Louder Than Life 2023: Do Not Miss These Bands

Louder than Life will return to the Highland Festival Grounds this year from Thursday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 24.

Here are the under-the-radar bands not to miss, as recommended by our writers:

Thursday, Sept. 21
1:40 p.m. – 2:10 p.m. – Revolver Stage

Saddled with an unfortunate early Thursday afternoon time slot on the smaller Revolver stage, Kyng’s set will most likely be overlooked and ignored by many festival goers. Don’t do that. Easily one of the most underrated bands playing Louder Than Life, this year, Kyng is a band that absolutely deserves your time and attention. Formed in Los Angeles in 2008 as a side-project and a “last hurrah” for vocalist/guitarist Eddie Veliz, who had a steady full-time job going on at the time, Kyng quickly grew in popularity around the L.A. area and soon became the main focus for Veliz, drummer Pepe Clarke, and original bassist Tony Castaneda,  who left the band in 2019. Now, 15 years into that ‘last hurrah,’ Kyng has three full-length studio albums, an acoustic album, and tours with the likes of Megadeth, Clutch, Danzig, and Black Label Society under their belts. Their brand of stoner rock, which features Veliz’s rich, smooth vocals — backed by a bombastic, driving, groove-oriented guitar/bass/drum attack plucked from influences ranging from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Cream to Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden — stand out from the crowd at this year’s Louder Than Life. (Queens of the Stone Age, Gnome, and Tigercub are the only other bands playing LTL remotely close in sound.) August 2023 saw Kyng’s return with the release of their latest single “Haunting Visions,” their first new studio material in seven years, and word that a new album is in the works. For all the reasons to get to Louder Than Life early on Thursday, Kyng might be the best one!—Jeff Polk


Guerrilla Warfare
Thursday, Sept. 21
2:15-2:45 – Disruptor Stage

While it pains me to spotlight only one of the four local bands who’ll be playing LTL this year, I’ve wanted to cover Guerrilla Warfare (GW) for the longest time. Again, borrowing from a previous Tuesday Tracklist: GW played during the opening weekend of my favorite bar, Losers 812; they toured with the aforementioned Gideon; they’re on a track with Tallah; and their song “Run It Back” is just so… what’s not to love? Vocalist Garrett Hood raps, sings, and drums, and the song itself is powerful and raspy and just fucking cool. These guys and their self-described “rap core [sic] lyrical miracle” project are climbing in the hardcore world, and I’m excited to see where they go next. – Carolyn Brown

Friday, Sept. 22
6:05 p.m. – Disruptor Stage

Canadian rockers Kittie are bringing their brand of death metal/nu-metal to the stages of Louder Than Life. Firstly, what I won’t entertain is the hangover question about how hard ladies can rock…looking at the Louder than Life lineup, with all of the female acts, and there are many, that question answers itself. Kittie brings solid musicianship with vocals ranging from your classic death metal, ‘cookie-monster’ to more melodic hard-rock-style vocals. Kittie will melt your face off, and, if you’re into that sort of thing, then may your kinky-ass dreams come true. Definitely influenced by bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, their last album came out in 2011 but they did perform a more recent single in May of this year. Will they introduce more new music? I guess that remains to be seen. I hope so.—Erica Rucker

Friday, Sept. 22
3-3:30 p.m. – Revolver Stage

Imagine you’re reaching out to pet an adorable kitten, only to have it hiss, arch its back and scratch you. That’s kind of what Hanabie is like, except the kitten turns into a bear and viciously rips your face off. Seeing these four soft-spoken, sweet, innocent-looking young women when they’re not playing, you’d never assume anything. But then you hear their music. There’s a reason why there are so many reaction videos to people hearing this band for the first time. An all-female four-piece band out of Tokyo, Japan, Hanabie formed in 2015 while the members were still in high school, choosing the name Hanabie, which is a Japanese word for chilly spring weather — the original members were all born in either spring or winter months. Self-described “Harajuku-core,” Hanabie mixes metalcore with J-Pop, anime, and even elements of hip-hop and EDM for a sound that is unique, to say the least. Vocals snap back and forth on a dime between cutesy and poppy to vicious guttural screams, backed by some of the sickest, most aggressive hardcore riffs and breakdowns you’ll ever hear. Imagine Knocked Loose and Slipknot doing an Anime soundtrack, and that’s about as close as I can get to describing this. After releasing a demo, an ep, a full-length album, and several singles, the band was signed to Epic Records Japan — a subsidiary of Sony Music Japan — and just released their major label debut album Reborn Superstar! in late July of 2023. Currently out on their first world tour, their set at Louder Than Life will mark one of their first ever U.S. shows. Hanabie is bringing something absolutely new and different to metal, and whether you love their sound or hate it, this is a band you can’t ignore and will never forget.—Jeff Polk



Thursday, Sept. 21
5:50 p.m. – Disruptor Stage

Art punk, metal, hard rockers L7 are OGs. They’ve been around a long time and they have been making solid music for a really long time. Definitely in-line with the in-your-face punk ethic, they will sooner sing you an athemic “fuck you” than coddle your feelings with sweet tunes. Politically engaged, L7 has fought for women’s rights including the right to access to safe abortions. Probably my favorite performance by L7 was their appearance as the band Camel Lips in the movie “Serial Mom.” This band is pro-pussy power, and if that hurts your tender feelings, then you might want to miss L7’s show but for those of you not afraid of some strong female power and good grinding guitars then ready yourself for a great show. —Erica Rucker


The Hu
Saturday, Sept. 23
3 p.m. – Space Zebra Stage

I’ve written about The Hu before and interviewed them before their Mercury Ballroom show last year, so I’ve been long sold on their metal sound. From Mongolia, they mix traditional vocals, instruments, and sounds with the trappings of heavy metal. Their songs lift up their culture and history and pay reverence to the divine feminine that created them. Their cover of Metallica’s “Sad but True” gained them quite a bit of attention, but don’t limit your ears to covers. My personal favorites of theirs include “Wolf Totem,” “Yuve Yuve Yu,” and “Song of Women.”

It’s nice to hear a band that sings about women in ways that don’t involve “show me your T&A,” which I hoped would have died with most of ‘80s hair metal. The Hu are always a breath of fresh air, so don’t miss their set.—Erica Rucker

The Emo Night Tour
Sunday, Sept. 24
6:30-7 p.m. — Road Hounds Stage

I know there are some purists who’ll insist I replace this with a live set instead, but honestly, I’ve been to “emo night”-type events before and every one of them has always been a blast. If you miss the glory days of emo/screamo/etc., check out this set. – Carolyn Brown

Saturday, Sept. 23
6:20 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Disruptor Stage

For those unfamiliar, melodic death metal band Dethklok’s success is unparalleled. The biggest entertainment act of all time, Dethklok ranks as seventh-largest economy on earth, and hundreds of thousands of fans flock to their every show willing to risk life and limb to see vocalist Nathan Explosion, guitarists Skwisgaar Skwigelf and Toki Wartooth, bassist William Murderface, and Pickles the drummer live, (and their shows typically end in thousands of deaths and dismemberments). At least that’s their story on the animated series Metalocalypse, which ran on Adult Swim from 2006 to 2013. In reality, Dethklok is show creator, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Brendon Small backed by metal drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan, bassist Bryan Beller, and guitarist Nili Brosh. While the music is completely serious, the lyrics are anything but; with song titles such as “Briefcase Full of Guts,” “I Ejaculate Fire,” “Gardener of Vengeance,” “I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin,” “Impeach God,” and of course “Bloodrocuted,” Dethklok simultaneously celebrates and pokes fun at the death metal genre as a whole. For concerts, the actual live band of Small, Hoglan, Beller, and Brosh play the songs mostly in the shadows, backlit by clips from the animated series and stage lights that face out towards the crowd. After Metalocalypse was inexplicably canceled by Adult Swim, (it was one of their highest rated shows at the time), save for a handful of live shows, Dethklok fell silent for the past decade. However, last month saw a full-blown resurrection of the band with the new full-length animated movie and soundtrack Metalocalypse: Army of the Doomstar, the brand new full-length album Dethalbum IV, and their first tour in 11 years, co-headlining with Babymetal, (who are also playing LTL on Saturday). The Metalocalypse is upon us. Dethklok is back!—Jeff Polk


Zero 9:36
Saturday, Sept. 23
4:30-5 p.m. – Revolver Stage

I discovered Zero 9:36 by chance at my first ever Louder Than Life, and man, am I so happy he’s coming back. It’s been a long two years!

As I wrote in my first ever Tuesday Tracklist, Zero (aka Matthew Cullen) brings a cool combo of rap and emo/screamo metal. If I were a pro baseball player or wrestler and needed a walk-up song, his track “I’m Not” would be it. There’s so much power in that arena-ready chorus — “I’M! NOT! SEARCHING FOR FORGIVENESS! AND I’M! NOT! TAKING BACK THE THINGS I’VE DONE!” — that it’s impossible not to love. If you like what you hear, you can also check out Zero’s band in Gideon’s set on the Disruptor Stage immediately after this one.—Carolyn Brown