Happy New Year, metal music lovers! From one metalhead to another, I hope your 2015 closed out on a happy note, filled with love, many cheers, and great music. While 2015 was a year for the books when it came to metal in the Valley — just check out the top metal columns we posted during the holiday season to celebrate all the metal head interviews ranging from Kerry King to Eddie Trunk, along with some killer local coverage — we’re hoping that 2016 will be bigger, busier, and more badass than ever for local music.
And with 2016 upon us, we’ve compiled a list of the top January metal shows in the Valley of the Sun. And trust us — the month starts and ends with some pretty solid stuff. From an array of local band album release shows, to legendary acts like Queensryche and Play for Blood, to some killer local festivals like Hangman Fest and Dead of Winter Fest.
Friday, January 8 – Post Holiday Metal Destruction 2016 – The Blooze Bar
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The holiday metal cheer isn’t over when it comes to some of the first metal shows of the New Year. Let’s kick it off with three of the most popular local metal acts, sponsored by AZ Natural Remedies. Soaring, melodic five-piece Ghost 211 are a solid mix of hard rock and face-melting metal, complete with a heavy generous spirit; I often see this band participating in charity drives and support for other local bands. Downhill Trend has been building a steady following for more than 10 years, and their music takes you on a head-banging roller coaster much like their name; and Phoenix & Dragon is the symphonic progressive metal act with a bit of fame attached to their name.
Saturday, January 9 – Wolves of Winter CD Release Party – Yucca Tap Room
As one of the first local metal album release gigs of the year, Wolves of Winter’s debut album release party is supported by a great venue and lineup. This free show will be packed with blistering hard rock, desert metal, stoner grooves, and sludgy doom metal—supporting acts include Asimov, Sounds Like Murder, Return to Zero, and Makeshift Family.
Tuesday, January 12 – Queensrÿche – Marquee Theatre
I’m super excited for this show! I last saw Queensrÿche (fresh with the new vocalist Todd LaTorre) during NAMM 2015 in California. There was a lot of speculation in the crowd about the frontman controversy — but LaTorre easily stood on his own. With more than 30 million albums sold over the decades, the band is now promoting their new record Condition Human, with two local AZ bands, Sectas and Tricus, as opening support.
Friday, January 15 – Larvae – Tempe Tavern
This free show is all about Oakland, Califonia, and Arizona doom, black, and sludge metal. There’s Oakland acts Larvae, a doom/death metal outfit from the members of Born/Dead, and Bädr Vogu. Rounding out the bill are Arizona black and death metallers Mortem Dei, Avarice, and Empyreal.
Saturday, January 16 — Animus Complex CD Release Party — Club Red
The band Animus Complex is aptly named; it combines some of the most interesting techniques in music, such as progressive metal, complex grooves, and djent, with a heavy hitting dose of soaring melodies, talented vocals, and attitude. The band’s new album, Immersion, puts the best they have to offer to date on display. Other bands worth checking out that are hitting the stage include Rite to Remain, A Distant Calm, Kruffix, and Paranova.
Saturday, January 16 — Play for Blood, Kings of Carnage, We Steal Copper, and more — Joe’s Grotto
After a seven-month hiatus, aggressive heavy metal act Play for Blood is making their return to Joe’s Grotto. Not only will they be playing some of their old classic hits, but fans have also been reassured that there will be new music thrown into the mix as well. Joining them on stage will be a buffet of awesome acts, spanning of Hollywood California to Arizona, including Kings of Carnage, We Steal Copper, Deathgrip, A Moment of Clarity, Dehumanizer, The Audio Virus, KaustiK, Malo De Dentro, and Blueprints for Destruction.
Friday, January 22 – Hanneman Fest – Joe’s Grotto
Joe’s Grotto once again helps local metalheads pay homage to the legendary Jeff Hanneman by hosting Hanneman Fest. Just like last year, there will be two stages full of revolving thrash bands, with each band playing at least two Slayer songs per set. Bands include Souless, Chemicals of Democracy, 94 Blades, In Vengeance, Bleed the Fifth, Ironkill, Betrayal o f Allies, and more. This is an annual local fest that you won’t ever want to miss!
Saturday, January 23 – The Dead of Winter Fest — Club Red
The second annual Dead of Winter Fest is an all-day heavy metal festival that kicks off at 4 p.m. This event focuses on 10 local bands from around the desert region, and a portion of the proceeds go to Keep Children Rockin’, a global activist for music education that provides equipment and donations to underfunded school music programs. In fact, in 2015, the event helped one school with supplies for two semesters. The goal this year is to raise $2,500 for three schools.
But from a musical standpoint, the event celebrates an array of genres and talents in the heavy metal scene. Standouts include acts like Ye’iitsoh (a personal favorite of mine), known for complex, old-school thrash and a head-banging in-your-face-attitude; progressive deathcore act A Lapse of Ethos; and the soaring progressive symphonic metal of Phoenix & Dragon. Other acts on the bill include other black and death metal bands such as Elivagar, Unholy Monarch, Evasion, and Deadspawn, blackened death metallers Depraved Heretic, rockers Fire Glass and Infinite Death.
Sunday, January 24 – Venom, Inc. – Joe’s Grotto
13th Floor Entertainment Presents Venom reincarnated — or rather, the idea of former Venom members Jeff “Mantas” Dunn and Anthony “Abaddon” Bray. Because, why both coming up with a new name, right? It should be quite the interesting affair, considering the band’s history and heavy underground following. The remainder of the lineup is a delicious sampling of heavy metal, from the sludgy, complex techniques of Phoenix-based Lago, to the dark brutality of Norway’s 139. Rounding out the bill includes Necrophagia, Tombs, Full of Hell, and Kill Command.
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Friday, January 29 — Razer – Rockbar
Razer is a band that appeals to both fans of heavy metal and hard-hitting radio rock, which I can always appreciate as long as it’s done right. Razer vocalist Chris Powers won New Times' Best of Phoenix award for Best Male Vocalist in 2015, and the band has had positive reviews rolling in from all over the for their self-title debut album and live shows. They’re going to do big things in 2016, especially with manager music industry guru Alan Niven by their side at Tru-B-Dor Records. The lineup includes Stone Mary, Riot/Gear, and Interstate Heroes.
Saturday, January 30 – Voodoo Sex Cult, St. Madness, and more – The Blooze Bar
Presented by Syntheticide Entertainment, this show proves that the first month of 2016 will truly start and end with dynamic, classic metal. Expect to see Voodoo Sex Cult, St Madness, 2 In The Chest and Riot/Gear hit the stage for a night of some of the most entertaining and talented bands that have been on the scene a lot longer than most — and it’s only $5.