Throw the goat at Hellfest. Photo by Stéfan. Feature of Tuska Festival by Visit Finland.

Here are ten metal festivals that feature death metal along with the classic bands at each one, and my recommended tracks to get a flavor of each.

I WAS INTRODUCED to death metal flipping though a magazine in 1998. In a piece about guilty pleasures from a decade before was Napalm Death‘s second album, From Enslavement To Obliteration. The vocals were described as sounding like a guy vomiting repeatedly.

Fascinated, I checked them out. Death metal is now one of my favorite genres with fast tempos, extensive vamping, and vocals that are more instrument than lyrics.

Inferno

When: April 20-23
Where: Oslo, Norway

Headlined by Norway black metal legends Immortal, the event’s named for the intense body heat generated from the hundreds of people who pack the small venues. Wednesday starts out with “Club Day.”

Concerts are held in seven clubs, with the most impressive line up (and certain to be the most crowded) featuring Rotten Sound. The next three days the bands are split between a 1350 capacity music hall and 400 capacity club.

Classic bands: Napalm Death, Malevolent Creation, Soilent Green, Illdisposed
Recommended tracks: Malevolent Creation: “The Will to Kill,” Rotten Sound: “Perfection,” Napalm Death: “Silence is Deafening,” Illdisposed: “Weak is Your God.”

Neurotic Deathfest

When: April 29-30
Where: Tilburg, Netherlands

For only two days, Deathfest packs an impressive amount of notable bands (16 by my count, butyour mileage may vary). About 10 miles from the Belgian border, Tilburg is a half hour drive through the Dutch countryside from Eindhoven. The venue is a five minute walk from the train station.

Classic bands: At the Gates, Atheist, Autopsy, Obituary
Recommended tracks: Aeon: “God Gives Head in Heaven,” At the Gates: “Captor of Sin,” Misery Index: “Retaliate,” Logic of Denial: “Shrines of Depravity.”

Hellfest

Alexis Laiho, Children of Bodom at Hellfest 2007.
Photo by clayboy85

When: June 17-19
Where: Clisson, France

Hellfest is an open air event split into four stages. Main Stage 1 features pop metal like Judas Priest, Disturbed, and Ozzy Ozbourne. Main Stage 2 has famous acts like Opeth, Meshuggah and Suicide Silence.

The Rock Hard tent has Death, Black and Grind. The Terrorizer tent features an eclectic mix ranging from The Black Dahlia Murder to The Melvins.

Classic bands: Morbid Angel, Vader, Krisiun, Bolt Thrower
Recommended tracks: Krisiun: “Nuclear Winter,” Unleashed: “As Yggdrasil Trembles,” Belphegor: “Bondage Goat Zombie,” and “Swarm of Rats.”

Death Feast

When: June 23-25
Where: Hunxe, Germany

The first significant death metal festival in Germany this summer is in Hohe Mark Naturpark, 20 miles from Holland. This open air festival claims to be “The Most Brutal Festival in Europe.” This is debatable, but they are correct about it being “100% Death”: all 29 bands that have been confirmed are death, brutal death, deathgrind and/or technical death.

Classic bands: Grave, Pestilence, Inhumate, Vomitory
Recommended tracks: The Rotted: “Nothin’ but a Nosebleed,” Malevolent Creation: “Prelude to Doomsday,” Krisiun: “Black Force Domain,” Vader : “This is the War.”

Obscene Extreme

When: July 7-9
Where: Trutnov, Czech Republic

Border regions are popular with festivals, especially in the Schengen Area where people can travel between countries without passports. This allows for people from many countries to enjoy the provincial countryside where people can be loud and urinate in public.

10 miles south of the Polish border, the small Czech town of Trutnov hosts a mix of bands that are very difficult for many people to listen to, though the 5000+ festival goers love it. The “Freak Friendly Extreme Musick Open Air Festival” features mostly grind.

Classic bands: Entombed, Inhumate, Squash Bowels, Lock Up
Recommended tracks: Rotten Sound: “Obey,” The Rotted: “Dawn of a New Error,” Entrails: “Entrails,” Reproach: “Rat Race.”

Metal Camp

Legion of the Damned at Metal Camp, Slovenia in 2009.
Photo by berr.e

When: July 11-17
Where: Tolmin, Slovenia

East of Italy in the Slovenian Littoral, the week-long Metal Camp will “only” sell 12,000 tickets (the population of Tolmin could roughly double).

The closest thing metal has to Burning Man, prepare to rough it for a week as you listen to a wide variety of metal from classic heavy bands formed four decades ago (Accept), to avant-garde black (Vulture Industries).

For those who are camping averse, do a homestay in Tolmin or in one of the other hamlets along the Soca River.

Classic bands: Deicide, Death Angel, Hate, Arch Enemy
Recommended tracks: Arch Enemy: “We Will Rise,” Hate – “Hex,” Kalmah: “Heroes To Us,” Deicide: “Serpents of the Light.”

Tuska

When: July 22-24
Where: Helsinki, Finland

Even in the hottest month of the year, Helsinki has an average high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. For those who aren’t fond of the cold, it’s the best time of the year to visit. Tuska is held at a century-old power plant. Suvilahti power plant opened in 1909 and operated until 1976. Instead of demolishing the place entirely, the Finns transformed it into an art space featuring a 24-hour graffiti wall.

Classic bands: Meshuggah, Arch Enemy, At the Gates, Grave, Amon Amarth
Recommended tracks: Meshuggah: “War,” Amon Amarth: “Valhall Awaits Me,” and “Guardians of Asgaard,” Grave: “Soulless.”

Wacken Open Air

Tent city at W:O:A. Photo by cgo2

When: August 4-6
Where: Wacken, Germany

W:O:A has been going strong for more than two decades. It’s held near the small town of Wacken in Germany’s northernmost state and features a wide variety of music from old (Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest) to black (Mayhem, Hellsaw, Cradle of Filth), power (Blind Guardian, Primal Fear, Rhapsody of Fire) to metalcore (As I Lay Dying, Heaven Shall Burn, The Haunted).

This year is officially sold out for the sixth year in a row, so prepare for next year or try your luck with the ticket exchange.

Classic bands: Torture Squad, Morbid Angel, Children of Bodom, Exodus
Recommended tracks: Devildriver: “Knee Deep,” and “Before the Hangman’s Noose,” The Haunted: “D.O.A.,” Exodus: “Deathamphetamine.”

Brutal Assault

When: August 11-13
Where: Jaromer, Czech Republic

Brutal Assault is held a few miles west of the Polish border in Kralovehradecky Kraj. The 18th century defense complex was built to defend against Prussia and is located in the town of Jaromer. Motörhead, headed by rock icon Lemmy Killmister, will be headlining this year’s event. E-tickets are available at a discount until April 30.

Classic bands: Decapitated, Morbid Angel, Atheist, Vader
Recommended tracks: 1349: “Sculptor of Flesh,” Soilwork: “Nerve,” Blood Red Throne: “Mephitication,” Vader: “As Heavens Collide.”

Summer Breeze

When: August 18-20
Where: Dinkelsbühl, Germany

The words “rural Bavaria” don’t usually conjure up images of metal bands, and the name of the festival may be misleading. For one weekend in August in the small town of Dinkelsbuhl (an hour outside of Nuremberg), the population grows from around 11,000 to around 50,000 for the Summer Breeze festival. Death, metalcore, hardcore, thrash and black are represented.

Classic bands: Aborted, Bolt Thrower, Vomitory, Vader
Recommended tracks: Neaera: “Spearheading the Spawn,” Hatebreed: “Destroy Everything,” Trigger the Bloodshed: “The Soulful Dead,”Melechesh: “Ladders to Sumeria.”

Community Connection

Check out more music festivals at our Music Festivals Focus page. If you’re a newbie, a must-read is 12 Tips for Surviving Your First European Heavy Metal Festival.

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