Every month in L.A. brings a whole host of metal shows worth checking out. But if you can only see five, make it these five.
5. Fear Factory, Soilwork
Saturday, May 7
Fear Factory broke out of the Los Angeles metal scene in the mid-’90s thanks to their marriage of lyrics centered around sci-fi dystopias with blistering industrial-metal soundscapes on landmark albums such as 1995’s Demanufacture — which they’ll perform in its entirety at tonight’s show. Vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares are the only remaining members from the band's formative years. Nonetheless, last year’s Genexus saw the duo putting forth their most focused songwriting efforts in many years, with the crunchy riffs of Cazares and the rejuvenated vocals of Bell propelling tracks such as “Autonomous Combat Systems” and “Dielectric” to rest comfortably alongside classics like “Replica.” Swedish tourmates Soilwork have remained one of the most consistently excellent bands in metal throughout their own 20-year career. Their 2015 record, The Ride Majestic, sees them continuing to balance between melodic death-metal riffs and a poplike sense of catchy songwriting that has made them a perennial favorite.
4. Kvelertak, Torche
Friday, May 6
Norwegian sextet Kvelertak mines the disparate genres of thrash, hardcore, stoner rock and punk and formulates those varied influences into a high-energy, raucous celebration of anthemic sing-alongs. Never mind that all of their lyrics — including those on their newest record, Nattesferd — are in Norwegian; you'll find yourself drunkenly shouting along with the choruses to tracks like “1985” and “Mjod” anyway. Frontman Erland Hjelvik has a boozy swagger that is infectious, and the group’s aggressive riffs are loaded with catchy hooks. Tourmates Torche are a perfect complement. The Miami quartet has spent a decade combining the sludgy heaviness of Black Sabbath with the poppiness of Foo Fighters, with vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks effectively mastering the art of constructing short, compact rock songs that overflow with massive hooks, most recently on their 2015 effort, Restarter.
3. Intronaut, Behold! the Monolith
Saturday, May 28
This show, called “Tone Down for What,” is a benefit for the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, but there will be more than enough sludgy riffs to ensure maximum headbanging even for attendees who aren’t Bernie bros. Hometown boys Intronaut have spent a decade crafting progressive-sludge metal that expertly straddles the line between teeth-rattling heaviness and jazz-fueled, polyrhythmic insanity. The band is well respected for its musicianship within metal circles at this point, but bassist Joe Lester still remains criminally underappreciated. On their newest effort, The Direction of Last Things, Lester lays down monstrous grooves that fuel the band’s balance between metallic ferocity and proggy hypnosis. Local doom-metal greats Behold! the Monolith rebounded from tragedy with last year’s Architects of the Void, a magnum opus of twists and turns down a road paved with galloping riffs, well-timed tempo changes and an aura of pure heaviness.
Sunday, May 29
Since influential post-metal pioneers Isis disbanded in 2010, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner has remained busy with multiple projects, including sludge-doom slingers Old Man Gloom and ambient progsters Mamiffer. Turner’s heaviest and most powerful project, however, is Sumac, his collaboration with drummer Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists and bassist Brian Cook of Russian Circles. Whereas Isis used the heaviness of the riff as a base for exploring expansive prog-metal atmospherics, Sumac instead uses and abuses the riff to pile on the heaviness and engulf the listener in a wave of suffocating metal thunder. The sense of dread, doom and catharsis is enhanced by Turner’s caustic growls. Their 2015 debut, The Deal, set a high bar for sheer sonic force, but early music from their upcoming sophomore effort, What One Becomes, finds the band up to the challenge of pushing themselves deeper into the pit of metallic despair.
1. Amon Amarth, Exmortus
Saturday, May 21
Swedish masters Amon Amarth are undeniably one of the most “metal” bands in existence. For more than 20 years now, they've mined a seemingly endless supply of blood-soaked stories of Vikings and other aspects of Norse mythology for their reliable, melodic death-metal stew. Frontman Johan Hegg has one of the more distinctive barks in the genre, bellowing mightily to match the source material of his band’s forceful metal attack. Amon Amarth’s newest record, Jomsviking, shows that their formula is stronger than ever. Local thrash upstarts Exmortus also mine tales of warriors in battle as inspiration for their newest record, Ride Forth. Where they differ from other such obsessed bands — and what makes them special — is a shred-fueled guitar attack that evokes guitar greats of yesteryear like Yngwie Malmsteen.