We’ve gotten through the worst of it, Phoenix metalheads. The VMAs, relentless pop-country touring bands, and, oh, the relentless heat. We’ve still got some triple digits in September, no doubt, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And since it’s still waaay too hot to figure out the best shows to attend, we'll do it for you.
During September, we’ve got some great local shows, with Sanitation Squad, the Rescue Me! Benefit, and the Ned Flanders "Nedal" band Okilly Dokilly; legends like Hemlock and Unearth; as well as some two-night festivals that fully rep the desert metal scene, like The Word Alive event at Joe’s, Scottsdale Metal Fest, and Mannifest.
September 5 – The Springfield Elementary School Carnival with Okilly Dokilly – The Trunk Space
This is a metal — or, as they call it “Nedal” — band you gotta see to believe, if only for the love of The Simpsons. And as a prime example of a band going viral: In less than a month, the band has garnered hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube and gained almost 30,000 Facebook fans. Most of the song lyrics are direct Ned Flanders quotes, the members are all named Ned (i.e. vocalist Head Ned, bassist Thread Ned, drummer Bled Ned, etc.), and they all don the same Ned uniform of nerdy glasses and pink collared shirt. The Springfield Elementary School Carnival is a show rounded about by Man-Cat, Hug of War, and Andy Warpigs, and it costs just $5.
September 10 and 11 – The Word Alive – Joe’s Grotto
This two-day fest is a great representation of Phoenix metalcore, headlined by The Word Alive before the band heads out on an Australian tour with Suicide Silence and Parkway Drive. Presented by K & Z Entertainment, The Word Alive will play its debut album, Deceiver, in its entirety the first night and its second album, Life Cycles, the second. Some other favorites will take the stage as well, including Ella Kaye (one of my personal faves), We Call the Shots, Wake the Harbringer, and Hitkiri on night 1; and Crisis in Victory, Reflectionless, Go Ask Alice, and The Alchemy on night two.
September 11 – Sanitation Squad – Tempe Tavern
When judging the Heavy Metal Television VJ auditions a few weeks ago, I was discussing local metal with Jaime En Fuego, a fantastic metal journalist and current VJ. He had mentioned Sanitation Squad to me before, but this time around, he handed me the group's EP Fear. And I gotta tell you, it is killer. It’s straight metal, punk, and gritty rock 'n' roll all rolled into one package. Actually, the band describes itself perfectly with “The Sanitation Squad combines the precision of metal, the ferociousness of punk, and the balls of rock.” One of the songs, “When She Came Back to Life,” even features the melodic vibes of the Misfits’ Michale Graves. This is the band’s official CD release party, and I can’t wait to see them live.
September 14 – Dark Sermon – The Nile
This Florida-based metal band brings a cerebral, swampy vibe to the table and exhibits impressive maturation with its new album, Oracle, which was released last week. Reminiscent of Behemoth, At the Gates, and Insomnium, the music is brutal yet haunting, full of doom-like elements, grindcore timing, and surprises like strings and dissonant touches. If you’re all about appreciating the art of metal and enjoy an array of metal genres, I advise you to check out Dark Sermon.
September 14 – Lord of War – Joe’s Grotto
San Diego-based quintet Lord of War is known for a unique sound, a sort of self-branded space metal: think deathcore meets atmospheric melodies. A blend of extreme brutal metal, pounding breakdowns, and melodic precision, this band is poised to release a second full-length with revered audio engineer Daniel Castleman and Kelly Cairns (Winds of Plague, Carnifex). The lineup is rounded out by Wrvth, In Vengeance, Salvation Lost, Vermin, Inertia, and more.
September 18 – Rescue Me! Benefit – The Blooze Bar
One of my favorite things is supporting events for a good cause — especially when it combines helping others and listening to metal in the process. Presented by AZ pet and family rescue, this killer hard rock lineup is all in the name of homeless pets and their humans. Expect Latency (rock 'n' roll with a heavy edge), Concertina (a personal favorite; strongly influenced by Black Sabbath and Pantera), Deathgrip (another personal favorite, all about melodic thrashcore), Black Curtain (thrash metallers), rockers Sofa Kings Toned, and more, all for just $5. Oh, and remember to bring food and bottled water donations!
September 19 – Scottsdale Metal Invasion – RockBar
“Scottsdale” and “metal” aren’t commonly placed together, but the RockBar is notorious for sealing the deal between the two. And now we have a full-blown lineup of heavy metal that will pour out the doors and into the confused $30K millionaires who roam the Scottsdale streets. This venue also is a great intimate setting for seeing some of the best live metal AZ has to offer, like Sicmonic, Lost in Lies, Soundmankillz, Desecrate, Vanlade and Concertina. All for just $10.
September 21 - Unearth and Wovenwar – Pub Rock
For the past 15 years, Unearth has proved to stand the test of time among all the metal trends and has amassed a loyal underground following. The band combines the punishing elements of groove metal, the melodic style of Swedish death metal, and ‘90s metalcore to create its own heavy brand. Tourmate Wovenwar is no different. Made up of members from As I Lay Dying and Oh, Sleeper, Wovenwar merges old and new metal and has released truly powerful albums centered on topics such as the notion of blind faith and picking up the pieces when life falls apart. The bill is rounded out by Armed for Apocalypse, Chivalry Is Dead, and Parallels.
September 23 – Hammershot – Tempe Tavern
Hammershot’s music appeals to both fans of old school heavy metal and Southern groove metal, but it’s the actual live show that gets people talking the most. Since 2011, the San Francisco-based band has tailored a unique show that’s all about audience participation, energy, “cooperative aggression,” sideshow antics (sometimes even human suspensions), and a custom-built wall of sound. You may just leave thinking you saw the most extreme metal show of your life. With Asphalt Wasteland, Death Awaits, and other special guests.
September 26 – Hemlock – Club Red
Known as one of the hardest self-promoting bands out there, Hemlock is the epitome of hitting the streets to get your music out there. Since ’93, the band has toured with an array of legends, including Hatebreed, Chimaira, Drowning Pool, Coal Chamber, Soulfly, System of a Down, Machinehead, and more. And the band's five albums receive regular airplay on a wide range of stations. From unique merchandise, like mousepads and snow globes, to a flier-up mentality and mailing list shenanigans, Hemlock sells out countless venues with its unique tactics and, of course, its crushing heavy metal. Look out for one or two legendary concert events at the show, like the "All Girl Pit" for the song "Sour" and the "Split the Pit" of "Conniption Fit." Talk to Sheep, Bleed the Fifth, Skull Drug, and The Lazarus Complex also are on the bill.
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September 25 – Mannifest – The Rogue Bar
Two days of pure fucking metal. If you haven’t gone in the past, here’s what to expect: more than 20 bands that reign supreme in the death metal, black metal, thrash metal genres, to name a few. Expect to see bands like Sons of Eli, Testify, Fractured, Existence AD, Concrete Sledge, Slaves of Suffering from Mexico, Beheading the King, and many more. I’ve found it’s best to keep track by checking the FB page for lineup updates — you never know what band might pop up!