Swamp Music: Five of the Best Southern Metal Bands

He Is Legend is currently touring with Norma Jean, with a Denver stop planned for Wednesday, March 22.
He Is Legend is currently touring with Norma Jean, with a Denver stop planned for Wednesday, March 22.
Photo courtesy of He Is Legend

Southern metal bands Norma Jean and He Is Legend will be in Denver this Wednesday, March 22, during their Polar Similar Tour. Their Denver stop is sure to be one of the most Southern fried shows this side of the Mississippi River. To amp you up for the concert, below are five must-hear Southern metal bands on the rise. 

Wilmington, North Carolina's He Is Legend.
Wilmington, North Carolina's He Is Legend.
Photo courtesy of He Is Legend

1. He Is Legend

He Is Legend is the best band you've never heard of. The Wilmington, North Carolina rockers have been kicking out their unique blend of blues-based metallic rock since 2003. After a short hiatus in 2009, the outfit returned with a revamped lineup, including rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist Denis Deloge, for 2014’s Heavy Fruit.

Coming of age in the post-hardcore days of the early 2000s under the moniker the Uriah Omen, He is Legend has experimented with its sound since the band's debut, I Am Hollywood, in 2004. Elements of Southern rock, psychedelia and alt-rock can be heard on 2006's Suck Out the Poison and 2009's It Hates You. Schuylar Croom is the eccentric frontman whose poetic lyrics often tell stories of sorrow. Lead guitarist Adam Tanbouz and bassist Matty Williams form a funky tandem that propels each album in unpredictable directions. The band's latest three records found their way onto the bottom of the U.S. Billboard Top 200 chart. The group's latest offering, Few, is set to hit shelves April 28.

Atlanta's own Mastodon.
Atlanta's own Mastodon.
Photo courtesy of Mastodon

2. Mastodon

Mastodon is the most popular Southern metal band out there right now. The progressive metal heads from Atlanta have gained considerable popularity over the years with performances on late-night shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live. The outfit recently broke into pop culture with an appearance on Game of Thrones and by wearing wacky outfits on the red carpet at the Grammys. Glam aside, Mastodon is a music-making machine. It does heavy well (Remission, Leviathan, Blood Mountain, Crack the Skye); it does prog well (The Hunter, Once More ’Round the Sun). And songs from the band’s upcoming album, Emperor of Sand (March 31), sound just as catchy and Mastodon-like as anything else — particularly “Show Yourself,” a radio-ready hit. This act can do it all, basically — plus it's weird as hell. Just watch "The Motherload" music video.

The band has called the U.S. Top 200 Billboard chart home since 2006’s Blood Mountain, and the latest album, 2014's Once More ‘Round the Sun, reached number one. Drummer Brann Dailor and bassist Troy Saunders handle the bulk of the singing duties, each showcasing distinct sounds, while guitarist Brent Hinds provides backup vocals. The combination of the three, with rhythm guitarist Bill Kelliher, makes this one of the most original bands of this century.

Baroness of Savannah, Georgia.
Baroness of Savannah, Georgia.
Photo courtesy of Baroness

3. Baroness

Another Georgia band, Savannah's Baroness, plays music as haunting as it is poignant, with lyrics like “One more glass of milk and gasoline,” and “I will bury your bones inside my garden.” Original bandmembers formed in 2003 in Lexington, Virginia, but relocated farther south before the group's debut, Red Album, in 2007, which put Baroness on the map as purveyors of some of the newest, most interesting prog-rock. Baroness’s next three full-lengths, Blue Album (2009), Yellow & Green Album (2012) and Purple Album (2015) all charted.

Lead singer and guitarist John Baizley is the only original member left, but he is Baroness. His creativity flows through every aspect of the band. He’s produced all of the album artwork for the band through the years, often sexual images of beautiful women and nature. A typical Baroness song consists of Baizley’s hypnotic, clean vocals and sludgy guitar tones, sometimes mixed with synthesizers.

Birmingham, Alabama, birthed Maylene and the Sons of Disaster.
Birmingham, Alabama, birthed Maylene and the Sons of Disaster.
Photo courtesy of Maylene and the Sons of Disasters

4. Maylene and the Sons of Disaster

Maylene and the Sons of Disaster is the lovechild of Lynyrd  Skynyrd and Motörhead. The Birmingham, Alabama, band includes three guitarists — Jasin Todd, Jake Duncan and Steve Savis — who play at breakneck speeds, blending straight-up Southern-rock riffs with groove metal. The band hasn’t put out an album since 2011’s IV, but II (2007) and III (2009) are classic Maylene, with songs like “Darkest of Kin” and “Dry the River.”

The band name is taken from Maylene of the Ma Baker gang. Currently, the act is on hiatus after frontman Dallas Taylor (ex-Underoath) suffered serious injuries in an ATV accident in August 2016, though fill-in vocalists have played shows recently, including benefit concerts for Taylor.

Christian metalcore band Norma Jean of Douglasville, Georgia.
Christian metalcore band Norma Jean of Douglasville, Georgia.
Photo courtesy of Norma Jean

5. Norma Jean

Norma Jean of Douglasville, Georgia, started out as a nu-metal band called Luti-Kriss in the late 1990s, but has since evolved into the top Southern Christian metalcore outfit out there. The lineup has completely changed since the band’s 1997 inception, but the act’s sound since 2005’s O God, the Aftermath has been loaded with chunky riffs and messages of faith.

Upcoming Events

Since that 2005 album, the band’s next four records, Redeemer (2006), The Anti Mother (2008), Meridional (2010) and Wrongdoers (2013), have placed at number one or number two on the charts. The most recent offering, Polar Similar (2016), is classic Norma Jean, with songs like “1,000,000 Watts” and “I. The Planet”

Norma Jean and He Is Legend will play the Marquis Theatre Wednesday, March 22, at 6 p.m. Capsize and Comrades will open. Tickets are $18-$20.

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