Happy Holidays, metalheads! The season for generosity and head-banging is upon us, and our local metal scene certainly reflects that. We’re closing out 2015 with some great metal shows and holiday festivals — fitting, considering this year has been one for the books for Arizona metal. Our local scene has grown tremendously.
During the month of December, we’ve got some legends such as Asking Alexandria, 36 Crazy Fists, Black Label Society, and Orgy coming to town and a few amazing local holiday festivals that benefit the less fortunate, such as Desert Frostover and Operation: Appreciation. Check out the best metal concerts of the month below.
Tuesday, December 1 — Between the Buried and Me — Livewire
The American progressive metal band is known for its diverse style — one minute the band will belt out solid thrash, and melodic grunge the next. Livewire will be an interesting spot to see this band that has produced seven albums in the past 15 years, with Coma Elliptic, its most recent, released in July. Enslaved, Intronaut, and Native Construct round out the bill.
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Wednesday, December 2 — Kristmaz Khaoz featuring Asking Alexandria — Livewire
Livewire is featuring back-to-back metal shows to kick off December, which might be a testament to the direction the venue is headed. This chaotic show is headlined by UK boys Asking Alexandria, which saw the departure of eclectic frontman Danny Worsnop earlier this year. In May, Denis Stoff (from Ukranian metalcore band Make Me Famous) stepped in. The band easily has gotten back on its feet and promises fans a new album in early 2016. This night for the books also includes a roundup of up-and-coming hometown metal acts, including Eyes Set to Kill, Ella Kaye, Whitney Payton, Ded, The Family Ruin, and more.
Friday, December 4 — In Vengeance, Asphalt Wasteland, and more — Joe’s Grotto
FinalHourBooking presents a kick-ass show in which the spirit of giving reigns supreme. All funds go to the Salvation Army to help the less fortunate, and canned goods will be collected at the door. The lineup includes lots of favorite Arizona metallers: headliners In Vegeance, Asphalt Wasteland (think Black Sabbath meets Metallica); Gates of Exile; thrash/hardcore act Enemy Machine; Existence AD (one of my favorites, with shared primary interests whiskey and boobs); Betrayal of Allies; Artesyn and Krovak.
Friday, December 4, and Saturday, December 5 – Desert Frostover – The Marquee Theatre
The weekend offers a collection of some of the best local music around — we’re talking metal and then some. For just $15, you can experience both days, featuring more than 30 local bands and comedians — as well as help support the Wounded Warrior Project. Saturday is the day for metal, and it includes Howitzer, Pelvic Meatloaf, Sicmonic, Virulent, Lost in Lies, Souless, Kruffix, Deathgrip, Riot/Gear, Latency, Ella Kaye and Resurgence Girls. Friday night is tailored to more rock, reggae and indie, with Frequis, Black Bottom Lighters, Soundmankillz, The Black Moods, Volatile Minds, Tome, Atoms Fall, We Steal Copper, Run, Definitely Run, Makeshift Family, and Murkocet.
Saturday, December 5 — Black Dahlia Murder — the Pressroom
The five musicians of melodic death metal band Black Dahlia Murder have been honing their skills for years, collecting a legion of underground fans who attest to the band's incredible live show. Black Dahlia Murder just dropped its album Abysmal in September, and is touring alongside Goatwhore, Iron Reagan, Entheos, and Artificial Brain. Black Dahlia Murder and Goatwhore easily could be interchangeable headliners. If you’ve never seen either band in concert, you'd better get to this show.
Thursday, December 10 — 36 Crazyfists — The Nile Theater
These Alaskan headbangers are known for years of creating diverse albums: Say hello to 36 Crazyfists. These guys are all about moshing and persistence; for the past 20 years, they’ve been touring and recording on and off, and the band has been through everything from multiple label and lineup changes to band fatalities to touring alongside Alice in Chains and Walls of Jericho. Interfate rounds out the bill.
Saturday, December 12 — Winter Blast — The Nile Theater
Final Hour Booking presents Winter Blast, featuring an array of progressive and death metal bands, including Arkaik, Inanimate Existence, Lord of War, Wrvth. Singularity, Hounds of Tindalos, Observance, A Lapse of Ethos, The Exiled Matyr, Graves of the Monuments, and Vermin.
Tuesday, December 15 — Spite — The Nile Theater
Spite is an interesting breed of black metal. The band combines the bewitchment of old school black metal, ancient traditions, a heavy dose of thrash, and an element of contemporary metal, all topped up with a killer chaotic live show and atmosphere. Kriminals is an interesting band to include on the bill; this Bay Area metalcore group borrows elements of nu metal and rap to create its signature sound. Lapse of Ethos and Injustice round out the lineup.
Tuesday, December 15 — Mushroomhead — Joe’s Grotto
13th Floor Entertainment Presents a colorful lineup that is all about intense frontmen. Mushroomhead, forever known for its off-the-wall industrial style, recently had a major lineup change when one of the vocalists, Waylon Reavis, parted ways with the band in October. Fans needn’t worry, though; the band always pulls through with one of its other eight members. Joe’s Grotto is always a sight to see when Mushroomhead comes to town, given that the stage barely fits five musicians and their instruments on it! 9Electric, UnSaid Fate, Paranova, and Ironkill band round out the bill.
Sunday, December 20 — Operation Appreciation — Joe’s Grotto
This event is all about benefiting our veterans — so come show your appreciation! All benefits will go to Arizona Veterans of Foreign Wars charities to benefit AZ vets, and you can expect food, great drink deals, and raffle prizes. Even better? It’s a night of pure metal, with Christopher Shayne, Latency, Whiskey and the Barrels, and my personal favorite, Cowboys N’ Hell. Getcha pull.
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Saturday, December 26 — Black Label Society — The Marquee Theatre
No introduction is necessary for a band like Black Label Society, although there are two things I can truly say about this show: 1) Some people have been complaining about the ticket prices, which average around $40, and 2) Over the past 10 years, Zakk Wylde has offered a consistently strong stage performance, so you can rest assured that the ticket will be worth it. On top of that, you can also catch Huntress and The Shrine, and both bands are well worth the ticket price.
Tuesday, December 29 — AZ Metalfest featuring Orgy — Club Red
What a way to ring in the New Year, with some classic metal energy. First is Orgy, who helped drive the goth industrial scene back in 1998 with ol’ “Blue Monday,” and after a seven-year hiatus, started up again in 2011. It was the constant demand for new music that brought Orgy back, and legendary vocalist Jay Gordon has promised new music for 2016. Then we have Bobaflex. I first saw these guys at Rock on the Range about four years ago, and for some reason they made an impression on me. It wasn’t just the high energy and relentless touring; it’s their backstory: Brothers Shawn and Marty McCoy founded the band in ’98 and are known for their ancestral ties to one of the most legendary feuds in American history — the Hatfields and McCoys.