Kyuss emerged out of Palm Desert, Calif., somewhat like a sand storm: violently, seemingly from out of nowhere. And then, just like that, they were gone. Their recording career comprises all of four albums in as many years, and we've ranked them in order of awesomeness.

This doesn't count several more in which vocalist John Garcia, guitarist Josh Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri and drummer Brant Bjork spent honing their chops in secluded anonymity under the early moniker Sons of Kyuss, inspired by a monster in the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.

But this meager oeuvre was all it took for Kyuss to leave an indelible mark on rock history. Their sound, molded into shape by producer Chris Goss, fused metal, punk and sludge, hard core and hard rock, space rock and even classic rock, into a volcanic musical lava alternately labeled as "desert rock" and, more frequently, "stoner rock."

Alas, Kyuss' musical vision was so extraordinarily alien that it flew over most listeners' heads, never found a foothold on radio and earned just a few spins on MTV's Headbanger's Ball. But that was enough to seduce a small but fanatical group of metal-heads, most of whom had been reading rave reviews of the band in the specialized metal press.

But even after signing with Elektra Records, this depressing state of commercial affairs didn't change. By the time they made their fourth album, ...And the Circus Leaves Town, Oliveri and Bjork had already been replaced, so Homme and Garcia disbanded Kyuss in late 1995.

But, as it turned out, Kyuss' demise could not stop their music from spreading, and very soon there were fledgling stoner rock bands sprouting up around the world, ready to carry their guru's musical legacy forward, even in their absence. And the notable individual successes enjoyed by each of its band members -- Garcia with Slo Burn and Unida, Bjork with Fu Manchu and numerous solo efforts, and especially Oliveri and Homme with Queens of the Stone Age -- is now a testament to the amazing amount of talent within Kyuss.

It's why we're still here, eagerly ranking the band's albums in order of awesomeness below.

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