On Saturday there would be a slew of fresh and upcoming talent to start off the day. Bands like Another Day Dawns, Hallow Intent, Head Hunter and local metalcore Virginian’s RVNT would kick off our musical adventure for the day. There was some disappointing news announced the day before, and that was that fan favorites All That Remains would have to cancel their performance due to COVID concerns within the band’s camp. I was personally really looking forward to seeing them since it’s been almost 3 years since the last time I had seen them live. But these days, it’s all about keeping the bands, crews and fans safe at all costs. With a large void in the early afternoon, luckily there would be some very talented groups of musicians to help with the workload. Raleigh, North Carolina’s iconic metal four piece Corrosion of Conformity would light up the URW Stage for their only performance of 2021. The band would serve up a short set but would certainly make it a vicious one with songs like Albatross, Wiseblood and Clean My Wounds. 10 Years would bring singer Jesse Hasek to the stage wearing a white outfit, black hoodie and signature bird mask to a rousing ovation. It wouldn’t take long for the band to get going with Shoot It Out, The Wicked Ones and Fix Me and provide the fans an exhilarating start to their set. Even after a solid ten song set, 10 Years would move their talents over to the VIP for a short intimate acoustic set.
Next up would be a band that will always raise the level of brutality in any crowd in any venue in the world. And that would be none other than the legendary hardcore act Hatebreed. Before they can even hit the stage the thousands strong voices their “HATEBREED” chants as if they are about to go into battle. Those chants change to roars as the band get into position and descend into a ruthless timeline of songs going back to the beginning with Empty Promises off of Satisfaction is the Death of Desire. On the first note the circle pits erupt all over in the crowd and for those that opted out would make up for it by jumping up with their devil horns high in the sky. For all the Slayer fans in attendance, Hatebreed would break out their rendition of the deep cut Ghosts of War. It’s rare that when metal fans start those token “Slayer” chants, that they actually get answered. Tracks like Last Breath, Perseverance and To the Threshold kept the insanity going full throttle. But Hatebreed dropped the hammer with I Will Be Heard and to close out their set of devastation would be their chaotic anthem Destroy Everything. This thirteen song set proved to be one of the most punishing of the festival so far.
As their set was wrapping up, luckily it was a quick trot back to the Monster Energy Stage for the most theatrical and explosive bands on the entire festival, the Swedish avant-garde Avatar. They storm the stage in their matching red shirts and black overalls as the band’s singer and ringmaster Johannes Eckerström greets the crowd in his signature coat and hat. It wouldn’t take long for the windmills of hair to start flying as the band jumped right into Silence in the Age of Apes. Their unique sound and stage show certainly sets them apart from other acts throughout the day and the entire festival. The metal legends of Orlando Trivium would be the next big crowd draw as they set to conquer the URW Stage. Singer Matt Heafy embraces the fans with open arms and token extended tongue before he leads the charge into the bands newest single In the Court of the Dragon. Immediately the crowd erupts with applause and a multitude of mosh pits and puts a smile on the band’s face right out of the gate. Another track off of the band’s new record and keeping with its brutal tone is Feast of Fire which the fans would belt out every word as if it had been out for years. Trivium gave the fans all they could possibly ask for with their electricity and dynamic range of music and vocals.
Even though the bulk of bands on this festival may be of the metal variety, there would be a shift in the tides. The intimidating look of Body Count on stage is undeniable. But when Ice-T emerges from backstage wearing a bulletproof vest and stares right into the souls of the crowd, it absolutely adds an “Oh Shit” factor. And without warning Body Count delivers the Slayer classic Reign in Blood which sends the fans into sheer chaos, sending clouds of dirt high into the sky. They made an impact right away and their unparalleled blend of rap, metal and punk had something for everyone with hits like There Goes the Neighborhood and the controversial staple Cop Killer. It was also a bit of a family affair as Ice-T brought his daughter out on stage during the set to a huge ovation as his wife Coco could only smile and clap with pride. Body Count wouldn’t be the only Cali legend at this point of Day 3. Firing it up ironically on the StayLit Stage would be none other than Cypress Hill. The iconic MC’s B-Real and Sen Dog rolled up and burned through a setlist that would be worthy of a greatest hits album. A to the K, Hand on the Pump and Tequila Sunrise would be just a small dose of hits that would get the crowd going. The latter part of the set would have been even more loaded with classic tunes like Dr. Greenthumb, (Rock) Superstar and Insane to the Brain. Cypress Hill’s performance had the fans locked in from the start and they only increased their momentum throughout their staggering 20 song set.
The 7 o’clock slots were pretty packed with talent, forcing fans to make a difficult decision as to who they were going to catch. We had Seether and Lamb of God on at 7 sharp and Jelly Roll hitting the stage shortly after at 7:20. For me personally it was no question at all that I’m heading to the URW Stage for the intensity that would surely be displayed. When the band walks out the fans go wild. But it’s when they catch sight of front man Randy Blythe casually strolling out from backstage that they erupt with excitement. They soon explode into Momento Mori and all of that aggression triggers mayhem in the crowd. As Randy whips his long dreadlocks around like tentacles it only fuels the raw power of the crushing riffs and thunderous rhythm sections. The madness on stage would soon give way to small detonations of pyro from the corners of the stage. But as Randy delivers his metal hymns from the drum riser he turns and performs one of his sky high jumps and while in mid-flight, the stage explodes with pyro all around the band. There’s a reason that Lamb of God has the reputation as one the best live bands in the world, and this set would certainly back that up. It’s no surprise with songs like Now You’ve Got Something to Die For, Redneck and of course Laid to Rest they will always deliver an absolutely brutal display.
Of the four bands that have been a part of the Metal Tour of the Year only one remains. Standing in front of the StayLit Stage looking at the enormous Megadeth banner as it hangs high above the wall of Marshall amp cabinets paints a surreal picture that I am finally getting my chance to see this legendary band. While the eerie sounds for Dave Mustaine’s monologue from Prince of Darkness the images of Vic Rattlehead begin to flood the LED panels across the stage. As the spotlights bounce off the stage and the crowd Megadeth emerge from the shadows to unleash their metal serenade Hangar 18. All you could watch in awe as Mustaine and Kiko Loureiro took turns shredding up and down their respected instruments making it all look too easy. This would also mark a second tour of duty for bassist James LoMenzo since the departure of longtime bassist Danny Ellefson, who looks right at home as he works the crowd from the front of the stage. After a plethora of classic Megadeth tracks including Sweating Bullets, Conquer or Die and Tornado of Souls, the band set their sights on one of the biggest songs in their catalog and one that would definitely bring the crowds energy with their legendary Symphony of Destruction. With one of the most notable riffs in all of metal the fans would honor the song with a thunderous ovation and a sea of devil horns. And as if the set couldn’t get any better Megadeth dropped another renowned track Peace Sells and to wrap up an amazing performance with Holy Wars… Punishment Due and really giving the crowd a show they will remember for a long time to come.
With 9:30pm approaching, the sea of people migrate back to the Monster Energy Stage for the last time on Day 3 as Five Finger Death Punch is set to take the stage. When the lights on stage go dark it does not take long for drummer Charlie Engen to jump up behind the kit and get the crowd fired up before the rest of the band joins him on stage. But when front man Ivan Moody shoots out in his white hoodie and beanie up to his riser the fans erupt. FFDP dropped the hammer out of the gate with their crushing title track off of the F8 record. If there’s one thing that this band does not lack, is energy. From the first note it was like a shot of adrenaline to the arm of the crowd and would only up the dosage through songs like Inside Out, Wash It All Away and Sham Pain.
As Ivan walked to the front of the stage holding an American flag the “USA” chants were immediate. After he calls a small meeting with the band, Moody walks to the edge of the stage looking for two police officers that had been patrolling the barricade. Once he spots them they are asked to come up to the stage. Ivan leans over and tells them “To your department from Five Finger Death Punch and we thank you for everything you do and stand for”. He then turns back to the crowd and says “On the count of three I wanna see everyone salute. 1, 2 SALUTE”. To see thousands of people salute these men like a Four Star General was truly an amazing sight. One song that is always going to get those in attendance to test out their vocal prowess would be the band’s stellar cover of Bad Company. Sitting on the hill high above the stage the echoes of the fans’ voices proved to be incredibly powerful as they sang along with Moody.
Just as No One Gets Left Behind kicks off Moody stops the band in their tracks as he notices some fans having a tough time in the crowd. Ivan calls out “Young lady. Would you and your father like to get out of harm’s way and watch the show from up here?”. Five Finger wait until they are lifted over the barricades before they jump back to the ferocity. Mid-set Five Finger would slow things down a bit as guitar virtuoso Andy James stands with his acoustic guitar and jokingly messes up his rendition of Battle Born and Remember Everything to Ivan’s frustration. But luckily they managed to pull it together to pull off an emotion packed version of their hit Wrong Side of Heaven. For the start of Not Enough Ivan had the entire festival grounds jumping up and giving added life to those in the crowd.
Afterwards Ivan tells the band he wants to pick up the pace because his friends in Lamb of God are watching. Soon the chants “Burn mother fucker burn” start to fill the night sky and the band break into 2013’s Burn MF. The brutal riffs and crushing drums made this a head banging freight train topped off by an amazing drum solo by the one and only Charlie Engen with plenty of pyro and lasers to go around. Zoltan, Chris and Ivan would belt out those powerful chorus lines during Over and Under It turning the 40,000 fans into backup singers once again. Before the last song of the night is revealed Ivan would make another fan’s night by rewarding her with his signature bat for 72 days of sobriety. As the fans still cheer on that woman’s accomplishment Five Finger Death Punch embark on the last song of the night with The Bleeding. The band had a little bit more in the tank and left it all on the stage as they closed the day’s festivities with a bang, leaving the fans musically fulfilled. But one daunting thing lingers in everyone’s mind as they walk out is… only one day left.