What a year for metal this has been. From pretty obscure bands, breaking into the scene, to legends delivering their worth, it’s safe to say that the future of Rock and Metal is in good hands. We had the privilege to listen to some really fantastic albums and then of course attend some crazy live shows. While life doesn’t allow us to be at all the right places every time, I managed be at quite a few. And for what I could, here is my list of the top ten live acts this year.
When it comes to the purest form of ugly and raw brutality, no one does it better than Cattle Decapitation. I had the opportunity to experience it twice. First during the Metal Blade records anniversary tour headlined by Whitechapel and second on day two of the Bay area Death Fest. This band was in my must-attend list for a long time and surely they did not disappoint.
Headlining the amazing lineup of the day two of Bay area Death Fest, this trio of crazy musicians ripped apart the venue. It was one of the best executions of death metal I have seen in a live setting. Those damn riffs and the slams was enough fuel to light up the mosh pit and make us headbang like there is no tomorrow.
Ghost BC is one of those bands I have never been able to connect with. I never understood the reason for the immense craze and fan following for this band. All this was until I went to attend something, which was my lifetime dream – an Iron Maiden show. Ghost BC was the direct supporting act and I wasn’t expecting much. As they began proceedings, I was like ‘whatever’. Few songs into their set, I seemed to have started enjoying it. A bit more and there was a smile on my face. I was overjoyed. This band was killing it. By the end of the night, deep within I knew they had stolen the show. It was a beautiful feeling deleting this band from my don’t-like list.
Melancholic and Uplifting, Depressive and Immersive. These are few words I could use to describe the Katatonia set aptly. Mesmerizing in every sense of it, this is one band, which should be in your list if you like progressive rock with a dark shroud of melancholy all over it. Not long from now, they will be back on the road playing songs off their amazing new album ‘The Fall of Hearts’ and other old favorites. The experience is highly recommended.
Devin Townsend Project
The Devin Townsend Project, Gojira and Opeth tour was one of the most epic and talked about events this year. I knew I couldn’t miss something this huge, so I travelled all the way to Chicago for the same. Eventually, it ended up being one of the best shows I have attended this year. Devin Townsend and band wowed the audience with their crisp otherworldly performance. The set was executed flawlessly and was next to perfect. That along with Devin Townsend’s wittiness and continued funny interactions with the crowd ensured that all of us had a great time. I still remember my girlfriend asking me how do they manage to sound sinister and happy at the same time.
The first album I listened to by these guys was ‘Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm’. Ever since, I have been an ardent follower of the band and looking forward to an opportunity to catch them live and thankfully I got that when earlier this year they toured the United States as a direct support to The True Mayhem. Utterly chaotic and dark demonstrating a threatening atmosphere, It was one of the best sets by a black metal band for me.
I had been following this band for a few years, and now that it was time to finally see them live I did not know what to expect. Such complex are their song structures, I wondered that it would sound like one big mess on stage. But, to my immense joy and surprise, they simply killed it. They effortlessly recreated the exact sound on stage as they do on record. Those melodies, the interplay of harsh and clean vocals along with the chaotic rhythms made it a set that will always be high up in my ‘Forget not’ list.
No matter how many times I talk about this band, I always have something more to say. I have seen them four times in the last 2 years and every set of theirs feels like a notch higher than the last one. They are undoubtedly one of the best bands of this era and only a handful other bands can sound as good as them on stage. I know I could see Gojira play a hundred more sets and still not be bored of them. I am sure they are going to remain as one of the top live acts for years to come.
A Tool concert is a phenomenon of its own. There is nothing else like it. It is an experience that can only be felt and understood once you are in it. The intense audio-visual production makes you delve into an immersive dream. Even though it has been a decade since we got any new music from Tool, their songs still sound fresh enough and ahead of time, even to this day. Thankfully, they have at least continued to stay active in the live circuit. A Tool gig is highly recommended if you have not experienced it yet.
Firstly I surprise myself writing this. Even though I have been a follower of progressive rock and metal, I never actually had paid enough attention to Opeth and hence did not have any opinions about or expectations from them. I was at the show for Devin Townsend Project and Gojira of course. But as Opeth took stage and progressed with their set, I realized how brilliant they were and what had I been missing all this while. They played a well-curated set comprising of tracks from their latest album ‘Sorceress’ and their golden older stuff. It was a powerful performance, which clearly demonstrated their class of musicianship. From beautiful solos to juggernaut like riffs and mesmerizing clean vocals to death metal growls, it was next to perfection. This show made me go back and listen to their discography. Thanks to that evening, I am a fan now!
Other notable performances:
Nails – For the number of injuries I incurred in the moshpit
Allegaeon – Such technical brilliance. Amazingly tight.
Caspian – Beautiful post-rock. They conjured some epic aural landscapes.
Pallbearer – One of the freshest sounding bands of the year.
Ghost Bath – Contrary to popular opinion, I liked it. Immersive and atmospheric.