Top 17 Loudest Bands

Bands and artists whose shows are REALLY loud.

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Top 17 Loudest Bands

The loudest band in the world is a subject of some dispute in musical circles. Many bands have claimed to be the loudest, measuring this in various ways including with decibel meters at concerts and by engineering analysis of the CDs on which their albums are published. The "Guinness World Records" no longer celebrate "The Loudest Band in the World" for fear of promoting damage to ears.

But anyway "loudness war" is still actual. So we have prepared a special rundown of 17 bands and artists who are really loud at their concerts.

Note: Sound level may be metered on several ways: Average, maximum level (with the sound level meter set to Fast, Slow, Impulse, og Peak), etc. In addition, there are several decibel scales. Therefore, the decibels on the following list are not necessarily comparable. Anyway this list is not scientific - it's more about the feeling.

Just before starting here's the decibel's scale for example:

And here's the list.

17. Led Zeppelin

Daniel Kreps of Rolling Stone argues that "Whole Lotta Love" established Led Zeppelin's reputation as one of the loudest bands of their time. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has proven Zep's big sound status by measuring a performance of "Heartbreaker" at 130 dB.

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16. Deep Purple

Deep Purple held the record and were recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the "globe's loudest band" when in a concert at the London Rainbow Theatre in 1972 their sound reached 117 dB. Three of their audience members were rendered unconscious.

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15. The Who

The Who were listed as the "record holder," at 126 dB, measured at a distance of 32 meters from the speakers at a concert at The Valley in London on 31 May 1976. Pete Townshend famously suffers from tinnitus.

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14. Motörhead

In 1986, Motörhead reached a reported decibel level of 130 at the Cleveland Variety Theater. The plaster in the ceiling of the building started to crack and fall onto the crowd below, after the band reached those 130 decibels.

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13. Leftfield

Pioneering English electronic band Leftfield became known for the volume of its live shows on the tour to support their debut album "Leftism." In June 1996, while the group was playing at Brixton Academy, the sound system caused dust and plaster to fall from the roof. Sound volume was 137 dB.

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12. Gallows

British punk band Gallows wanted to set a new record so locked themselves into a studio and turned the amps up to a flab-wobbling 132.5db.

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11. Amon Tobin

Brazilian electronic musician and sound engineer Amon Tobin released his seventh studio album "ISAM" in 2011, and his live performance of that record is undeniably loud, especially when that sub bass kicked in. Also, these shows include an exclusive innovative visualization.

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10. Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth are undeniably one of the loudest bands live, especially when they perform their more noisy songs.

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9. The Prodigy

British "electronic punks" The Prodigy have really intense and loud shows, which are often louder than 100db (and more).

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8. Manowar

Manowar are one claimant of the title of "loudest band in the world", citing a measurement of 129.5 dB in 1994 in Hanover. However, The Guinness Book of World Records listed Manowar as the record holder for the loudest musical performance for an earlier performance in 1984. Guinness does not recognize Manowar's later claim, because it no longer includes a category of loudest band, reportedly because it does not want to encourage hearing damage. Though in 2008 Manowar achieved an SPL of 139 dB during the sound check (not the actual performance) at the Magic Circle Fest.

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On July 15, 2009, in Ottawa, Canada, KISS achieved an SPL of 136 dB measured during their live performance (not the sound check). After noise complaints from neighbors in the area, the band was forced to turn the volume down.

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6. My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine are so well known for their loud, vibrating music that they actually hand out earplugs as you go in to watch their shows. The climax is the "holocaust" section of the song "You Made Me Realise," 20-minutes of unrelenting noise that batters the audience into submission.

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5. Godflesh

Godflesh, industrial metal band led by Justin Broadrick, are well known for their own standards of loudness with the powerful bass, low-tuned guitar and totally destructive drum machine.

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4. Swans

Another industrial metal gods, Swans set new levels of loudness, especially after their reunion in 2010. It's a total wall of sound, while you can actually hear all sounds, while their early shows were truly cathartic, with mountains of sound through it.

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3. Merzbow

Merzbow aka Masami Akita is undeniably one of the biggest name on the noise scene, and his harsh noise (the most extreme subgenre of noise) shows is undeniably one of the loudest concerts ever.

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2. Prurient

What was "popularized" by Merzbow, became even bigger with Prurient aka Dominick Fernow, American electronic/noise musician. Especially with his earlier shows which were just a wall of sound with torturing the amps and different sound devices - a great way to express your anger. By the way, Prurient's shows are different, and some of them are much more music-centered.

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1. Sunn O)))

The true power of drone doom gods Sunn O))) is felt in a live setting... Walls of amplifiers and low frequencies that are sooooooo loud. We mean, REALLY loud...

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0. Spinal Tap

In the "This Is Spinal Tap" movie the band is presented as "one of England's loudest bands" - and it is. Because who else can turn up their amplifiers to 11?..

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Know more bands whose shows are really loud? Feel free to post them in the comment section below.

93 comments sorted by best / new / date

    David Dark
    i was once on mastodon concert in dublin, they had some shitty local punk band as support that day, it was the loudest band i ever heard, couldnt stand inside the venue so i spent my time drinking beer outside in the smoking area until they finished. Nothing cool about making people ears bleed when you playing.
    Had the same with Pop Evil at a festival. Great band, but when they started playing I could feel my eardrums shatter, it was so loud and so sharp I had to instantly leave.
    I was at that show too. I remember the support, Bad Breeding. They weren't bad, but yeah I agree they were painfully loud
    Weybl Himself
    "Nothing cool about making people ears bleed when you playing." 1,000 times this. I went to see a NZ band called Die Die Die a few years back and the dickhead sound guy was wearing industrial earplugs. I reckon I got permanent damage to my left ear from where I was standing when they started and likewise just listened from outside instead. I worked as a live sound engineer for years and my rule was always that unless every single other person in the room is wearing earplugs, don't mix with them.
    I went to see BTBAM last year in Toronto and was really upset at how badly mixed Intronaut was. It's like they refused to use house speakers so all of the guitars came from the cab. I actually couldn't hear the drums standing in the front row. Good band, garbage sound.
    Not a huge fan of extreme levels of loudness. There is no point to go over the top.
    For some bands it's a dynamic effect that can be at times very appropriate. I saw a band in Sydney a while back called Alithia who were supporting a few other bands, and it was one of the best live performances I've ever witnessed. Huge, spacey atmospheres that just built in intensity and emotion, that eventually coalesced into a wall of stomach moving sound, with the bassist yelling his lungs out and wailing on open strings, and still being buried by the rest of the band; needless to say it was loud. It was sensory overload  that forced you to be absorbed in the sound, but when it all finished I felt like I had just woken up from an intense dream or trip. That effect simply wouldn't be the same if they kept their levels reasonable, sometimes you need to go loud. 
    Well, it depends. When it comes to all the hard rock and heavy metal bands in the list, the loudness is nothing more but gimmick. You don't need ear-bleeding inducing volume to enjoy fuckin Kiss. But stuff like MBV, Sunn O))), Swans or harsh noise simply doesn't make sense if it's not loud. Loudness is inherent part of the music and if you're listening to any of that stuff quietly, you're doing it wrong. But being loud for the sake of being loud is stupid.
    This was all over the place. At first I thought it was ranking by decibels then kinda sunk into opinion. Motorhead was the loudest band I've ever experienced.
    I guess it's more a list of bands that's been historically known to be pretty loud. I'm sure there are bands out there that nobody has heard of that's reached levels higher than this, and bands that have been louder but just haven't been measured or taken note of.
    The cannons at the end of For Those About to Rock were so loud when I saw them on the Black Ice tour in 2008, I thought it was the loudest sound I'd ever heard!
    I saw Ted Nugent in 1979 and he was loud as fuck, especially when he'd get the feedback going, my ears rang for days.
    I seen him a few years back. At points was almost too loud, but I'm thinking the smaller venue might be to blame.
    Don't forget Dick Dale, Fender had to invent a new amplifier for him as he kept blowing up their amps by playing too loud! True story!
    Also, talking about my personal experience, the loudest concert I've attended was a performance by Robert Piotrowicz, Polish musician and sound artist. He performed his noise set on a modular synthesizer and different devices, and it was like music from hell - actually I'm not a fan of noise, but it was absolutely another thing - really powerful, apocalyptic, full of darkest emotions... One of the greatest experiences I've ever had (and I saw a lot of amazing bands live including my favourites Neurosis). And one of the most impressive memories from this show was the air in the venue - one could see with an unaided gaze as the air was LITERALLY shaking - like when the fire burns... Of course, this video can't capture the WALL of sound and real atmosphere - but anyway...
    I never really got that about concerts. Why play so loud hardly any of your elements can be discerned through a fat wall of VVVVV?
    AMON TOBIN, HELL YEAH! Love seeing them get 'praise' here on UG. Incredible, unbelievable and to-be-time-defying producer/sound design.
    I saw Meshuggah live 2 nights ago and it was the loudest and most relentless show I have ever seen
    Saw Motörhead back in '98 on the second stage at Ozzfest in Detroit. Loudest band I ever saw. When they came on me and my brother looked at each other like Omg that's loud. Twice as loud as the band before them. They also played an awesome set. So glad I got to see Lemmy play live, dude is a god!
    I didn't expect harsh noise here, nice one UG. I'm going to see Swans in a few days and I'm really curious how loud are they gonna be.
    I saw Megadeth in Sydney on blackmail the universe tour and i couldnt hear for 3 days. They were really loud but had a great sound
    Loudest show I've seen was Slayer at the Rave in Milwaukee in ~2006.  I saw Helmet in a small Chicago bar in 2013 and they weren't too bad for the set until they came out for their encore.  It's like they doubled their volume and my ears were ringing for 2 days straight.  Not the loudest show overall, but certainly the loudest 3 songs I've ever heard live.
    Dude, idk if KISS is a particular era of when they were that loud..but i saw them with Motley, and Crue were significantly louder.
    I was gonna say Racer X, seeing as Paul Gilbert's lost a lot of his hearing now.
    I've heard about people without ear plugs vomiting at Swans shows due to the loudness.
    Saw Black Label Society and Godsized play in Bristol's Colston hall back in 2011...loudest gig i've been to since. But it kinda sucked as all i could hear was just ridiculous amounts of bass, the guitars just sounded like a big gigantic mess and you could hardly hear Zakk sing...I think me and my mates' ears were ringing for like 3 solid days after. I just don't get the point of having the volume turned all the way up to a point where the bands different sounds just blurr into one big mess 
    No idea about the decibel level but my rib cage was literally vibrating the first time I saw Metallica.
    Badass UltraMan
    The three times I've seen Metallica I've been able to talk to friends while they play. Far and away the quietest band I've seen
    Really? When I saw them on the World Magnetic tour in 2009, they were one of the loudest I've ever seen. Speaking to the person next to me was completely impossible unless I got right up to their ear and literally screamed.
    Badass UltraMan
    Yeah. I was quite surprised considering how people had told me they were so loud beforehand.
    Similar experience. Saw em back in 03. One of the quietest shows I've heard.  I was quite disappointed with the whole performance, as well.
    2003 was one of the worst years for them performance wise, that stinks. I'm interested to see them on this new tour to see what the volume is like. They've been performing better than they ever have in recent years.
    Sunn 0))) ....was that music? What a load of shit!
    Can't be music if you don't like it, right?
    But what actually was it? It was guys dressed as the reaper playing stupidly low tuned guitars to no rhythm or tune at all. Who would pay to go listen to that?
    A lot of people, heck even in the video you can see people gathered there, kind of a dumb question. There's more to a live performance than just the notes being played. I've never been to a Sunn 0))) show but I can see the appeal, being swallowed by a wall of sound that envelops your whole body is an amazing experience that few bands can really pull off.
    They look the part I'll give them that, I did actually look into them a little more since they seem to have a large following. They know how to dress for the occasion and make the set look good so credit there I suppose, but I also did notice that every "song" did sound exactly the same as the last...literally. That's probably where my point lies since you would be paying to hear the same 2 or maybe 3 low end chords repeated. And when I said who would pay for it, that wasn't meant to be taken quite as literally as narrowing it down to who would actually pay...
    They're drone metal, their songs aren't really supposed to sound wildly different, it's mainly just about creating textures and ambiance. Again it's one of things that probably makes more sense live.
    It's called drone and it's been a thing for a while now. Do you also think ambient is not music cause it often doesn't have a rhythm or melody?
    Ambient music usually does have a melody, and a rhythm normally, I listen to quite a lot of it actually. The only time it doesn't is when it's one of those looped things like background rain or a windy day at sea with Orca in the background.
    I'd pay for it, and have, twice.  It's a phenomenal experience.  They're music may not be to everyone's taste but it envelopes you like nothing else. 
    How uch did you pay just out of interest? Cos if it was say £5/$5 for entry I could maybe see the sense in paying but any more than that would seem a bit weird to me.
    Chill guys, I'm not here to tell anyone what they should and shouldn't listen to. EDIT: Since I've got 13 dislikes can I at least have a poop!?
    Does anyone else notice how nonsensical that "decibel scale" is? Im not a mathematician or anything, only got as far as Algebra 2 but the numbers on the left dont seem to quantify with the numbers on the right. And plus there is no mention of tool here, who are def the loudest bandA
    I believe the numerical relationship between the two columns is exponential not linear.  Every time the "level in decibels" increases by the 10db baseline , the "times louder than 10db" gets an extra zero  
    I've read but not sure how true this is, that every 3db increase is twice as loud. So 123Db is twice as loud as 120db. I'm sure the almighty google has the answer somewhere.
    I could be wrong, but I think you might be thinking of the "doubling the wattage adds 3db to the volume" rule of thumb for amps?
    Twice as much power does add 3db yes, but that does not necessarily translate to twice as much volume. Perceived volume is a tricky thing and can be different depending on the frequencies and other things, though it's around 10db difference that most people perceive the same sound being twice as loud according to Lower frequencies will generally be perceived as quieter even if measured at the same db, which is why they can be regarded as more dangerous, doesn't seem that loud so surely it's not doing damage...
    Went to see Anthrax a few years ago and High on Fire (who I'd never heard of) opened. Now, I've seen Motorhead, AC/DC, Ted Nugent... a LOT of famously loud bands live, all from the front row...but this? This was so deafeningly loud it was just unbearable. I had to literally plug my ears with my fingers, which I've never done before or since, because it was just excruciating. The security guards were handing out ear plugs and even fans of the band were booing. They never turned down. All that happened was the lead singer said into the mic, "What? It's a rock and roll show!" Needless to say, I was NOT turned into a fan that day!
    I saw Manowar. T'was loud. However, the sound quality was so damn good, that oddly enough it's one of the only shows i've been to, where i haven't had the faintest bit of ringing in my ears afterwards. Kinda weird.
    Years ago I went to a Motorhead gig on a wednesday and had a lecture the next day. I seriously had problems understanding what the professor was saying.
    Maybe it's just me... but 2 and 3 is like pure torture.  I don't get it.  To create it is one thing.  To go and listen to that and enjoy it... I must be missing something.  
    m4ss3 m/
    I remember seeing Children of Bodom opening for Slipknot back in 2008. They were so loud that my whole torso started to hurt.
    It's why I won't go see ANY metal bands! I like gigs where you can actually hear what song they're playing. AC/DC were the perfect example of a band that played loud but not stupidly loud.
    Saw this weird electronic black metal type band some years back in a tiny venue. The distortion + effects on all their instrument sounded like amp buzz, but ramped up to the point where you couldn't hear yourself scream over it, with only the bass drum coming through as an oscillating "whoop" 10 times a second. Like an industrial vacuum stuck in a ceiling fan.
    Mogwai at lowlands in the netherlands. They were so loud some people suffered from ear damages and a lot of people who liked the music just left the tent.
    Standing in front of Joe Perry's backline of Plexi's fucked my ears for days
    Quite possibly the loudest show I've ever attended? Yngwie Malmsteen! That one definitely led to some fuzzy feeling ears the next day.
    I've seen thousands of punk and metal bands, but every time I've seen Dick Dale in concert, it has been deafening! The last time was about 5 years ago, and he was still just as loud. It was awesome!
    Motorhead playing at Rock Am Ring 2004. Man, you can feel the power of these amps!
    I'm old school(just turned 60)-my loudest ever were: 1)Deep Purple-PNC Bank Arts Center,N.J.,Aug.2004(& saw Rush @ Radio City the following night-my ears were Jello after that!), 2)Black Sabbath-Nassau Coliseum,Feb.1974(w/Blue Oyster Cult opening), 3)Emerson,Lake & Palmer-Roosevelt Stadium,Jersey City,Aug.1974, 4)Queen-Madison Square Garden,Dec.1977, 5)Nektar-Capitol Theater,Passaic,N.J.,May 1975, 6)Rush-pick one(I have to give it to Rush for being the most consistently loud band over the years). Interestingly enough,honorable mention goes to a band you wouldn't think would be that loud-Renaissance-Live at Carnegie Hall,June 1975-add the New York Philharmonic to the mix and it was really loud(& Jon Camp's Rickenbacker bass sounded like thunder!).