"We've had sex a lot to HIM": Atreyu's Brandon Saller shares the 10 records that changed his life

(Image credit: Micala Austin)

A punk kid from Orange County, Brandon Saller was just 13 when he joined street punks Retribution. A few line-up changes (and a name switch) later and he was the drummer in Atreyu for their breakthrough records in the early 2000s, taking over vocal duties in 2020 after the departure of Alex Varkatzas. 

Two decades since the band set out their vision for vampiric metalcore on 2004's The Curse and Atreyu continue to evolve sonically, but still maintain a kernel of darkness even as their songwriting became more direct. We caught up with Brandon to get his picks for the ten records that set him on the path to fronting the band. 

Metal Hammer line break

1. Misfits - Famous Monsters (1999)

"This is definitely an unpopular opinion! I grew up on Misfits, but aside from like Last Caress, Skulls and maybe a couple of others, I was more heavily into the Famous Monsters era. I don't know... I just loved how theatrical it was and it was great to have Misfits with better production, even more-so horror pop, you know? Front to back, it's a flawless record."

2. Traveling Wilburys - Vol. 1 (1988)

"I don't know if you're familiar with Traveling Wilburys, but they're the supergroup of all supergroups. Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Rob Orbison, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison. The fact that you even managed to get all those guys together in a room, writing music together and making a band is insane. 

I was raised on Tom Petty and Roy Orbison, all the stuff my dad brought me up on, so for me the Wilburys were the best part of all that stuff. Those songs are so good and for me, those voices together are untouchable. I saw Petty once - my dad and my brother used to always go see him, and it was quite funny because they'd go to the Petty concerts and smoke joints and I'd be there like 'dad, I like Tom Petty too!' When I got to go it was incredible." 

3. Death By Stereo - If Looks Could Kill, I'd Watch You Die (1999)

"I've lived in Orange County since I was like 12 and a lot of my teenage years were spent in the punk scene there, getting my parents to drop me off at shows. Death By Stereo were kind of these underdogs of sorts, but also one of the most influential bands to come out of Orange County for me. They were local band royalty, you know? Even today, that first album still holds up production wise, song-wise... everything. It was such a huge thing for us because they were mixing punk and metal before that stuff really existed. 

There's this record label in Orange County called Indecision Records and they had a big anniversary show for their 30th anniversary and Throwdown was one of the bands that played with Keith Barney, their original singer. He was actually the guitarist on the Death By Stereo album and they were also on the bill, so when they got up to play I was fully in the pit, finger pointing in the front row like a 15-year-old kid because they played this album front-to-back. It was amazing."

4. In Flames - Colony (1999)

"In Flames were like the first modern metal band I was introduced to. I remember sitting outside of a show after we played this coffee house and the singer of this other local band came up and was talking to me when he mentioned In Flames. I was like 'what's that?' He couldn't believe I'd not heard of them, so he went to his car and gave me the CD. I've been hooked ever since!

So many of these records are things that shaped me at a critical point in my life, and honestly I still listen to them all today. Colony still crushes most band's records today. Its hard for bands to beat that album. I didn't know that many people talking about the band at that point, but they weren't fully on the radar just yet."

5. Incubus - Make Yourself (1999)

"This record taught me how to sing. Make Yourself and Morning View, definitely. I didn't sing in any of the bands I was in and didn't really have much interest in starting and getting a better voice before I heard Brandon Boyd's voice and how he could sing. 

Parts of the melodies are really interesting and it seemed difficult, so I made a thing with myself where I'd only listen to those two albums until I could sing every note on the record. Like, if I can successfully sing along to every song on the record, I'll stop listening to it. My first vocal coach was Brandon Boyd, whether he realises it or not!"

6. HIM - Razorblade Romance (1999)

"This was a big one in my later teen years. They got me into the romantic side of rock and metal, there was so much lore around HIM when they first came out. A lot of people in the States were introduced to the band through Bam Margera and stuff like the Right Here In My Arms video. It was just like, 'who is this guy?' A goth Billy Idol or something and his voice was so unique. 

It was floating music! I've been married to my wife for 16 years and we've been together for 20 years, we've had sex a lot to HIM. I owe that to them! It's suitable, acceptable metal to put on when you're getting intimate."

7. Soilwork - Natural Born Chaos (2002)

"In Flames led me to Soilwork. In my head, Soilwork was the more technical version, you know? They had that Swedish sound and were definitely alike, but especially on this album they had more melody, more technicality. This line-up on that Soilwork record is unreal. In the van days I'd be driving and would put this record on multiple times. I wouldn't care or notice until someone literally grabbed me and was like 'dude, change the CD!'"

8. The Joykiller - Static (1996)

"So, The Joykiller is a band that I randomly found when I was a teenager. They were Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L.'s side-project back in the day, super unknown and I don't know that many people who know or like the band, but it was such a unique sound. They had this aggressively bad but perfect guitar tone and Jack's voice is so sinister. They'd have this really cool, campy drunken punk thing going on. 

They had insane melodies that were really catchy and you couldn't resist singing along. T.S.O.L. were a true fuckin' punk band, but this was more like a guilty pleasure or something. A little bit more popular, a little less cool. I had a Joykiller button-up shirt when I was in high school and my friends would give me shit because I wore it all the time."

9. Weezer - Green Album (2001)

"Another unpopular opinion, right? I think most people will immediately be like Blue Album or Pinkerton, which don't get me wrong - they're insane and the first time I learned to play drums was Buddy Holly. Well, the first song on drums at least - I learned to play Say It Ain't So on buckets! But, Green Album taught me the beauty of simplicity, especially as a songwriter. How incredible, bare bones simplicity could be.  

There's a song on this album where the guitar solo is verbatim the vocal melody of the guitarist. They didn't go anywhere and it's flawless. There's no fancy leads, no fancy structures, it's just simplicity at its finest."

10. AFI - Black Sails In The Sunset (1999)

"This album was huge for all my friends growing up. We saw AFI multiple times in this era and this was the point where Davey [Havok] was full Danzig. They were so dark and mysterious that we were drawn to it. 

Still to this day I love this record and this era of AFI will always hold a special place in our whole band's heart. We all brought AFI records on the day they came out because even if we shared other music, we all needed our own copies of this one record."

Atreyu's The Beautiful Dark Of Life is out now via Spinefarm. Atreyu play Download Festival in June. 

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.