Following a colossal first day chock full of food, drink and auditory fun, the thousands of outsiders now treading about the scene in Louisville for the 2nd day of the Louder Than Life festival arrived at the 5 stages for another round. It might well have seemed an unenviable position for any band to be faced with the day after a veritable series of stellar performances from the likes of Evanescence, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, but this massive event has been in the business of setting precedents and then surpassing them since 2014, so it was all but a foregone conclusion that the proverbial magicians that organized this festival were more than capable of pulling another rabbit out of their hats. With both the elements on their side and plenty of other activities to fill the gaps of time in between, the next succession of bands would meet favorable conditions while bringing about a day of entertainment that put an added emphasis to the metallic side of the rock coin.
Naturally the question would become just what brand of sonic aggression would carry the day, and judging from the earliest forays provided by the opening acts, the pendulum would swing towards the modern side of the metallic coin. Case and point, nu-metal newcomers Vended, whom brought the carnage factor via the Space Zebra Stage with a resounding roar and lived up to the expectations that many would be wont to put on a band featuring two sons of members of Slipknot. Though their stage setup might not have been as massive as that of their aforementioned forbearers, they brought the heaviness factor in prime fashion, inspiring plenty of kinetic energy in the crowd as they pounded their way through a short set that included crushing anthems like recent online hit "Ded To Me," "Burn My Misery" and "Antibody." Not more than 5 minutes later at the Loudmouth Stage, heavy rockers with an eye to the cinematic and hook-heavy All Good Things made a more tuneful ruckus, with red shirt-toting bassist and occasional keyboardist Liz Hooper turning about as many heads with her performance as the boisterous vocal display of helmsman Dan Murphy as they drove the point home with AOR-steeped romps like "Kingdom," "Survivor" and the newly unveiled "Hold On."
As the afternoon progressed, so too did the day's repertoire, giving way to a highly eclectic wave of younger acts. Up and comers of the nu-metal revival and Arizona-born crazies Ded would bring their game to the Space Zebra Stage, and the name of their game consisted primarily of maximized decibels above and flailing bodies below. Though often reminiscent of the chugging grooves and almost goofy tough-guy posturing of Limp Bizkit, banger anthems like "Hate Me," "FMFY" and "Architect" managed to inspire some sing-along moments via some tuneful chorus elements to help break up the many occasions for a spinal injury. A more laid back and atmospheric tone would be struck on the Loudmouth Stage with Amigo The Devil's heavily acoustic and somewhat psychedelic take on the rock equation. Though basically the brainchild of lead vocalist Danny Kiranos, who delivered a truly soulful vocal performance amid the slow and stoic air that his band enveloped around his husky, mandolin-wielding figure, one would be remiss not to mention the contribution of his cowboy hat-toting keyboardist in drawing out the dreary atmosphere of offerings like "Hell And You" and "Murder At The Bingo Hall." One additional point of interest was Kiranos' sense of fellowship with the crowd, which would be underscored by a heartfelt moment where he recognized a regular among the crowd and invited him on stage to toast and partake of one of the many brews available at the festival in the midst of throngs of onlookers.
With the arrival of mid-afternoon came the moment that most old school metal trustees were waiting for, namely the return of one of the pivotal figures of the Gothenburg melodic death metal wave. Despite rocking a relatively short 40 minute set from the Space Zebra Stage, In Flames were pulling no punches in declaring their return to a sound far closer to their seminal style since the turn of the millennium. With virtuoso shred machine Chris Broderick now in their corner and vocalist Anders Fridén largely sticking to the frosty and ferocious death bark that originally established him as a key player in the Northern European metal scene of the 90s, they brought the most enthused crowd reaction of any non-headliner to take the stage thus far, and inspired legions of moshers and crowd-surfers as they ripped through vintage classics like "Graveland" and "Only For The Weak." Likewise, the newer material that would be trotted out in "State Of Slow Decay" and "The Great Deceiver" would achieve the same classic vibe, but with a more brutal and modern edge, and was aptly reciprocated with violent gesticulations from the crowd.
As the 5pm mark approached, the performances that coincided could be best described as an exercise in near opposites. Newly minted rapper and producer Mike's Dead would bring his unique blend of nuü-metal influences and modern trap/electronic influences to the Disruptor Stage, donning about as many tattoos as he had bars and brought a varied repertoire to a highly receptive crowd, with standout moments being the melodic and mellow "We've Lost Touch" and the somewhat dirtier and industrially-tinged romp "Nightmares." On the more conventional and rocking side would then enter Maryland hard/stoner rock bruisers Clutch, who made an artful noise from the Loudmouth Stage starting right at the stroke of 5pm. For the most part the stage was a visual picture of stoicism with all but front man Neil Fallon standing stoic and focusing on their instruments, yet with the Black Sabbath-like trappings of newly minted banger "Slaughter Beach" and "Nosferatu Madre," alongside vintage works like "Pure Rock Fury" and "Earth Rocker," it proved quite a fitting visual.
The variety hour would prove a bit longer than the traditional 60 minutes with the next pair of near polar opposites, yet the quality factor was not even slightly diminished. Hitting the Revolver Stage at about quarter after 5pm, California-born deathcore machine Suicide Silence brought the aggression factor to an instant fever pitch, with the band's violent on-stage movements continually inviting the sea of moshing and crowd-surfing bodies below to keep on upping the ante. Suffice it to say, the band's reputation of being a forceful as a bullet train proved well deserved as they launched their voices and bodies into bone-pulverizing beasts like "Disengage" and "You Only Live Once." On the other hand, theatricality would prove the stock and trade for In This Moment as they rode the Space Zebra Stage, with the visual aspects of the performance and particularly lead singer Maria Brink's elaborate assortment of outfits (donning a different one for every song) ruling the roost. To be fair, angst-driven and almost morose industrial rockers like "Big Bad Wolf," "The In-Between" and "Whore" were far from slouches in the aggression department and carried plenty of atmospheric depth, and the array of onlookers were definitely captivated by both.
Disparate sub-genres achieving a seemingly impossible synchronicity would give way to greater stylistic unity as the hour hit half past 6pm and the skies began to grey. Masters of psychedelic sludge with a heavy progressive rock twist Mastodon played it loud and large on the Loudmouth Stage, and in contrast to their generally static stage activity in favor of musicality approach to things, were in a state of constant motion, throwing an array of kicks into the air, raised guitars above the head, platform jumps and a host of other animated gesticulations. Crowd response was at a constant fever pitch throughout their 50 minute set, though standout performances would be observed particularly when older classics "Crystal Skull" and "Blood And Thunder" rang out. Meanwhile on the Disruptor Stage, the aforementioned psychedelic rock icon's de facto twin/counterpart Baroness brought in a similarly mighty ruckus for just over half an hour. One would be hard pressed to decide which of these two retro-infused mainstays had the bigger day, and the electricity that was established via fan favorites "Isak" and "Shock Me" was nothing else if not palpable.
The theme of unity in style would perhaps prove to be short-lived as the next pair of iconic folds brought the noise to the masses, but then again, the respective degrees of their approach would prove quite similar. Southern groove metal crushers Lamb Of God spared no expense upon the Space Zebra Stage in taking the entire place apart in classic, wrecking crew fashion. The visual extravaganza consisted of heavy amounts of smoke, pyrotechnics and a display of maximum physical involvement by the whole band and particularly maddened helmsman Randy Blythe as he nearly shouted his lungs clear out of his mouth. Thrash-infused beasts like "Memento Mori" and "Ruin" elicited heavy levels of crowd participation, but it would be the set's closer "Redneck" that would totally bring the house down. Concurrently via the Revolver Stage, arguably the title-holders for the most elaborate and over-the-top stage shows Gwar would pull no punches in getting the crowd jazzed up with their theatrical high-jinks. Despite the iconic and dearly departed Oderus no longer driving this 30 year metal institution onward, the show proved no less off the hook, with an impressive splash of auditory blood and cuts being made with newer offerings off their latest album like "The Cutter" and "Rise Again."
With the onset of evening now hanging over the wandering masses, the titans of rock and metal would see some of their bigger names claiming the occasion. Early 2000s hard rock and post-grunge era powerhouse Shinedown would take their 70 minutes of anthem-driven glory to the Loudmouth Stage at around 8:30pm and proceed to match their assembly line of prime bangers with an extravagant light show and pyrotechnics display to rival any of the festival's other headliners. The assortment of songs that rounded out the set were as varied as they were infectious, with standout moments belonging to the performances of the impact-based "Planet Zero," poignant power ballad "Second Chance" and the groovy "Cut The Cord," the latter even inspiring the stage's security crew to move to the music. The Disruptor Stage would see a darker and more forbidding display courtesy of Swedish djent pioneers Meshuggah, who raised the concept of unfettered heaviness to an art form as clouds of smoke and pillars of white light enveloped every member of the band, making them about as obscure as their performance was intricate. The audience was a continual collage of moshing bodies, though things took a particularly animated turn during the performances of "Rational Gaze" and set closer "Future Breed Machine."
The last word on this night of the living metal would belong to one of the prime movers of the turn of the millennium modern-metal phenomenon, namely Des Moines' own giants Slipknot. Taking their massive array of stage equipment and their 9-person lineup to the Space Zebra Stage, their approach was one befitting an apex point of a day chock full of impact and elaborate set pieces, with pyrotechnics, lights and concussion bursts walking the line between extravagance and pure visual sensory assault. Their musical performance was nothing else if not an exercise in turning their own pastiche of heavy choruses, breakneck rhythms and obliterating guitars into frothing and whiplash aggression, and their renditions of "Disasterpiece," "Psychosocial" and the encore performance of "Surfacing" provided the tip of what was a gargantuan sonic iceberg. One might even argue that the entire day belonged to them in a sense, particularly when noting that they were bookending things with a band (Vended) that plays in a similar fashion and features sons of two of their 9-piece arrangement.
With the thousands upon thousands of attendees having been sufficiently wiped out from yet another day of unrelenting music and activities, the hotel room would prove a doubly welcome place for needed period of retreat, reflection and respite. It was a day where impact would triumph over atmosphere or nuance, and though it was an assembly of very different performers, the unified theme of metal in its more modern and less traditional form was well established. From a functional viewpoint, it was a day that was mostly free of incident and with a far more welcoming set of weather circumstances when compared against the recent Blue Ridge and Welcome To Rockville festivals. Opinions may vary as to whether this de facto halfway point would also be the ultimate high point of this four day affair, but it was pretty well established that the good far outweighed its antithesis, and a needed night's rest would assuredly leave everyone thirsty for more, bother figuratively and literally speaking.