A live heavy metal show can be one of the most visceral experiences a music fan can experience. Our top five L.A. metal shows of 2012 have made it really fucking hard to go back to watching some dude strumming an acoustic guitar while sitting on a bar stool.
See also: Top Ten Los Angeles Metal Albums of 2012
House of Blues Hollywood, November 29th
Finland's Wintersun took eight years to release their second album Time I. The sold-out crowd for their first ever L.A. show was rewarded for its patience with an impeccable blast of European metal goodness. A large amount of sampling tracks were utilized, not surprising given the grandiose production of their new album. But band leader Jari Maenpaa's strong performance brought Wintersun's ambitious symphonic songs in for a smooth landing.
4. Municipal Waste, Napalm Death
House of Blues Hollywood, November 14th
If you prefer your workouts in the mosh pit, then this show was the metal equivalent of P90X. Extreme metal pioneers Napalm Death worked over the crowd with flawless ferocity; vocalist Barney Greenway is in his mid-40s, but his stage show had many younger screamers clutching their sides. Municipal Waste then continued the beatdown with an hour of unrelenting thrash metal. Everyone's booze was surely sweated out by night's end.
The Roxy, February 2nd
It's rare that a Hollywood venue is packed on a weeknight so early, as the Roxy was for Swedish occult-rockers Ghost. Anticipation for their first Los Angeles appearance ran high, and vocalist Papa Emeritus stalked about the stage in his evil Pope outfit, casting a menacing shadow while performing incredibly catchy Satanic sing-alongs that harkened back to when Blue Oyster Cult reigned supreme. At times this felt more like a ritual than a show.
2. Devin Townsend Project
El Rey Theatre, September 8th
Metal is not often described as life-affirming, but a Devin Townsend show in 2012 is exactly that. The anger of his days with industrial metal pioneers Strapping Young Lad is long gone, replaced by an almost pathological eagerness to make people smile. He does that both with the luxuriously melodic prog-metal of new album Epicloud and the borderline-insane heavy metal circus that was 2011's Deconstruction. In September at the El Rey, tracks from both peppered a solo catalog-spanning set that saw some huge smiles in the pit.
House of Blues Hollywood, April 25th
Polish death-metal titans Behemoth have long been one of the most compelling live presences in metal. The band went on a year-and-a-half hiatus while band leader Nergal fought leukemia, so when their live return was announced, one may have wondered if battling a life-threatening disease had calmed the fire inside them. But this thought was put to rest within minutes, as Nergal commanded the stage with the energy of someone who kicked death in the balls and was ready to shout “Fuck You!” louder than ever. If the band's performance on this evening was any indication, the fire still burns, and threatens to engulf anyone in its path.
Follow Jason Roche on Twitter @JasonRocheLAW.