The Loudest Bands In History: 10 Ear-Splitting Acts Who’ll Batter Your Brain With Sound

For decades, musicians have turned their amplifiers up to 11 in a quest to blow audiences away with their walls of sound.

From old-school heavy metallers to cutting-edge electronica artists, bands across a range of genres have shredded eardrums, damaged buildings, and even caused earthquakes from the sonic booms they’ve produced.

In this article, we’ve outlined 10 of the loudest bands in history, described the impact their audio assaults have had on their audiences and arenas, and detailed how each of them earned their reputation as ear-ringing soldiers of sound!

Motorhead

Lemmy Kilmister and his crew started out with the goal of being the loudest, dirtiest, fastest, harshest band in the world, and many will say they succeeded.

Their live gigs could reach a mighty 130 decibels, and venues around the world suffered the consequences.

At the Cleveland Variety Theatre in 1984 they caused the plaster on the ceiling to crack and fall onto the audience below, while in the UK they broke the roof of Newcastle City Hall, shattered the windows in Wolverhampton Polytechnic, and set the speakers on fire at Port Vale FC.

It’s no surprise then that they titled one of their live albums ‘Everything Louder Than Everyone Else’.

Leftfield

This electronic duo proved they could match any heavy metal band for sheer destructive noisiness when performing at the Brixton Academy in June 1996.

Their concert was measured at 137 decibels and the brutally loud beats tore chunks off the building. Having covered their audience with lumps of plaster and dust blasted from the walls and ceilings, the group weren’t invited back to perform at the venue for another four years – and only then on the condition that they turned the volume down.

My Bloody Valentine

This alternative rock band practically reinvented how guitars could sound on their 1991 album Loveless, immersing the songs in layer after layer of feedback and distortion. When performed live, the combined force of all the levels of sound became frighteningly, notoriously noisy.

While touring to promote the album, the band set out to test their audiences’ ability to bear the extreme volume for sustained periods of time, which led to one journalist describing the shows as ‘more like torture than entertainment’.

Fans attending gigs were often handed earplugs before entering, and despite the band spending over 20 years either on hiatus, broken up entirely, or unsuccessfully trying to record the follow-up to Loveless, the early days left their mark in the form of chronic tinnitus.

‘I regard it as a friend,’ singer/guitarist Kevin Shields has said.

The Who

On May 31, 1976, 75,000 people packed into Charlton Athletic’s football ground in London to see a line-up headlined by The Who. Their performance that evening was measured at 126 decibels… 100 feet away from the speakers.

However, being among the loudest bands in history came at a price for the members, with Roger Daltrey telling reporters in 2018, ‘I advise all you rock-and-roll fans – take your f***ing ear plugs to the gigs. If only we had known when we were young… we are lip-reading.’

Blue Cheer

American psychedelic rockers Blue Cheer are considered a pioneer of extreme loudness, being the first band ever listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as loudest band in the world.

In the late 1960s their volume levels were well beyond what people were accustomed to, with fans at their gigs commonly having to abandon the first few rows as they couldn’t withstand the noise.

Blue Cheer were so loud that they had to record outdoors, with part of their second album being recorded on a San Francisco pier.

Manowar

These power metal troublemakers often write songs influenced by tales of swords, sorcery, fantasy, and mythology, being well known for their epic, crushing sound. It seems appropriate then, that Manowar have seemingly been on a quest to hit levels of loudness that no other band can possibly complete with.

In 1984, the group were named by the Guinness Book of World Records for delivering the loudest performance ever, and they have since broken their own record on two further occasions.

Their current personal best decibel count was achieved during a sound check at the Magic Circle Fest in 2008, when they reached a mighty 139 decibels.

Deep Purple

Another band recognised as the loudest in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records, Deep Purple are among the originators of inflicting supreme noise punishment upon their all too eager audiences.

A whole generation grew up with Deep Purple pummelling their eardrums and earning their place in rock folklore, while some fans ended up taking harder hits than they ever expected, as three audience members attending a 1972 gig at the London Rainbow Theatre were knocked unconscious by the force of the sonic assault they were subjected to.

Kiss

Gene Simmons’ latex-clad showmen had their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, so it is perhaps surprising that their loudest moment came in December 2009.

During a performance in Ottawa, Canada the band hit an extraordinary 136 decibels. Apparently the concert was so loud that the noise complaints from the city’s residents forced the band to turn down the volume mid-show.

Foo Fighters

During a show in Auckland, New Zealand on December 13th  2011, Dave Grohl and his crew literally made the earth shake. Over the course of their 3-hour set, the band caused ground movement similar to a volcanic tremor which was felt up to a mile away.

Clearly though that wasn’t enough, as the following year they played a gig in Belfast to 32,000 fans which could be heard up to 12 miles away – resulting in 140 noise complaints being made.

Led Zeppelin

These rock gods have long been regarded as one of the best, loudest, and most influential bands ever. Known as one of the founders of heavy metal, Led Zeppelin’s concussive crunch hit harder than almost every band who’d come before.

Anecdotally, many music journalists believe the group’s performances during the 1970s were the noisiest of that decade, but their legacy of loudness gained official recognition when The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) measured a performance of Heartbreaker at an astonishing 130 decibels.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudest_band
https://www.ripleys.com/weird-news/loudest-bands/
http://blog.e3diagnostics.com/loudest-live-events-ever-recorded
https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/loudest-bands-in-history/
https://www.radiox.co.uk/features/x-lists/the-loudest-bands-of-all-time/
https://www.kerrang.com/features/everything-louder-than-everyone-else-the-worlds-loudest-bands/

Article by Superlocrian and New Frontiers Marketing

Devon Youth Chamber Brass Launched To Support Young Musicians

Musical Group Devon Youth Chamber Brass Founded To Support Young Musicians In The South-West

A new musical group, Devon Youth Chamber Brass, has been founded to support young musicians in the Devon area.

This new and exciting musical organisation was created by British composer and brass educator, Sam Massey. He is also the musical director of leading crossover chamber ensemble, Superlocrian.

Devon Youth Chamber Brass provides a range of brass ensemble performance opportunities, educational workshops, and more, for young performers in the area. The organisation is especially keen to provide opportunities for musicians to keep connecting, collaborating, and performing, during what remains a very uncertain time.

At a time when performers may be unable to enjoy the support of audiences, organisations like the Devon Youth Chamber Brass aim to plug the gap and help young musicians gain experience of performing.

The group’s innovative Remote Recording Project allowed the musicians to remain in their own homes, then later blended their individual recordings to create a powerful group performance! The original piece, entitled New Beginnings, was specifically composed for this project by Sam Massey.

Several brass players who began their education in Devon are now highly successful professional musicians, and proud Devon brass alumni. They plan to return regularly to assist the organisation and support its newest members with workshops, advice, and exclusive performances.

Devon brass alumni include Tom White, formerly of Okehampton, who is now a leading session musician, recording with the likes of Olly Murs and Emeli Sandé; Ryan Jacob, formerly of Braunton Academy, whose performance credits including Bonobo and Chronixx as a leading session trumpet player.

Additionally, the Repiano Cornet player, Hannah Plumridge — previously of Churston Grammar School — now performs in the world’s number one brass band, The Cory Band.

Other notable alumni include Katy Woolley (formerly of The Maynard School) who is now Principal Horn of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam; Sub-Principal Trombone at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, Jonathan Hollick of Plymouth; and Ed Hilton (formerly Braunton Academy) now tours with the dazzling UK production of Les Misérables as a bass trombonist.

There are currently over thirty musicians involved in the recording project — and twenty-three students from all over Devon, Bristol, and Wells are involved.

And now the Devon Youth Chamber Brass group is seeking more members! All brass instrumentalists are welcome to get in touch and get involved, but students should be competent sheet music readers (working at approximately ABRSM/Trinity Grade 4 or above). Anyone interested in joining Devon Youth Chamber Brass can contact the team through this page.

Devon Youth Chamber Brass is excited to provide ongoing performance and recording opportunities, workshops, and musical education for brass instrumentalists all across the region.

About Devon Youth Chamber Brass: Devon Youth Chamber Brass was founded by British composer and musical director, Sam Massey. The organisation supports young musicians in the Devon area with workshops and education.

Adapting To Survive During Lockdown

At the beginning of March, like most freelance musicians, I was looking forward to a busy few months of teaching music one-to-one and running ensembles, followed by an increasingly full schedule of exciting and fulfilling performances – including a special night lined up at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on April 29th.

However, as March progressed, it became ever clearer that the year ahead was going to be very different to the one we had planned.

Like many in the arts world, our work dried up almost overnight (as it did for those in many other industries too), with phone calls, texts, and emails all flooding in, each of them bringing new cancellations.

Not only that, but with the closure of schools and a full lockdown imposed towards the end of March, it was clear that face-to-face teaching was going to be out of the question for the next few months.

As creative people in a tough industry, we are used to adversity, but this certainly looked like it was going to be the most challenging period I had ever experienced in my career.

Fortunately, there has been one enormous blessing that has saved countless numbers of people during this period – technology!

During my school days, face-to-face online trumpet lessons, split-screen lockdown videos on YouTube, and live-streamed socially distanced workshops from a car park, would have been unthinkable. Yet in 2020, all this has saved many a worker over the last few months – including me.

Here is a selection of the ways freelance musicians like me have had to adapt swiftly and decisively since lockdown. I hope some of the adjustments I’ve made may be of use to you, whatever your industry!


1.   One-to-One Zoom Lessons

Using the videoconferencing software Zoom (although others such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and Teams work just as well), I was able to quickly adapt my teaching program, and within a couple of weeks, I was up and running.

All you’ll need to benefit from this strategy is a laptop, tablet, or phone – although you must be sure to stay within the appropriate safeguarding regulations.

For music teachers, there are a number of negatives to this format (such as not being able to play together with your student, and not hearing their sound with perfect clarity), but there are some significant positives too, which include being able to share screens and sounds from your computer.

This means that individual tuition via Zoom will certainly be a viable alternative for me going forward, in circumstances where travel is prohibitive (such as being snowed in!)


2.   Zoom Workshops With Larger Groups

I’ve also managed to deliver workshops on Zoom with up to 20 people, who each participate individually. This is far more limited in some ways, as the group is unable to play together – they all have to mute themselves, and play along with the workshop leader.

It also requires more preparation time, with backing tracks needing to be prepared well in advance, and music distributed with plenty of notice.

However, the use of backing tracks, and being able to share sound and screen, has great benefits too, like allowing the workshop attendees to experience playing along with professional backings, or to easily incorporate listening as part of the session.


3.   Live-Streamed Workshops/Performances

I’ve also been part of a live-streamed performance using StreamYard. It went surprisingly well – there was no ‘live’ audience, but many joined in with us from their homes, and the feedback was good.

It is very strange performing with no audience, and this was one of the most difficult things to adapt to during the lockdown period. But again, this is something I would consider doing again, when travel or distance is a barrier.


4.   Lockdown Composing & Video Production

One positive of lockdown has been the lack of travelling (my car has barely moved since March). This has meant there’s been more time for writing and arranging music, which has been very welcome indeed!

Lockdown has also created a new genre of music – the Lockdown YouTube Video. I for one jumped on the bandwagon, and although it’s been hard work to do, with lots of new skills to learn (such as video and audio editing), it’s also been a great experience, and our resulting videos have turned out rather well.

Here’s a link to one I made with several very talented friends: https://youtu.be/h9_-TTjkRSU


These are just a few of the ways in which our industry has adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic, and resulting lockdown.

It’s not been an easy ride, and we all miss playing together an awful lot, but I hope these strategies we’ve used to survive lockdown have been helpful to you, and have given you ideas on how you and your business can adapt and survive through difficult times.


Sam Massey Music

Composer | Arranger | Trumpet & Flugelhorn | Educator

www.sammasseymusic.com

sam@sammasseymusic.com

Managing Time As A Freelancer

As a freelance musician, one of the biggest challenges I face is managing time.

As all self-employed people will recognise, and particularly in the creative industries, it is much harder to work set ‘9-5’ hours or shift patterns – the arts world doesn’t tend to work like that, unfortunately!

With some hectic periods and tight deadlines often followed by calmer periods, I can often find myself struggling to keep the work-life balance right, especially with so many exciting projects to work on!

I am still refining this balance, but over the years I have come up with a few things I remind myself of when trying to manage my schedule, and I hope this might be useful to others in the same boat.

Here are my three favourite freelancer diary management tips.


Try To Have At Least One Day Off A Week

This is one I particularly struggle with! I always find myself more productive when I have at least one day without structured work or appointments in a given week.

This allows you to recharge your batteries and reenergise. It also allows you to have time to do the things outside of work that often pass us by, such as hobbies, meeting with friends or family or just relaxing!

I always think about this when being asked to schedule in work – it’s ok to have the occasional hectic week or two without a day off, but try not to make it a habit every week!


Use Technology To Your Advantage

Time management is very important as a freelancer, particularly as a musician where you tend to be out of the office most of the day, but have occasional downtime between schools, lessons or after a soundcheck.

Make sure you use technology to your full advantage! I couldn’t live without a synchronised diary (such as Google Calendar), files (such as Google Drive), and emails that can be managed on your phone, which is very important to maintain regular communication channels with parents, promotors and customers, but without eating into your precious time off.


Value Your Time Highly

Time in the modern world is arguably one of your most valuable commodities – and it should be treated as such, by you and your clients.

Particularly as a creative, there are so many time-intensive activities to be done, such as personal practice, administration, finances, and travelling, which are not paid. As such, these must be factored in when taking on work. Ask yourself before you say yes – is this activity, with all the associated unpaid work generated around it, worthy of all the time needed, not just the time taken physically working?

You may go through this process and say, ‘Yes! It is worth it!’ – in which case, go ahead and do it. But I always find it useful to think about the bigger picture when taking on more work.

Also, make sure your regular clients value your time too.

I hope these tips help save you some time – I wish I’d had them five years ago!


Sam Massey

Composer | Arranger | Trumpet & Flugelhorn | Educator

sam@sammasseymusic.com

Top Tips for Getting Your Music ‘Out There’

As a composer, musician and bandleader, I’ve spent the last few years trying to get my music and the bands I run ‘out there’ into the wider world.

The ultimate goal of course is to get gigs! But, particularly as a composer, we also want our music/performance/band to be heard as widely as possible, and fortunately we have an amazing resource on tap to help with this – the Internet!

Through my own experience, here are my top tips to getting your music heard; whether it’s online, on the radio, or even better, live!


1.   Be Persistent!

This would be my number one tip for any musician. Whether it’s practicing and honing your repertoire, diligently perfecting your latest masterpiece, or just being super-persistent in chasing that all-important gig – if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

It’s well known that a high proportion of people don’t open the first email they receive – so don’t be afraid to leave it a few days before sending a polite chase – and then another one a few days later. After all – what harm can it do?


2.   Create a Website

In 2019, a website is so important. All too often, you aren’t even asked for your details, as people will assume that they can ‘Google’ you, go to your site, and see your online CV within a few clicks!

Fortunately, there are not only many free or cheap tools to help you with this (e.g. WordPress, Wix or Weebly), but also lots of web designers (or even friends) who can help – don’t be afraid to ask!


3.   Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!

If I could go back and give a piece of advice to my 20-year-old self, this would be it. The number of times I was afraid to ask for help, or too afraid to ask a great musician to play with me or my music, is too numerous to list!

My advice would be – what do you have to lose by asking? The worst that can happen is that someone says ‘no’ (unlikely – normally people say ‘sorry no, BUT this person could help’ or ‘YES!’) – and if ‘no’ does happen, you are no worse off than you were if you didn’t ask!

Some of my best musical experiences have come from asking someone to join in with something I expected them to say ‘no’ too, only to be pleasantly surprised!


4.   Online Presence

Going on from a website, as a musician, you need a strong online presence.

If you are lucky enough to be featured at a gig, on the radio or TV: when people search for you, they need to be able to find you, find out all about you and hear your music straightaway! This means you need:

  1. Online Recordings (rough demos or live recordings are fine – I’d recommend Soundcloud to host these) – get these uploaded onto BBC Introducing – they are great at playing tracks from emerging artists, and you may end up being played to thousands across the world!
  • (Ideally) Videos of your work – high-resolution if possible, but if not, just a video from a gig you’ve done or an upload of a Sibelius mock-up is much better than nothing!
  • Photos – and with most smartphones having excellent cameras nowadays, a snap on your phone is good for now!
  • Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube – all very important to create your online presence. If you don’t have time or the inclination, there are really affordable social media marketing people who can help!
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – again, very important to make sure people can find you on your search engine of choice. There are online tutorials on this if you are tech-savvy, and if not, your local friendly online marketing & SEO guru will be able to help with this too.

These are just a few things I’ve picked up over the years – there are loads of articles, podcasts, blogs and vlogs on the internet by very successful musicians who are all out there to help you – remember, don’t be afraid to ask!


Sam Massey

Composer | Arranger | Trumpet & Flugelhorn | Educator

sam@sammasseymusic.com