The live stage is where bands truly prove their worth and whether people should pay attention to them. Every now and again you see a band that truly blows you away, and reminds you why you love not just meta,l but music in the first place. With that in mind, here are my picks for the top ten best live bands of 2016:
- BEHEMOTH (Bloodstock Festival, August 12th 2016)
Where do I even begin? Bloodstock Festival’s 2016 edition had plenty of killer performances across all of the stages with Anthrax, Heart of a Coward, Fear Factory and others being fantastic, but it was Behemoth who stole the show as far as I’m concerned. Them performing their 2014 masterpiece ‘The Satanist’ in its entirety never once felt gimmicky, followed by a two-song encore of “Ov Fire and the Void” and “Chant for Eschaton 2000” which was probably the 10 best minutes of live music I’ve seen all year. Behemoth was perfect.
- MACHINE HEAD (Eventim Apollo, March 11th 2016)
Without a shadow of a doubt, Machine Head’s ‘An Evening With Machine Head’ gig at the Eventim Apollo (in other words, the Hammersmith Odeon) in London was the best indoor concert I saw all year. 24 songs across a performance time of almost 3 hours was close to astonishing. “Davidian”, “This is the End”, “Locust”, “From This Day”, “Aesthetics of Hate”, “Blood for Blood”, “Darkness Within”, “Killers & Kings”, “Bulldozer”…I could go on. Every song was played with such visceral ferocity that you could feel it in the audience. Amazing.
- OF MICE & MEN (Slam Dunk Midlands, May 29th 2016)
Bear with me on this one. When it comes to “Warped Tour metal” I’m not the biggest fan, as you’ll see by some of the other bands on this list, but there are a few bands that I enjoy (Beartooth being one of them). That being said, Of Mice & Men took to the stage this year as Slam Dunk Festival’s second stage headliner, and what I said earlier about the power that Machine Head played with at that London gig holds good for Of Mice & Men. Sometimes giving a band the benefit of the doubt can pay off.
- GOJIRA (Bloodstock Festival, August 13th 2016)
Even amongst many hyped performances at this year’s Bloodstock Festival such as Twisted Sister’s final UK show, Mastodon’s first UK headlining festival set and Satyricon performing ‘Nemesis Divina’ in full, Gojira’s set at Bloodstock was definitely one that was garnering excitement from those in attendance. Fresh off the back of their 2016 record ‘Magma’, the band completely upstaged that day’s headliners Mastodon, and was generally considered to be arguably the best band of the entire weekend. “Silvera”, “Toxic Garbage Island”, “Flying Whales”, “Backbone”, “Stranded” and more roared out of the PA like the apocalypse was coming – if you get the chance to see this band live, I implore you to do so. They are currently at the top of their game.
- SLAYER (Bloodstock Festival, August 14th 2016)
There are quite a few Bloodstock sets in this list, which just goes to show how brilliant of a weekend it was. Sunday night headliners Slayer brought the event to a natural conclusion, and despite there being some criticism about the band headlining the festival again so soon post-2013, the band blasted through 19 songs covering their entire career. “Angel of Death”, “War Ensemble” and “Hell Awaits” were joined by “Born of Fire”, “The Antichrist”, “You Against You” and “Postmortem” and a plethora of others to mark a fantastic way to end Bloodstock 2016 – in short, Slayer was absolutely brilliant.
- AMON AMARTH (London Underworld, March 22nd 2016)
Perhaps the single biggest honour I had this year was going to see Amon Amarth at their first of four ‘Jomsviking’ album release gigs across Europe, in Camden, north London. Shows nowadays rarely feel like events, but this one did, as Vikings greeted those in attendance, who even received a drinking horn signed by the band. Seeing those new songs (“First Kill”, “Raise Your Horns” etc) get their live debuts the week of the album’s release, plus Amon Amarth’s classic material from ‘Deceiver of the Gods’, ‘Fate of Norns’ and of course ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’, made this gig a very special one in particular.
- VENOM (Bloodstock Festival, August 12th 2016)
“Ten fucking years!” proclaimed Venom’s infamous frontman Cronos, as their set at this year’s Bloodstock Festival marked their first show in the UK since March 2006. Performing right before live powerhouses Behemoth and Twisted Sister, the circumstances of Venom appearing slightly average would be excused, but fortunately the trio managed to celebrate their entire discography in one performance, with newer material such as “From the Very Depths” complementing “Black Metal” and “Welcome to Hell”. A triumphant return to the live frontier by a band that sometimes do not get the recognition they deserve for being one of the most influential bands to ever walk the earth. A UK tour now please, thank you.
- EXODUS (Birmingham O2 Academy, February 25th 2016)
You know it’s been a good year for gigs when you’ve had the opportunity to see one of your favourite bands not once, but twice in the same year. Exodus were brilliant with Lost Society towards the beginning of the year, but their true ability to impress as a live band came with the run of dates supporting Obituary this past October. Opening with a song I never thought I’d see them play live (“The Ballad of Leonard and Charles”), Exodus thrashed their way through a set that contained “Piranha”, “And Then There Were None” and “Strike of the Beast” in addition to ‘Blood In Blood Out’ material and of course “The Toxic Waltz”. If you’re going to Download Festival next year – make sure you catch Exodus. They deserve a crowd.
- EVIL SCARECROW (Bloodstock Festival, August 12th 2016)
I’m quite hit and miss when it comes to “comedy” bands, as it’s difficult to nail the balance between humour and actually being a laughing stock. That being said, Evil Scarecrow was the one instance in 2016 where my opinion of a band did a 180 unbelievably quickly. Incredibly entertaining, musically impressive, and one of those times where you say to yourself “I shouldn’t be enjoying this, but I am”, which is exactly Evil Scarecrow’s shining talent. There was a genuine change in atmosphere in that field before and after they played, and it was one for the better. Brilliant performance, plus the “Raining Blood” jam at the end made me so happy.
- THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER (London Underworld, January 22nd 2016)
Time to go back to the very first show I attended in 2016. The Black Dahlia Murder kicked the year off in a wicked way, playing with Ingested and Benighted. The Black Dahlia Murder truly thrive in these small (some would say almost claustrophobic) types of venues, where songs like “Miasma” make it sound like the ceiling is about to come crashing down on top of your head. A fantastic way to start off my 2016, and a band I will definitely be seeing live again if I ever get the chance to do so.
Of course with a list like this, some admirable performances unfortunately have to be left out of the top ten. Here are just a few of mine below:
- Twisted Sister (Bloodstock Festival, August 12th 2016)
- Ingested (Damnation Festival, November 5th 2016)
- Destruction (London Underworld, October 7th 2016)
- Breaking Benjamin (London KOKO, May 27th 2016)
- Anthrax (Bloodstock Festival, August 14th 2016)