When it comes to discussion of the top metal scenes, Los Angeles never gets its due. Maybe it's because we're not known for being pioneers of a single subgenre (Bay Area thrash and Florida death metal for example), but there's still no doubt that the city has been vital in the evolution of metal.
So below, then, is our list of the top 20 L.A. metal albums. Note: You won't find any by Metallica, who left for the Bay Area very early on, so please don't bitch about that. --Jason Roche
King of the Dead (1984)
Cirith Ungol had been kicking around since 1972, but it wasn't until the early 1980s that they hit their stride. The group took the swords-and-sorcery themes '70s prog rock was known for and brought them into a wickedly ambitious metal framework. King of the Dead is the best showcase for the band's Black Sabbath-meets-Rush brew, with songs like "Atom Smasher" and "Finger of Scorn" telling tales of both ancient and post-apocalyptic destruction.
Saint Vitus (1984)
Recorded live in one take with only one overdub, Saint Vitus' self-titled five-song record has become increasingly influential over time. Guitarist Dave Chandler composed deeply down-tuned, plodding songs interrupted by abstract solos, made all the weirder by Scott Reagers's absurdly dramatic vocals. At first, Saint Vitus was universally loathed by punks and metalheads alike. (Black Flag used to ask them to open shows to piss off the audience.) But now they're revered as the "Godfathers of Doom," and you can bet that's a compliment. --Linda Leseman
South Of Heaven (1988)
How do you follow up something like Reign In Blood? Slayer delivered South Of Heaven just two years after that venerated album, but instead of getting louder and faster they just got sludgier and more expansive. Still, we are talking about Slayer, who - even as they approach middle age - still sweat evil from their pores. South Of Heaven has standout tracks like "Behind The Crooked Cross" and "Read Between The Lies," and has been described in some metal circle's as a fan's album. It's not as sexy as Blood, or as bluesy as Seasons In The Abyss, but it was a great exposition of Slayer's chops and their ability to slow things down. --Craig Hlavaty
Symbol of Salvation (1991)
While we are huge fans of John Bush-era Anthrax, we sometimes wonder what was given up when he left his first band Armored Saint for most of the '90s. Symbol of Salvation is the culmination of their decade-long evolution into an anthemic metal powerhouse. There are flirtations with commercial hard rock throughout, but the group keeps the proceedings heavy enough to inspire plenty of headbanging along with the choruses of tracks like "Reign Of Fire" and "Last Train Home." --Jason Roche