Heavy metal has gone through two unequivocal golden ages — in the 1980s and once again in the 2000s — and some of the most cutting-edge artists contributing to the genre’s expansion in each era were based in North Texas.
DFW has rightfully earned its reputation as a metal breeding ground, and while we by no means have a crystal ball in front of us, quality metal bands bands like Frozen Soul and Creeping Death make us confident we’re right at the cusp of another metal golden age.
This merits a ranking of some of the best albums from the many fine metal bands North Texas has to offer. Some of these albums hold cultural significance and made any subsequent re-imagining of the genre more vivid, while some of them are just amazing.
10. A.N.S., Pressure Cracks (2009)
Denton skate punk/crossover-thrash band A.N.S. has been mostly dormant over the last decade, but in recent years they have played a handful of local reunion shows.
Pressure Cracks was one of A.N.S.’s final releases, but it was also their first to be released on the Tankcrimes label, whose roster includes Fucked Up, Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan. In true “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” fashion, this album finds A.N.S. continuing their hardcore punk/thrash metal infusion à la Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, but it also stands as one of their most mature releases yet. This progression is manifested in the album’s closing track, “Bleeding Out,” which spends the first two minutes channeling the noisy, slow tempoed styles of Flipper and My War-era Black Flag.
Following this release, Tankcrimes released limited pressings of a Gang Green tribute split EP with A.N.S. and legendary grindcore band Agoraphobic Nosebleed.
9. Warbeast, Krush the Enemy (2010)
One year after the 2005 reunion of his signature band Rigor Mortis, Bruce Corbitt joined members of Gammacide in forming the supergroup Texas Metal Alliance, which changed its name to Warbeast in 2008.
Two years later, Warbeast released their debut album Krush the Enemy on Phil Anselmo’s label Housecore Records. It was with this album that the band splashed onto the North Texas metal scene with a fierce infusion of thrash and death metal, a sound not unlike Rigor Mortis.
A close contender to Krush the Enemy is the band’s 2017 release Enter the Arena, which tragically became the band’s swan song, as Corbitt died of esophageal cancer two years following its release.
8. Drowning Pool, Sinner (2001)
We’re not going to lie and say that the nu-metal genre that captured the chain-wallet spirit of the late 1990s and early 2000s aged well, and we’re certainly not going to pretend that this stigma isn't still attached to Drowning Pool. We’re also not going to pretend they don’t deserve credit for putting their own spin on the genre and making our music community more visible to a national audience.
With their debut full-length Sinner, the Dallas metal outfit achieved commercial success in jumping into the nu-metal phenomenon that became defined by contemporaries like Linkin Park, Korn and System of a Down. The album’s second track, “Bodies,” became a smash hit for its use of whispers to develop tension and its chunky, drop-D guitar riffs.
Call them one-hit wonders if you must, but it was a hell of a hit, and the Dallas music scene is better for it.
7. Absu, The Third Storm of Cythraul (1997)
Absu’s tumultuous dissolution happened earlier this year when the band said in a since-deleted Facebook post, “After meager deliberation and zero remorse, I have decided to dissolve Absu after three decades of existence. Collectively and universally speaking, this decision is finite due to insoluble circumstances, which has led to this ultimate result. No amount of time, exertion, formula or fashion can alter my verdict.”
This happened just one year after former guitarist Melissa Moore came out as transgender and alleged “fucked up transphobia” on her old band’s part.
Suffice to say, the band’s work remains confined to the rear-view mirror, including their celebrated full-length The Third Storm of Cythraul. In this 1997 effort, the band engages in their signature blend of Norwegian-style black metal and Bay Area-esque trash. The album’s second and best cut, “Highland Tyrant Attack,” ends with a power metal-sounding guitar riff layered over atmospheric synth chords. Like other parts of the album, it's as brutal as it is entrancing.
6. Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (2017)
Over the past 12 years, Power Trip transitioned from a low-profile band playing pro bono gigs at venues like Red Blood Club and 1919 Hemphill to being one of the most revered metal acts in DFW music history, and we’re not saying this with any recency bias whatsoever.
Following the success and critical acclaim of their debut full-length, Manifest Decimation, the Dallas thrash metal band went on a series of high-profile tours with the likes of Lamb of God, Napalm Death and The Black Dahlia Murder. Their follow-up release, 2017’s Nightmare Logic, further cemented their status as one of the most hyped bands in the underground metal circuit of late. It should be no surprise, then, that the aftermath of Nightmare Logic consisted of even larger tours with marquee names like Trivium, Hatebreed and Danzig.
Manifest Decimation was an astonishing debut, but Nightmare Logic saw the band expounding on its predecessor’s crossover-thrash tendencies while putting a refreshingly modern twist on the Bay Area thrash style of bands like Exodus and Vio-Lence (which was even booked as a headliner on Power Trip’s second Evil Beat festival in January.)
5. Devourment, 1.3.8. (2000)
Some consider Molesting the Decapitated to be Devourment’s best album, but here’s our counterargument to that: the band’s follow-up compilation 1.3.8. has all the tracks from that album, along with those from their Impaled demo.
1.3.8. is more encompassing of their earlier work, which was influential in the formation of the slam death metal subgenre. And, it’s not named Molesting the Decapitated.
The juxtaposition of the demos and the studio renderings on 1.3.8. makes it a surprisingly cohesive listen. Plus, the wretched vocal performances on tracks like “Shroud of Encryption” and the sheer rawness on those such as “Choking on Bile” make it one of the most crushingly brutal LPs since Deicide’s Once Upon the Cross.
4. Pantera, The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)
Pantera started out as a hair metal band that, like many of their contemporaries, idolized KISS. Once Phil Anselmo replaced former vocalist Terry Glaze, however, the band embraced a more abrasive style in the 1988 album Power Metal.
In the albums that followed, Anselmo’s admiration of bands like Black Flag, Agnostic Front, Eyehategod and Venom became more on-the-nose, especially with 1996’s The Great Southern Trendkill.
Many consider Far Beyond Driven to be a superior album, but The Great Southern Trendkill is indubitably Pantera’s heaviest.
And not that we’re necessarily helping, but Anselmo clearly harbors animosity toward the media in this record. Whether it’s his “Fuck your magazine” rebuke in the title track, or every lyrical passage in “War Nerve,” we're sensing some ill feelings.
Nobody tell him Mike IX Williams used to be a journalist.
3. The Offenders, We Must Rebel/I Hate Myself (1983)
With bands like Power Trip and A.N.S. making this list, it’s rather clear that Texas is a hotbed for crossover-thrash.
People already know this since D.R.I., one of the genre’s most influential torchbearers, hails from Houston, but Killeen-based counterpart The Offenders formed four years earlier and brought a similarly thrashy brand of hardcore punk to the table back when Scratch Acid, The Nervebreakers, MDC, The Dicks, Mydolls and Stick Men With Ray Guns were one of the few punk bands in Texas.
The Offenders, for their cutting-edge take on the then-burgeoning hardcore punk movement, have been in a state of criminal obscurity in later years, but in 2014, respected metal label Southern Lord Records graced us with a complete anthology of the band’s work in the form of double-LP Endless Struggle/We Must Rebel/I Hate Myself.
We Must Rebel/I Hate Myself starts on the 14th track, “Fight Back,” but that doesn’t matter since you should listen to the anthology in its glorious entirety anyway.
2. Rigor Mortis, Rigor Mortis (1988)
Yes, Bruce Corbitt already made this list, but given just how formidable his contributions to the local metal community were, it would be an insult to him if only one of his albums appeared. It would especially be insulting and downright irresponsible if Rigor Mortis, one of Texas’ most important metal bands period, did not appear.
The challenge in compiling this list, however, lies in whether to pick the freshly re-released 1986 demo tape or the self-titled debut album that was released on Capitol Records two years later. As great as they both were, however, Rigor Mortis’ self-titled album becomes a much more satisfying listen when you realize that the demos were only building up to it.
It was also the last Rigor Mortis release in which guitarist Mike Scaccia had a hand before his transition into Ministry. Scaccia himself died in December 2012 — at a birthday celebration for Corbitt, no less.
1. Pantera, Vulgar Display of Power (1992)
Some people would go as far as to put Pantera’s sixth full-length Vulgar Display of Power on their top five lists for best metal records of all time, and that would be entirely reasonable. After all, the album perfected the groove metal formula pioneered by its predecessor, Cowboys From Hell, and gave the entire metal genre even more commercial appeal in being as hook driven as it was heavy.
The album’s opening track, “Mouth For War,” effectively reels in the listener with its groovy, staccato guitar riff and subsequent tempo changes. One of the most aggressive cuts on the album, “Fucking Hostile,” feels like an entire Dexedrine high compressed into two minutes, 48 seconds. The following track, “This Love,” manages to harness this heaviness while also being lyrically vulnerable (though, granted, in the most macho way possible.)
This album packs one hell of a punch, which makes the album artwork even more appropriate.