Oh where, oh where has the metal gone? Preceding this tour date, there were a lot of questions regarding the state of metal music. Is it dying? Are we gently picking at the dead carcass of a genre that may be geared toward an older fan base? Bands like Slipknot and Slayer are still going relatively strong. I don’t believe that a genre can be fully deceased, but in the music word, there are cycles. Some years, you’re in and some, you’re out. It’s just the name of the game. With the plethora of festivals that are abound, it may seem that this year’s Rockstar Mayhem Festival may have gotten a little lost in the shuffle. There were fans who attended, but maybe not as enthusiastic as previous years.
It’s not that there wasn’t lack of talent on this tour, or younger bands to get that audience; there was just a different air around this year. Bands that I happened to catch at the beginning of this year at South By So What, Code Orange and Sworn In gave inspiring performances on the Victory Records stage. Veterans like Whitechapel garnished a larger crowd during the day, but this is where the younger fans were concentrated. The fans, overall, were a bit older: classic metal heads. With a starting lineup featuring King Diamond, Hellyeah, and Slayer, it’s definitely expected. Last year’s main stage lineup worked. Acts like Trivium and Asking Alexandria acted as the perfect buffer for older bands like Korn and Avenged Sevenfold. There wasn’t that bridge this year.
I was interested to see the reaction to The Devil Wears Prada, who were the first band on the main stage. Here you have a younger band that, if you seen them live, leaves everything out on the stage, playing to a mostly older audience. Their set list was comprised of their harder material such as songs like “Danger: Wildman” and “Outnumbered”. I admire the courage of the band because some older fans didn’t take to their younger demographic as much. Hopefully they were able to make a few fans out of the crowd. Hellyeah took the stage in a fury. This is where the crowd started to assimilate as lead singer Chad Grey jumped off speakers and climbed over barricades to leer at the crowd with the fake blood drenching his face. Another thing is the layout of PNC Bank Center itself, and the fact that it has no pit. There were some complaints that fans felt farther away from the action, thus feeling a bit less intimate.
King Diamond gave a taste of classic Swedish death metal complete with an elaborate stage setup and actresses. To have people my age singing along to “The Candle” and “Eye Of The Witch” was pretty cool and the band showed their appreciation as well. I’m not sure if the collection of black clouds that Diamond eluded to where from his calling, but it was great scenery to go along with his set. If you’ve ever seen a Slayer show, you’re in for consistent metal at it’s finest. Erupting with fire, the veterans hammered away at the hour long set where fans went in droves to the front of the barricade. They started their set with their newest track, “Repentless”, and ended it will classics like “Raining Blood” and “Angel Of Death”. They were the main event that most fans came to see.
Was I a little disappointed? Perhaps. Maybe it was the particular venue or just the particular shift in music, but I would love to see next year’s iteration of the festival mix big veteran bands with bigger younger bands. There are a lot of logistics when planning a festival (money, tour schedules), but I think and hope there could be a strong comeback.