Mastodon is one of the many hard rock and metal bands playing the High Elevation Rock Festival this weekend.
Mastodon is one of the many hard rock and metal bands playing the High Elevation Rock Festival this weekend.
Photo courtesy of Mastodon

Ten Bands Not to Miss at the High Elevation Rock Festival

This weekend the High Elevation Rock Festival descends on Fiddler's Green, September 22 to 23, with two stages jam-packed with hard rock and metal bands. The Main Stage headliners — Five Finger Death Punch on Friday and Korn on Saturday — are the big draws, but there are gems all over the bill. Here are ten bands that you shouldn’t miss.

Officially, Halestorm has been active since 1997, when frontwoman Lzzy Hale was thirteen and her drummer brother Arejay was ten. But the band really got going when it signed to Atlantic in 2005. Its self-titled debut album was released in 2009, and now there’s no stopping this Halestorm. A combination of classic heavy metal and radio-friendly hard rock can be cheesy in the wrong hands, but the Pennsylvania group handles it expertly. It's toured with some stinkers, like Disturbed, Stone Sour, Seether and Alterbridge, but has also held its own with Heaven & Hell and Buckcherry. These days, Halestorm is a festival stalwart, so expect a killer set.

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All That Remains
Springfield, Massachusetts, metal/hardcore band All That Remains took some heat this year when it included a cover of Garth Brooks’s “The Thunder Rolls” on its new Madness album. The truth, though, is that the move just added another fascinating dimension to what was already an interesting band. Frontman Phil Labonte has one of those great sing/growl vocal techniques, and he even gets a little aggro with Brooks’s tune. In the live environment, expect a brutal set and maybe a circle pit or two.

I Prevail
Another band with a notable cover is I Prevail, from Southfield, Michigan. The group posted a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” on YouTube, and the song wound up on Fearless Records’ Punk Goes Pop Vol. 6 compilation. The band has been active since 2014, and last year’s Lifelines album also came out on Fearless, so Swift helped the group get a deal. By all accounts, I Prevail shreds live, so look out.

Tattooed Strings
One of the local bands on the bill, Tattooed Strings got together in 2012, inspired by a shared love of Incubus, Linkin Park, Sublime, the Roots, Bob Marley and many more. Now, in typical Denver fashion, these musicians are blending hip-hop and reggae with rock. They’re just doing it a little bit better than most other bands of a similar ilk. Cheer the home team.

Steel Panther
Oh, this one has to be fun. Right in the middle of all of that earnestness and angst comes the most ludicrous, gloriously offensive band on the planet. Steel Panther will no doubt step up right after P.O.D. and before In This Moment, and remind every metal-head at Fiddler’s Green that a sense of humor is essential. But like Spinal Tap and Dewey Cox, the jokes only work if the songs are great, and Steel Panther has hair-metal tunes that stick in your head forever. This band is dumb, but it’s so much fun.

Them Evils
Straight outta Orange County, Them Evils play a sort of leather-clad sleazy rock and roll reminiscent of AC/DC, Kyuss and Saxon. It’s not pretty-boy hair stuff, but rather mustache-heavy, motorcycle-friendly blues-based rock. If the movie Easy Rider were remade today, Them Evils would be on the soundtrack. The band — third on the second stage on Saturday, immediately before the main-stage acts start — will inevitably get your motor running.

If the Misfits got hammered drunk with Thin Lizzy in a garage decorated with black lights, lava lamps and Jim Morrison posters, the inevitable jam would sound pretty much exactly like Radkey. There’s a glorious Glenn Danzig vibe to Dee Radke’s delivery, while the songwriting is hooky, insistent and fun. Radkey plays the second stage right before Steel Panther hits the main stage, which is perfect.

Zakk Sabbath
Zakk Wylde has played with Ozzy Osbourne on-and-off for years, so who better to fill the gap now that Black Sabbath is off the road? Wylde has learned from the main man himself, so you just know that the classic tunes will be done justice. Is it a glorified tribute band? Sure. But there’s still glory in it. Zakk Sabbath headlines the second stage on Saturday, handily helping you forget that the Stone Sour set ever happened.

In This Moment
L.A. alt-metal band In This Moment, fronted by the wonderful Maria Brink, formed in 2006 and now has six albums in its arsenal. The evolution across this period of time has been overt, both visually and musically. Now the act is at the top of its game, and this year’s Ritual album is a fascinating, epic beast. Expect fireworks (metaphorical, at least) on the main stage on Saturday.

If you’re a metal fan and you’re not fully familiar with Mastodon at this point, then it might be time to give up the Netflix. The Atlanta band was labeled “math metal” when it formed at the start of the new millennium, but it transcends nonsense genre tags. Whether in the live environment or on record, Mastadon consistently slays, and this year’s Emperor of Sand album is typically intense, intricate and hyper-melodic. Pity the main-stage bands that have to follow this act (Stone Sour and Korn).

High Elevation Rock Festival, Friday, September 22, and Saturday, September 23, at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre.

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