Today's fans of punk and metal take it for granted that the two genres often manage to intermingle -- that is to say, it isn't uncommon to spot a Black Flag T-shirt at a metal show or a Metallica T-shirt at a punk show. But during the early- to mid 1980s, such camaraderie between hardcore punk and heavy metal was non-existent, and for a period of time, the two scenes could not peacefully coexist.
Pep Williams Suicidal Tendencies
As violence, hostility, fights and mayhem ensued when the fans met at shows, bands were able to use this tension and chaos to usher in a new breed (at the time) of thrash metal and punk-rock combined -- a hybrid style of music that came to be known as crossover, which bridged the gap between fans of the two styles.
Ask any one old enough to witness concerts back in the day by bands such as DRI, Anthrax, Cro Mags, Suicidal Tendencies: Many are still fighting the good fight, putting out new music and destroying audiences across the globe. Many are not letting factors such as personal health, age or finances stand in their way of bringing bring thrash punk to their fans.
This is the music that slam-dancing was made for. We now present our list of top ten crossover bands.
10. Excel From the cluster within the Venice punk skate/thrash scene, Excel was formed by guitarist Adam Siegel and vocalist Dan Clements. Their peers included Suicidal Tendencies, Cryptic Slaughter, No Mercy, Beowulf and others. Excel's thrash-metal sound soon took hold and the band played shows with bigger names in metal, including Megadeth and Overkill. Excel disbanded in 1995, but new, unreleased material was released in 2001. The band did get some notoriety when, around a decade ago, allegations were made that the Metallica hit "Enter Sandman" was indeed a ripoff of the main riffs used in the Excel song "Tapping Into The Emotional Void" from the album The Joke's on You (1989). Since then, with growing interest in the band, a new lineup featuring original singer Dan Clements has formed, and as of 2013, is beginning to play shows again.
9. Crumbsuckers Forgotten among the mainstream, Crumbsuckers was a crossover band formed in 1982 in Long Island, New York. The band played shows with everyone from Suicidal Tendencies to Pantera and Megadeth. Founded when its members were still in their teens, Crumbsuckers' skillful guitar playing was well ahead of its time. It blended punk, speed metal, rock and hints of blues to make an erratic crossover style that many bands try to mimic today. Though the band is no longer active, others have formed in its wake, including Life of Agony, Pro-Pain and more. The lasting impact of the Crumbsuckers can't be denied.
8. Attitude Adjustment This band formed in the SF Bay Area in the '80s, and fit in with the pure thrash bands of the scene, including Violence, Exodus, Forbidden, Possessed, Death Angel, Testament and more. But Attitude Adjustment added a bit more hardcore punk to its sound and approach and carved out a nice spot in the scene for itself. The violently fast drums, metal-like screams and punk-rock rage have been at a constant for going on three decades, and the band isn't slowing down.
7. S.O.D. (Storm Troopers of Death) This was a thrash band formed as a fun side project in 1985 by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, along with his bandmate, drummer Charlie Benante, along with former Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker and vocalist Billy Milano. The band's uncompromising assault of punk-laced speed metal blended thrash and hardcore and made songs faster, angrier and louder than most others. Critics over the years have noted the racist, misogynistic and xenophobic lyrics, but the band has always said the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek and not meant to be taken literally. S.O.D. was a central part of the East Coast wave of thrash and regional wave of crossover in the mid-1980s, and the music speaks for itself. It is unlikely the band will ever record or tour again, so fans who got the chance to witness it back in the day are lucky.
6. Carnivore Another NYC band, Carnivore was formed by the late, great Peter Steele, before Type O Negative came into existence. Only active between 1982 and 1987, the band's hardcore punk roots combine with thrash metal to create a dark and bleak vision of the future. Carnivore showcased much of Steele's sick, twisted, dark and outright disturbing sense of humor and worldviews. Though the band only released two albums, its self-titled debut (1985) and Retaliation (1987), the band has since gained a cult-like following and even reunited for a few one-off shows in the '90s, and in 2006-07 for a few European festival appearances. But Steele's tragic death in 2010 put an end to the possibility of more shows with Carnivore or Type O Negative forever.
5. Cro Mags Another staple band in the original NYC hardcore punk movement of the '80s, Cro Mags has the street credibility, fury and aggression that defines crossover. Formed when the band's members were still teenage gutter punks, its 1986 album Age of Quarrel is considered by many to be a blueprint for all crossover bands to follow. The band's original members have had a hostile, sour relationship, including a 2012 incident where founding bassist Harley Flanagan stabbed several people and was injured himself at a concert the band was playing with original vocalist John Joseph. Despite the controversy and bad blood, the Cro Mags still make music and tour.
4. Agnostic Front With an irrefutable reputation as being one of the first and toughest of the early '80s NYC hardcore punk bands, Agnostic Front was formed in 1980 by guitarist Vinnie Stigma, who would later recruit Roger Miret as the band's outspoken, tough-guy vocalist. Though initially only punk, the band's sound morphed to include more thrashy parts, and by 1986's album Cause for Alarm, the band displayed the quintessential crossover sound. Despite break-ups in the '90s and even the forming of a separate hardcore band, Madball, Agnostic Front still carries on today, with Miret and Stigma still at the helm, making new music and touring every chance they get.
3. Suicidal Tendencies How could we mention crossover without mentioning one of the pivotal bands that merged hardcore punk and thrash metal in the early '80s? For many, ST is more than just a band -- it's a lifestyle. With its debut 1983 album, which included the band's biggest hit, "Institutionalized," fans were introduced to a raw, amped-up, punk-rock version of thrash metal they could pit to. Speed metal and punk had their fates united with this record. But it didn't end there. After the first album, the band offered several more classic thrash metal records, including Join the Army (1987) and How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today (1988). The band has had more than two dozen musicians in its lineup over its career and recorded a dozen studio albums. Muir is still keeping the flame going, inciting circle pits around the world, with the current lineup including guitarists Dean Pleasants and Nico Santora, drummer Eric Moore and bassist Michael Morgan.
2. Cryptic Slaughter Almost completely ignored by the mainstream, Cryptic Slaughter came up in 1984 among the first wave of punk/thrash bands to emerge from the Venice skate-punk scene. Featuring guitarist Les Evans, drummer Scott Peterson, bassist Rob Nicholson and vocalist Bill Crooks, the band's very harsh and abrasive fusion of sped-up punk and thrash metal gave fans a reason to be angry. Whether it was lashing out against corruption, mass consumerism, greed, wars or other societal ills, Cryptic Slaughter was a crucial band in developing the crossover scene in the '80s. The 1986 album Convicted and the next year's follow-up, Money Talks, are classic crossover records.
1. D.R.I. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles has become synonymous with crossover and thrash punk. Since forming in Houston, Texas, in 1982, the band slowly evolved from punk to incorporating more speed-metal elements. Even into the third decade of performing to rabid fans of pit maniacs and stage-divers, D.R.I. has only gotten faster with age. The 1987 classic Crossover is what coined the term to describe the mutation of hardcore punk and speed metal. In 2006 guitarist Spike Cassidy was diagnosed with colon cancer and had to have a large section of his intestines removed. While he recovered, all recording and tours were canceled. But he's healthy again, and the band continues to create havoc and burst eardrums in any town it can.
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