Who are The Next Generation Of Metal Festival Headliners?

The first generation have all-but retired. The second generation are taking their curtain calls. Some of the third generation are at least starting on the encores. So what (and more to the point, who) comes next?

Carl fondles his crystal ball…

Black Sabbath have retired from touring. So have Mötley Crüe. Iron Maiden are cutting back on the huge, globe-straddling jaunts. AC/DC are a shadow of their former selves and have almost become a tribute band, thanks to the treatment of Brian Johnson. Judas Priest must be starting to wind down now, as must Alice Cooper. Even Metallica, the newly re-united Guns N’ Roses, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson will be counting their remaining time on the road in years, rather than decades.

The same goes for Kiss, even though Gene Simmons will probably be working on a plan to sell even more of the legacy of “the hottest band in the world” before even he has to call it a day.

These are the things that, apparently, keep various media pundits, so called “fans” and mega-festival promoters awake at night.

Those of us who are keeping our eyes and ears open to those outside the stables of the likes of BMG, Universal, Sony and Geffen have seen the future, and it has a much rosier, healthier complexion than the doom-mongers would have us believe.

Allow me to guide you along an admittedly mostly subjective path, in no particular order other than the meanderings of my own mind:

Rammstein

The German technometal pioneers have got a massive, pyrotechnic-filled stage show, a charismatic frontman in Till Lindemann and they’ve certainly got the songs. Anyone who has been to any sort of Metal night in the past decade or so has heard the likes of Du Hast, Feuer Frei or Links 234 pounding out of the speakers and at the very least seen the mosh pit that forms as the dancefloor fills. The friction inside the band that almost broke them up a few years ago seems to have gone away.  Having seen them at Sonisphere in 2010, headlining the second stage, it wouldn’t be too much of an ask for them to take the logical next step and grab the glory of Main Stage Headliners.

Nightwish

To headline a festival, you need a band with a HUGE, bombastic sound and charisma to spare. The most important thing, though, is the songs. Tuomas Holopainen’s Symphonic Metal crew have all of those by the truckload. In Floor Jansen, they have someone who can literally sing anything from Death Metal to Opera, hitting all points in between and a truly commanding stage presence. As Gemma Lawler of British upstarts, Dakesis rightly said, “she’s a goddess”. The male side of the vocals being provided by Finnish Metal stalwart and Tarot founder, Marco Hietala certainly doesn’t hurt. Neither does the sheer quality and strength-in-depth of the band’s back catalogue and musicianship.

Avenged Sevenfold

Abandoning their Emo/-core roots and showing they can play and write songs that will burrow into your head and stay there (which, in this case isn’t a bad thing) has done A7x no end of favours. Their turning point was, most likely, the City Of Evil album. That’s the one where M Shadows actually start to sing, rather than scream. Guitar solos became more prevalent and the sheer melody was accentuated.

Like Metallica and even Def Leppard before them, disaster didn’t kill them. Even though Rick Allen “only” lost an arm and both Cliff and Rev lost their lives, all three bands were tempered by the fires, when lesser bands would have crumbled or at the very least, like Slipknot, when faced with the death of Paul Grey, lost their momentum.

As Mabh’s review from their recent UK trek showed, A7x have certainly got the chops to headline an arena tour. If they can do that, they’ve certainly got what it takes to headline the likes of Download.

They’ve even got a pre-made nickname in A7x.

Alter Bridge

It’s very tough to argue with a pedigree like Alter Bridge’s. Not only do they have Myles Kennedy, who could sing the phone book and make it interesting, they’ve also got Mark Tremonti on guitar. His own solo material is good stuff, and earns its plaudits with very good reason, but when he works with Slash’s vocalist of choice, it’s all over bar the shouting.

They’ve certainly got the songs. Anastasia, for instance. That one’s a festival closer by any and all measures. It’s not the only one in their arsenal, either. Whenever they release an album, it makes the annual top ten lists every time.

As I said, you really can’t argue.

Prophets Of Rage

Here’s another one that is almost impossible to argue with. Surprisingly, it’s the only “supergroup” on the list. Even more surprisingly, these guys have only released an EP so far.

Who are they?

You all remember Rage Against The Machine, right? Definite festival headliners. Replace Zak De La Rocha with Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord and Cypress Hill’s B-Real, light the blue touchpaper with the current political climate in the US, UK and all around Europe and stand well back.

OK, like most supergroups, they may not have the longevity of the likes of Rammstein, Nightwish, Alter Bridge and A7x, but while they’re around, if you were in a band, would YOU like to try and follow THEM onto the Main Stage at a festival?

So that’s the immediate future sorted out. Come back next week and we’ll take a look even deeper into the future and take a look at the bands who may well take over in the decades to come…

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