Something about all the sun, sandy beaches, and tanned, fit, beautiful people has caused serious angst among the youth in Orange County, California. Or maybe it's the suburban sprawl. Whatever the reason, the kids' preferred way to express that ennui has been to pick up instruments and start raging. They've been doing it for four decades, including rising stars DARE who are keeping the legacy alive today. However, we've bravely distilled the rich O.C. history down to 11 essential LPs.
Guitarist Frank Agnew and drummer Casey Royer did time in Social Distortion before forming one of the O.C.'s finest slash-and-burn, three-chord bands and recording this snotty classic. Adolescents captures the kind of suburban disaffection that has become the hallmark of American hardcore, with songs like "Creatures," " Who is Who" and "Self Destruct."
One of the more musically talented and diverse bands to emerge from the incipient hardcore movement, Agent Orange bounces from surf rock to metallic chug-a-lug to straight-up punk on their feisty debut. With its abundance of high-adrenaline tracks, Living in Darkness was the ideal soundtrack to the early-Eighties SoCal skate scene.
Atreyu's debut introduced the band's gothic take on metalcore, which features dueling clean/'core vocals and a penchant for lyrical melodrama. Musically, the album offers the genre's requisite breakdowns and twin-guitars harmonies, but the songs are far more dynamic — and, at times, epic — than Atreyu's peers'.
Avenged Sevenfold may have been conflicted as to where their musical allegiances lay on previous releases — emo, screamo, metalcore, hardcore, all of the above? — but it turns out these guys are full-on metalheads. Indeed, City of Evil may be the best New Wave of British Heavy Metal Album not released by spandex-clad Brits.
Everything about Bleeding Through's Trustkill debut is raw and extreme — from the ultra-bleak lyrical angst to the head-splitting mix of goth, hardcore and death metal. Vocalist Brandan Schiepatti (formerly of Eighteen Visions and Throwdown) emotionally eviscerates himself in songs that are relentlessly savage, but not without the occasional catchy chorus.
Eighteen Visions have gone through many incarnations — chaotic metalcore, melodic post-hardcore, STP-esque alt-rock — but the O.C. outfit's heaviest iteration is found here. A brutal, dissonant affair, the LP is packed with brilliantly knotty playing from guitarists Keith Barney and Brandan Schieppati, the latter of whom would soon split to focus on Bleeding Through.
The Offspring took the classic O.C. sound pioneered by bands like the Adolescents and Agent Orange, pumped it up with a heavier, grunge vibe and undeniable hooks, and took it to multi-platinum success. Smash is packed with brilliantly simple anthems like "Self Esteem" and "Come Out and Play" that spoke to miserable teens everywhere.
Long before bands like Eighteen Visions and Avenged Sevenfold slapped on goth eyeliner, T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty) brought a dark sound and even darker image to Orange County hardcore on their creepy, twisted debut. Songs like "Code Blue" (about necrophilia) and "Silent Scream" (vampires) feature lyrics that would make Glenn Danzig proud.
The album before Thrice's jump to a major label (and no doubt the reason they got signed), The Illusion of Safety demonstrates how a band can merge complex, metal-tinged punk songs with sparkling emo vocals and not compromise its power or commercial appeal. The perfect light/dark balance delivered with technical proficiency and passion.
The ultimate in pit-churning mayhem, Throwdown's focused and furious fifth album delivers a relentless battery of knee-buckling riffola. Vocalist Dave Peters barks out his straightedge commandments — "To Live Is to Sacrifice," "We Will Rise," "Speak the Truth" — with a Henry Rollins/Phil Anselmo rage so palpable you could practically feel his hot breath on your face.