Every May is the World’s Loudest Month, a 4-week stretch of festivals across the country, usually involving many of the same hard rock and metal bands. Famous gatherings such as Rock On The Range, Northern Invasion, and Oklahoma’s yearly “Rocklahoma” are among the festivities. If you’re on the fence about attending, Rocklahoma has a phenomenal lineup this year and occurs May 27-29, and unlike most World’s Loudest Month festivals, Rocklahoma offers the option of camping on-site.

There are plenty of big acts at Rocklahoma this year – including festival veterans Five Finger Death Punch, Rob Zombie, Chevelle, and most of your local hard rock station’s evening rotation – as well as a ton of hair metal bands both big and unknown (Rocklahoma’s specialty niche among the World’s Loudest Month festivals is bringing in 80s or 80s-style acts), but there are also a lot of smaller bands worthy of being household names. Here’s the ten most must-see performances happening over the weekend. Some of them you probably know, some you likely don’t.

In no particular order, make sure to keep an eye out for:

Any time a band can be described as “half Pantera, half Mudvayne”, that’s a great endorsement, but as most people know, Hellyeah is actually composed of members from Pantera and Mudvayne. Over time the band’s sound has shifted towards the Mudvayne spectrum, whereas early work has a more southern, drink-and-raise-hell sort of feel, but what hasn’t changed is how high-quality the songwriting is. Every Hellyeah album has some anthemic, fist-pumping, mosh-and-scream-along tunes, and being a festival performance they’re likely to focus the set on those songs and provide an equally intense performance.

Well Hung Heart
One of the lighter bands on the bill, Well Hung Heart are nonetheless very noteworthy. Blending a love of classic rock and classic punk, they create a nervous, bass-driven buzz for frontwoman Greta Valenti to howl over, often recalling rock godmothers Joan Jett and Pat Benatar while still sounding thoroughly modern. They’re one of the rare bands that pay obvious homage to the bands they grew up on without falling into theft or mimicry, and their hooks hit and hit hard.

Yes, those Scorpions. You will be rocked like a hurricane. The wind will change. Kicks will be had post six in the evening. They’re the biggest name on the bill for a reason, as they helped create many of the elements that are now considered cliché and derivative by many current bands. Legends like this deserve respect.

Wild Throne
Wild Throne are one of the most unique bands at Rocklahoma this year. This three-piece band are as noisy as some six-pieces, threading together galloping, chaotic riffs, quivering, maniacal, howling vocals, and elements of punk and prog all atop a bedrock of southern sludge. If you ever wanted Mastodon and The Mars Volta to collaborate, drop what you’re doing and go listen to Wild Throne. Now.

Arson City
One of the smallest bands on the bill, Omaha natives Arson City are poised to break out big and break out soon. They take the formula for big rock hits, and add dashes of Avenged Sevenfold’s grandiose melodrama and Marilyn Manson’s macabre goth metal. They’ll probably be playing early, but I will be shocked if their crowd doesn’t grow substantially when people passing by are drawn to the stage, and this may be the last chance to catch them in a relatively intimate setting.

Sevendust have been titans for over a decade now, and they show no signs of slowing down. In fact, they received their first Grammy nomination last year, so they may just now be reaching their peak. There has never been a better time to see Sevendust live. They still have the energy they’ve always had, and the massive stockpile of songs to draw from only makes their set more exciting. If we’re lucky, LaJon Witherspoon will even braid some glass beads into his dreadlocks again and beat the hell out of the stage with them.

Another band that have been around the block a couple times, and have struggled to maintain popularity recently, P.O.D. is nonetheless required viewing. Festival sets are where they thrive: wide open pits and hit after hit. They tend to focus on up-tempo, sweaty cuts on outdoor stages (opening with 2-minute hardcore burst “Without Jah, Nothin’” more often than not), and the wilder the crowd goes the harder they play. They may not be the heaviest band playing, but I can promise their pit will be memorable.

This is the band I am personally most excited to see at Rocklahoma. These Swedish metalheads have been playing across Europe for a decade now, but only recently made any headway stateside. They’re a little too heavy for frequent radio play (and are one of the heaviest bands at Rocklahoma), but a little too melodic to be staples on XM radio metal stations, which is a shame, because they should be huge in both formats. The vocals can be melodic and dark like fellow Scandinavians H.I.M, but honestly share more in common with 90s Marilyn Manson’s trademark horror rasp. Featuring a very theatrical, circus-sideshow theme, they are also visually stunning. If you do check them out, good luck getting the riff to “Hail The Apocalypse” out of your head for a couple weekends.

Definitely the heaviest of the 10 best acts Rocklahoma has to offer, DevilDriver are pure metal through-and-through. Dez Fafara (also the frontman of recently reunited band Coal Chamber) shows he is one of the most underrated vocalists in metal on every song, and the band backing him are pummeling even on the relatively lighter moments, but they never sacrifice melody. The riffs aren’t just flashy and they aren’t just tuneful, they’re both. 80s thrashers and modern technical metal gurus alike will find something to enjoy.

To finish things off, it only makes sense to talk about Disturbed. This is their reunion tour after almost a half-decade off, and the band are going to be coming out big. Say what you will about all of their songs sounding the same, it won’t matter once the music starts. Even the most self-conscious attendee may find themselves “ooooh-AH-AH-AH-AH”ing along. This is a band designed to be experienced live. Let’s just hope David Draiman has learned from his recent cell phone gaff, because I’ll want a couple good video clips.

Now you know who I suggest seeing. Who are YOUR must-see bands this year?

rocklahoma 2016

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