My Insane, Fantastic and Invigorating Time at Louder Than Life 2021

Louder Than Life 2021 allowed me to experience my dream of seeing my all-time favorite music act that forever shaped the world of rock and metal.


Cody Wagner, Entertainment Writer

From Sept. 23-26 I found myself in Louisville, Ky. on one mission and one mission only — to see, hear and rock out to live music.

Presented by Danny Wimmer, “Louder Than Life 2021” was yet another music festival I attended just days after Riot Fest in Douglas Park, Chicago. The four-day festival occured at the Kentucky Exposition Center Fairgrounds, just minutes away from the city. While I could say that this was just my last music festival of the year aside from Riot Fest, this event was important to me for a special reason.

This wasn’t just another typical music fest. This festival would forever be a landmark event that will stay with me as one of my most favored musical experiences (aside from seeing The Rolling Stones at Soldier Field in 2019).This was the fest where I finally witnessed my favorite band perform iconic classics that any fan would undoubtedly know and understand, as two of the four days I was exposed to none other than the thrash metal, hard rock, masters of rock themselves….Metallica. 

COVID-19 was handled similar to Riot Fest, requiring attendees to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Masks were optional just like Riot Fest, and as with other music festivals, some attendees chose to wear theirs and others refused. Masks were recommended, with signs encouraging attendees to remain safe and cautious while also having a good time. COVID was ultimately not much of a concern, with the four days centering around hard, heavy and lively music.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Strengths: I was once again engulfed into the festival world just days after attending Riot Fest while also seeing Metallica in the process. But before I touch upon the kings, I should mention some of the knights that deserve proper recognition. Besides Metallica being my No. 1 act, I was deeply impressed with Disturbed’s performance.

Disturbed brought the aggressiveness of their debut album,“The Sickness,” which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Classics such as “Stupify,” “Ten Thousand Fists,” “Stricken,” “Down with the Sickness,” and even the Grammy-nominated tribute to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence,” were played. My previous animosity towards the band stemmed from Dave Drainman’s now-classic metal phrase“OOO AHHHH AHHHH AHHH”! But after hearing the raw vitality and heaviness of “Down with the Sickness” live, I began to see the appeal. Their performance was surprisingly satisfying. 

Gojira was another act that blew me away. It was my second time seeing the band live, after witnessing them back in 2019 when they opened up for Slipknot. What made the experience even better was the fact that their new album “Fortitude” was just recently released, and I was able to catch some of their recent tracks live and in person. Despite performing only eight tracks, two of them, “Another World,” and “Amazonia,” were the first to be played live, making the whole performance all the more memorable. Gojira played loud, fast, in-your-face metal that instantly drew the attention of the crowd, as multiple mosh pits formed and a wave of crowd surfers emerged from overhead. Classic Gojira tunes like “Stranded,” “Backbone,” and “Flying Whales” were also a part of their set, appealing to both the newer generation, and older generation who know the band the best. Gojira’s display of energy and power erupted through the speakers, and I felt as though I was joining their world rather than staying and adhering to mine, and what a world it was.

Last but not least, the main event….Metallica. The thrash kings played for two nights with two diverse sets. The first night I was treated to some of their classic thrasher tunes from both their early days as well as the millennial era. Classics from the bands ecstatic and lively beginning such as “Whiplash,” “Harvester of Sorrow,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “One,” and “Fade to Black,” were met with their more contemporary and hard-rock style such as “The Memory Remains,” “Now That We’re Dead,” “Moth into the Flame,” “Fuel,” and “No Leaf Clover.” This diversity left me feeling almost as though I was jumping through time, listening to some of their favorite hits from multiple distinct eras. One thing that was missing was any song from their classic 1991 “Black” album (or Metallica, since the album is known by both titles) that debuted the hit single “Enter Sandman,” but little did I know my prayers would be answered the following day. 

Their second night, the final night of the festival, the band played the entire “Black” album as they celebrated its global success after 30 years while also releasing an updated and expansive version of the album now available on most music-streaming services. Their first three tracks were a mix of one of their newer tunes, “(Hardwired,)” mixed with two other classics, “The Four Horsemen” and “Welcome Home Sanitarium.” What followed was the complete Black album in reverse. Starting with the album’s final two tracks, which haven’t been performed live since 2012 and 2013 (“The Struggle Within” and “My Friend of Misery”), to their No. 1 single that vaulted them to superstardom, “Enter Sandman.” The crowd was glued to every note, verse, riff, and beat as Metallica aimed at one thing and one thing only, to kick your ass with heavy, loud music.

Weaknesses: The craziest thing I encountered would be a concert goer who experienced an overdose. I don’t know what he was on, but all I remember was seeing a male drop to the ground with his eyes wide open, staring into the sky. I briefly wondered whether I had just seen a human being die right before my eyes. People quickly scattered to make room for medical personnel. The end result was that the guy regained consciousness and was brought to safety. I encountered another issue during both of Metallica’s sets. My cousin and I noticed that Metallica’s sound was a bit muffled, feeling almost dumbed down at times for both nights. We were amazed to hear that Judas Priest were even louder than Metallica. The answer could stem from multiple factors such as technical errors, errors with sound equipment, poorly tuned instruments, or the effects of old age has on superstars, as their sound becomes a bit diluted and doesn’t have the same feel as it once did. But nevertheless they kicked ass and looked good while doing it. 

Setting aside the minor issues, Louder than Life was by far my favorite musical experience of this year. Not only was I exposed to major acts such as Judas Priest, Jane’s Addiction, and Metallica, but I also discovered newer acts that I quickly grew fond of such as Currents, Fever 333 and Avatar, that will surely be explored at some point throughout the duration of this year. Louder than Life 2021 was a thrilling, exuberant, provocative event that served the needs of music fans whose voices desperately needed to be unleashed after a whole year of depression, laziness, and anguish in the midst of COVID-19.