world, as little as a single dose of antibiotics can stop its spread.

The Band(s): So depending on your sourcing, as many as 10 bands across the world go by the name of Leprosy.  Apparently multiple cultures can associate with being the Old Testament scourge of the earth.  All of the bands have this one thing in common, they are all in the Death/Thrash metal genre, whether they be from the United States, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, or Turkey.

Arguably the most popular Leprosy is from Mexico.

7. Septic Shock

The Disease: Rare in the healthy, where a fully functional immune system prevents infections from running rampant, Septic Shock is the end game where multiple organ failure starts the process of death.  Once you hit this phase, the mortality rate can be as high as 50%.

The Band(s): Curiously, there are two very different bands here.  The first is the American band Septic Shock from San Antonio, Texas who are a classic rock cover band.  Their promotional picture looks like a group of middle school teachers.  The second is the Canadian metal band Septic Shock, whose members look like they’ve killed their middle school teachers.

6. Jungle Rot

The Disease: A simple tropical skin disease that is exacerbated by wearing boots or heavy clothes during monsoon season.  Let me elaborate, Jungle Rot is a skin rash that if not treated immediately, evolves into skin ulcers.  When you are a local walking through the mud in your bare feet as the rain pours down, not much of a problem.  When you were a U.S. soldier trudging through the Vietnamese jungles, Jungle Rot was the second most common medical condition (behind Malaria), during the Vietnam War.  Rare in developed countries.

The Band:  Jungle Rot is a death metal band from the hotbed of metal, Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Formed in 1994, they have chugged along for nearly 20 years, releasing over a dozen studio albums and EP’s.  Despite multiple roster and label changes, their latest release, Terror Regime was released in the spring of 2013.

5. Pestilence

The Disease:  In the book of Revelation in the Bible, Pestilence is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Some believe Pestilence represents infectious diseases in general, some translators believe it to be a reference to the plague.  No matter what the translation, no modern doctor refers to the disease you come into his office for as “Pestilence.”

The Band(s):  Pestilence is yet another death metal band, this time from the Netherlands. Their first release, Malleus Maleficarum, was way back in 1986.  After short six year run, they broke up in 1994 to pursue other musical opportunities.  But due to popular demand, they returned in 2008 and have so far released 3 more albums, including 2013’s Obsideo.  Other Pestilence’s include ones from Brazil, Hungary, and the United States.

4. Gang Green (Gangrene)

The Disease: A grotesque and life threatening condition where a chunk of your body mass dies (before you do).  Usually a complication from diabetes or long term smoking, around 40,000 people were admitted to U.S. hospitals with Gangrene in 2005 alone.  If that doesn’t sound like much, it is actually twice as many as ten years earlier, as diabetes cases continue to skyrocket.

The Band(s):  First was the punk band Gang Green from Massachusetts that was formed in 1980 and is still kicking around today.  Well, kind of.  For a band that broke up before its first studio album, then three more times afterword, it’s a surprise they’re around at all.  Four studio albums in just over 30 years, their only constant member is Chris Doherty.  As a matter of fact, if you do a little internet digging, he is listed as the only current member of the band.  The other is the Hip Hop mash up project Gangrene, which is basically the collaboration of rappers The Alchemist and Oh No.  Their first project came out in 2010 and their latest EP Odditorium hit the record stores in 2012.

3. Black Death

The Disease:  Black Death is the moniker given to one of the most devastating pandemics in human history.  A type of the plague, the scourge of 1350 is thought to have killed between 100-200 million people worldwide.  Beaten into submission by modern medicine, the plague today is easily overcome by sanitary conditions and, if acquired, a dose of antibiotics.  There have been just over 10 cases of the plague in the United States since 2010.

The Band:  I have lived a considerable part of my life in Cleveland, Ohio and I listen to my fair share metal.  So imagine my surprise when I found out that the first all African-American Heavy Metal Band, Black Death, is from right down the highway.  Formed in 1977, they had a handful of recordings before their classic, self-titled 1984 album Black Death.  Tragedy tore them apart, but they reformed in 2008.   Um, I don’t know how to politely say this, but they look a lot different now.

2. Dengue Fever

The Disease: A mostly mosquito transmitted disease, dengue fever is an insidious disease that needs rapid re-hydration in order for you to fight it off.  If you live in a region of the world where the water supply is not plentiful, or is contaminated, you are truly screwed and sentenced to an agonizing death.  There were less than 200 cases in the United States in the year 2010, almost all contained in the southern states.

The Band: Indy music darlings, Dengue Fever plays an infectious hybrid of Asian pop and rock.  They started out as a Cambodian Music cover band (?!?) and evolved into unit that a few years back won the Best World Music Album at the Independent Music Awards.  If you were watching Sesame Street, this would be the band that would be the least like others on this list.

1. Anthrax

The Disease: Caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, Anthrax was originally known as the disease contracted by eating bad meat.  Late in the 19th century, an Anthrax vaccine was developed by Louis Pasteur and all around meat safety standards have evolved enough in the past 100 years to the point where Anthrax found in nature is very rare. It is not totally eradicated, though, as a few outbreaks a year still occur in third world nations.  An agent of biological warfare as far back as 1916, sometime during the Cold War, both the Russians and Americans figured out you could effectively weaponize Anthrax and had tons of spores stockpiled like nuclear weapons.

The Band:  Formed in 1981, Anthrax is one of the greatest Thrash bands in the history of Metal.  Churning out classics like Spreading the Disease (1985), Among the Living (1987), and State of Euphoria (1988), Anthrax spent the 90’s trying to focus their direction with enough problems to fill a Behind the Music episode.  Then in 2001, everyone in the United States knew what Anthrax was, when a homegrown terrorist isolated Anthrax spores and went on to mail them to news organizations and members of Congress.  The human toll of the attacks was 5 dead, 17 others infected, and millions of dollars in screening equipment for the United States Postal Service.  Imagine the surprise when thousands of people typed in (before the modern search engine), only to find a metal band instead of the substance sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.  You can go out and see them today headlining the Metal Alliance Tour.

Author:  Fred Hunt, cured of Anthrax (the band) in 2003.


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  1. While the band is most likely named after the disease, it may also be named after white water rapids; a cataract is also place where water flows really fast over rocks and stuff.

  2. You should have put the punk band Gang Green and not the dumb rap group. Their album Preschool could have filled up that entire video posted. They were speed freaks when it came to harDCore punk. They always reminded me bands like D.R.I. and Discharge.

  3. I gotta throw in for Tourniquet, tho. Those guys’ first 3 albums were like medical textbooks. Some sample song names….

    The Test for Leprosy
    Vitals Fading
    Broken Chromosomes
    Stereotaxic Atrocities
    Impending Embolism
    Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance
    Phantom Limb
    Ruminating Virulence
    Spectrophobic Dementia
    Gelatinous Tubercles of Purulent Ossification

    And they’re still around. New album “Antiseptic Bloodbath” came out last year and is frakkin’ AWESOME.