August 9, 2009
Job For A Cowboy
The Black Dahlia Murder
All That Remains
Bullet For My Valentine
I respect what the Mayhem Festival is trying to do, I really do. But when you're lining up metal bands to play back to back all day long in the dog days of summer, why not embrace the variety and eclectic nature of the genre you're trying to support? Too much of this years lineup ran together into one distortion laden, growling mess that was frankly too much for even the most seasoned of veteran metal fans (read...me).
I'm not like the majority of reviewers of these types of festivals who only show up late in the day for the main stage headliners, or only catch a smattering of the side stage acts because they're too busy grabbing a bucket of popcorn and bullshitting with their buddies. I saw every act on this tour and I'm gonna review them all...so let's get started.
I had high hopes for the show opener from Knoxville, Tennessee as I'd read good things in some of the national metal publications that they were one of the young up and comers in the industry. As soon as they took the stage, I was disappointed. So this is deathcore huh? Why is it that so many bands these days feel the need to play non-stop double bass and blast beats as fast as humanly possible while their vocalist does his/her best cookie monster impression? Top the monotony of the "music" off with vocalist Phil Bozeman's inane commentary between songs, trying his best to fit the word "motherfucker" into every sentence, and this Mayhem Festival was off to a rocky start in the eyes of this reviewer.
These guys served as the Jagermeister band for the Bristow show, meaning they aren't actually on tour with Mayhem, they're a local artist who were given a 20 minute set to play in front of more people than they've likely seen in all their previous shows combined. Saint Diablo, from Richmond, Virginia (somewhat local?) made the most of their opportunity. The band had kind of a mid-90's, nu-metalish sound to them with a heavier punch...like Korn on crack. The vocalist even sported the braided corn row look that so many bands were fond of back in the day...yikes! Now I realize nu-metal is a bad word these days, but considering what I'd just seen from Whitechapel, these guys were actually a breath of fresh air. It wasn't all that memorable, but not bad either.
Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, this was the first band of the day to really impress me. Don't get me wrong, it was more deathcore (the flavor of the week in the metal genre), but if you want to sell me on this stuff, this may just be the band to do it. The band was tight as shit and every instrument stood out. Put plainly, it wasn't just noise! And listen, I'm not an image guy by any stretch of the imagination, but these guys have the look! They don't look like a bunch of young punks trying to be loud and evil, they're just loud and fucking evil! Vocalist Jonny Davy was an absolute beast on the mike. This is a band I will definitely keep my eye on...I have a feeling they'll be around for awhile.
The thing that struck me about New Jersey's God Forbid is singer Byron Davis's ability to really work the crowd. This band seemed very appreciative of the fans and of the metal community in general. One of my favorite things to hear a band say at a festival like this is to remind the crowd that "this is your day", because it's true. Metal fans truly do make up an underground community that appreciate a style of music that is virtually shunned and ignored by mainstream society. To witness 10,000+ people supporting aggressive music at something like the Mayhem Festival is always a treat, especially to someone like Byron Davis who typically plays in front of a tenth of this crowd. Regarding their set, God Forbid represented themselves as a true metal band. Amazing guitar solos, excellent vocals (actual singing...gasp!!!) and a bludgeoning rhythm section. If you like metal and you're not listening to God Forbid, then you're missing one of the true pioneers in the genre today.
The Polish black metal stalwarts were next. Now this wasn't my first Behemoth show, so I knew what to expect here, but again...not my thing. Guys (and girls), corpse paint just doesn't do it for me. Please explain this concept to me. Am I supposed to be scared? Is it supposed to enhance the music in some way? What am I missing here? Behemoth...extremely fast...extremely loud...extremely evil...extremely boring.
Admittedly, I am a huge ATR fan...I never get tired of seeing these guys (and girl) live. I wasn't disappointed in the least when they took the stage at Mayhem. My only question was why in the hell were they playing so early in the day? Oli Herbert is truly one of the best guitar players on the planet and I love how he doesn't mind taking center stage when it's his time. He wants you to know that he's the shit! You always know the sign of a good show when you don't want to see it end, and that's how I felt about ATR's set at Mayhem...they could have played all day and I wouldn't have gotten enough. Phil Labonte's voice seemed to bother him at times (he let the crowd sing a little too much), but his energy more than made up for it. Phil has had some vocal problems in the past and I can only hope that he can hang on for years to come because he really is an amazing vocalist. All told, ATR weren't the best band from Massachusetts on this day (that honor would go to Killswitch Engage), but they came damn close!
Back to the Hot Topic Stage for more of the same. That being said, these guys were probably the best of the day on this stage outside of Job For A Cowboy. Chubby vocalist Trevor Strnad is a lot of fun to watch and the band as a whole is definitely colorful. They somehow manage to make death metal fun, and there's something to be said for that. A review of TBDM would have to include words like blast beats...screams...gutteral growls...guitar solos...but you also have to include fun. When your vocalist is sporting a huge beer gut with the word "heartburn" tattoed across it, how could it not be fun?
Back to the Jagermeister stage for headliners Trivium from Orlando, Florida. This is a band that I've watched in earnest since they got their start on Roadrunner Records. It's been fun watching them grow up. I can honestly say, they've become true professionals onstage. Matt Heafy is definitely one of the better front men in the business today. Their sound and stage presence remind me of a young, albiet heavier, Metallica. The crowd got to see a humorous side to Matt that I for one hadn't seen in the past (If you don't live in this area, don't worry, we're gonna be coming all over the place on our next tour...that's what he said"...hahaha.). When I originally saw the lineup for the Mayhem Festival, I was shocked that Trivium were closing the Jager stage, given that ATR were playing that stage as well, but they proved today that they were deserving of that slot. Having seen these guys play a rather lackluster set a few years ago at the Family Values Tour, they really changed my impression this go around. Maybe it's because they were more in their element in this setting? Whatever the reason, I can't deny that Trivium deserved to be the Jagermeister Stage headliner, they were one of the highlights of the day for me.
From Tampa, Florida, by way of Buffalo, NY are Cannibal Corpse, one of the legendary death/grind bands of all time (alongside the likes of Death, Napalm Death and Obituary). These legends took the stage and continued the bludgeoning nature of the Hot Topic Stage that started way back with Whitechapel at the beginning of the afternoon. Front man George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher oftentimes seemed like he wasn't exactly sure what to say to the crowd. My impression was that he definitely felt unsure of himself in front of a crowd of this magnitude. At one point, he dedicated the song "Fucked With A Knife" to the ladies...seriously. It left me wondering who in the hell likes this shit? I was off to the main stage.
I feel about this Welsh band's live show like I do about their albums, which is to say inconsistent. At one minute they really do sound amazing and the next they just kind of fall flat. It's as if they can't decide if they truly want to be a metal band (Scream, Aim, Fire) or if they want to be crowd pleasing rockstars (Tears Don't Fall). Don't get me wrong, these guys have their fans and they were out en masse at the Mayhem Festival. And this was definitely the first time all day that I heard the ladies in the crowd overpower the men. If nothing else, BFMV provided a nice break from the Hot Topic Stage monotony by giving us a little rhythm and harmony, which was a welcome change to this reviewer's eardrums.
"We came to drink all of your beer and pee on all of your women"...so said KsE guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz as the Massachusetts band took to the main stage at the Mayhem Festival. To watch KsE live is to witness one of the true anomalies in metal, perhaps in all of music. There are five members of the band and each one of them brings something to the table that is absolutely essential to creating their tightly knit and innovative metalcore sound. However, it is the two primary opposing forces of this band, vocalist Howard Jones and the aforementioned Dutkiewicz that somehow manage to create the amazing chemistry that is KsE. Jones is a stocky, African-American who abstains from alcohol and plays it cool at all times. Adam D. on the other hand, is a tall, lanky white guy who drinks his face off and doesn't take anything seriously, including himself. And it's that self-deprecating humor that sets this band apart from their peers...what other band takes the stage with all five members sporting tuxedo t-shirts? And when Dutkiewicz, sporting a cape and shorts that would make Daisy Duke blush, chants "devil, devil, devil" in a high pitched voice between songs, you just can't help but laugh. But don't get the wrong impression, this is no comedy act. When KsE launch into songs like "Rose of Sharyn" or "The End of Heartache", I got chills just watching them. The band is passionate about their music and you can feel it. Like ATR earlier in the day, this was a set that I didn't want to see end, and that's about the best compliment you can ever give to a band. Despite their use of pyrotechnics, which may have been a cool main stage diversion for some bands, but felt unnecessary for a band of this magnitude, KsE stole the show at this Mayhem Festival.
What can be said about the legendary Slayer that hasn't already been said before? When the house lights dropped and all that was left was a white curtain in front of the stage with pentagrams spinning on it, everyone in the crowd knew what was in store next. And when the curtain dropped and the first notes of "Disciple" hit your eardrums, the Slayer experience was in full effect. Strobe lights, fog, a wall of sound and a Slayer eagle logo lit up in flames...YES! Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't deny that these Bay Area thrash titans are an incredible live act. Guitarists Jeff Hanneman, dressed in his traditional Raiders jersey and black baseball catcher leg pads, and Kerry King, sporting black leather pants and full on chains hanging from his belt, shredded like it was 1988. Drummer Dave Lombardo was a monster on the skins, as always. And vocalist/bassist Tom Araya played the part of twisted ring leader to a tee. The band launched into classics like "South of Heaven", "War Ensemble", "Angel of Death" and "Raining Blood" and even gave the Mayhem crowd a taste from their upcoming album with new song "Psychopathy Red". Araya even showed a humorous side when mentioning the new album, saying that "it's about murder, death and serial killers...it's a typical Slayer album". This is a rare band that when you show up to see them play live, you know exactly what you're going to get, which is to say an energetic, loud and inspired performance. Slayer never fail to disappoint and they were on top of their game on this night.
I wish I could say the same for the Mayhem Festival headliner. Marilyn Manson took the stage and proceeded to play up his prima-donna image. Throwing his microphone stand to the ground repeatedly, only to have it quickly put back in place by some poor roadie, became routine during the set. Manson ran through favorites like "Little Horn" and "Tourniquet", along with hits like "The Dope Show", the Eurythmics cover "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and "The Beautiful People". However, unlike the two bands that preceeded him, this set seemed uninspired and the headliner appeared to be bored. Manson seemed more interested in interacting with his road slaves between each song by getting toweled off or taking a swig from a fresh Budweiser, only to spit it all over the first few rows of the crowd and toss the remainder away. After seeing 8 straight hours of metal, this wasn't the set I expected from a headliner. Disappointing to say the least.