As you can probably tell from my Instagram, I happily watch several hundred bands each year, no exaggeration. Live shows have been a massive part of my life since I was a kid, and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience many magical moments in metal history through the power of live performance. Here are the 18 best I’ve seen this year, with some thoughts on why.
18.Horisont at Kung Fu Necktie
Many of you may know my love for the 70’s Swedish rock scene, and Horisont playing the U.S. was truly a gift. Within the first few notes of their retro spin, you’re immediately transformed to a rock concert of a simpler time. A time where the crowd would probably be half dressed, passing around joints, instead of arms crossed and shelling out for high priced craft beers. None the less, Horisont is an amazing throwback that’s deserving of far bigger stages and if you missed it, fix that! Their latest release, About Time, is one of my favorites of the year, so go ahead and check that out immediately, and be ready when they return!
17. '68 at Brooklyn Night Bazaar
I’ve seen rock duo ’68, lead by Josh Scogin, a couple times this year and I’m so stoked about how well rounded they’ve become. It's amazing how explosive, efficient, and raw two guys can. Their chemistry together creates a spectacle far bigger than bands twice their size, with a fraction of the space. Congrats to these dudes for figuring out how to be such a killer duo and feel like nothing is missed in the process. If you haven't seen them yet, you're already fucking up!
16. Zeal & Ardor at Saint Vitus Bar
Zeal and Ardor, lead by mastermind Manuel Gagneux, had a terrific year of attention towards his brilliant 2016 release, Devil Is Fine. It was also the year that lead Manuel back to the United States to perform Z&A for the first time, albeit, without his main band. Member confusion aside, the show was nothing short of a spectacular state side entry to what will become a household name in years to come I'm sure. Zeal and Ardor made its presence known, and it's here to stay.
15.Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Mohegan Sun Arena Casey Plaza
Truth be told, Trans Siberian Orchestra isn’t exactly a band that I keep on my radar since their "Christmas Eve Sarajevo" hit back in 1996, but I received my proper smack in the face when I realized TSO has gone on to become one of the best selling touring acts in the world. Seriously, it ain’t nuthin' to fuck with. Powered by members of Savatage, Metal Church, Symphony X, Slaughter, Whitesnake and more, it’s essentially a hair metal guitar shred show disguised as a family oriented holiday theater, and the most production you’ve ever seen under one roof. If you’ve had reservations against them simply because christmas is dumb, I feel you, but the 40 mins of holiday jibber jabber is more than worth the axe wielding insanity with more pyro than a Rammstein concert. It’s far more metal than you think, so give it a try next year.
14.Gojira at Brooklyn Steel
Did Gojira play a show I saw in 2017? Yes? Then they’re on the damn list, alright!? I’m at the point of reaching dangerous levels over how many times I’ve seen this band live, but the one thing that keeps me from ever missing them is how fucking incredible their show is. It’s inhuman how good they are, and this particular run saw them with smoke geysers, something they haven’t had in the past, only upping their already awesome game a few more points.
13.Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd at Barclays Center
Co-founder of one of history’s greatest rock bands, Pink Floyd, came to NY to perform several shows, and I don’t doubt that every one of them was as good as the next. With an entire Pink Floyd set, Waters wowed and dazzled a packed arena of rabid fans old and new with incredible music, and a jaw dropping stage show that looks like it cost millions. The ticket prices were hefty, but worth every penny for a show of this magnitude.
12.Iron Maiden At Barclays Center
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Iron Maiden four times on the Book Of Souls tour, but Brooklyn did it best! As if there was any doubt. Perhaps it was because it was the very last show of their two year run, but the band went all out for this show, with Bruce Dickinson even shedding down to his underwear, giving away all his stage clothes. It wasn’t only the usual epic Iron Maiden set, it was the band having loads of fun with each other, which is an amazing thing to watch, knowing they’ve been together longer than some of the crowd has been alive.
11.Wadruna at Hellfest
Although I’ve been a long time fan of Wadruna, and their passion for creating traditional Norse music with ancient instruments, I was unaware they were even playing Hellfest. Call it a happy accident that I ran into By Norse founder, Simon Fullemann, who gave me the rundown because catching Wadruna live at Hellfest was easily one of my highlights this summer. Without giving away too much, their live show is mesmerizing beyond words, and leaves you feeling like you just attended something bigger than humanity. It’s almost like a religious experience, if you will. They’re hitting the U.S. for the first time this Feb, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
10.Tool at Governors Island
Will there be a new tool album? No one seems to ever really have an answer, what I could tell you is that the band still “got it” after watching their first NY show in over a decade, and it was fucking flawless! Maybe even better than the last few times I’ve seen them, because they had no new album to promote in the set list, which meant it was filled with crowd pleasers they felt like dusting off. From the visuals, to their signature sound, everything about the set was perfect, even the weather. Can Tool control the weather? Probably, they seem capable of everything else.
9.Rammstein at Jones Beach
Unless you’ve lived under a rock the past few years, you know there is no other band in the world who puts on a show like Rammstein. I got off a 9 hour flight and went straight to Jones Beach to catch this, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Front and center, face filled with the heat of every fire flare and stage pop, it was one of my favorite shows I’ve seen from Rammstein, a band I’ve been watching live since 1996!
8.Metallica at MetLife Stadium
No matter how many times I’ve seen them, and it’s been A LOT, it never gets old. From clubs to stadiums, they have such an energy behind their shows that makes you feel 16 again. This particular tour featured one of the largest stage set ups the band has ever used, so large that I started out 5 feet away from the stage, and needed to move back about 50 yards just to see the entire stage. Reminding us they’re forever one of the greatest metal bands, and always larger than life!
7.Igorrr at Hellfest
My love for Gautier Serre is no secret at Metal Injection. I’ve been following the guy's career for a decade, and his latest opus Savage Sinusoid, is an absolute pleasure to back hard on this publication. Getting to meet Gautier in person and feeling his genuine gratitude for supporting his work was only second best to actually watching him and his bandmates perform the living shit out of their meticulous and wacky tunes in absolute perfection. If you know the band, you must have ran through the songs thinking “but how on earth do they do this live?” Well, take it from a guy who flew to France to see it, this February the U.S. is about to be blown away.
6.Nine Inch Nails – Panorama Fest / Webster Hall
Nine Inch Nails came to town and put on one of the best sets I’ve seen them perform in over a decade, yes, you read that right. Not that NIN are ever a bad act to catch live, but in particular, their set at Panorama Festival contained a vigor and fire that’s been missing for a very long time. Perhaps Trent has finally found his favorite line up since the 90’s? With every crowd pleaser and amazing lighting trick in the book, Panorama concluded with NIN on top of the world. Already knowing about the secret show at the soon-to-be-closed Webster Hall a day later, I quickly prepared myself for another round of Trent & Co, but it turned out to be a very different kind of night. Riddled with all kinds of malfunctions and technical difficulties it was clear that Trent had a bad time performing his stadium size show on what may be the smallest stage the band has ever played on. However, I’d be lying to say it wasn’t awesome to experience them in such a small setting, something we may never see again.
5. Depeche Mode at Madison Square Garden
Depeche Mode has been one of my all time favorites since I was a little kid. Their dark and dreary nature connected with me as a young metal head, but offered a sense of rhythm and melody you don’t really get from heavy hitting bands. I’ve seen them many times in the 90’s, but kinda fell off after the Exciter tour. So it was great to reacquaint with DM live after 15 years, and kick my own ass for waiting so long. The show was flawless in every way, and built with an incredible set list that lead me to lose my voice!
4. Emperor at Hellfest
Some called me crazy to travel to France just to catch two bands that seemingly refuse to perform in the United States, but I call those people suckers for missing out! This year one of my favorite bands, Emperor, celebrated their 20th anniversary of their seminal album, Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk and it was gloriously epic to watch live. I was fortunate enough to catch Emperor the two times they played NY in their history, so I already knew they’re incredible live musicians, but watching them run through the album in its entirety, with a full stage pyro show, was something brilliant. It didn’t hurt that I got to hang with Ihsahn for a while, and confirmed he might be the nicest metal legend ever.
3. Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas at Gramercy Theater
Mariner, The Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas collaboration, is easily one of the best examples I’ve ever heard of two worlds colliding to create something beautiful. So when the two announced a handful of shows together, I already knew it would be epic, but nothing prepared me for the amount of chills and awe the combo would create on stage together. From the moody lights and delicate nature of Julie’s voice, to the monstrous yet melodic elephant stomp of COL, the night was a perfect marriage of juxtaposition in the flesh.
2. Hans Zimmer at Radio City Music Hall
Hans Zimmer is easily one of the greatest film composers of our time, and watching him move through film medley after film medley puts into perspective how important his body of work really is. The show was so moving it brought everyone from tears to cheers, and ended with a standing roar for his opus “Time” from the film Inception. A song that held the audience so quiet, and captivated by every note, that you could literally hear the quiet air conditioning of Radio City blowing. Shit, it’s giving me chills just remembering it.
1. The Dillinger Escape Plan at Terminal 5
The 20 year chapter of The Dillinger Escape Plan came to a close just a few days ago, and the three day event came down on NYC like a ten ton hammer filled with the tears. As I look back on all three days, and make note of how each night offered something completely different, including the mood, the more it makes me think about how truly special it was for such an important band to conduct their own funeral of sorts. It was yet another example of how they do it different than any other, to the very end. Everything about it was beautiful and poetic, right down to their last live song, the last track off of the last album, performed for the first and last time ever. Although the crowd may have missed it, the side stage was filled with invited DEP family of the past 20 years including Brian Benoit, Adam Doll, Dimitri Minakakis, Mike Patton, and John Fulton, most of them coming out to share the stage at key points. Of course, the crowd was just as epic, spanning from all areas of the globe each night, filled with the most devoted of die hards, screaming along to every lyric, thrashing to every note, and going outright ballistic for every time change. It was the perfect crowd to send off one of the greatest live acts of our generation. RIP The Dillinger Escape Plan, you will be missed.
Big shout outs to these bands as well, who deserve a spot on the list if it were longer: Black Anvil, Gatekeeper, King 810, Skinlab, Big Business, 3 Teeth, Cloak, Kiss, SLayer, Trap Them, Danny Elfman, Perturbator, Mors Principium Est, God Mother, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, Pig Destroyer, Front Line Assembly, KMFDM, and so many more