2018 saw some epic festivals and lineups hit the bay area, California. While it was next to impossible to attend all, i was quite able to attend a handful. So here is my list of top 10 best live acts of the year.
It was saddening and felt like the end of an era when the heaviest thrash metal band and one of the most influential metal bands of all times Slayer announced the hanging of their boots. Least ensured, it couldn’t have been a silent exit. The band announced mammoth tours spanning continents and packing along some of the most heavyweight Metal bands of our times such as Lamb Of God, Behemoth, Testament etc. Lucky enough to catch this lineup in Sacramento, California, this was one of the most epic gigs of the year. Slayer worshippers from all over the Bay and around had gathered to pay homage to the Thrash Gods. Amidst sweat, fire and blood there was no stopping them. Playing a well curated set of classics, they made sure that every moment of the evening gets etched in the memories of all those present.
This was one of those gigs where i went in absolutely blind with no pre-defined expectations. The only information i possessed was that this lineup of Haken, Leprous and Bent Knee was a dream come true for modern Prog metal fans with each band having its own signature styles and cult following. Leprous was a band i had personally never given my attention. Minutes into it and I was blown away by the sheer awesomeness of this band. The live set was a phenomenon. The backdrop visuals, the lights, went hand in hand with their subtle yet proficient brand of prog. The set was eternally captivating and the same was resonated by the crowd who seemed to have been transported to a different dimension.
8. Steven Wilson:
If you ever have had a chance to attend a Steven Wilson concert, it most probably was one of your best concerts that year. We can unanimously swear by this statement because it takes a musical brain like that of him to make sure that you have the experience of lifetime at his concert. As always, the music successfully cast a spell of nostalgia and sadness upon everyone. Even for the standards of a Steven Wilson gig, this was way high in terms of production and visuals. Though i may not be able to wrap my head around the musical direction taken in his latest album ‘To the Bone‘, i can surely appreciate the live feel of the new songs which were beautifully complimented by those lightings and on-screen/holographic visuals. The set comprised of music from his solo career as well as Porcupine Tree giving us the perfect dosage of nostalgia to weep our souls to.
They can make the skies go dark and the blood in your veins black even on a sunny summer afternoon. Behemoth is a demon that lives and breathes evil. Their brand of black/death metal is not bound by genre norms and petty rules and does its best in casting an eternal shroud of darkness. Always looking forward to pushing boundaries in their music with each record and live show alike, they deliver a bone crushing set. With one of the most epic live aesthetics for any band, they are an experience which cannot be explained in words but only felt.
6. Wolves In The Throne Room:
Atmospheric Black Metal is a rare form of art with next to none live presence. So when a band of the likes of Wolves in the Throne Room plays a gig at a nearby town, you make sure to catch them live. The experience is bound to be one of the most surreal ones. The set begins with a long sage burning purification ritual. The smoke floating in the red hue set tone to one extremely blistering yet serene wall of sound. They continued on to invoke a dense atmosphere laden with the cold and darkness. Their set was nothing less than a ritual ceremony and one could even meditate to the chaos.
5. Morbid Angel:
The legends are one of the most powerful forces metal music had the privilege of having. Getting to watch them live was no less than a dream come true. Letting to waste everything in its path, their tour with shared supports from Origin and Misery index was the most brutal lineups this year has seen. Even amongst such heaviness, Morbid Angel’s live credibility stood far above and unmatched in terms of sheer inhuman like precision and sinister sounding capabilities.
This is one live act which grew on me over the period of last few years. ‘Sonder’ their latest album was one of last year’s top releases and as part of the album release, they set out on US tour with support from Plini and Astronoid. Hands down it was one of the best performances from any band. Tight and crisp and laden with atmosphere, the went on to deliver a crushing set of captivating prog. Special mention of Dan Tompkins’ vocals which takes the band’s performance to an altogether different level and makes them one of the best live acts of modern era.
There is no other band in the world which can deliver a set as powerful as Meshuggah. Right from the very beginning, it felt like aliens have come to invade earth attacking us with their soul crushing dissonant grooves. The sound was so overwhelmingly huge that it felt like thousand tonne hammers were pounding each of our senses. It was a brilliant display of technicality and precision, the quality which sets this band apart from the horde. There was never a moment you could not see bodies crash and flying in the mosh pit.
2. Ne Obliviscaris:
The Australian Prog metal craftsmen are one of the best things to happen to metal in recent times. Time and again they have proven their metal with complex yet mesmerisingly melodic music. The interplay of clean and harsh vocals riding on the chaotic rhythms is a treat for the ears. To be able to recreate the same feel live is a virtue only a handful possess. They are one of the most talented and unique bands out there. A Ne Obliviscaris gig should be a must go for anyone who appreciates forward thinking metal.
There was no other set which could even come close to captivating my senses as much as that of Alcest. I got an opportunity to catch the band live in New York as part of the inaugural Prophecy Fest USA. The two-day festival comprised some highly eclectic acts, with Alcest being the headliner. Epic, mesmerising and surreal are few words which come to my mind when I try to put to words the feels of experiencing their set. It was the ultimate out of world experience floating upon waves of serene atmospheres created my their music. No other live act has been able to have such an impact on my soul as this one. An Alcest gig should be a must go for anyone who appreciates and looks for emotionally powerful experiences through music.
Few notable mentions:
Plini – Such musicianship and beautiful soundscapes.
Coastlands – Serene and laid back atmosphere invoking Post-rock
Origin – Earth shattering technical death metal.
Lamb Of God – Epic technicality and groove. Powerful live set as always.
Bent Knee – A completely crazy brand of prog. Loved it.
So that was our list of top 10 live acts of 2018. It definitely misses so many other great acts throughout various other parts of the world. Let us know your top 10 list.