Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Los Angeles Old School Death Metal Scene
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to expose them to the world outside their respective scenes. Although the Los Angeles scene is anything but unified, this apocalyptic city has produced more than a handful of quality bands. This week I’ll be exploring the Los Angeles old school death metal scene.
The L.A. scene is hardly known for authenticity in its death metal, mainly because the current scene is dominated by fad-jumping metalcore and glam throwback acts, but there are other more subtle reasons for its staying underground. For example, there is the fact that while bands in the Florida and New York death metal scenes, for example, were releasing genre-defining full-length albums, LA bands such as the ones below had to make do with short format releases, such as demos and EP’s. Compare Morbid Angel, who, by 1993, had released four full-length albums, to Sadistic Intent, who have yet to release one. Nevertheless, a limited output doesn’t necessarily equate a lack of talent, and so without further ado, here are three of the most talented bands to have graced the LA scene past and present.
Without doubt L.A.’s best underground band, and quite possibly one of the world’s most underrated metal acts of all time, Sadistic Intent plays fierce death metal that borrows from various traditions in the vast heritage of heavy metal. One can discern a range of influences, from Dark Angel and Slayer to Possessed and Morbid Angel, tucked within the unique tapestry that forms the band’s sound. They write long, involved, and esoteric death metal songs with occult lyrics and a truly sinister atmosphere, making them absolutely essential for lovers of morbid, underground metal. Try their EP’s "Resurrection" and "Impending Doom" for obscure and esoteric death metal, or go for "Ancient Black Earth" if fast and blasting percussive madness is more along the lines of what you crave.
If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, seeing Sadistic Intent live is a must, and lucky for you they play at least several shows a year. (Also note that the band members, along with vocalist Jeff Becerra, fill out the current lineup of Possessed.) In a live setting, the band is truly professional, and always live up to their moniker (and then some). Check out the video below to see what you’re getting yourself into.
This lesser known Los Angeles band are regarded for creating an intelligent and melodious hybrid of death and black metal, with the emotive capabilities of a quality doom metal band. Self-described as "cosmic noise," their music is sleepy, autumnal, and esoteric, but always retaining a kind of subtle violence. Listening to their earlier material, such as the "Iniciation" album, one concludes that their music is absolutely perfect for the later, colder time of year. Although slightly withdrawn, the band has been releasing albums slowly but surely since the early 1990’s – however it seems the band, although active, will not be playing any more concerts. Check out some songs at the band’s official MySpace profile.
Rise started out playing a kind of brutal, percussive death metal, although more rigorously structured and pounding than the more technical style of Suffocation, et al. They’ve contributed two classic releases of note: 1993’s demo / EP "Life Into Ever Black" and their 1996 debut, "Shadow of Ruins." Featuring a suffocating sound and raw, meat-and-potatoes death metal riffing, these releases are fairly simple but always satisfying. They’ve put out a handful of albums since then, and now play modern metal that is probably a bit more in line with mainstream tastes, but not quite able to break out of the underground. Nonetheless, this is a solid band, and if they ever get that tour together, may very well be worth seeing in a live setting, even if only for the older material. Listen to songs new and old at their MySpace page.
Of course, there are many more quality death metal bands in the Los Angeles area that still uphold the old school spirit. Don’t hesitate to add your comment below or suggest more good bands. Make sure to check back next Monday as we explore more underground scenes from around the world.
Zach Z was hit in the head with metal as a teenager and never truly recovered. A lover of authentic death metal, black metal, and traditional heavy metal, he has also learned to appreciate classical music, books, and the great outdoors. Read more of his articles at Examiner.com.
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