Orange County is known for its punk scene. With old school bands such as Social Distortion, The Adolescents, Agent Orange and D.I., among countless others, one might not necessarily think of heavy metal when it comes to our native soundtrack and local history. Turns out, over the past thirty years or so, Orange County has been birthplace to more than a few heavy metal bands, some still active, some gone but not forgotten. With that in mind, and in no particular order of importance, we offer, the Ten Greatest OC Metal Bands of All Time.
1. Phobia Did someone say Grindcore? Ah yes, Phobia, OC's original true grind masters, shredding eardrums since 1990. Another band for the truly underground scene, the band is well known for its abrasive, violent sociopolitical songs among extreme metal, and crust punk aficionados. Over the years, the band has had a revolving line up with too many to even list. Definitely among the ranks of bands such as crust/ punk heroes DOOM, gore metal acts Exhumed and Impaled, and fellow grind core metal bands Cattle Decapitation and Murder Construct. Phobia still tour, and are still pushing the limit with new music, including Remnants of Filth, from 2012.
2.Dystopia This is not a band for the weak of heart. Dark, and depressing, doesn't even begin to describe this band, formed in OC in 1991. This is some of the most vile, sick, disgusting, and hateful, haunting music you might ever hear. The band is heavy and bleak slow, yet crushing and grinding in other moments within the same album (or even song). Having undergone numerous line up changers throughout its career, the final lineup consisted of Todd Kiessling on bass/vocals, Dino Somese on drums and Matt Parillo on guitars/vocals. Sadly, the band broke up 2008, leaving behind a cult like following of crust punks, doom heads and other metal/punk miscreants.
Fans of Eyehategod and Nuerosis will love this band, which has stayed true to the underground scene, and misanthropic, yet political themed vibe and stoner metal/doom/crust punk sound, and use of various dark, twisted spoken word pieces and samples in songs, influencing future 'noise' bands with similar musical styles, themes and sounds. Focusing on the harsh nature of the world, the band touched on a myriad of brutal topics including human and animal rights, war and racism. Check out the punishing mind-twisting albums Human=Garbage(1994) and 2008's self-titled to get a good feel of this band.
3.Throwdown Rising from the OC metalcore scene in the late 90s, Throwdown has had members of Death By Stereo, Bleeding Through and Eighteen Visions (and many more) among its line up at one point or another. Rather than regurgitate the same old chugging breakdowns of typical metalcore bands, many of which were contemporaries, Throwdown slowly found its niche by embracing the heaviness, brutality and musicality of metal, and evoking bands such as Machinehead, Pantera or Sepultura (the band has been known to cover Sepultura's classic song “RootsBloody Roots”).
Throwdown stand apart by merging the punishing sounds of late 90s metal bands with hardcore street punk/DIY work ethic. Earning the respect of metal heads, hardcore and metalcore fans, the band has earned its street credibility by releasing six full-length albums full of ferocity and rage, while touring the world with bands such as Hatebreed, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Gwar, The Black Dahlia Murder and tons more. Throwdown has also appeared on festivals Warped Tour, Sounds of the Underground and Ozzfest. The current line up includes vocalists/ guitarist Dave Peters, guitarist and Mark Choiniere and bassist Mark Mitchell, with various touring session members filling in for live shows. Be sure to check out the band's last four albums: 2003's Haymaker, 2005's Vendetta, 2007's Venom and Tears and 2009's Deathless.
4.Leatherwolf Who would have thought that in 1981, a group of teenagers from Huntington Beach would form a band, that over three decades later still perform a rustic, old-school power metal, akin to British sensations Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Originally playing alongside their peers in bands such as Slayer, Metal Church, and even early Metallica, Leatherwolf are considered by many to be one of the most underrated metal bands from the 80s. Part melodic speed metal, part New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the band recorded its classic debut album Leatherwolf in 1985 and Street Ready in 1989.
After a brief hiatus the band is back, this time with original members Michael Oliveri(guitarist/singer) and drummer Dean Roberts. Also in the band are bassist Patrick Guyton, as well as guitarists Rob Math and Greg Erba. The band's last albums with this line up include World Asylum (2006), and New World Asylum(2007).
See Also: Top 10 Glam Metal Bands of All Time
5.Avenged Sevenfold Another band from Huntington Beach, Avenged Sevenfold might arguably be one of the most successful modern metal 'hard rock' bands to emerge from the OC Metalcore scene. The band formed in 1999 when singer M. Shadows, guitarist Zacky Vengance and drummer Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan were still in high school.
It's no secret the band is very popular, and a prominent force in modern rock music. By blending a punk-friendly vibe with metalcore and an old-school metal sound, the band's music and image has influenced hordes of metalcore scenesters, and put OC on the map while also achieving critical and commercial success with hit albums such as City of Evil(2005) the self-titled release from 2007. Unfortunately, in 2009 tragedy struck the band, when drummer James “The Rev” Sullivan was found dead in his Huntington Beach apartment, from an apparent overdose of prescription drugs and alcohol. The band recruited Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy to help record and tour to promote the album Nightmare(2010), and continue to this day, sharing the music with fans worldwide, in honor of The Rev. Avenged Sevenfold is set to release a new album in less than a month(Aug., 2013), Hail To The King (with drummer Arin Llejay). Without a doubt the band will be on the road for the remainder of the year.
6.Stryper Yes who could forget Stryper, the OC's favorite (and first, if not ONLY) Christian hard rock/ '80s hair metal band. The band consists of all original members, brothers Michael Sweet (guitarist/singer), and drummer Robert Sweet, bass player Tim Gaines and guitarist Oz Fox. Best known for the powerful hit single, “To Hell With the Devil,” off the classic 1986 glam metal album of the same name, Stryper are widely known as being one of the first openly Christian heavy metal bands. Some might find this odd, considering the band's image and music was more akin to Motley Crue and Poison than the other so called Christian rock bands. But the music was all about the Lord, and the band earned a devout following of fans. To date, the band has sold more than ten million albums worldwide and still tour and put out records.
7.Witch This is definitely an obscure pick. Only true underground and old-school metal fans will know about Witch, another band out of Huntington Beach, born out of the early '80s Southern California speed metal/glam metal scene. This is a band that has been FORGOTTEN by time, but only now fans are nostalgic for its music and legends of its live performances. Made up of singer Peter Wabbit, Ronny Too on guitars, Punky Peru on drums and Jim Wormon on bass. Perhaps in a parallel universe somewhere, Witch is as big as Motley Crue. Be sure to check out the 1984's EP The Hex Is On and the compilation Damnation from 2008. The band is no longer active but a complete history, including pictures, archives of shows and flyers, as well as a detailed biography can be found at www.witchtheband.com
8.Fu Manchu Although known as a 'stoner rock' band, Fu Manchu finds it origins in the mid '80s hardcore punk movement. Formed in San Clemente in 1985, out of the remains of a the band Virulence, singer/guitarist Scott Hill (now Fu Manchu's only original member) evolved the band's music to be more oriented towards bong hits and Black Sabbath, than the previous hardcore punk band. With a new name (Fu Manchu) and a stoned, reformed sound, Fu Manchu saw some success touring in the late '90s and early '00s with such bands as White Zombie, Corrosion Of Conformity, Marilyn Manson and Monster Magnet. With over a dozen albums, tours around the US and Europe and a fan base that includes stoners, rockers, punkers, skaters and metal heads alike. Classic albums include 1996's In Search Of…, and California Crossing from 2001, which both showcase the band's signature hard rock stoner metal sound. The band is still active and recently played in front of thousands of fans at Metallica's Orion Festival in Detroit, Michigan in June.
9.Hirax Hirax was formed in Cypress in the early 1980s and rose to prominence among the speed metal/thrash scene, playing early shows with bands such as Slayer, Exodus, and Metallica, in clubs across Southern California. In 1985, Metal Blade released the classic album Raging Violence, and Hate Fear and Power in 1986. By 1988 the band had broken up, only leaving a legacy of thrash metal for underground fanatics. In 2000, lead singer Kayton D. Pena (now the band's only original member) reformed the band for a short-lived reunion, then the lineup changed completely. After hearing the band's classic '80s albums, fans should also check out The New Age of Terror, (2004), and El Rostro De La Murete (2009). The band is insanely huge in Germany, Brazil, Mexico and well many places where the cultures love thrash metal. Still active and touring, Hirax sees no sign of stopping soon. That includes releasing a new album, Immortal Legacy, later in 2013. Hirax was and still is thrash metal at its most pure and furious; the band is still causing pits, drinking beers and flying the flag for thrash metal warriors everywhere.
10.Bleeding Through Hardcore kids from the hardcore scene at heart, OC metalcore heroes Bleeding Through have endured more than one can imagine over the course of a career spanning over 14 years. From former bands, lineup changes, severe illness, and a near tragic van accident that got the band national attention, the band has stayed true to its roots.
But, what Bleeding Through bring to the table is an interpretation of 'hardcore' or 'metalcore'- that many in the scene still try to replicate. By using elements of death metal and symphonic black metal, the band created a hybrid that has allowed it to scene to become a popular , commercially successful metal band, selling millions of records and touring with bands like Hatebreed, AFI, Unearth, The Haunted, Danzig, Cradle of Filth, Slipknot and Arch Enemy. Live, Bleeding Through's epic concert is an experience that is both uncompromising and textured as it is raw and haunting. For the best songs of the band's career, (arguably) be sure to check out 2003's album, This is Love This is Murderous.
See Also: Top 20 Greatest OC Albums of All Time: The Complete List Follow us on Twitter @OCWeeklyMusic and like us on Facebook at Heard Mentality.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.