It was a warm summer morning, Friday, July 24th, 2015, preparing to head to the Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. For some, this has become an annual ritual. A ritual that seems to be potentially nearing its end, with exaggerated comments and expressed displeasure among co-founders, bands and fans alike, and painfully obvious declining ticket sales.
Upon arrival, the first noticeable sight was the lack of lines to enter. I last attended Mayhem in 2013 and we ultimately ended up missing at least the first three bands to perform because we were stuck in tremendous lines to enter the venue. This time around, no lines. None. It was slightly discouraging.
Jiffy Lube Live has become a staple in the east coast music scene. It is an outdoor amphitheater seating up to 25,000 fans, with beautiful grounds and an expansive gravel parking lot. We were alarmed that the parking lot seemed even more expansive this year. We later learned it was because of the repositioning of the festival amenities. One thing is for sure, DO NOT follow the signs posted on Route 66. They will lead you to nowhere and get you lost. Someone should really fix them.
Once inside the venue, it became even more apparent how scaled down this event has become. The two side stages that were once located on one end of the parking lot (which explained the larger size of said parking lot) were combined into one that was crammed into a small space in the main festival grounds in front of a set of restrooms with merchandise tents all around. With the amount of people that actually attended, this cramped space didn’t really seem that bad once you were in the middle of it.
Aside from the obvious differences from previous years, fans were still treated to several high energy performances, both on the Victory Records stage and the Main stage. For various reasons, the first full set we were able to catch was Thy Art is Murder, a four-piece band out of Blacktown, Sydney, Australia. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’ve never seen TAIM play live. They put on a rousing, high-energy show, one I would not have expected from a traditional deathcore band. CJ McMahon’s vocals are brutal with Sean, Lee and Andy delivering a clean yet thunderous backdrop. I’ve seen mosh pits travel in a circular motion. I’ve never seen a circular mosh pit. The fans literally moshed in a circle around a very inconveniently placed tent in front of the stage. It was quite fun to watch and I may have joined in if I was about 30 years younger.
Opening the Main stage for the evening was The Devil Wears Prada, a metalcore outfit hailing from Dayton, Ohio. Delivering an equally high energy performance, TDWP blasted out their setlist to a sparse crowd as many people didn’t enter the pavilion until they started. Their stage show wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring but they certainly made up for it with intensity. I really enjoyed hearing the song “Supernova” from their new EP, Space, which is an epic record. I highly recommend picking it up. It’s a 6-track EP that takes you on a journey into the realm of space, fraught with powerful imagery and amazing songwriting with complicated riffs and hooks. Go get it. Now.
Next on the bill was Hellyeah, a mixture of former members of various bands who joined together to keep pounding out their love of metal. Chad Gray (ex-Mudvayne) belts out the vocals with Tom Maxwell (ex-Nothingface) and Christian Brady (ex-Magna Fi) assaulting the senses with a double-guitar threat, Kyle Sanders (ex-Blood Simple), master of the bass and Vinnie Paul (ex-Pantera, Damage Plan) thundering the drum kit like Odin and his Hammer. Opening with Blood for Blood, Hellyeah cranked out an amazing set consisting of old and new songs alike utilizing the same high energy stance presented by pretty much every other band we’ve seen today. They’re a solid and tight band that clearly shines in a live setting. The guys closed out their set with a few more songs from their latest release, “Demons in the Dirt” and “Moth”.
King Diamond then descends onto the stage which boasts a massive castle set, lots of lights and theatrics. Opening with “The Candle”, King Diamond reminded everyone in the audience why he is The King. Being in the industry for over three decades and dealing with medical issues that sidelined him for a period of time, The King still has every bit of vocal range as he ever has. He is one of the only men I’ve ever heard scream like a woman and MEAN it. It was so great to hear old Mercyful Fate songs like “Come to the Sabbath” while enjoying The King’s highly theatrical stage show complete with actors and props. The King still puts on one hell of a show.
Finally, Slayer hits the stage. They had what seemed like a rather long intro which lead into the title track of their new record, “Repentless”. Tom, Kerry, Gary and Paul seem sort of subdued on stage, not displaying all of the physical antics of some of the other bands but, again, when you’ve been playing live for three decades, you may not move around as much on stage as you used to. However, they still deliver the high intensity thrash metal that they are known for. With Tom now having a big, unruly grey beard, he reminds me of the Heavy Metal Santa bringing headbanging Christmas presents to us all. In July, even. As always, Slayer gets a great fan response with lots of moshing and crowd surfing. They also had a very active stage show with pyrotechnics and lots of sinister imagery and symbolism projected onto the screens on stage behind them. Tom Araya also continues to nail the trademark screech that has been a staple in Slayer’s music. Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph have assumed their roles in the band seamlessly and gave yet another stellar performance.
It’s unfortunate to see the decline in attendance for this festival. Maybe next year they can get a killer line-up and rock it.
Metal Wani would like to thank Adrenaline PR for the support m/
Dawn “Mama Love” Brown
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