Monday, August 06, 2007

History of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal: Suicidal Tendencies

Formed in Venice, CA, during the early '80s, the group's leader from the beginning was outspoken vocalist Mike Muir. The outfit specialized in vicious hardcore early on — building a huge following among skateboarders, lending a major hand in the creation of skatepunk — before turning their focus eventually to thrash metal.

Early on, the group (whose original lineup included Muir, guitarist Grant Estes, bassist Louiche Mayorga, and drummer Amery Smith) found it increasingly difficult to book shows, due to rumors of its members' affiliation with local gangs and consistent violence at their performances.

The underground buzz regarding Suicidal Tendencies grew too loud for labels to ignore though, as the quartet signed on with the indie label Frontier; issuing Muir and company's classic self-titled debut in 1983. The album quickly became the best-selling hardcore album up to that point; its best-known track, "Institutionalized," was one of the first hardcore punk videos to receive substantial airplay on MTV.

Suicidal Tendencies proved influential for future speed/thrash metal bands, but despite its early success, the quartet's reputation preceded them, as no other record label was willing to take them on (in addition, Los Angeles banned the group from playing around this time, lasting until the early '90s).

Not much was heard from the group for several years afterward (leading many to believe that Suicidal had broken up), but Muir and company eventually found a home with Caroline Records. By this time, half of the original lineup had left; Muir and Mayorga were the only holdovers, while guitarist Rocky George and drummer R.J. Herrera rounded out the group. 1987 saw the release of Suicidal's sophomore release, Join the Army, which spawned another popular skatepunk anthem, "Possessed to Skate," as more and more metal heads began to be spotted in Suicidal's audience.

Soon after, Suicidal was finally offered a major-label contract (with Epic), as another lineup change occurred: Mayorga exited the band, while newcomer Bob Heathcote took his spot; and a second guitarist, Mike Clark, was added as well. This Suicidal lineup's first album together, 1988's How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today, showed that their transformation from hardcore to heavy metal was now complete.

Suicidal's first release of the new decade, 1990's Lights, Camera, Revolution, was another success; its video for the explosive "You Can't Bring Me Down" received repeated airings on MTV's Headbanger's Ball program, while the album (in addition to the Controlled by Hatred comp) would be certified gold in the U.S. a few years later.

The release also signaled the arrival of new bassist Robert Trujillo, whose penchant for funk added a new element to the group's sound. The group tried to broaden their audience even further by opening a string of arena shows for prog-metallists Queensr├┐che during the summer of 1991. Their next release, 1992's The Art of Rebellion, proved to be one of Suicidal's most musically experimental albums of their career. But after one more release, 1994's Suicidal for Life, Suicidal Tendencies decided to hang it up.


No comments: