Friday, September 14, 2012

Mayhem Festival Delivers A Day Of Metal To Bristow, Virginia

The annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has become the summer camp of metal in its short existence. 2012 marks the event’s five year anniversary and this year’s lineup promises a little bit for everyone. The nearly half-day long event brought a mix of veteran acts as well as quite a few rookies to the Mayhem stage. The blistering sun was beating down upon the sea of black t-shirts all around us. The added humidity was helping to create a sea of b.o. all around us and the day was still young.

The gates opened and the crowd was herded in like cattle. Every band had a merch booth set up as well as Revolver and a few others. There were plenty of options for anyone around to spend their hard earned money on. There were a few freebies for the fans such as a CD sampler from Sumerian Records. Rockstar Energy Drink also had a tent set-up giving away small cans of their drink. The temps were high that day and that tent stayed packed all day long. There’s no telling how many cans were consumed on that day.

A forgettable local band kicked off the day and the second band to hit the stage was I The Breather. Shawn Span and his boys got the crowd all fired up and a dust cloud soon erupted from the moshing in the pit. The band played several songs off of their newest album Truth and Purpose and converted quite a few people into fans with their powerful set.

The smaller Sumerian Records stage featured very intimate, in your face performances from Dirtfedd, Upon a Burning Body and Betraying the Martyrs. These three bands, with emphasis on the last two, definitely put their all into their short, yet power packed sets. Each performance saw the eruption of dust clouds again, which proved to be a great indicator for each band as to how well they were liked by the crowd. Obviously, the bigger cloud meant that more people were moshing.

The Jagermeister stage never slowed up a bit as the day progressed. Whitechapel  were next up to perform and were followed by The Devil Wears Prada and As I Lay Dying, who were alternating with Asking Alexandria as to who would open the main stage and being on the Jager stage before Anthrax. The godfathers of thrash and one fourth of the Big 4, Anthrax, chose to close the Jager stage everyday instead of playing the main stage. They were performing their bare bones, guerilla set which featured song after song, in your face, minimal talking, attack mode. Their set list ran the gauntlet and included songs that were recorded before a lot of the people up front in the pit were even born. “Anti-social”, “Caught in a Mosh” and “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t” got great reactions from the massive crowd that formed to watch these icons of thrash.

The main stage began with Asking Alexandria, who had been alternating with As I Lay Dying for rights to open the big stage. Their set included “Closure”, “Morte et Diablo” and “A Lesson Never Learned” which seem to go over really well with the crowd. The main stage area slowly began to fill as they played as the smaller stages had finished their day and people began to filter over to the bigger stage.

The legendary Motorhead and their front man Lemmy soon took the stage. They were loud and kept the banter to a minimum as they blasted song after song from their extensive catalog. Lemmy did attempt to converse with the crowd between a few of the songs, but it was kept to a sentence or two and then on to another song. There wasn’t a lot to their stage presence, as their focal seemed to be purely on the music.

Another one fourth of the Big 4 was up next as Kerry King and Slayer took the stage to a huge roar of approval from the crowd.  As far as volume goes, I thought Motorhead was supposed to be loud! These guys took the volume knob that Motohead had turned up, cranked it up ALL the way and then ripped it off! They were dark, heavy, powerful and had a no BS approach to their show. There was almost no banter between songs as they unleashed on song after another. Kerry King is a menacing force to watch perform on the stage live. He aggressively slays that guitar as if there is a personal grudge between him and the instrument.

That left only one band to play and I can say with confidence that it was the band that almost the entire venue couldn’t wait to see perform. Slipknot was back and prepared to claim the stage that had made them somewhat legendary. This was, of course, the first US tour that band has taken on since the death of their bassist Paul Gray in 2010. The band took the stage and showed why their legions of fans are so dedicated to them. 

A Slipknot show is a sight to see as the nine members come together to form a nine headed masked beast of fury and pyro. They unleashed such classic s as “Duality” and “Psychosocial” with intensity and unbridled passion. It was truly a sight to see as lead singer Corey Taylor displayed the power that he has power that he has over the crowd at a Slipknot show. When he told the crowd to get down and jump when he counted to three, I looked around the crowded arena and could only see a scattered handful of people standing. That, my friend, is power and a pretty dynamic display for a front man of any band. Their set also included tons of pyro and even snow.

Of course, with each year’s announcement of the lineup for Mayhem, you hear the usual whining of people about how weak it is and that it’s not what it used to be. Yes, this year did see Sumerian Records having their own stage for the first time and they brought along several very hungry bands from their roster who all played great sets. There was also one half of the Big 4 with Anthrax and Slayer being there as well as the legendary Motorhead. Top it all off with the first US tour since 2010 by Slipknot as they set out to reclaim their elite status in the metal world. I think this year’s Mayhem had a great mix for everyone and 2013’s lineup will prove to be big shoes to fill in keeping up the great tradition of metal’s biggest touring summer package.

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