At the end of the day, life is a crapshoot. Especially in the post-COVID world, one feels like any sense of stability or consistency they have can collapse entirely at a moment’s notice. Not only is this scary, but it’s also fucking frustrating; there are only so many times all of your best-laid plans can fall through before you want to throw your hands up and walk away. Even metal can feel that way — so often, we buy the new album of a band we love and believe in, only to find out they’re trying some unnecessary, unlistenable bullshit because they smoked weed for the first time or visited India or something.
Thankfully, there are bands who will always bring you what you need. Whether it’s due to their consistent sound or their ability to try new things without losing their edge, these acts manage to leave fans amped up and grinning with every song and performance. And while we’ll always support changing drastically from one album to another, we have to admit that these sorts of bands are the ones that keep our world spinning.
Here are 10 metal bands who’ve never let us down, and never will…
High On Fire
Even as doom metal boomed and Matt Pike sobered up, there was never any concern that High On Fire would lose their touch. The Oakland band has been making gravel-coated stoner thrash for over twenty years now, and have shown no indication that they’ll slow down or ease up. If anything, the band’s more recent albums like 2018’s Grammy-winning Electric Messiah have displayed an increase and speed and fury, suggesting that the sauce was perhaps dulling Pike’s edge instead of sharpening it. A band who are always there when you need your face smashed in.
Death metal bands have come, gone, and gotten super into prog, but Cannibal Corpse are forever down to stomp a head into salsa. Somehow, the band have kept this approach of churning murder metal songs about human dissection fresh and interesting; this year’s Violence Unimagined is only three singles deep and already has fans chomping at the bit to hear it. For a hot second at the turn of millennium, Cannibal got criticism for their resolve — They just make the same album over and over, munnnnngh — but thankfully even those backseat headbangers have come around and recognized them as stalwart in their dedication. Fun fact: people will always die.
What’s funny about Hatebreed is that so many bands attempted to emulate their metallic hardcore sound, and were just boring and plodding — but Hatebreed themselves have consistently ruled. The Connecticut bruisers have always stayed the course when it comes to making infectious beatdown music, which, according to their own Wayne Iozinak, isn’t incidental. “We don’t want to change too much, because it’s what the fans expect,” Wayne told The Pit back in November. “Plus, it’s just what we do best.”
Not only is there no bad Sodom record, there’s no semi-decent Sodom record. Every album bristles with heavy artillery, showcasing the kind of rabid, warlusting thrash that got us strapping on the denim and leather in the first place. Last year’s Genesis XIX is no different, containing all the blitzkrieg riffs and snotty howls that any patch jacket-wearing teutonic thrasher could possibly ask for. Proof that sometimes sticking to your guns turns you into a living weapon.
Gojira are a perfect example of how ‘reliable’ doesn’t mean ‘predictable’ or ‘unchanging.’ Over the years, the French experimental groove metallers have added new layers of texture and scope to their tumultuous sound. But that chug is always there — even at their most experimental, these guys bring the house down with their million-pound riffs. You may never know exactly what any given Gojira song will sound like, but you do know it’s going to kick you in the face pretty damn hard.
The Black Dahlia Murder
While so many of their peers went emo and mainstream, Detroit melodic death metal crew The Black Dahlia Murder went gruesome and macabre. Rather than incorporate clean vocals and soaring choruses, these dudes wrote weed-addled lurching metal about psychosexual killers and ravenous werewolves. For this, they will always hold a certain level of trueness over their neon-shirt-producing peers, keeping monsters, murder, and death at the forefront of their bounding sound. Faces peeled, every time.
Like a lot of thrash bands, Overkill have two acts — a punkier, speedier ‘80s era and a groovier, heavier period after that. What sets Overkill apart from other acts like them, though, is how they never fully dropped their old-school roots. Even the most modern-sounding Overkill record includes thrash metal so toxic, hostile, and confident that it could come from nowhere but New Jersey. Always bet on green.
It feels unfair that Darkest Hour got lumped in with so many of the curlicue-obsessed acts in the early 2000s metalcore explosion. The band were around before that movement blew up, a searing, melodic force of agitation within the metal and hardcore scene, and they’ve remained all knives long after so many of those projects fizzled out. Even as late as 2017, with the punishing Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora, the band were showing us all how it was done. Like a suicide tooth, this poison is there when you need it.
Okay, sure, if you don’t like horror movies, the ‘70s, or weed, you’re gonna have a bad time with Electric Wizard. But if even one of those three things floats your boat, this band will sit beautifully with you. Maybe it’s their don’t-give-a-fuck biker vibe that makes the Wizard so especially satisfying every single time you tube up and crank “Funeral of Your Mind” or “Dunwich” — but then again, maybe it’s just those soul-crushing, fuzz-soaked riffs, son. Never not heavy.
If Pig Destroyer were any less destructive, they’d be pretentious. The Virginia band’s artsy side involves the kind of imagery and subject matter that’d get a rufflier band quickly ostracized for being a bunch of college nerds. As it is, PxDx’s music is so packed with chaos, malice, noise, and disgust that it immediately justifies and enhances its more elaborate framing. Every single song brings that level of terror and nausea to the mix, every time. Have you guys met Jennifer?
Words by Chris Krovatin