“People gotta let us run amok,” said Lars Ulrich, drummer for Metallica when we interviewed him about the Orion Music + More festival he and his bandmates are putting on the weekend of June 23 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. And amok they did run… in the best way possible, judging from the fest’s lineup. But after we got over the excitement of seeing names like Best Coast, Titus Andronicus, and Arctic Monkeys sitting next to metal stalwarts like Avenged Sevenfold and Sepultura, we got to thinking, How is this going to work? Even with four stages, organizing the groups is a tall order.
Luckily, the producers did a great job. They did right by bands and fans alike by letting Metallica play unopposed, so everyone can enjoy the classic LPs they’ll be playing in their entirety: Ride the Lightning and the “Black Album.” And, for the most part, headbangers and head nodders alike should be able to decide between seeing Suicidal Tendencies and Modest Mouse, Titus Andronicus and Avenged Sevenfold. But even in the best-case scenario at festivals, there are some tough decisions to make, especially when there are two or more similar sounding or equally exciting groups playing at the same time. Below we’ve listed the five hardest decisions you’ll have to make that weekend and added our recommendation for the best call. After all, you’ll want to feel like you made the most of your day before you surrender to Metallica.
5. Baroness vs. Black Tusk, 1:00/1:00-1:45/2:00, Saturday
Hard rock or sludge metal. Despite both bands having roots in Savannah, Georgia, the differences between them are apparent. Baroness have toned down their sludge-metal sound on their forthcoming double-album Yellow & Green, and Black Tusk have likely never heard the phrase “toned down” because of how loud they chant “666” over their crusty brand of sludge.
Recommendation: Baroness. The group is at an interesting crossroads of musical styles, something Metallica embraced when they put out their “Black Album,” and the nexus between rock and metal is sort of what this fest is all about. But if hard rock and metal aren’t your bag, there’s always secret option C: hypnotic psychedelic rockers Wooden Shjips, who go on at 1:15.
4. A Place to Bury Strangers vs. Liturgy, 1:00/1:00-1:45/2:00, Sunday
The New York noise battle. On one hand you have the shoegazing Brooklyn-based feedback mongers, who make their own guitar pedals and crank them to deafening dBs, while on the other you have New York proper’s Liturgy, a band that prides itself on taking black metal to its experimental outer limits.
Recommendation: The early afternoon timeslot isn’t helping either, but we’d probably go with Liturgy, because their music will translate to daylight better. A Place to Bury Strangers are known for impressive visuals (not counting this NSFW video) to complement their washes of feedback. But as Liturgy have moved more into post-metal, even sounding like a heavier Tortoise at times, their rhythmic metal is a better way to start the day.
3. Ghost vs. the Black Angels, 2:00/2:15-3:00/3:00, Sunday
When it comes to picking between two different kinds of darkness there’s much to consider. Sweden’s Ghost have cultivated an evil image, thanks to masking their front ghoul in skull makeup and a papal hat, but play metal more in the vein of Blue Öyster Cult. Meanwhile, Austin psychedelic garage group Black Angels are anti-image but don’t suffer for it because of their knack for creating minor-key soundscapes that just envelope you.
Recommendation: Black Angels, because image isn’t everything. Plus, you have enough time to see what the hype is about at Ghost’s stage and huff it over to the Frantic stage to attain an even darker state of mind.
2. letlive. vs. Roky Erickson vs. Lucero, 2:30/2:45/3:00-4:00/3:30/3:15 Saturday
For the only real tough decision that doesn’t involve metal, post-hardcore group letlive. faces off with Erickson, the psych-rock icon who once fronted “You’re Gonna Miss Me” singers 13th Floor Elevators, and country-tinged rockers Lucero, who put out new album Women & Work this year.
Recommendation: If it weren’t a three-way tie, we’d be inclined to say letlive., simply because the band puts in the work to create a fun, punk-rock live show, as frontman Jason Butler tumbles around the stage. But, because Roky Erickson, who is schizophrenic, plays shows so sporadically—and still sounds great when he does—he trumps the others.
1. Best Coast vs. Torche, 4:00/4:00-4:45/5:00, Sunday
Here are two bands with vastly different sounds, both hitting their peaks. Indie rockers Best Coast are on the current cover of SPIN(!) and released their excellent, second album of catchy songs, The Only Place last month. On the flipside, Torche have perfected a rumbly, buzzy brand of post-hardcore that we called “the gold standard for cotton-candy-coated, cloud-bashing, do-the-Dü bubblegum metal” earlier this year.
Recommendation: Best Coast. As your choices for the rest of Sunday are all pretty heavy — Sepultura, Black Dahlia Murder, Volbeat, Avenged Sevenfold — you’ll want to indulge the chance of seeing something different before you start revving up to hear the “Black Album.”
Honorary mention: Volbeat vs. Black Dahlia Murder, 5:00/5:15-6:00/6:00 Sunday
Like some of the other metal-on-metal conflicts, it’s tough to choose between the Danish punk-a-billy rockers, whose most recent album is the undeniably catchy Beyond Hell/Above Heaven, and the death metalcore of Michigan’s Black Dahlia Murder, whose latest Ritual is a career best for the band.
Recommendation: Volbeat, because they play a unique brand of heavy music that sounds like a four corners meet-up between Social Distortion, the Misfits, Johnny Cash and Metallica, and you won’t soon forget songs like “Sad Man’s Tongue” and “We.”