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.
Continue reading this list by selecting the page numbers below:
Location/Dates: Zottegem, Belgium / May 14th – 16th
Bands Featured: MONO, Amenra, Caspian, The Ocean, Jakob, Maybeshewill, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving
Selling Point: It’s unlikely that there will be a more impressive collection of post-rock and metal bands in one place this year. The fact that The Ocean aren’t even headlining one of these nights should give you an idea of the caliber of the lineup present. This is an absolute must for any fan of weeping openly whilst being crushed by walls of noise.
Things to Know: According to the festival’s website, it looks like there will be plenty of amenities and comforts available to all, starting with the fact that the festival site itself is huge. Plenty of free parking and camping right next to the festival site and a shuttle running between the railroad station in Zottegem and the festival site. There will also be free wifi and charging stations for phones. So basically you’ll be taken care of quite well. Also, for those of us who will not be able to attend, they’ll be livestreaming the entire event!
Location/Dates: Bristol, England / May 29th – 31st
Bands Featured: Converge, Sunn O))), Earth, Pig Destroyer, Nails, Between The Buried And Me
Selling Point: This fully independent festival (no media or brand sponsors whatsoever) has a line up that reads like a Who’s Who of Heavy Blog favorites. Focusing on the supremely heavy end of metal, there is no thrash or power metal here. The biggest names in drone, doom, sludge and powerviolence all take to the stage in the multi roomed Motion complex in Bristol. This festival is getting bigger and bigger every year in terms of the quality and quantity of it’s acts from all over the world. Fans of underground music should catch Magrudergrind, either of the two sets from Pig Destroyer and don’t pass up on Torche, Relapse representatives and Heavy Blog darlings.
Things to Know: It’s in Bristol so there will be more varieties of cider available than the mind can comprehend. Just remember, even though it tastes like apples it will still get you drunker than you’ve ever been before. It’s probably best not to wear your Of Mice & Men shirt down to this show. I mean, wear what you want but expect death stares every step you tread.
– Matt MacLennan
Location/Dates: Newark, England / July 9th – 13th
Bands Featured: Decapitated, Betraying The Martyrs, Leprous, Sithu Aye, Slice The Cake, Shokran
Selling Point: Much like Euroblast, this is a festival for fans of the progressive side of music, both extreme and a bit lighter. Sharing some of the same acts as Euroblast, Tech-Fest this year also gives some of Britain’s young technical metal talent. Sectioned, No Sin Evades His Gaze and The Color Line are all acts that you won’t catch elsewhere this year. The perfect environment for burgeoning musical talent is rife with star names too. Decapitated, making their only UK appearance of the year, shouldn’t need much fanfare. The Polish magicians got back to winning form last year and are top of the list of reasons why Tech-Fest is necessary to attend this year. The grounds the festival are held on make for a fully communal experience also so expect to catch some of your new favorites wandering around, looking for somewhere to drop a squat.
Things to Know: It’s a bit tricky to get to but pay attention to the signs and your sat-nav and you’ll be fine. You’ll want to make sure and bring an assortment of gear with you as the English summer is about as predictable as who the next member of The Faceless will be.
Location/Dates: Clisson, France / June 19th – 21st
Bands Featured: Mastodon, Russian Circles, The Atlas Moth, Envy, Elder, Shining (NOR), Triptykon, Meshuggah, Vallenfyre, Children of Bodom, Dying Fetus, At the Gates, Ne Obliviscaris, Lamb of God, Slipknot, Nightwish, In Flames, Faith No More, Sylosis, Ghost Brigade, Haken, Red Fang
Selling Point: Just look at the list above. Hellfest has grown from a small European festival to one of the biggest names out there in just a few short years and there’s a good reason for that: its hands reach deep into obscure, extreme metal, while still grasping on to some big names. Hellfest this year provides one of the most eclectic and far reaching lineups available. From progressive to grindcore, you won’t find a wider variety, anywhere in Europe and even the world. In addition, past years teach us that each of the bands will be given the appropriate amount of stage time, as the really short slots are housed by a plethora of up and coming bands.
Things to Know: It might be June but it can still rain. Bring appropriate clothes, as those nights can get very, very cold. The approach to Clisson is also non-trivial, as you’ll be heading from Paris to Nantes and only then to the small town. Prepare your route in advance and consider chipping in for the shuttles from the train station to the festival grounds. It’s quite a long walk, especially with equipment. Other than that, Hellfest is one of the most cheerful and easy going festivals out there, so be prepared for a good time!
– Eden Kupermintz
Location/Dates: Koln, Germany / October 1st – 3rd.
Bands Featured: Between the Buried and Me, Leprous, Destrage, Haken, Lantlos, Persefone
Selling Point: Basically, this is the Mecca for any metal-head who is bent on the progressive side of things. Featuring bands both big and small from the sub-genre, it’s a veritable guide to everything that’s exciting about progressive metal. Growing out of its “djent” cocoon, the more established Euroblast looks to appeal to all fans of intricate and brooding music. Among the younger names are bands that you won’t see playing anywhere else: VOLA, Aliases, Destiny Potato, to name just a few. It’s simply the best place to catch both legendary acts and younger ones, on the bleeding edge of progressive music today.
Things to Know: Koln has many places to stay at but your best bet is couch surfing. Since the festival brings many like-minded fans to one city, it shouldn’t be too hard to fine a nice, relaxing place to stay. Check out the festival’s forums and the relevant sites and make sure you have a place to stay!
Blacken The Globe
Bands Featured: Psycroptic, The Schoenberg Automaton, Uncreation
Selling Point: Located in Alice Springs, this is one of the most unique metal festivals that Australia has to offer. Bringing some of Australia’s best metal bands together, alongside a slew of locals, the festival helps shine a light on the small but thriving scene in the Northern Territory. Tickets are generally about $30 and be purchased online or at the event.
Things to Know: Due to the isolated location, there is a live-stream of the festival available through Triple J making it accessible to everyone with an internet connection!
– William France
Bands Featured: Ne Obliviscaris, Chaos Divine, The Helix Nebula, Ulcerate
Selling Point: An annual charity event run by the vocalist/violinist of Ne Obliviscaris, Welkin Entertainment, this is one of the larger annual metal festivals in Melbourne. Combining acts like Chaos Divine, Whoretopsy and Ruins on the same bill, this is festival that caters to a much wider audience than something you would typically expect. Tickets are around $25 and can be purchased online or at the event.
Things to Know: All proceeds from this event go to the Hope for Haiti Foundation who aim to improve the quality of life for all Haitians through better education, nutrition and healthcare. Headbanging for a good cause!
Bands Featured: Caligula’s Horse, Sleepmakeswaves, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving
Selling Point: Another brainchild of Welkin Entertainment, this time spanning about a week and stopping in each state of Australia, Progfest is a national showcase of all things under the progressive umbrella. The prog scene in Australia is very much an underground thing, and festivals like this really help to unearth enormous talent which would otherwise go largely unnoticed. Tickets are roughly $20 and are available online and at the event.
Things to Know: I can think of no better event to discover new progressive artists at, and with much of Australia’s prog scene relatively hidden by more accessible genres, this is an extremely valuable asset to this country’s music scene.
Bands Featured: Lamb of God, Meshuggah, Faith No More, The Dillinger Escape Plan
Selling Point: Soundwave is the second largest music festival Australia has to offer and has grown its audience from 5,000 to 50,000 since its inception in 2004. Over the last couple of years however, attendance figures have been steadily dropping – whether this is due to the festival catering to too many genres or simply because people prefer to attend more intimate shows is difficult to say.
Things To Know/Avoid (if applicable): This festival is very much marketed towards the mainstream, and with its generally broad line-up you can expect to face hoards of people and huge lines for food/bathrooms/merch. Expect prices for food and beverages to be astronomically expensive; $10 for a bottle of water is fairly commonplace so be sure to take a backpack with provisions so you aren’t caught out.
The Big Day Out
Bands Featured: Primus, Deftones, Soundgarden, The Algorithm
Selling Point: Catering to more than just the rock/metal scene, and overshadowing almost every other festival in the country, the Big Day Out is a cornerstone of Australian music culture. Since 1992, the event has brought over some of the largest acts to grace Australian shores. However, after Britain’s Blur pulled out of last year’s festival, triggering a mass ticket refund (and $10,000,000 in lost revenue), the event has come to a stand still, with only a small glimpse of hope for the BDO to return in the future.
Things To Know/Avoid (if applicable): Having prepared a small bag with food, water and any other valuables you might possibly need on the day will be hugely beneficial as this festival requires a lot of walking and will mean that you’ll be in direct sunlight for a large part of the day (also pricing is much like Soundwave: ridiculous). It almost goes without saying that you will have a bad time if you forget sun lotion, however a lot of the stages are undercover which provides some relief.