By that we mean, Metal bands led by Black musicians
The metal scene has not been kind to Black musicians over the years.
The genre has no doubt been myopic for most of its existence, with all-white bands catering to all-white fans, but some of the genre's most compelling acts over the years have been led by Black musicians who have all in their own way struggled to break into an industry that regularly disregards and alienates their contributions.
As we pay homage to these figures during this Black History Month, here are 10 groundbreaking metal acts led by Black musicians.
13 studio albums and more than two decades later, Sevendust has continued to churn out fantastic hard rock records, with frontman Lajon Witherspoon steadily at the helm for the band's entirety. As impressive as Clint Lowery remains on the guitar, it's Witherspoon's soulful warblings that have kept the metal act from growing stale after two decades of work.
On tracks like "Prodigal Son" or "Burn," Witherspoon's emotional, bellowing voice plows each track forward like a freight train. While having faded from the mainstream eye, the hard rock sextet shows no signs of slowing down. Their latest effort, Blood & Stone, was just as emotional and blood-curdling as the records that came before.
A melodic mix of thrash and death metal, God Forbid unfortunately, broke up quite messily in 2013. Led by the powerful growls of Byron Davis, the band put out five nearly flawless albums before they disbanded, and they left their eternal stamp on the metal community thanks to their genre-bending rock music. On heavier tracks like "Reject the Sickness" and "Shallow," Davis sounds embroiled in a satanic fury as he howls relentlessly into the microphone.
The first all-Black black metal band from South Africa, Demogoroth Satanum use their rugged lo-fi amalgamations of metal and rap to commentate on the social issues caused by Apartheid segregation. With that being said, their main goal since 2012 has remained to expose the grungy wallops of black metal to as many South Africans as possible.
Birthed from the township of Soweto, the band was originally deemed Satanists by the local press until they started performing local shows and attracting attention from white metal fans. Now, they've maintained a steady if humble career, performing around South Africa and continuing to break racial barriers in the metal scene.
There was something truly magnetic about Killswitch Engage when Howard Jones was front and center. Many may remember the metalcore group's 2006 effort, As Daylight Dies, whose signature track "My Curse" was plastered across an array of video game soundtracks, including Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
As great as Jessie Leach is as the group's current frontman, Howard Jones brought a soulful catharsis to anything he touched. On "My Curse," Jones's cries for love are elevated and almost emboldened by the muddy guitars that surround him, and don't even get me started on the power of "Holy Diver." It was Jones's emotional transparency that helped the group transcend other metalcore acts during the bloated rock days of the mid-aughts.
The first death metal group to hail from Botswana, Wrust's mixture of emotive melodies, harsh guitars, and bellowing screams are an absolute rollercoaster to experience. Led by the charismatic Stux Daemon, Wrust's unique concoction of genres had all the makings of a superstar metal act, but the group instead opted for obscurity and instead maintained a steady career in Botswana, where death metal remains a niche genre.
Sasamaso remains the first female-fronted thrash metal band from the island of Madagascar, and they sure do pack a wallop. Lead singer RaSah sings and writes all of her lyrics in Malagasy, and her voice is positively haunting, elevated by the group's thick thrash guitars behind her. Birthed in the island's violent 67ha neighborhood, RaSah regularly sings about death and the morbid violence that surrounded her growing up.
Started in 1984 by guitarist and singer Vernon Reid, Living Colour's debut record, VIVID, won a Grammy award as well as multiple MTV Music Video Awards, thanks to the popularity of 1990's "Cult of Personality." Fusing funk and hip-hop with Heavy Metal, the group regularly tackled racism in America and gun violence through their hyper-aggressive music. The group continues to crank out fantastic metalcore, with their 2017 effort, Shade, dabbling further in R&B and jazz.
The Welsh heavy metal outfit melds an overwhelming amount of genres into their music. From ska to reggae, to funk, to dubstep, to dancehall, and of course punk rock, every Skindred song is manic and unpredictable and positively euphoric. Additionally, their live performances are unlike any other in metal. Led by the versatile vocals of Benji Webbe, Skindred's lead singer can scream to the high heavens or grumble in a dark vibrato. There is nothing he can't do with his voice, and it adds so much more flavor to Skindred's sound.
Stuffed with relentless punk rock energy, Death Tour's fusion of screamo metal and rap is no doubt the future of the genre. While relatively new to the scene, the emphatic hard rock trio regularly expresses their explosive frustrations with the status quo in literal and relatable ways. "F*ck the police," Demi Yoko cries out plainly on "Pigs (Nazi Cops)," "B*tch we hate them!" The group's plain-spoken war cries resonate loudly in 2021, and it will be exciting to see where this band goes in the new year.
While Ice-T may be known for his portrayal of Detective Fin Tutuola on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, the rapper-turned-actor also fronted a legendary thrash rap-metal group back in 1989 with some friends from high school. Body Count gained notable attention in 1992 with the song "Cop Killer," which got the group in some serious hot water as Ice-T rapped about killing police officers.
Death threats were sent to both the group and record label as a result of the song, and even President George H.W. Bush publicly condemned it. While the song still goes insanely hard, Ice-T eventually caved to pressure and removed the single from the group's debut record. Ice-T eventually moved on from the band, and unfortunately three of the original members ended up dying, but somehow the group hobbled on and is still releasing music to this day.