You might’ve already figured through their name that the Suicidal Tendencies were the subject of a fair bit of controversy in their time. The band hailing from Venice, California formed in 1981, and are considered to be one of the ‘fathers’ of crossover thrash. Their inconsistent line-up has successfully allowed the band to bring in more variety when it came to the way they sounded, because of the vast influences floating about in each album that they have produced.This in itself has shown to be problematic due to their hardcore punk approach mixed with their thrashing style, since their shows could at times be seen as more of a battlefield than anything else. Another controversy that the band were somehow involved with were the gangs in their area. Whether you like them or not, there’s no denying that Suicidal Tendencies have made history.
At the beginning of their career, the band were voted as the ‘biggest assholes’/’worse band’, but they soon proved those people wrong. Suicidal Tendencies started out with the intention to just be a ‘party band’ but their rapidly increasing popularity pushed them to become more than just that. They came about during a time in California when thrash metal was becoming the real deal, in fact there was even a bit of division between the punks and thrashers. However, it was Suicidal Tendencies that brought these groups together. At least their first album showed a perfect balance between metal and punk with songs such as ‘I Shot The Devil’ being very political featuring lyrics such as ”I shot Reagan”. Their first album set their roots as a band who would not chase a crowd but would draw crowds in either way with their unique crossover of thrash and hardcore punk. This album also got them recognition on MTV with their song ‘Institutionalized’ frequently being on airplay, in fact, you can hear ‘Institutionalized’ on the soundtrack of the cult classic film ‘Repo Man’ as well.
Their sound began to change eventually, leaning on towards one side than the other side, because of how much longer and complex their songs started to become. This was more due to the change in the line-up.’Rocky’ George who was ridiculously talented at the guitar was now part of the band and threw in every metal riff into their ‘Join The Army’ album, making their second album more thrash than their first album. Fans eventually became more violent and at one point destroyed a venue during a show. Of course, there was a lot of moshing and stage diving involved into that, and it wasn’t only Suicidal Tendencies who’s shows got so violent that blood was guaranteed to be shed, it was also at fellow thrasher gigs such as Slayer and Exodus. They were also a band rumoured to be involved with gangs in Venice, which perhaps could of fuelled for further violence at their shows. On their first album you can see drummer Amery Smith wearing a flipped up hat with the markings of ‘V13’ which are the initials for the gang Venice 13. Amery wasn’t a member, but the brother of bassist Louiche Mayorga was. However, a gang eventually sprung up surrounding the band.
All this controversy helped the band gain more popularity. There’s no denying that even vocalist Mike Muir’s lyrics were just as controversial, something which certainly cemented the band’s actual name and gave its controversy a purpose. Many of the lyrics delved on depression, alienation and nonconformist politics relentlessly, but with certain wit and humour present. Only Mike Muir could pull this off, and that in itself was a statement for the band. Their constant evolving sound allowed the band to explore different aspects of their music, making them relevant throughout their career, because they never managed to get boring. That idea of recreating your own music is something that the band carried on fairly well.