While it's nice to imagine that all our favorite bands are well-functioning democracies of mutual ideas, respect and creative input, that's not the reality. Keeping a band together — or any group, really, whether it's a restaurant staff, an intramural sports team or a weekend poker club — is an incredibly tricky feat of communication and compromise, and more often than not, it's one or two members who're truly driving a creative project, even if five or six people are along for the ride.
In heavy metal especially, it's almost looked at as an inevitability that lineups will change over time as interests and relationships change, and in many cases, those shifts in personnel are unfortunately a band's death knell. In other cases, a group can find ways to keep on truckin' for 20, 30, even 50 years, even if there's only one sole founding member left in the group. Below, are 10 bands that've not only been kept afloat by one lifelong holdout, but have actually managed to maintain their identity and greatness thus far.
The OG: Scott Ian
The only Big Four thrash-metal band to hail from the East Coast, Anthrax have 42 years and eleven albums under their belts — and a rotation of players that's now up to two dozen. Among those on the merry-go-round are six different vocalists — most notably, Joey Belladonna and John Bush — who've held the mic since Anthrax played their first power chords in 1981, but the band's marathon man is rhythm guitarist/riff writer Scott Ian. As such, he's one of those rare cases where the group's most recognizable member is someone other than the singer.
The OG: Harley Flanagan
New York's Cro-Mags are a foundational hardcore band whose 1986 album Age of Quarrel left an influence large enough to launch a thousand bands. They also have a complicated history that's seen first vocalist John Joseph and bassist/second vocalist Harley Flanagan each touring with competing versions of the band, sometimes with different names like Cro-Mags Jam or Fearless Vampire Killers. After some legal battles in recent years, Flanagan, who initially founded the band as a teenager, is now the rights holder of the name Cro-Mags, making him the last-standing original member of the NYHC pioneers.
The OG: John Gallagher
Formed in 1991, Maryland death-metal pioneers Dying Fetus have endured numerous lineup changes over the last 30-plus years — at least 13 different players have cycled through the band's ranks — leaving vocalist-guitarist John Gallagher as the sole remaining OG member, as well as the band's creative driving force. He's currently joined by bassist Sean Beasley and drummer Trey Williams, and his band is arguably more esteemed than ever, a major influence on heavy-hitting hardcore acts, death-metal up-and-comers and deathcore rising stars alike.
The OG: Amy Lee
Most bands that form when their members are in high school rarely make it past homecoming. For Evanescence, which kickstarted when founding members Amy Lee and Ben Moody were just 15 years old, the project far outlasted graduation — and then some. The Little Rock band has been bringing gothic theatrics to alt-metal for 27 years, though after the release of their massive 2003 album, Fallen, tensions between Lee and Moody eventually led to his departure from the group. Since then, there've been a few other lineup shifts, but stalwart vocalist Lee remains the driving force behind the group's sound and style.
The OG: Dino Cazares
Fear Factory's dystopian lyrical themes, alien-menace aesthetic and furious riffage have all remained consistent since they first formed as Ulceration over 30 years ago. But the lineup ... not so much. In the early 2000s, intraband tension between singer Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares erupted in multiple breakups, and after getting back together in 2009 for a productive 10-year stint, lawsuits between past and present members killed their mojo and Bell ultimately left in 2020, with Cazares taking sole control of the enterprise. This year, the axman appointed Italian singer Milo Silvestro to fill Burton's spot, putting Fear Factory back in touring action, but making Cazares the last of the founding lineup.
The OG: Robb Flynn
Machine Head's groove-heavy assault on early albums like Burn My Eyes played a major role in influencing nu-metal, and more than a decade later, they proved how potent their permutation of thrash still was on 2007's The Blackening. By that point, however, the only original members left in the band were frontman-guitarist Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce, so when Duce departed the band in 2013, that left Flynn as the sole original Machine Head member. Yet, despite a lineup that's three-fourths newcomers, Machine Head have kept on chugging, with 2022's ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN LP constituting a strong return to form.
The OG: Dave Mustaine
Dave Mustaine is famous for writing some of the best thrash-metal songs ever and continuing to put on high-voltage shows 40 years into Megadeth's career. Maintaining longtime professional relationships with bandmates? Not his strong suit. The Mustaine-led thrashers have had more than their share of ringers over the years, among them twice-removed bassist David Ellefson and star guitarist Marty Friedman. Yet, it's Mustaine who's always been in the driver's seat, serving as Megadeth's chief creative force, singer, business owner and lovably loudmouth spokesperson.
The OG: Al Jourgensen
It took Ministry about a decade to complete their metamorphosis from New Wave darlings to industrial-metal icons, and in the process they sifted through a number of different lineup iterations, all helmed by eccentric frontman Al Jourgensen. Forty years later, they've amassed a "former member" list of over 30 names, with longtime bassist-producer Paul Barker having the longest and most impactful tenure at 17 years. Since then, various other big-wigs have put in their time in the group, including Prong's Tommy Victor and former TOOL bassist Paul D'Amour. But it's Uncle Al's twisted, sardonic vision that drives the machine.
The OG: Trey Azagthoth
There's one thing you can always count on from a Morbid Angel release: a heaping dose of Trey Azagthoth's ugly-face riffs and lava-oozing solos. The band's founding guitarist is the constant that guides the Florida death-metal legends, having stood firm amid the departure/return/departure of vocalist David Vincent, and a similar type of in-and-out pattern with Steve Tucker, who remains on the mic for now. Drummer Pete Sandoval, who had been a steady behind the kit for 22 years, bailed in 2010 after converting to Christianity, but as long as Azagthoth keeps chugging, it's still Morbid Angel.
The OG: Aaron Gillespie
Underoath's evolution over the past 25 years has been significant. Their early blackened metalcore albums wore the band's Christian faith on their sleeve, but as their faith gradually receded to the background, their sound shifted, too, taking on more melody for a more rounded sound that would help define metalcore's metamorphosis in the 21st century. Of course, change is bound to happen for a band with as much turnover as they've had, cycling through over a dozen members since 1997. Though there was a period of five years in the 2010s when no original members of the band remained, drummer-vocalist Aaron Gillespie returned to the fold in 2015, making him the one (near) constant in Underoath since their 1997 formation.