It is often said that oppressive political climates produce the best in hardcore and metal music. Perhaps that explains the recent explosion in heavy music here in Arizona. While we've always had a tradition of producing some great, yet often overlooked, metal and hardcore bands here, a new crop of bands has risen up in the last few years and several seem poised to make the jump from local acts to nationally known names. Following in the footsteps of 80s forefathers like JFA, Nuclear Death, and Sacred Reich, not to mention more recent bands that have paved the way and put Arizona on the map, such as Landmine Marathon and Vehemence, most of the following bands have already released fantastic records and hopefully have bright futures. In no particular order;Seas Will Rise. Starting life as a d-beat hardcore band called Cagematch, Seas Will Rise adopted a new name and heavier sound on their debut full length, "Disease Is Our Refrain," released earlier this year. While staying true to their hardcore roots, the band is not afraid to experiment with sludge and thrash metal influences. Their intense live performances and recorded output have gained them some national exposure, even landing them on a Scion showcase with the likes of Phobia and Morne, among others. The most recent show I caught them at revealed that they seem to have almost an album's worth of new material, so be on the lookout for a sophomore LP from them in the not so distant future.
For fans of: From Ashes Rise, Struck By Lightning, Trap Them
T.O.A.D. This band has been kicking around the underground for several years now, but line up changes and members' involvement in other bands have kept them from becoming a fully focused entity until recently. Last year's CD "Rotten Tide" was, in my humble opinion, one of the best things to come out of the AZ underground in ages. The band plays a unique blend of black metal, death & roll, and traditional metal that really can't be explained without hearing it. They did some touring in support of "Rotten Tide," before taking time off to produce their upcoming "Endless Night" album. I've heard the record, and all I can say is that if this band doesn't reach the next level with it, there is simply something wrong with people.
For fans of: Entombed, Darkthrone(later), Bathory
Lago. Death metal fans seem to fall into two camps lately, those who prefer the straightforward heaviness of bands like Incantation, and those who value musical technicality above all. Lago is the best of both worlds, showcasing their musical prowess while maintaining a decidedly old school heaviness on last year's debut EP, "Marianas." Line up changes have kept them out of the spotlight recently, but their latest line up has just done a run of out of state shows before entering the studio to record an internet exclusive single that will be available for download in the coming months. A full length album and some extensive touring should open people's eyes to this band's oppressively heavy death metal.
For fans of: Immolation, Nile, Morbid Angel
TWiNGiANT. A relative newcomer, this band has already self-released a fantastic full length LP entitled, "Mass Driver." TWiNGiANT's blend of heavy, fuzzed out hard rock and southern fried sludge metal has landed them several choice shows and catapulted them to the top of the growing stoner/doom metal scene. While always maintaining a level of heaviness, the band uses their twin guitar setup to great effect, with instrumental passages that often veer from Thin Lizzy-esque harmonies to drawn out psychadelia that would not be out of place on a Sonic Youth record. The band recently made their out of state debut at a festival in Colorado. While extensive touring may not be in their immediate plans, they'll likely be doing some short runs in support of "Mass Driver" as well as some upcoming shows around the valley.
For fans of: Mastodon, Clutch, Kylesa
GodAwfulNoise. Despite being plagued with line up problems, grinders GodAwfulNoise have become a staple of Phoenix's crust/grind scene. Blast beats, death metal inspired guitar riffs, and raging vocals are this band's tools of the trade, and they use them well. Their debut EP, "No Escape," displayed songwriting skills that set them apart from run of the mill grind bands. These aren't your average, forgettable 30 second blasts of noise, these riffs and venomous lyrics stick with you after the CD is done playing. Although they've drastically cut back on live shows, due to their newest drummer calling Texas home, they have an upcoming split 7" that is set to be released at any time now.
For fans of: Phobia, Terrorizer, Magrudergrind
Godhunter. Tucson's Godhunter have been kicking around for quite some time now. While they already have several splits and their excellent "Wolves" CD under their belts, it is live that this band truly excels. Their crushingly heavy take on sludge metal is absolutely explosive live. This extremely hard working band has already done some touring in support of "Wolves," and can regularly be seen opening for national acts, as well as headlining their own shows, all around Arizona. I'm not sure of their upcoming recording plans, but I know they have a tour coming up early next year.
For fans of: Buzzov*en, Weedeater, Bongzilla
Inducing Terror. One of Phoenix's longest running death metal bands, Inducing Terror has remained largely unknown due to their constantly evolving line up. Having finally secured a stable line up over the last year or so, the band is currently in the midst of recording an EP at Arcane Digital in Chandler. This band is a brutal death metal fan's wet dream. The drumming is ridiculously fast and the guitar playing extremely technical, but they never lose their heaviness, unlike some of the over-triggered leaders of this genre. This is fast, heavy, guttural death metal at it's best. Their live performances are sporadic at best, but hopefully they'll start to pick up again when they release their new recording.
For fans of: Dying Fetus, Broken Hope, Suffocation
Monger. Crust has seemingly always been a thriving sub-genre in Phoenix. This band is something of a Phoenix crust supergroup, being comprised of members of Pay Neuter, Warfair?, and ETTS, among others. Monger's self titled debut 7", released earlier this year, blends the kind of sludgy crust punk that the southwest was known for in the 90s with the chaotic noise of bands like GISM. Most of the tempos stay mid-paced and heavy, but occasionally speed up into a gallop, and the four pronged vocal attack creates an almost dizzying effect. The band has done a bit of touring and plans to release a split 7" with Coaccion soon, but sadly may be reducing their activity due to their guitarist's recent relocation to San Diego.
For fans of: Misery, Amebix, His Hero Is Gone
Rituals. Rituals' music alternates between crushing heaviness and hypnotic ambiance. While there are roughly 18 billion bands playing this style right now, Rituals' ability to create a memorable tune sets them apart. Where so many bands seem to just noodle away and go nowhere, these guys understand the importance of delivering an explosive payoff after a tense build up. Their self titled debut LP contains many of these moments, and the band is just as good live. The band has done some sporadic touring and recently released a split LP with DeZafra Ridge, but has curtailed their live performances of late due to a line up change. They should be back in action before long.
For fans of: Morne, Light Bearer, the Atlas Moth
About a hundred other bands. Seriously, this state is crawling with death metal, crust, sludge, and hardcore at the moment. Some bands have been around for ages, while new ones pop up seemingly weekly. Despite not being the touring machine they once were, Vehemence continues to play shows and has plans for a new record soon. Landmine Marathon have established themselves nationally, and are constantly growing in popularity. Death metal continues to thrive, with great bands like Six Million Dead and Necrambulant building names for themselves both locally and nationally, while newcomers like Clawhammer Abortion are starting to pick up steam. The crust/grind scene always has new bands and crazy shows going on, with Biocidio, Oust, and Blodskam leading the way. Tucson has recently begun to challenge Phoenix as the state's heavy music capital. North has been a leader of the Tucson scene for quite awhile now, with several full lengths and national tours under their belts, plus up and coming acts like Methra, FDP, and Why Bother. Also, lets not forget the Southwest Terror Fest, which made its debut in Tucson just last month and will hopefully become a growing annual event celebrating all things heavy. Even Flagstaff is getting back in on the action. Once boasting a pretty cool scene, northern Arizona has been pretty quiet for a few years, until the metallic crust of Swamp Wolf began turning some heads over the last year.
In conclusion, I hope some people outside AZ read this and give some of these bands a chance. Arizona may have disgustingly hot weather, horrible sports teams, and laughable politics, but our music is awesome!