Best Local Rock Bands In Washington DC

August 8, 2013 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

When you think rock bands, places like New York, Los Angeles or Seattle are just a few that come to mind. Washington, DC as a hub for emerging rock band talent is nowhere close on the possible top 10 places. Think again. Some of the local DC rock bands are making an impact on the rock scene locally, nationally and internationally. Here are some you should be on the lookout for in the local area and nationwide.

Animals as Leaders

Tosin Abasi, from Washington, D.C.-based metalcore act Reflux, brought his style of experimental/progressive/metal to the attention to the world. Since the recent release of the band’s sophomore album “Weightless” (2011), Animals as Leaders is revered worldwide as a trailblazing pioneer of modern heavy music. The group’s compositions of progressive and instrumental heavy metal has brought the band praise and recognition from fans, peers and legends in this music genre. According to Steve Vai of Whitesnake, the band is “the future of creative, heavy virtuoso guitar playing”. This music has sent the group around the globe on world tours. It has its inaugural headlining tour this summer. The band consists of members Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes and Navene Koperweis.

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour is a thrash/metal/punk band that has been around for over a decade in the DC area. The band consists of John Henry (vocals), Mike Schleibaum (guitars), Mike “Lonestar” Carrigan (guitar), Travis Orbin (drums) and Aaron Deal (bass). Its latest and seventh album “The Human Romance” is a thrashy melodic sound with a blend of Swedish and American metal. Darkest Hour’s sound is authentic thrash with roots in punk rock and hardcore. As the band has evolved and grown up over the years, so has its sound. It just finished touring with legendary rock band KillSwitch.

Rite of Ash

The blend of electronic pop and hard rock defines the band Rites of Ash and its original sound. The members of Rites of Ash are Ace (bass), Alex (vocals), Lazzo (guitar and keyboard), Toni (vocals) and Tuomas (keyboard). Rites of Ash is equally impressive live. Its music and live shows have garnered the group numerous accolades from the mainstream music industry. “Kept Me Up All Night,” a dance remix CD of the group’s “She’s Out for Blood” (2012) album, was released this summer.  The band is currently working on the new full-length album with Grammy-winning producers Jeff Bova and Kevin Gutierrez.

Related: Amateur Night: Best Places To Take The Stage In Washington DC

Call for Fire

Call for Fire is a unique rock band. The band is a local DMV rock band with heavy influences from alternative, classic rock and blues. Stephen Schwartz (lead vocals), Ian Dandridge (guitar), David Scherzinger (bass) and Andrew Gabor (drums) comprise this rock band. Schwartz’s deep clean-cut notes from shrieks to wild growls has a distinct sound all their own. If you could describe his skill, it would be close to Chris Cornell or Eddie Vedder. The recent addition of Scherzinger and his blend of rock, jazz, EDM, metal and R&B adds to the group’s sound.


In 2006, the rock band Nihilitia was formed in a basement on Capitol Hill. Over the years, Nihilitia has built a loyal following among heavy music fans in the DC area with its “stonerglam” sound. Band members are Sara Hussain (bass/vocals), Brad Sheppard (drums) and Chris Thomas (guitar). In 2009, Nihilitia released its album “Nihilist Militia” which was recorded at Studio G in Brooklyn, NY. Soon after, it went on tour to promote the CD and receive some national coverage for the track, “The One.” Joel Hamilton, who has produced for Tom Waits, Blackroc, Unsane, Secret Chiefs 3 and Made Out of Babies collaborated with Nihilitia on the project.

Related: Best Music Producers In Washington DC

Sonya Dunn is a freelance writer covering all things Washington DC. Her work can be found on

Listen Live