If you’re in the northern hemisphere like most of you who read this site, then you’re no doubt enjoying the benefits of natural seasonal changes as the nightmare that was winter 2015 has given way to a beautiful spring. And if you’re in the southern hemisphere — particularly if you’re in Australia, as many of our readers are — you’re almost certainly feeling the relief of more tolerable temperatures as your summer has given way to fall and is quickly approaching winter. Either way, all over the world we’re entering the magical time of year known as Festival Season. Many of the biggest and best bands in the world (and leagues of smaller ones as well) are preparing to set out for various tours and huge outdoor festivals that will attract thousands upon thousands of individuals. The global festival circuit has become so huge and varied though that it can be nearly impossible to know where even to start if you’re looking to travel to one.
We’re here to help! Obviously there are far too many metal festivals around the world for us to provide anywhere near a comprehensive list, but we asked our staff to highlight a few festivals on 3 continents — North America, Europe, and Australia (apologies to the rest of the world as we only have so many staff members from different places). Check them all out below!
Location/Date: Orange County, CA / May 15th – 17th
Bands Featured: Sleep, Pentagram, Eyehategod, Earth, Bedemon, Russian Circles, Kylesa, Conan, Municipal Waste, Om, Bongzilla, Old Man Gloom, Pallbearer, and a ton more
Selling Point: You get three solid days of what is possibly the greatest collection of doom/sludge/stoner bands ever assembled. Not only that, but part of the proceeds will go directly towards helping feed local schoolkids in the Anaheim area and improving the health of Orange County and its citizens. So you can feel extra good when being blissed out your mind.
Things to Know: Josh Graham (A Storm of Light, ex-Neurosis) will be conducting the visuals and general atmosphere for all three days of the festival, so be adequately prepared for a psychedelic nightmare.
– Kit Brown
Location/Dates: Baltimore, Maryland / May 21st – 24th
Bands Featured: Bloodbath, Amorphis, Napalm Death, Neurosis, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and about thirty others
Selling Point: If you consider that Maryland Deathfest is the biggest “legitimate” metal festival in the United States a selling point, then that. The massive four-day fest is notorious for offering exclusive or rare performances you won’t find anywhere else. For instance, Agoraphobic Nosebleed will take the stage in 2015, something that’s only happened a handful of times since their formation. There are also a number of exclusive US performances from bands such as Arcturus.
Things to Know: Fortunately, the MDF organizers have loaded up all of the important info in one place. But in addition to all of this, just know that you will be lost in a sea of denim jackets and the food carts will be expensive and the lines/wait times will be long. Load up on Pit Beef (look it up) at some point during your stay in Baltimore if you’re looking for the best roast beef sandwich you could ever experience, and don’t let its shack-like appearance and shared parking with a strip club deter you. Also, if you’re open minded, Mobb Deep will be performing after the fest closes at Baltimore Soundstage (completely unrelated) and the venue will be allowing MDF attendees in for free.
– Jimmy Rowe
Bay Area Death Fest
Location/Dates: Oakland, CA / July 10th and 11th.
Bands Featured: Cattle Decapitation, Psycroptic, Origin, Fallujah, Disentomb, The Zenith Passage, Ovid’s Withering
Selling Point: This is the place to be if you’re anywhere near the west coast and simply want to be aurally bludgeoned for two days by some of the top death metal groups in the world. By virtue of location and genre of focus, Bay Area Death Fest is undoubtedly the North American festival that our late contributor Brian Shields would have attended and represented, and not surprisingly, the festival will be held specifically in his honor. So if you want to give the Dabmaster one final sendoff, you couldn’t pick a better festival to go to.
Things to Know: There’s a killer shirt available for the fest that features Drake in corpsepaint with the words “Runnin’ through the 666 with my woes.” If you don’t think that’s cool as hell, you can go have no fun somewhere else.
– JR & Nick Cusworth
Location/dates: Montreal, Canada / August 7th – 9th
Bands Featured: Mastodon, Meshuggah, Faith No More, Gojira, Slipknot, NOFX, Devin Townsend, Lamb of God, Andrew W.K., Deafheaven, Periphery, Alexisonfire, and a whole whack more.
Selling Point: While in its infancy, Heavy Montreal’s primary focus was on showcasing international acts of the metal variety, in its seven years of existence it has evolved to include a number of punk and hard rock acts in addition to the big names in metal through which the festival originally made a name for itself. As heavy music festivals are not exactly abundant in the Great White North, this variety makes Heavy Montreal a one-stop festival for Canadian (and ambitious international) heavy music fans of all denominations.
Things to Know: Maybe it’s just me, but tend to think with my stomach, even (or maybe especially?) at festival events, and after sweating it out in the pit, I’m not opposed to splurging a little bit. Luckily, Heavy Montreal features “delicious and diverse food and drink choices” from a number of on-site kiosks and some of the city’s finest food trucks. According to the official website, festival-goers can enjoy everything from typical fast food staples to sushi, and beyond! Also worth mentioning are the various official Heavy Montreal after parties. The festival officially finishes up at 11:00 pm every night, but the city boasts a lively night life and is most definitely worth exploring!
– Elizabeth Wood
Location/Date: Richmond, VA / August 15th
Bands Featured: Gwar, Descendents, Down, Goatwhore, Dead Earth Politics, and many more to be announced
Selling Point: You get to hang out at a waterpark with a gaggle of freaks, engage in vicious circle pits under a park pavilion, and see one of the most legendary and theatrical bands in metal close out the day.
Things to Know: Gwar makes their own beer each and every year which is always plentiful and consistently improving. Last year’s “Killsner” was awesome! You’ll probably want to stock up on beer tickets early though, because the line gets long as hell really quickly.
Location/Dates: Oakland, CA. / October 9th – 11th
Bands Featured: Infest, Autopsy, Immolation, Xibalba, Despise You, Nader Sadek, Disma, Ghoul
Selling Point: While much smaller than its older brother Maryland Deathfest, this newcomer to the festival circuit hopes to eventually bring the power of MDF to the West Coast. This is only the beginning for California Deathfest, but expect great things to come as the fest grows, with label vendors and expert curation. And while this is technically a post highlighting Summer festivals, it’s good to know that this particular festival is in California in October, so you’re not as likely to be standing around in sweltering heat and smelly concert-goers. Maybe if you’re into playing it low-key for your first legit metal festival and want to be comfortable, CDF will be a good option for you.
Things to Know: As far as the festival itself goes, it takes place at Oakland Metro, and the festival promises similar vendor tables/booths that people have come to expect at MDF, but obviously scaled back. It’s hard telling how things will go with the fest being in its infancy, but it’s in good hands. As for locale, there’s no shortage of things to get into in Oakland, and since you’ll be hanging out in October, you’re more likely to find some decent amenities by coming in after the Summer tourist rush fades away.
Death to False Metal Festival
Location / Dates: Hamden, CT / August 15th & 16th
Bands Featured: Whiplash, Krieg, Secrets of the Sky, Valkyrie, Godhunter, Destroyer of Light, and more.
Selling Point: This inaugural fest is catered to folks seeking the cutting edge in extreme metal. While nowhere near the size of MDF, the general audience and spirit are very much the same. Be it death, grind, black metal, or doom, you can find it here. This festival is founded by Metal Insider contributor Chip McCabe and is being sponsored by our favorite public relations group Earsplit PR, who have aided this site in bringing you countless coverage in the realm of extreme metal. Anyone with knowledge of either will appreciate the kind of music that will be on display here at DTFMF.
Things to Know: Don’t worry, the name of the festival is actually tongue in cheek, admits McCabe: “The metal scene is littered with way too many people who carry an ‘I’m more underground than you’ attitude, which I find amusing, so the title is dedicated to them. However, the name does reflect that we are looking for a certain aesthetic for the bands that play this festival. Our lineup is fairly eclectic, with thrash, death metal, black metal, doom, grindcore, traditional metal, etc. But we will not stand for generic, cookie-cutter garbage; we want the best of the best, every year.”
Location / Dates: Salt Lake City, UT / June 18 – 20
Bands Featured: Rosetta, Subrosa, Cult Leader, Lesbian, Giant Squid, Ides of Gemini, Royal Thunder, Wild Throne
Selling point: Salt Lake City’s nationally recognized metal scene is seemingly skewed towards sludge, doom, and post metal. CrucialFest is a reflection of that and celebrates the monumental riffs of locals and internationally touring acts alike. Just one look at the above featured acts should be enough to conjure the atmosphere you can expect to be involved in at CrucialFest. Now if you can just make it out to SLC…
Things to Know: There’s a free event the day after CrucialFest called “CrucialRest”, which is family and pet friendly. Bands and venue for this event are TBA, but if you’re a West Coast metal lifer with a family, here’s a potential add-on that will further help you justify the trip out.