Earthless, who headline the opening night of Scorched Tundra XII Credit: Marta Estellés Martín

Promoter Alexi Front began his love affair with Scandinavian metal in the mid-2000s by publishing a zine and running a label. He started the Scorched Tundra festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2011, and five years later he began throwing one in Chicago as well—spearheading a sort of underground-metal sister-cities program. Front is a curator by nature: “Each year I do my best to place all of the bands playing Scorched Tundra in a slot that will enhance their strengths,” he says on the festival’s website, “instead of placing them based in order of how much they are paid or what their stature may dictate.” For the past couple years, Scorched Tundra has been constrained in scope by the pandemic, but Front has continued to promote shows through his partnership with the Empty Bottle whenever possible—and this year the festival returns with the force of pent-up energy at last released. 

Taking place over three nights, Scorched Tundra XII is great from start to finish. The festival includes well-known scene favorites such as California psych masters Earthless and New Orleans sludge lords Eyehategod, as well as rare magical moments such as Saturday night’s collaborative set by Portland one-man black-metal project Mizmor and Baton Rouge sludge-metal ensemble Thou. The two acts worked together on the album Myopia, which Gilead Media released earlier this year with very little fanfare, and they performed the record in its entirety this spring at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands; they’ll do that again here in Chicago. The show is also Mizmor’s Chicago debut, so make sure to arrive on time for the solo set by founder A.L.N. The lineup at Scorched Tundra also features plenty of local heavyweights. On Thursday, posthardcore band Sweet Cobra kick things off; on Friday, folky doom group Huntsmen open for rising stoner-psych monsters Rezn; and on Saturday, the entertainment includes a DJ set from Hide vocalist Heather Gabel and a performance by Ready for Death (a thrash supergroup featuring members of Pelican, Haggathorn, Racetraitor, and Swan King, as well as Reader contributor and former staffer Luca Cimarusti, of Annihilus and Luggage).

Scorched Tundra XII day one Earthless headline; Eyehategod and Sweet Cobra open. Additional artist TBA. Thu 9/1, 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, sold out. 21+

Scorched Tundra XII day two Rezn headline; Thou, Friendship Commanders, and Huntsmen open. Fri 9/2, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $25. 21+

Scorched Tundra XII day three See Thu 9/1. Thou and Mizmor headline with a collaborative set; Mizmor, Ready for Death, and DJ Heather Gabel (Hide) open. Sat 9/3, 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $30. 21+