It has been established that Mayhem Festival, now in its third year running, is a mainstay of every breed of heavy metal — mathcore, horror rock, nu-metal, New Wave American, hardcore, arena rock, death metal, etc. Taking up the mantle of our beloved and limited Ozzfest, Mayhem has tried its hardest to make a mark on the horizon. This year, after tireless lines, exhausting heat waves, clusterfuck staff scheduling, and last minute changes to ticket designation, your favorite metal reviewer entered a new venue for the masses.
Welcome to Walnut Creek in Raleigh, NC, the newest stop tacked on to Mayhem’s longest run yet. It isn’t rife with Slurpees and beachfront property, but at least I didn’t have to drive five hours back afterward. Emceed by comedian Big Jay Oakerson (you seriously have to get a load of this tit-magnet), you can meet the locals, have an overpriced cheeseburger (burger/fries combos priced at $13– believe it), and enjoy the show at Mayhem Festival. Also, stay tuned for a possible Listen piece on an impromptu truck bed performance in the front gate parking lot, courtesy of two-piece thrash outfit The Antiarchists.
Random tailgate metal? Only in the country, boys and girls.
Silver Star/Jagermeister Stages
3 Inches Of Blood
First on our docket was a distant hum of crushing bass and the scarcely audible passing of Cam Pipes’…well…pipes. Frankly, I did not see anything about this band that stood out on our landscape. Canadian act 3 Inches Of Blood is that modern metal band post-2000 which supports the naysayers’ complaints on how all metal screaming bands sound alike. As the opening act we were privy to catching, a disappointing beginning; as a band trying to prop up metal acts, the only one really pulling his weight seemed to be the live-only bassist addition and his speakers’ ridiculous reverb. Next!
In This Moment
What can I say about this band that has not already been said? What can I say without developing a mondo crush on Maria Brink? Well, since it’s obviously too late to avoid the latter, let us get down to brass tacks. In This Moment is a powerful rock band with a very potent vocalist whose voice, both screamed and serenading, carries like a tribal-tattooed dove on the hot summer breeze. From Brink waltzing through the crowd to a initiate an all-inclusive circle pit, to guitarist Howorth’s phenomenal licks, to stellar renditions of duet track “The Promise” (featuring Adrian Patrick of Otherwise) and power-punched single “The Gun Show” from 2010′s more straightforward dark release A Star-Crossed Wasteland, no stone was left unturned or undisturbed by the end of this Ozzfest 2007 Jagermeister alumni.
It is rare when the lead vocalist takes a tour of the venue amidst the metal crowd after their set, all casual and nonchalant, but Brink is your girl for the job, and while I try to hide my interest in stalking her mid-stride, let us move on.
Catching the tail-end of the Chimaira set is a disappointment on its own for any metal fan, but this groove sect of metal has a death grip on its fans that supersedes things only Chimaira could get wrong. Plagued with unhealthy distortion, the usually clean streak of high-end production and atmospheres becomes a melodic mess of destruction in the aftermath of bands like mathcore painkillers Norma Jean or a band like In This Moment. Mark Hunter was, as previously dumbed down by 3 Inches, inaudible beyond the usual growls, but Arnold’s guitar, while dressed in juxtaposed static, pulled them all out of the crevice with tight dominance through and through. Chimaira is a choice act, from my perspective, and best experienced in studio unless given a more suitable venue beyond Raleigh’s calamitous 2010 Jagermeister stage.
Hardcore bands that tour with the likes of garbage such as Hawthorne Heights? Bands like this generally get loathed by metalheads like me, a bunch of kids surrounded by tired, whiny bitching. Everything I assumed about this band has henceforth been negated upon seeing this performance. For those of you who think Atreyu is the emo kids’ metal, those kids might be included amongst their general audience, but Varkatzas and company have earned some serious respect today by virtue of pure technical skill and outright audience involvement. Aside from a dive into Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name”, tapping into Congregation Of The Damned‘s “Gallows” was a treat to behold, and guitar duo Jacobs and Miguel were trading licks like nobody’s business, with skill beyond their years.
Lesson being…never underestimate any band until you’ve had a chance to see their full capability face-to-face. It doesn’t hurt to have a charismatic banter between lead and drummer, either. It’s safe to say I’m a fan of this band now.
Five Finger Death Punch
As most rock fans will tell you, Five Finger Death Punch is a band with some loyal fandom to back them, having played a side stage at Mayhem before and rounded up a good following along the way. While I cannot vouch for them being entirely ready for this year’s main stage presence, the set design was spectacular, and for a band who is only two albums in and going, this was some severe exposure that these California juggernauts will benefit from heavily. Vocalist Ivan Moody and guitarist Zoltan Bathory, both with some good metal reps under their respective belts, lead the charge to get everyone psyched and did a damn good job, despite a mediocre crowd size to begin with. I would not call their set the most memorable event all day, but I was proud of them for bringing the respect and the metal to their table, regardless of what anyone says.
A drum solo, a finale riding on more radio-friendly “The Bleeding”: It was apparent where things were headed, but we enjoyed the show anyway. Period.
Lamb Of God
The Virginian country boys of definitive New Wave American Metal, Lamb Of God is undeniably a force to be reckoned with wherever they roam. This set was no exception, pounding out pure aggression and fan service throughout their short and steady half-hour run time. While the Adler siblings connected tightly on every single gut-punch rhythm, Blythe was never a second out of place or overpowered at all. “Set To Fail”, one of the bands’ more mainstream singles, brought the crowd up with great intensity; “Redneck”, preceded by a short Blythe monologue giving usual props to the US Armed Forces, segued into a pride chant about being from the country; finale piece “Black Label” from the aptly-titled sophomore release New American Gospel gave us a perfectly legitimate send off.
Lamb Of God might be softening a fraction, but latest fare Wrath is still considered some good and heavy metal, and as long as our boys keep playing, I’ll keep coming out to visit.
Setlist: “The Passing”, “In Your Words”, “Set To Fail”, “Walk With Me In Hell”, “Laid To Rest”, “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For”, “Redneck”, “Black Label”
Can someone please kindly explain to me why Raleigh’s fan base sucks so fucking badly out there on the lawns? What is wrong with everyone? Virginia Beach tried on this same “jammin’ on the headphones” listless enthusiasm last year, and we all should have learned from that. Seriously!
Rob Zombie‘s set opened on an ominous mix of various skits and segues culled out over his extensive catalog, right before clicking into “What’s Lurking On Channel X?” from Hellbilly Deluxe. If there is one thing Zombie and his crew do best, it’s theatrics: multiple screens displaying clips from random B-movie horror films and various haunting graphics or lyrical cues (even some hentai and Planet Of The Apes thrown in).
The stand-out events from Zombie’s set include both good and bad factors: while guitarist John 5 was rocking away non-stop, even pent up with a minor leg injury, Zombie never stayed in one place too long and was always jokingly attacking the crowd, though his remark that all the lazy young people sitting down were assholes might have been truth spoken in jest; Zombie intermittently threw himself off vocally, missing words here and there (couldn’t tell if this was his mic going out or him trying to evoke some reaction from the, ehem, “zombified” lawn crowd).
An absolute bonus for a lot of fans? Zero affliction from the Educated Horses material. With lighting and effects made to depict this band as walking comic book characters, our favorite horrorshow bounced between his Hellbilly saga, some staple White Zombie fare, and the obligatory John 5 “Eruption & Star-Spangled” solo/”School’s Out” Cooper cover/”Dragula” finale (complete with pyro and streamers). The setlist also included my two favorite Zombie tunes to date: “Scum Of The Earth” and “Living Dead Girl”. The only thing missing was a Moon cameo…Zombie’s a lucky bastard. The fans that did react came in droves down in the seats and warmly welcomed the corpse to our humble state. Thank Zombie and his crew for throwing a kick-ass party, but fuck you, lawn wallflowers.
Setlist: “Sawdust In The Blood”, “What Lurks on Channel X?”, “Superbeast”, “Scum of the Earth”, “Living Dead Girl”, “More Human Than Human”, “Sick Bubble-Gum”, “House Of 1000 Corpses”, Drum Solo, “Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)”, “Mars Needs Women”, “Thunder Kiss ’65″, Guitar Solo, “School’s Out”, “Dragula”
I suppose I already knew what to expect from KoRn, though this was my first chance to ever see them live. I knew, like everyone else going in, that we’d see a slew of hits and at least two songs promoting their latest effort, Korn III: Remember Who You Are. This was a given, but what made our final act stand out were two things: one awesome, one heartbreaking.
KoRn entered with flash after a slow build of clicks and pops, running straight into Take A Look In The Mirror standard “Right Now” and Untouchables blast-off “Here To Stay” (expected anthems for the larger crowds). For the bright side, every song played tonight was done so beyond perfection, even the lesser tripe “Let The Guilt Go” from KoRn III. Newest single “Oildale” had a more organic crunch live; my Issues favorite “Somebody Someone” was a pleasure to bang to out on a lawn with plenty of slinging room; classics from the eponymous debut rang out over us all like a familiar blanket toward the ending, particularly after Munky covered “Wicked” lyrics over the closing plucks of “Blind” and Davis’ bagpipes lead on into “Shoots And Ladders” and a Metallica segue (audience fanfare included).
The overall problem? Participation and interaction. Not only did the subtly dissipating audience members begin funneling out right around the last three songs, but throughout the entire set, KoRn did little to nothing in terms of hyping anyone up. Aside from the brief “Wicked” cameo and some cut-and-dry pick tossing at the close, there was such a gap between the stage and the people. Maybe they noticed the lack of energy and fed off of it; maybe my so-called neighbor fans were just tired from a long hot day, but damn it, this is a rock show! Where’s the excitement? Where’s the love?
On a high note, the music, thankfully, was sensational, to say the least. If no one else said so, thank you guys for coming out, and please come back sometime to give us another chance. Maybe a headlining tour of your own will bring the flocks? A nice couple of hours worth? Thanks.
Setlist: “Right Now”, “Here To Stay”, “Did My Time”, “Oildale (Leave Me Alone)”, “Falling Away From Me”, “Somebody Someone”, “Let The Guilt Go”, Bass/Drum Solo, “Freak On A Leash”, “Blind”, “Shoots and Ladders / One”, “Clown”, “Got The Life”
Gallery by Crystal Stewart