This year’s Mayhem Festival featured one of the hottest lineups they’ve ever had. With a mix of solid metalcore bands and great classic metal bands, there was something for every metal fan. In terms of entertainment and quality music, Mayhem was a complete and absolute success. Here’s my band-by-band review of this year’s festival.
Whitechapel: I missed the beginning to their set, but the 2/3 of Whitechapel that I saw was impeccable. Between March (the last time I saw these guys) and now, the band released their self-titled record, so I was excited to see them play some new material. They tore apart each song, mainly thanks to their three-guitar demolition derby – an onslaught that made ears bleed and eyes melt right out of their sockets (figuratively – if that really happened, you would not see me back at a Whitechapel gig anytime soon). Phil Bozeman was the spectacle of the show, however. From half a mile away I could hear his rage-filled screams. He was just like the rest of the band: assaulting, devastating, and purely awesome. And that’s exactly how to describe Whitechapel’s set. Though there were some technical difficulties along the way, the band fought through them and pretty much destroyed everything in sight. Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Asking Alexandria: Last year I saw these dudes at Warped Tour, and I recall pitying them as a “disgrace to metal.” Since then, I’ve blasted Reckless and Relentless all over town and actually grown a sense of respect and dignity for the metalcore men. However, just like the previous year, their live performance was lacking. The guitars sounded good as they pounded out heavy-duty riffage, but once again, Danny Worsnop struggled vocally. Though he was able to sound half-decent in “Closure” and “To the Stage,” he muffled through screams and skipped entire lines. But the deal-breaker for me was when the band closed with “Morte Et Dabo,” a song that, lyrically, is an absolute abhorrence to Christianity. Sadly, with a mediocre finish and a repulsive song, I began remembering why I used to hate these guys so much. Let’s hope that I don’t start turning that way again. Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
The Devil Wears Prada: It was an extremely hot afternoon, but The Devil Wears Prada stormed out of the gates with an incredible amount of energy. The first few songs were great reminders of why I love these guys so much. There is just so much passion and effort found in their music, and live, this really shone through. “Dead Throne” and “Mammoth” were intrusive, mosh-ready anthems, while “Assistant to the Regional Manager” and “Danger: Wildman” (cauterized by the extremely catchy line “I know a ghost!”) exemplified the nostalgic feel of the metalcore group’s tunes. It’s pretty obvious that these guys attract much of the Warped crowd, but, surprisingly, there were a wide variety of metal fans rocking out at their set. They even threw a few songs off their Zombie EP into the mix too, and since I consider it to be their crown achievement, I couldn’t have been happier. Well, except for the fact that I was sweaty and tired from all of the moshing. Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Upon A Burning Body: The Sumerian Stage was a nice late addition to the festival. However, a) the stage was a tent and b) the sound quality/mixing could’ve been better. Upon A Burning Body took their label’s stage with an angry attitude (I could tell they were anxious to stop playing and party), and they tended to be a brute force throughout their set. The one downfall: you could barely hear the guitars behind Danny Leal’s terrorizing vocal attack. The band still managed to put on a solid set despite the troubled mixing; “Texas Blood Money” was surely charming. Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Anthrax: The thing that made Mayhem’s lineup so interesting was the combination of modern metalcore/hardcore and classic metal. Anthrax was the first of the classic acts to perform, and they were quite good. Vocalist Joey Belladonna seemed pretty psyched to be up onstage, and with a thick, thrashy set of instrumentals to back his gutty vocal dominance, Anthrax thrived. Easily recognizable songs like “Caught In a Mosh” and “Madhouse” were phenomenally executed. Anthrax was a spearhead of energy and momentum, and even if Belladonna stood convinced that the crowd wasn’t moving around enough, it seemed like everyone loved them – and I definitely did. Rating: 4 / 5 stars
As I Lay Dying: For my first time seeing these guys, AILD killed it. The instrumentation was spot-on, Tim Lambesis’ vocal growls were flawless, and the adrenaline rush that these guys created had me screaming along to every word (that I knew, at least) to songs from “Confined” to “Parallels.” I also have to mention that their new song “Cauterize” is a crowd-pleasing, energetic bruiser that is an excellent addition to the band’s library. I just wish I had more to say, as I was sitting near the back rather than going crazy in the pit because the line to get in the pit was super-long. Thanks, venue set-up people. Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Motorhead: For some reason, a few of my friends were pumped to see Motorhead play. I will admit that I’ve never heard a song by these guys in my life and I was a little bit anxious to find out what they sounded like. What I heard I did not like. At all. I don’t want to sound like I’m criticizing one of the most influential metal bands of all time, but I just couldn’t find a reason to enjoy their performance. The guitars spit out recycled riffage track after track, and Lenny Kilmister sounded like he had clothespins clamping his nostrils together. 50 minutes of Motorhead was a bit too much for me. Though they sounded alright in small doses, the repetitive, boring set of songs these guys played makes me question what made them “legends” in the first place. Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Slayer: After hearing similar criticisms of Slayer as Motorhead, I wasn’t sure I was ready for an hour of these guys. But they flipped that opinion flat on its face (though I don’t think opinions have faces, or bodies for that matter). I was awestruck by the compactness of Slayer’s sound. There were elements of punk, metal, and straight-up rock in the instrumentals, and they were held together with a super-strong adhesive: Tom Araya’s chilling voice. It was hard to tell apart each song these guys played since I’m not too familiar with Slayer’s material, but this set made me eager to dive in to their discography. The band ended with “Raining Blood,” a song that I immediately knew (and expected). As a torch featuring the band’s name shot out fire, Slayer assured with such a powerful finale that their set would be remembered as a blazing masterpiece. Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Slipknot: I recall in the 9th grade telling a close friend that “Slipknot was my LEAST favorite band in music.” Bite my tongue, cross my heart, and hope to die. Four years later, Slipknot put on one of the most gut-wrenchingly terrifying, heart-racingly stunning sets I’ve ever seen. When Joey Jordison kicked things into gear and the curtain dropped – revealing the metal mephistos – my eardrums felt ready to explode. Jordison’s double-bass drumming was so heavy and powerful that my ears ached the next day, and that’s not a typical concert after-effect. I’ve never heard drums as loud, and I doubt I ever will again.
Slipknot played a good variety of material, kicking things off with two of the heaviest, most brutal songs in their catalogue (“Sic,” “Eyeless”). They continued their intense ravaging with some of their biggest hits, from “Before I Forget” to “Psychosocial.” The Clown was ultimately distracting, finding time to crowd surf and climb his drum set as it rose towards the sky. In fact, every member of the band proved to be distracting, but in the best way possible (especially Corey Taylor, who demonstrated his penchant for passion with a very raw, hearty vocal effort). The band never left the stage and went straight into an encore, capping off with “Surfacing,” their most unrestrained offering. Slipknot’s dazzling, raucous performance literally left me in tears, wondering whether I would ever again witness as hot, as loud, or as destructive a set as theirs. Looks like I’ll just have to wait until they come back in town again for that to happen. Rating: 5 / 5 stars