2019 was another incredible year of metal releases, concerts and festivals. I was fortunate enough to cover 200+ bands across North America and Europe. Check out my top 10 favorite live performances of the year (in alphabetical order and with a link to my favorite track by each band) and 25 of my favorite photos from 2019.
Combichrist, June 22nd, Hellfest
Hellfest 2019 had a decidedly industrial flair about it and it was amazing weekend for a genre that’s seeing a bit of resurgence at the moment. American industrial outfit Combichrist led the charge in France this summer, pounding the faces all the fans crammed into the Temple Stage with dual drumming ferocity and catchy choruses driving the crowd into frenzied madness.
Corrosion of Conformity, July 28th, Heavy Montreal
US groove metal overlords Corrosion of Conformity nailed a monster set at Heavy Montreal this year, delivering a groovy, blistering set that had fans singing and swaying and exchanging those “can-you-believe-how-fucking-amazing-this-show-is” glances. While the hordes of fans probably came as much for the nostalgia as anything else, the performance was incredible and left people talking about it for days afterwards.
Dool, June 22nd, Hellfest
The depth at Hellfest is so mind boggling, one truly can’t comprehend it until you gone and had to make the gut wrenching decisions on which bands you have to miss and which you will run full tilt to see perform. The Saturday at Hellfest 2019 alone, boasted Temple Stage performances (one of six stages) by bands including Myrkur, Sisters of Mercy, Combichrist and Cradle of Filth. It was the Dutch dark-rock outfit Dool though that unleashed a particularly spectacular performance with their edgy, incredible choruses and proggy guitar riffs. The five-piece delivered a consummate performance that had the impressive crowd utterly captivated for the set.
Fleshgod Apocalypse, January 31st, 70 Thousand Tons of Metal
70 Thousand Tons of Metal 2019 boasted another impressive lineup in 2019, and every performance was amazing whether on the pool deck or one of the smaller club-like stages within the ship. Bands like Dark Funeral, Exmortus and Nile, or a killer 5am Night Demon performance were jaw dropping. A couple acts though really stood out, and the Fleshgod Apocalypse at “The Rink” stage was incredible, I seriously thought I could feel the ship moving due to the throes of the massive crowd. Fans went berserk as Francesco Paoli and his Italian outfit pounded the living Christ out of that venue, their signature vocals and relentless drumming raining down over the crowd. Seriously that drumming is like listening to a Gatling gun shred through a quarter mile of phone books. One of the most intense and well received performances of that weekend at sea.
Immolation, June 23rd, Hellfest
The final day of Hellfest 2019 saw some pretty epic bands tear up the legendary Altar Stage, including Vomitory, Revocation, Cannibal Corpse and Deicide. The Immolation performance however turned out to be the most killer of them all. Swirling pits of flailing bodies and crowd surfers engulfed the crowd as the guttural death vocals and the “soundtrack to the apocalypse” tunes rained down on them. An absolutely epic performance.
Obituary, February 3rd, 70 Thousand Tons of Metal
Another epic 70 Thousand Tons of Metal performance, when Obituary hit the pool deck to perform in the hot afternoon sun on the last day, it was wonderful chaos. Flailing drunken bodies, and an impressive amount of folks in wheelchairs and otherwise crowd surfing, it was a site to behold as rabid fans bowed before the Altar of Obituary banging and howling to every lyric and beat. The boat has got to have a few dents from this show that need to be buffed out.
Parkway Drive, May 17th, Sonic Temple Festival
A crown jewel of the US festival scene, Sonic Temple Festival in Columbus boasted a monster lineup in 2019 and a diverse one that featured terrific performances by the likes of Lamb of God, Foo Fighters, Killswitch Engage and System of a Down. It was a brilliant main stage performance by Parkway Drive however that really stood out. In the mid day sun the band didn’t bring the pyrotechnics to play so much, or maybe Gojira had used up all the gas, but the performance, anchored by a killer, emotional rendition of Wishing Wells, had the crowd in absolute frenzy mode. I spoke a vow today and asked if God would come and play, I’ve dug a shallow hole for him to sleep, had the hair standing on the back of my neck, as I scrambled around the photo pit. Totally killer.
Sabaton, June 20th, Knotfest France
I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been a big fan of Sabaton but at Knotfest France I got my first opportunity to see them perform live and was blown away. They are massive in Europe, like arena-headliner worthy and probably if you asked the band about this particular performance they would reflect on it as a stand out for them. They killed it to the extent that Hellfest had them turn around their tour bus in the middle of the night, to come back the next day to perform again, when the wankers in Manowar refused to play. With dozens of thousands of fans before their feet Sabaton had the crowd at peak eruption levels, and it was a performance that was much talked about the rest of the weekend.
Slayer, July 28th, Heavy Montreal
It can’t be easy for any Slayer fan or the band mates for that matter to march through their massive farewell tour that engrossed much of 2019 and beyond. While the enthusiasm and certainly the gate receipts must have been impressive, to watch things plodding steadily towards their last ever show, it’s just tough to accept the end of an era and the delicious, molten mark that Slayer has left for us to dwell on. Personally I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Slayer perform live about a dozen times including their final performances in my home town (Ottawa, Canada) and their last ever show in France (Hellfest). It was in front of the enormous, ravenous crowd at Heavy Montreal though where Slayer delivered an exceptional set even by their standards, channeling seemingly everything they had in the tank to annihilate that crowd with. Even from a distance, occasional spotlights or a burst of pyro would illuminate a part of the crowd offering a glimpse into the thick of the pit and it was absolute mayhem, ferocious moshing and flailing in there, as fans from around the world reciprocated their worship to the band and bid their Slaytanic farewell. I’ll miss you guys.
Warbringer, February 1st, 70 Thousand Tons of Metal
Another band to lay a 70 Thousand Tons of Metal stage to absolute waste were US thrashers Warbringer, who destroyed the shit out of the Royal Theater Stage. Wailing riffs rung throughout the venue and collided with a sea of flailing hair and bobbing heads as the band delivered an amazing set that saw front man John Kevill stalking about the stage, with that bat shit crazy look in his eyes, howling at the crowd. A seriously impeccable performance that was met with adoration by the crowd at hand, it was amazing.
Best live photos of 2019:
What were some of your live highlights from 2019? Let us know in the comments section below.