See also: Top 20 L.A. Metal Albums: 10 - 1
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
20. Cirith Ungol
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.
19. Saint Vitus
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
17. Armored Saint
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
16. Dark Angel
Darkness Descends (1986)
Dark Angel's second album was proof that L.A. could produce thrash just as heavy, creative, and vital as anything from the Bay Area. Darkness Descends introduced drummer Gene Hoglan to the metal community; his handiwork on the drum kit anchors the intensity of this work, and he went on to be the most in-demand drummer in metal, working with multiple powerhouses like Death, Strapping Young Lad, and Testament, and legitimizing animated metal lords Dethklok. --Jason Roche
Beowülf's self-titled debut is one of the most underappreciated records in all of rock. Suicidal Tendencies got the credit for the Venice scene and Cro-Mags are regarded as the fathers of crossover thrash, but Beowülf can make a strong case for those accolades. Tasteful use of double bass drum and gang vocals (what happens when you have 50 of your closest friends in the studio for the chorus) abound, making this album the circle pit soundtrack of '86. Think Motörhead for cholos. --Nicholas Pell
14. Cryptic Slaughter
The year 1986 was a high water mark for west side thrash. Take Santa Monica's Cryptic Slaughter, who didn't offer innovation so much as simply balls out, lightning-fast thrashcore a la D.R.I. and early Corrosion of Conformity. Convicted, however, takes said speed to whole new levels. This is the sound of kids crushing up their ADD medication and sticking it up their nose, a fury of noise punctuated by rhythmic mosh breakdowns and atonal solos. Not bad for a bunch of teenagers who met through the American Youth Soccer Organization. --Nicholas Pell
World Downfall (1989)
Terrorizer's debut World Downfall was released after the band had already broken up. Still, that didn't stop it from becoming one of the building blocks of the grindcore genre. The blistering blastbeats laid down by drummer Pete Sandoval and the moshable grooves of guitarist Jesse Pintado set a strong blueprint for grindcore that few others have been able to master. It's telling that members of Terrorizer later found success in other legendary metal bands like Morbid Angel and Napalm Death. --Jason Roche
12. Suicidal Tendencies
Join the Army (1987)
Join the Army came four years after Venice act Suicidal Tendencies' self-titled debut; it's a classic that announced the birth of crossover thrash -- an unholy mix of hardcore and metal -- to the broader public. Many a young punk had their first exposure to the band through the video for the album's lead single, "Possessed to Skate," which features moshing, skating and thrashing. Maintaining the instrumental intensity, Join the Army adds shades of professionalism and production that didn't exist before. Tying it all together? Mike Muir's laid back grunts. --Nicholas Pell
Countdown to Extinction (1992)
Say what you will about Dave Mustaine's voice, the guy has a knack for writing memorable melodies over perfectly interlocking twin guitar parts. Countdown to Extinction is loaded with tunes so hummable -- songs like "Sweating Bullets" and "Skin O' My Teeth" -- that you might forget you're listening to thrash metal. Not surprisingly, this became Megadeth's best-selling album, earning double-platinum status and peaking at number two. --Linda Leseman
See also: Top 20 L.A. Metal Albums: 10 - 1
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