The United States Of Metal
BEHOLD: Our definitive, objective, indisputable list of the single best heavy metal band from every U.S. state, complete with a playlist at the bottom of the page, too.
(Though, if you do have any issues with our picks, you can take it up with our man in the United States, Ethan Fixell. Just know that he lost six pounds and four nights of sleep putting this list together – so be gentle.)
Let’s get to it:
Alabama: Maylene and The Sons Of Disaster
Simply put, Maylene and The Sons of Disaster sound like they hail from the south. Founded in Birmingham, Alabama by former Underoath vocalist Dallas Taylor, Maylene’s sludgey, groovy, twangy sound has taken on an even more melodic turn in later years.
Required Listening: II (2007)
Alaska: 36 Crazyfists
There ain’t a ton of metal in Alaska. But 36 Crazyfists – though later based in Portland, Oregon – were formed in Anchorage, the state’s largest city. After first making waves with their 2002 single, Slit Wrist Theory, the nü-metal band has toured with bands like Candiria, God Forbid, Chimaira, and Killswitch Engage.
Required Listening: A Snow Capped Romance (2004)
Arizona: Flotsam & Jetsam
Though often relegated to being “that band Jason Newsted left for Metallica,” Flotsam and Jetsam deserve credit for a consistent 36-year career filled with solid thrash metal records and riffs. Easily the most important metal band to come out of Arizona.
Required Listening: Doomsday for the Deceiver (1986)
Little Rock’s Pallbearer have been steadily marching towards considerable success over the last decade with their uniquely accessible brand of doom metal. Though traditionally as melodic as they are heavy, their latest effort, Heartless, introduces classic rock and experimental influences.
Required Listening: Foundations of Burden (2014)
Do we really need to qualify this one?
Required Listening: Ride the Lightning (1984)
Colorado: Cephalic Carnage
Some call it technical deathgrind; they call it “Rocky Mountain hydro-grind”; we call it fast, brutal, often hilarious metal (see: their classic rendition of Eye of the Tiger during the breakout of a pit fight at a Toronto show a dozen years ago).
Required Listening: Anomalies (2005)
Connecticut: Fates Warning
You can’t talk about the birth of progressive metal without paying homage to three bands: Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, and Fates Warning. Influenced by the NWOBHM, with early leanings towards power metal, the Hartford-based band have reinvented themselves more times since 1982 than He-Man.
Required Listening: Awaken the Guardian (1986)
Scorched may only have recorded one full-length, two EPs, and a handful of splits in their short career thus far, but in the last three years they’ve already established themselves as Delaware’s greatest death metal band.
Required Listening: Scorched EP (2015)
No band defined Florida death metal – or the entire death metal genre – like Orlando’s Death. Founder Chuck Schuldiner’s fast, technical guitar playing helped pave the way for other Florida staples like Morbid Angel, Obituary, and Deicide, just to name a few.
Required Listening: Leprocy (1988)
Blending sludge with progressive (and eventually psychedelic stoner rock) over the course of two decades, Atlanta’s Mastodon have grown into a massive metal force worthy of their name. And they all sing like angels, too? Their mothers must be so proud.
Required Listening: Leviathan (2004)
No, that’s not a typo: the best band from Hawaii is called Hawaii. Formed in 1981 by former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, the raucous speed metal band originally called Vixen (no relation to the all-female ‘80s band of the same name) thrashed out tracks like Beg for Mercy and V.P.H.B.(Vicious Power Hungry Bitch).
Required Listening: The Natives Are Restless (1985)
Since 2009, the co-ed duo known as Wolvserpent has honed a mix of doom, drone, black metal, and classical minimalism that sounds more like a Norwegian forest than Boise, Idaho. Their thoughtful, spiritual, and terrifyingly haunting music is to be enjoyed in a quiet, dark room – but not for too long, if one values one’s sanity.
Required Listening: Perigea Antahkarana (2013)
The genre of industrial metal is more or less synonymous with Al Jourgensen’s Ministry. Originally a bouncy, ‘80s-entrenched synth-pop duo, Ministry’s sound shifted dramatically on its second and third records, and has continued to descend down a darker and heavier path ever since.
Required Listening: ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ (Psalm 69) (1992)
Indiana: The Gates of Slumber
Though perhaps better known in Europe than in the U.S., this influential Indianapolis-based outfit was crucial to the doom metal genre as a whole for the better part of 15 years. A must-listen for any riff-hungry stoner who thinks Black Sabbath makes for easy listening.
Required Listening: Conquerer (2008)
When Slipknot dropped their debut full-length in 1999, it signaled the end of nu-metal as we nu it. Incorporating elements of death and speed metal, pop hooks, and a live show featuring nine insane masked members that had seemingly escaped a mental hospital in Des Moines, Slipknot inevitably changed the face of metal.
Required Listening: Slipknot (1999)
Blast beats. Arpeggios. Blistering speed. Technical death metal has never been as fast or as angry as the stuff that Origin lay down. Good luck trying to head bang to these speed junkies.
Required Listening: Antithesis (2008)
As the work of one man from Louisville, Kentucky, Panopticon isn’t technically a band. But hey — so it goes with black metal. More importantly, Austin Lunn’s atmospheric take on the genre – often influenced by post rock, his natural surroundings, and local folk music – is, quite simply, beautiful.
Required Listening: Autumn Eternal (2015)
With no shortage of swamplands, it makes sense that New Orleans’ greatest metal band sounds just like the bayou. Eyehategod are as sludgy as they come, with plenty of mid-to-slow-tempo tunes ideal for dazed nodding.
Required Listening: Take As Needed for Pain (1993)
Ogre have flown under the radar throughout most of the country over the last 20 years, but the band are rightfully legendary in their hometown of Portland, Maine. Fans of ‘70s proto-metal, doom, and stoner rock should lock down Ogre’s discography ASAP.
Required Listening: Dawn of the Proto-Man (2003)
Clutch straddle the lines of hard rock and metal, but no Maryland band has ever had a greater impact on either genre. The band’s bluesy, funky, heavy sound is instantly recognisable – thanks, in particular, to Neil Fallon’s signature impassioned bark, and Tim Sult’s filthy, hooky riffs.
Required Listening: Blast Tyrant (2004)
The term “metalcore” gets bandied about in describing all types of hybrid acts these days – but as one of the first metallic hardcore bands to emerge in the United States, Converge can be credited not only with inventing the genre, but continually elevating it. Today, they are still as relevant as ever, having released one of the greatest albums of 2017, The Dusk in Us.
Required Listening: Jane Doe (2001)
Originally released in 1986 as a demo called Slaughter of the Innocent, Repulsion’s sole album finally got a proper release in 1989 as Horrified – a year after the band had broken up. But this essential work was arguably more influential on grindcore than any single Napalm Death or Pig Destroyer release.
Required Listening: Horrified (1989)
Another group of mostly unsung heroes, Minneapolis’ Powermad took the thrash metal baton from Metallica and Anthrax, and ran with it in a progressive direction. Largely inactive for the 25 years following their debut full-length, they finally released a fantastic follow-up in 2015 titled Infinite.
Required Listening: Absolute Power (1989)
Easily the most underground band on this list, Octagon is largely the work of Thomas Mortigan, a black metal musician based in Natchez, Mississippi. Mortigan has released a handful of works in the last 15 years, but they’re nearly impossible to find. Case in point: only 100 copies of his last album, Sigils of Ram — which features vocals from former Gorgoroth singer, Pest – were printed…on cassette.
Required Listening: Death Fetish (2007)
On-again-off-again blackened death metal band Angelcorpse cannot be killed. Though the Kansas City band has broken up and reformed many times over the course of two decades (and relocated to Tampa, Florida, in the process), the trio soldiers on in the name of Lucifer.
Required Listening: Exterminate (2008)
Fewer than 10,000 people live in Havre, Montana. Thankfully, at least three of them play in progressive death metal band Martriden. The band have been less active since releasing Cold and the Silence in 2015, but we’ve got our fingers crossed we’ll hear another album from them before the decade is through.
Required Listening: Encounter the Monolith (2010)
Omaha’s greatest metal export now resides in Denver, Colorado – but that doesn’t negate Cellador’s Nebraskan roots. Their debut – produced by legendary Morbid Angel alum, Erik Rutan – could be the finest example of power metal to come out of the Midwest in the 2000s.
Required Listening: Enter Deception (2006)
Nevada: Guttural Secrete
If you like your slam metal as brutal as it is repulsive, this is your band. With disgusting song titles, abhorrent lyrics, and relentless blast beats, Guttural Secrete might just be the sickest thing to come out of Las Vegas – and that’s saying a lot.
Required Listening: Reek of Pubescent Despoilment (2006)
New Hampshire: Vattnet Viskar
Vattnet Viskar were a stellar post-black metal band that evolved tremendously with each release. By 2017, the band had moved on from blast beats, tremolo picking, and distorted, howling vocals to the melodic world of emo-y post-rock, changing their name to simply Vattnet before breaking up five months later.
Required Listening: Settler (2015)
New Jersey: Overkill
Oft overshadowed by New York, New Jersey is perhaps the most underrated breeding ground for rock and metal in the U.S. Just ask Overkill, NJ’s O.G.s (often referred to as “the Motörhead of thrash metal”), who – with 18 albums over the course of nearly 40 years – though legends within the scene, should be far better known than they are.
Required Listening: The Years of Decay (1989)
New Mexico: Predatory Light
Call it black metal; call it doomy death metal – but don’t call Santa Fe’s Predatory Light “cheerful.” Following the release of multiple demos and a split with New York’s Vorde, their tight debut full-length was every bit as hellish as we would have hoped.
Required Listening: Predatory Light (2016)
New York: Anthrax
The sole non-Los Angeleno members of The Big Four of Thrash, Anthrax hail from Queens, New York City. Bringing their own entirely unique East Coast flavor to the mix, the band have infused elements of groove metal, alternative rock, and even rap into their music throughout their illustrious four-decade career.
Required Listening: Among the Living (1987)
North Carolina: Corrosion of Conformity
Tracing CoC’s career is like outlining the evolution of southern metal: from hardcore punk (84’s Eye for an Eye), to crossover thrash (85’s Animosity), to slowed-down sludge (‘91’s Blind), to bluesy stoner metal (‘94’s Deliverance). One of the most important bands south of the Mason-Dixon.
Required Listening: Deliverance (1994)
North Dakota: Egypt
While Egypt the country may be best known for pyramids and sarcophagi, Egypt the band are known for swirling psych licks and chunky stoner riffs. Next time you’re in Fargo, be sure to rip a bong hit and witness the wonders of Egypt.
Required Listening: Egypt (2005)
With influences from thrash, death, and black metal, Skeletonwitch possess a sound that could only be described as “extreme.” (Though the word “evil” comes to mind, too.) Armed with a new vocalist and a new album produced by Kurt Ballou due out this year, we continue to expect big things from the band.
Required Listening: Breathing the Fire (2009)
In their younger years, Forté played so fast that some of their recordings sounded as if they were sped up after the fact. The speed metal band still play with vigor today, but their live show schedule has slowed to a crawl since their last album was released in 2012.
Required Listening: Stranger Than Fiction (1992)
Oregon: Red Fang
It just makes sense that Red Fang hail from Oregon. They look and sound like four dudes who got lost in the woods for a dozen years, living off of nothing but hand-strangled coyotes and kegs of beer. In short, they make stoner metal for drinking.
Required Listening: Murder the Mountains (2011)
Pennsylvania: Code Orange
One might assume that Code Orange is an overnight success, given the magnitude of ripples created by their 2017 release, Forever. But the Pittsburgh band has been at it for a decade now, forming as a straight up hardcore band called Code Orange Kids, and evolving into a metallic hardcore act that’s now redefining and melding disparate genres.
Required Listening: Forever (2017)
Rhode Island: Vital Remains
The sole constant in Vital Remains over the last 30 years is co-founder and rhythm guitarist, Tony Lazaro. Otherwise, the big death metal band from the smallest state have seen dozens of revolving members come and go — including Glen Benton of Deicide, who provided vocals for 2003’s Dechristianize, considered by many to be Vital Remains’ finest moment.
Required Listening: Dechristianize (2003)
South Carolina: Nile
Inspired by ancient art, history, and religion, Nile is a mystical, Egyptian-themed death metal band from Greenville, South Carolina. (How that happened – we don’t know.) Nile’s incredibly technical tunes are played in dropped-A tuning, for a sound heavier than each album’s liner notes (guitarist/vocalist Karl Sanders definitely loves to explain his songs).
Required Listening: Annihilation of the Wicked (2005)
South Dakota: Woman Is the Earth
Their name might conjure images of female hippies dancing through fields of sunflowers – but Woman Is the Earth are anything but gentle. With that said, this dark-as-night atmospheric black metal trio produces shoegazy – but heavy – music with a spiritual side that pays homage to the natural wonders of South Dakota, and the rest of planet Earth.
Required Listening: Depths (2014)
Tennessee: Today Is the Day
No, it’s not a mid-2000s emo band focused on motivational lyrical themes and saccharine hooks – quite the opposite, Nashville’s Today Is the Day specializes in trippy, filthy, disturbing, depressing, experimental metal that will force you to question your will to live. Enjoy!
Required Listening: Sadness Will Prevail (2002)
Let’s forget that Pantera was ever a glam metal band that put out an awful album called Metal Magic in 1983 that featured a naked human-panther hybrid wielding a sword. For all intents and purposes, Pantera’s career starts with 1990’s Cowboys From Hell – vocalist Phil Anselmo’s second album with the band, and the first groove metal record to define the very genre.
Required Listening: Vulgar Display of Power (1992)
Mormons aren’t the only ones having fun in Salt Lake City, Utah: if the success of battle-obsessed power metal outfit Visigoth is any indication, metalheads seem to be getting along just fine, too.
Required Listening: The Revenant King (2015)
Some bands are impossible to categorize — and Barishi would be one of them. Perhaps best described with the catch-all term “progressive,” the band incorporates elements of post-rock, sludge, and even black metal into its aggressively melodic sound.
Required Listening: Blood from the Lion’s Mouth (2016)
Virginia: Lamb of God
Though not quite 20 years old, Lamb of God will undoubtedly live on as one of the dozen or so greatest American heavy metal bands of the 21st century. Whether or not you approve of the groovy style, there are few groups as powerful as they are precise.
Required Listening: Ashes of the Wake (2004)
Thankfully no longer just “Kurt Cobain’s favorite band,” the Melvins finally get the respect they deserve for weirdo career that has spanned 35 years. Crucial to the growth of both grunge and sludge metal throughout the ‘90s, King Buzzo et al. are still somehow as bizarre and noisy today as ever before.
Required Listening: Houdini (1993)
West Virginia: Zao
Some would argue that Zao is more of a club than a band, given that over 20 musicians have joined in the past 25 years, and no founding members remain. Regardless, the band has helped elevate “metalcore” with intelligent song structure and thoughtful lyrics, paving the way for a new generation of genre blurring today.
Required Listening: Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest (1998)
Wisconsin: Misery Signals
Admittedly, some members of Misery Signals hail from Edmonton, Canada – but given that it’s a mere 24 hour drive away from the rest of the band’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we’ll overlook that. The band is still an essential metalcore outfit, characterized by its contrasting mix of uncompromisingly brutal vocals, soaring melodies, and unpredictable rhythms.
Required Listening: Controller (2008)
Easily the most reclusive band of any on this list (just like its home state of Wyoming), Ea has never revealed the identities of its members. Listening to the band’s mysterious funeral doom metal is what it feels like to die and not know if you’re ascending to Heaven or descending to Hell.
Required Listening: Ea Taesse (2006)
Watch twenty one pilots’ incredibly old-school lyric video for Level Of Concern.
Gary Lee Conner relives the rollercoaster journey of Screaming Trees – from their early beginnings to the dissolution of his relationship with Mark Lanegan