The Nine Circles ov… Corey’s Top Live Performances of 2015

behemoth2

For those who know me, I go to a lot of shows. But I’m not alone in that, many of us here at Nine Circles choose to let live music dominate our schedules and, more significantly, our income. But with good reason. For as good as the music is that we listen to on record, it is even more impressive live. Being surrounded by the energy that fills a venue as bands we admire pour their sounds over an audience, with all the visual and sonical elements that go with them, is among my favorite experiences on this God forsaken planet. So, with that said, before we roll into our more traditional formats for The Nine Circles ov… series, I would like to take this opportunity to share nine of my favorite live performances from 2015.

Before getting into my list, there are a couple of housekeeping items I need to cover. For one, these are not my favorite concerts, but rather my favorite individual performances within a concert. Too often does a single band (or two) lessen the impressiveness of a smaller scale opener or main headliner. Also, I can’t just say my favorite was MDF or Wacken… for obvious reasons. Number two, I only chose a couple acts from the aforementioned Maryland Deathfest. It would be really easy to load this thing up with those sets. So to keep this balanced, I’ve picked two that stood out above the rest. Finally, there were a number of other smaller shows that have resonated with me that I would love to mention but had to leave out. The reason is simply that there were so many bigger names that impressed me this year, even given the expectations, and when you really boil it down to the level of enjoyment, I had to kick a few performances that otherwise may have made it. Ok, all that stuff covered, let’s roll into it.

Insomnium (1/7/2015 & 8/13/2015 at The Palladium Upstairs, Worcester)

insomnium

Insomnium deserves a shoutout for both killer performances at The Palladium this past year. The first show, almost a year ago to the day, was an opener for Dark Tranquillity in what was an awesome night overall. It was my first time seeing them, and seeing them tour one of my favorite albums of 2014 in Shadows of the Dying Sun was unreal. The show in August was a different. With a portion of the band, including Nillo, having to bail on the tour, they still gave a memorable show with a couple stand-ins executing a wonderfully diverse setlist to near perfection.

Deafheaven (11/3/2015 at The Royale, Boston)

deafheaven

I actually consider myself lucky to have made it to this show. This was, what, my third or fourth show within a week and I half contemplated bailing on it. Thank god I didn’t. After Tribulation and Envy opened with impressive performances, Deafheaven reminded me once again why they are one of my favorite live shows. Covering everything off of the latest New Bermuda while still closing with a couple memorable tracks off of Sunbather, it was a perfect setlist performed with all the emotion that makes Deafheaven so impressive.

Behemoth (2/27/2015 at the House of Blues, Boston)

behemoth

Behemoth is my favorite band in large part because of their live performance. In fact, despite having seen them at least six times at this point, you can go ahead and assume they’ll make some kind of ‘Best of Concerts’ list at the end of any year in which I see them. While I had seen the Polish legends perform much of The Satanist (album of the year, 2014) the previous year (twice), they still had me completely entranced by this show. This was done by implementing tracks off this album previously unseen live while also breaking out enough of their older discography to keep me focused and fired up throughout the set.

Vattnet Viskar (8/26/2015 at The Great Scott, Allston)

vattnetviskar

Vattnet is another one of those bands that I will see whenever they come around. Fortunately, they are from the area (my home state, just as a reminder) and I get that opportunity regularly. While they impressed at Maryland Deathfest, the show at The Great Scott stands out a bit more. It’s partly because they had a longer set and were able to dig into their discography and play some of my favorite tracks not only from Settler but also from Sky Swallower, which was amazing. But it’s also because seeing them perform smaller venues is far more of an experience. I love these guys and these shows are a big reason why. After all, it’s how I got into them in the first place.

Amorphis (5/24/2015 at Maryland Deathfest XIII)

amorphis

I’ll never forget the moment when I learned that Amorphis would be playing Maryland Deathfest XIII. And then to learn they would be playing Tales From The Thousand Lakes in its entirety as part of a 20th anniversary tour was nothing short of a dream. I had waited many years to see the Finnish folk metallers perform live and this performance was certainly worth the wait. Now, given how incredible Under The Red Cloud was, it would be great to see them again before a similar number of years pass. Actually, zero would be ideal.

Tribulation (11/3/2015 at The Royale, Boston)

tribulation

Yes, this is the second time I’ve referenced this particular concert. Kinda funny how I previously talked about how I almost didn’t go it it, right? Tribulation initially caught my attention when I saw them open for Behemoth back in February (also linked above). But after studying their music further and having had The Children of the Night drop, they quickly became one of my favorite discoveries of the year. Going into this show more knowledgeable and more familiar with their music made it significantly more enjoyable.

Blind Guardian (10/31/2015 at The Palladium, Worcester)

blindguardian

Yes, what you see above is accurate. I saw Blind Guardian, for the first time in my life, on Halloween. It wasn’t long after Beyond The Red Mirror dropped, so I had already been anticipating some kind of live activity. Obviously, given my luck in seeing them the previous few years, I wasn’t that optimistic. Yet, everything worked out. They came back to the States and delivered a show that contained everything I could have asked for and then some. And by ‘and then some’ I refer, of course, to Hansi dressed as Elvis and the rest of the band in some other weird jester costumes. What the hell? It was Halloween. And one of the best nights of my year.

Primordial (5/24/2015 at Maryland Deathfest XIII)

primordial

Despite everything that Amorphis, Triptykon, Neurosis, etc brought to MDF this past year, no band impressed me more than Primordial. Where The Great Men Have Fallen was another one of my favorite albums of 2014 and having them walk out to the rhythmic beast that is the title-track fired me up to a level I rarely experience at live shows. But that was only the start of an absolutely incredible set that terminated with “Empire Falls”. The only weird thing? Seeing them play in the middle of the day as the sun burned us into the pavement. Thank God for that cowboy hat.

Mgła (11/7/2015 at The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge)

mgla

What more can we say about this band this year? After dropping the immense Exercises in Futility earlier in the fall (and an album that ended up on plenty of ‘Best of 2015’ lists), Mgła also delivered my favorite live show of the year. It would have been easy to fill their hour or so set exclusively with new material, but they didn’t do that. The setlist covered all ranges of their impressive discography and it was all performed as close to perfection as anything I have experienced live. Yes, they certainly took their time with the sound check, but it was all worth it. Not to mention playing one of my favorite small venues meant I was able to slide my way to the very front, allowing their blistering black metal to pummel me into submission. Without a doubt, one of the best albums of the year was followed up by one of the best live performances of the year. And what a year 2015 was for Mgła.

And I thought I had a good year. Jesus. Anyway, those are some of my highlights from 2015 in concerts. Of course, there are dozens of performances that I would love to have included. But when I think about the bands that stuck out in my mind from the year, this is the best of it.

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
– Corey

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