The turn of the century was a formative time in the landscape of heavy music. The convergence of subcultures within the universe of metal saw different communities coming together as artists fused various influences and challenged the conventions of the genre.
At the forefront of that evolution were Orange County metalcore pioneers, Atreyu. The band's regional roots to the hardcore hotbed of Orange County, combined with their penchant for big riffs and a fiery vocal attack allowed them to standout in a crowd - such that their sound didn't conform to a lane, it created it's own. The result was a fervor that saw crowds that including metalheads, scene kids, and hardcore purists all showing supporting as the band quickly climbed the ranks.
Atreyu's ascension was part of an era that not only challenged the norms of heavy music, but put Southern California, particularly Orange County on the map. From the band's emphatic debut in Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses to their ensuing run on the genre with their breakout The Curse, A Death-Grip On Yesterday, Lead Sails and Paper Anchor and Congregation of the Damned, their domination of the first decade post Y2K was underscored by a community they would would eventually come to lead. The sound was aggressive, multi-faceted, and a collision of styles that once kept their distance and were now coming together to celebrate the greater culture of heavy music from all walks - a scene as diverse as the landscape that birthed it.
As Atreyu eyes the June 4th release of their eighth studio full-length and more than two decades as trailblazers, the band looks back on the earlier years of the movement and the contemporaries that helped them crave out their own space in world of heavy.
From hardcore to beatdown, from metal to massive rock, Brandon Saller, Travis Miguel, Dan Jacobs, and Marc "Porter" McKnight of Atreyu pooled the artists from the OC that not only had an lasting impact on them during their most formative years, but also collectively helped to bring a greater awareness to the energy and evolution that was happening in Southern California.
Adamantium - From the Depths of Depression
Saller - This album and band for me was sort of my introduction to the more metal side of the OC hardcore scene. This band was so energetic live. I loved Aaron Stone's voice. They just had a presence. This record was huge in my teen years. Years later they did a reunion show that I missed while on tour. We later booked them on our Foundation Fest shows we did in OC. I will admit that was a selfish move so that I could see them play again. It worked! Another fun fact, I actually tried out for Adamantium when I was like 16/17. They liked my playing but I was still in high school and that didn’t work with the touring they had lined up.
Jacobs - This band was my introduction to the hardcore scene. I didn’t know much about them until I went and saw them play live and it was at that point in time the craziest show I’d ever seen in my life. I remember thinking to myself that I want my band to write songs and play shows that had people going this level of crazy. This planted the seed for our then band Retribution in needing to head in a heavier direction than our current punk sound. The album From the Depths of Depression itself is my favorite of the Adamantium discography because of how just raw and brutal it is. Aaron Stone’s vocals sounded like a demon from hell and the amount of double bass and China cymbal used in Matt Horwitz drumming was a really signature accent to a lot of the songs. That style or drumming became very popular in Orange County hardcore scene. It’s where Atreyu’s love for the China cymbal originated.
Death by Stereo - If Looks Could Kill, I’d Watch You Die
Saller - This record was so ahead of its time. Death By Stereo was always the best at blending hardcore and metal with punk energy. Efrems voice is truly one of a kind. These songs still hold up today as does the recording. This record is in my top 10 records to this day.
Jacobs - Death by Stereo was by far the most unique band in Orange County scene at the time as well as the most talented. Everybody in that band ripped so hard at what they did and raised the bar so high it made us all wanna go out and be better musicians. This album is so fun front to back it is incredible live. Another really influential album and band because of how rowdy the crowd would get at their life shows. Everybody in that band went on to do great things in the music world which is not surprising at all.
Throwdown - Beyond Repair
Saller - Throwdown was the epitome of heavy in OC. It was all mosh all the time. The early stuff was literally songs about going nuts and moshing. They had a “dance team” it was rad. I loved this album so much growing up. Kieth Barney still has one of my favorite heavy voices.
Jacobs - This had to be the absolute heaviest album to ever come out of the Orange County hardcore scene. Lots of metallic riffs and breakdowns but nothing too complicated riff wise which made it even heavier. Less is more kind of thing. All the technicality really was in the drumming if anything but it was all you needed for the ultimate mosh songs. This album front to back punched you in the face over and over and over again. Still gets me pumped when I put it on and was also a big part of Atreyu’s influence when writing breakdowns and heavy mosh parts in our earlier years.
Eighteen Visions - Vanity
Miguel - Eighteen Visions was the total package. They had a somewhat tongue-in-cheek, dick swinging swagger that was unseen and unheard of in the hardcore/metalcore scene in the early aughts. When the typical "uniform" was camo cargo shorts and basketball jerseys, Eighteen Visions hit the stage with Diesel jeans, immaculate hair cuts, and shades on. They actually received some flack for it by the closed minded gate keeping culture that is the "hardcore scene" but sure enough, not long after, everyone in our little bubble of a scene started to adopt the look. They really came into their own with Vanity. The songs were more cohesive and mature without completely abandoning the sick mosh parts that we all loved as virile young men. I actually listened to this album for the first time in a long time recently and to say it still holds up is an understatement. It's a goddamn shame they didn't reach the same highs as their contemporaries. Many of the up and coming bands with that late 90's/early 2000's hardcore vibe definitely owe a lot to Eighteen Visions...whether they realize it or not.
Thrice - The Illusion of Safety
McKnight - Growing up in Southern Alabama and moving to SoCal in 2001, I stepped into a volcanic explosion of musical powerhouses the likes of which I’d never seen. One of my first shows in CA was Thrice, Hot Water Music, Alkaline Trio, and Cave In at the Glasshouse and I definitely was not ready for what I witnessed. I’ve survived countless hurricanes in the first 18 years of my life, but they ain’t got shit on the tumultuous pit that ate the Glasshouse for breakfast that night. I knew I was witnessing something special when locals Thrice took the stage. At that point I hadn’t heard of them, and was mainly there for Hot Water Music, but their diverse and commanding set forced me down a rabbit hole of their OC contemporaries in a multitude of genres. I soon after started a band in college and had the chance to share the Glasshouse, Showcase Theatre, and Chain Reaction stages w/ many of the OC greats, before joining one of my favorites of the bunch in 2004.