Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Concert Review-- Mayhem Fest-- Mansfield, MA-- July 16th, 2013

For the past five years, the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has been a cornerstone of my summer. Every year has been a whole lot of fun with diverse lineups and a great, fun atmosphere. The sixth installment was no exception to the rule with another excellent day full of metal, headbanging, moshing, sweat, laughs and just all-around good times.

The 1st band of the day was Thrown Into Exile. They are virtually unknown at the moment and don't even have a full-length record out yet. I had never listened to them before and I always liking checking out up-and-coming bands, so I figured I check out their set. I found them to be just alright with really nothing exciting or interesting about them. There are a ton of other bands that do their style of groovy metalcore a lot better. It's a shame too because these guys were clearly stoked to be on such a big tour and they seemed like cool dudes, but based on the crowd reception they didn't make much of an impression. I commend them for trying to get shit going early and landing a spot on a huge tour as a new band, but Thrown Into Exile was a mediocre way to start the day.

Huntress was up next and they're are just a frustrating band for me. Musically, I think they're pretty damn awesome with a lot of nice vintage thrash/traditional heavy metal riffs and solos. The problem is that Jill Janus's vocals are not particularly good. Her screams are decent, but her standard clean singing is subpar and when she tries to hit high notes like the ones on "Spell Eater", it's just painful to listen to. At least she had some amusing on-stage banter and an interesting stage presence to make up for her middling vocals. I appreciate their throwback style and the band is definitely talented, I just don't really like Janus's vocals.

I went and refilled my water bottle and walked around for a little bit, but I still managed to catch the last few songs of Attika 7. They were pretty lame "heavy" hard rock that reminded me of a slightly better version of Hellyeah. Even Seinfeld's work back in the day with Biohazard was cool and I used to dig bassist's Tony Campos's work with Static-X, but none of my enjoyment of their prior projects carried over to Attika 7. Another weird thing that I thought was dumb is that they kept referring to the crowd as "serial killers". You should probably pick a different name to call people in the crowd because that's just lame as all hell. Pretty weak set and I can't believe this the band the tour organizers picked to replace the mighty Behemoth. Nergal and co. would be ashamed if they heard these dudes play in their intended lineup spot.

The first band of the day that I actually cared about seeing, Battlecross, was finally on next. I've gotten super into them after hearing their 2011 record Pursuit of Honor a few months ago and thankfully, their set not only met, but exceeded my expectations for them. Plain and simple, these guys just flat-out rip live. Frontman Kyle "Gumby" Gunther sounded spot-on vocally and got the crowd properly amped up. Instrumentally, they were flawless with guitarists Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala nailing every solo, bassist Don Slater demonstrating his insane bass skills and fill-in drummer Kevin Talley showing why he is one of the most well-renowned drummers in the metal industry (I had heard him play live once before with Six Feet Under, but the zoo animal otherwise known as Chris Barnes kind of ruined Talley's excellent drumming.) Aside from giving an energetic and precise performance, Battlecross also showed the crowd they are complete class-acts. At the end of "Flesh & Bone" (which began with an awesome wall of death,) there was a kid crowdsurfing in a wheel chair. Gumby invited him on-stage and wouldn't start "Push Pull Destroy" until he got up there. The kid was jamming out the whole time on the side of the stage and Gumby repeatedly went over to him and interacted with him when he wasn't doing vocals. After the song was over, Tony Arta handed him a couple of picks and the whole band gave him fist bumps and high-fives while they were getting off stage. I've never seen anything like that at a show before and it was just an awesome gesture by them. In addition to making that kid's day, they donated $1 from every purchase of their new record War of Will to the One Fund for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. They've been supporting local charities on just about every show of the tour and given the fact they are an up-and-coming band who doesn't make a lot of money, shows just how generous and selfless the members of the band. Battlecross put on one of the most impressive shows of the day and there is no doubt in my mind that these guys have all the tools to become an incredibly popular band in the metal scene.

Born of Osiris kept things going on the day. This marked my fourth time seeing them and I know exactly what to expect from their set: efficient, energetic and a lot of fun. The setlist was mostly staples, which is what a lot of bands go for on this festival and that's completely fine. That being said, I wish they didn't completely ignore A Higher Place and play so much off The New Reign, but at least they played "Abstract Art" which is easily my favorite track off that record. Their new record is due out August 20th and the debut track from it, "Machine", is pretty sick and translated very well to the live environment. I'm curious to see how the full record will pan out and what territory they will explore after The Discovery and departure of lead guitarist Jason Richardson.  I may not like them as much as I did a couple of years ago right after The Discovery came out, but they always put on a good show and are undoubtedly one of the finer deathcore acts around.

I went and got Rockstar after Born of Osiris wrapped up and caught most of the Butcher Babies's set from the Rockstar tent. For those who don't know: Butcher Babies are a band with two female singers who have posed in Playboy and they often play their live shows semi-nude (That didn't happen at Mayhem because of the amount of young fans in attendance.) While their set didn't particularly impress me, they weren't quite as bad as I expected them to be. The studio stuff I had heard was unbearable to listen to while the stuff they played live was a bit more tolerable. I wasn't by any means impressed by what I saw from Butcher Babies, but at least they we're better than I expected them to be.

I went to Battlecross's signing near the end of the Butcher Babies's set and missed about a quarter of Motionless in White as well waiting in-line (Battlecross was actually subtly making fun of Motionless in White's use of breakdowns by doing synchornized moves when the 1st riff kicked in.) Battlecross are some of the most hilarious and awesome dudes I've ever met from a band. They genuinely appreciated everyone who checked out their set and thanked everyone multiple times for the support. After talking to them for a few minutes, I took a quick picture with them, thanked them again for a badass set then proceeded to kill the rest of the time Motionless in White was on-stage by getting more water and sitting down for a few minutes.

I got back to the Jager stage to see Job for a Cowboy just as Motionless in White had wrapped up. I was a bit nervous to see them again after their pretty underwhelming performance at Summer Slaughter last year, but thankfully this was not a repeat of that show. The poor sound mix that plagued their set at Summer Slaughter was gone and they actually had one of the clearest sound mixes of any band on Mayhem. Jonny Davy sounded awesome vocally delivering his sinister lows and trademark shrieking high-vocals with equal precision and the guitar didn't drown out everything else. The setlist was interesting given that they backed off their recent refusal to play material from their debut EP Doom. "Knee Deep" and "Entombment of a Machine" are not amongst my favorite songs from Job for a Cowboy, but both of them are solid deathcore songs that are a good time live so it was cool to see them play them again. The choices off Demoncracy were interesting. I didn't expect "Imperium Wolves" or "Tarnished Gluttony" to be in the set so it was definitely a nice surprise, especially the mid-paced "Tarnished Gluttony" which made for a nice contrast with the ultra-fast, in-your-face death metal that complied the rest of the set. I'm glad that Job for a Cowboy still has it live and hopefully that mediocre performance at last year's Summer Slaughter was just a fluke.

 Now came the time of the day for the only band on the bill that could've been either fantastic or completely abysmal to sit through: the one and only wigger-slam icons Emmure! I'd seen Emmure twice previously in 2009 and they were pure torture to sit through. This was not the case this go-round because I didn't take it seriously and I had a lot of fun during their set. If you just sit back and laugh at the content of their music, they are actually a good time live. Are they good musicians? No. Does their music have any serious redeeming qualities? Hell no. Is Frankie Palmeri a clown? Absolutely. What Emmure is good for is a laugh and their 30-minute was chock full of them. Emmure is basically everything that Attila failed to be Warped Tour last week: A solid time-waster that was so bad that it was hilarious and entertaining. Now that I know how to properly process Emmure in a live setting, I won't dread having to see them if they ever appear on a bill I'm interested in again!

Machine Head closed out the Jager Stage and in typical Machine Head fashion: they absolutely destroyed. Few people know how to get a crowd riled up like Robb Flynn and it's just so much fun to watch. He just commands the stage every second he is on it and is one of the finest frontmen in metal by far. There wasn't much different from the previous times I've seen them, but the same high level of energy, precision and intensity that has made them one of my favorite bands to see live was fully on-display yet again. Seeing them play "Halo" again live was worth the price of admission by itself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Halo" needs to be a permanent fixture in their setlist and it'll be an absolute travesty if they ever stop playing it. Machine Head is a must-see every time they come around and they were the undisputed highlight of the side stages for me.

Children of Bodom closed out the side stage on a high note with the sharpest performance of the four times I've seen them. It's really incredible how much their reduced partying has helped out the quality of their live sets. The first two times I saw them in 2008 and 2009, they were all in complete stoopers and played some of the sloppiest live sets I've ever witnessed. Their headlining show in 2011 and this time were completely different. The band was pretty tight all-around and Alexi Laiho didn't screw up any solos or become an incoherent mess vocally. The setlist was a pretty good albeit typical set for Bodom ("Sixpounder" was a nice surprise though) playing pretty much everyone of their crowd-pleasers except for "Downfall".   I will say that I was surprised that they only played 1 track off their new record Halo of Blood, which they are clearly out on this tour promoting. Given the fact that they had a 35-minute set and the record just came out a month ago, I expected them to put more than one new song in the set (though I didn't really care that much because Halo of Blood is just pretty good in my opinion.) Nonetheless, Children of Bodom put on a pretty killer set that has all but erased my early bad memories of them as a live act.

Amon Amarth opened up the main stage for the day. I hadn't seen them since 2010 and as a big fan of their material, I was itching to see them again. The long wait in-between the last time I'd seen them and this time thankfully did not lead to disappointment as Amon Amarth killed it. I was surprised how well their music translated to a big stage. You wouldn't expect a viking-based melodic death metal band that is used to playing in clubs to sound so good on a giant stage, but they didn't lose any of their power on a bigger stage than they're used to playing. The giant stage also allowed to them have a giant viking ship setup, which was completely badass. The ship even blew smoke a few times! The ship only further enforced the badassery of their Norse mythology/viking themes and it was a truly a spectacle to see. The only downside was the fact that they opened the main stage, which is always the least energetic crowd reaction of the day due to the side stages having just ended and everyone being beat after 5+ hours standing in the sun. The crowd was practically dead throughout their, which really sucked because they put on a great show without much fanfare or enthusiasm. It was also kind of a bummer that nothing from With Oden on Our Side was played. That record is arguably their most popular and best received from a consensus-standpoint, so it was surprising/disappointing that they didn't play anything from that record. I hope I get to see Amon Amarth in the near future in a club venue with a crowd that will give them the time of day. Despite the weak crowd, Amon Amarth still kicked off the main stage quite nicely.

The mighty Mastodon was up next. I wasn't quite sure to what expect since the last time I saw them at the House of Blues with Dillinger Escape Plan and Red Fang in November 2011 was one of the best performances I've ever seen. Given the fact that they were playing an amphitheater and only had a 45-minute set, I knew it wasn't going to be quite as special as that performance. However, I did not expect this set to be this disappointing. The primary reason this set was disappointing was the over-saturation of material from their last record The Hunter. Don't get me wrong, The Hunter is a great record, but I don't want to see a 10-song set that is almost completely comprised of tracks from that record. There is just too little set time at a festival to dedicate 80% of your set time to one record. I also don't know who in the band thought it would be a good idea to close with "The Sparrow". It ended the set on a completely anticlimatic note and left pretty much everyone in the audience with a "that's it?" reaction when they finished the song and said their goodbyes to the crowd. I will say despite my bitching (I'm sorry they're are my favorite band of all-time and I don't mean to be rude or disrespect them, it just aggravated me that they played so much new material while all but completely ignoring their older stuff.) they still put on a pretty great show. At least they played a good amount of the better/heavier stuff off of The Hunter and "Megalodon" is still one of the heaviest live songs ever (the riff that comes in after the banjo part never fails to force me to reach near neck-breaking levels of headbanging.) Mastodon still performed very well and it's always a pleasure to see them, I just hope the next time I see them there isn't such a lack of old material in the set.

Five Finger Death Punch was up next. The first time I saw them at the first Mayhem Fest in 2008, I was a huge fan of them and I thought they killed it live. Fast forward to five years later and I'm no longer a fan of theirs and their live show was just average to me. I'll give them credit: Ivan Moody can sing well, they have a decent stage presence and their guitarists are actually pretty good. The problem is that their music is just really generic and forgettable canceling out the positive merits they've as a band. Their set kind of just dragged with very few highlights or lowlights over the course of the entire hour they played. It was cool to hear to The Way of the Fist material for nostalgia's sake and the Bad Company cover was kind of fun and served as a nice tribute to the troops overseas. The only really painful moment of their set was the absolutely awful drum solo from Jeremy Spencer. The actual drumming wasn't impressive and there was an electronic interlude in the middle of it that sounded like someone combined dubstep and porn audio making the solo even more embarassing. Five Finger Death Punch wasn't overly terrible and I'm sure they were great if you like their stuff, but I didn't find much enjoyment to be had during their set.

Rob Zombie closed out the evening and he brought down the house. Rob Zombie is just a natural-born performer who is an expert at showmanship and entertaining. His stage set-up was loaded with flames, giant robots, video screens playing a bunch of psychedelic and horror imagery to match up with each song,  bizzaro, cable-bound vehicles, giant old-school radios, etc. Zombie's grand stage show perfectly matches up with his over-the-top horror persona. Adding to the thrilling visual overload, Zombie did some other cool shit during his set. During John 5's solo, Zombie ran around the venue the whole time, which was pretty cool and the jams the band does are pretty badass (it was Enter Sandman/School's Out last night.) I will say that I would've liked to hear some better tracks off his new record Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. "Dead City Radio" and "Ging Gang Gong" are easily amongst the worst tracks on the record in my eyes, I would've preferred to hear tracks like "Lucifer Rising", "Revelation Revolution" and "Behold, the Pretty Filthy Creatures!" instead, but it wasn't that big of a deal because the new stuff that was played sounded pretty great live. Some more White Zombie tracks would've also been awesome and taken the performance to the next level. Other than some minute setlist complaints, Rob Zombie put on a masterful, almost endlessly entertaining performance to close off another great Mayhem Fest. Hopefully Kevin Lyman, John Reese, and the good people at Rockstar can continue their hot streak for the seventh incarnation.

Thrown Into Exile 5/10
Huntress 5/10
Attika 7 4/10
Battlecross 9/10
Born of Osiris 8/10
Butcher Babies 3/10
Job for a Cowboy 8/10
Emmure LOL/10
Machine Head 9.5/10
Children of Bodom 8.5/10
Amon Amarth 8.5/10
Mastodon 9/10
Five Finger Death Punch 5/10
Rob Zombie 9.5/10

Spell Eater
Destroy Your Life
I Want to Fuck You to Death
Eight of Swords

Breaking You
Man of Stone
Force Fed Lies
Flesh & Bone
Push Pull Destroy

Born of Osiris:
Follow the Signs
Open Arms to Damnation
Abstract Art
Bow Down

Job for a Cowboy:
Entombment of a Machine
Imperium Wolves
Knee Deep
Tarnished Gluttony
Constitutional Masturbation

Emmure(filled in the blanks with *are songs I know they played ):
4 Poisons 3 Words
Solar Flare Homicide*
Sunday Bacon*
I Thought You Met Telly and Turned Me into Casper*
Demons With Ryu
Drug Dealer Friend*
Dogs Get Put Down
Children of Cybertron

Machine Head:
Struck a Nerve

Children of Bodom:
Silent Night, Bodom Night
Hate Me!
Hate Crew Deathroll
Angels Don't Kill
Halo of Blood
In Your Face

Amon Amarth:
Destroyer of the Universe
Pursuit of Vikings
War of the Gods
Deceiver of the Gods
Death in Fire
Twlight of the Thunder God

Black Tongue
Crystal Skull
Dry Bone Valley
All the Heavy Lifting
Bedazzled Fingernails
The Sparrow

Five Finger Death Punch:
Under and Over It
Burn It Down
Hard to See
Bad Company(Bad Company Cover)
White Knuckles
Drum Solo
Lift Me Up (new song)
Far From Home
The Bleeding

Rob Zombie:
Teenage Nosferatu Pussy
Meet the Creeper
Living Dead Girl
We're an American Band (Grand Funk Railroad Cover)
More Human than Human
Drum Solo
Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga
Sick Bubblegum
House of 1,000 Corpses
Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown
Thunder Kiss 65'
Guitar Solo
Enter Sandman (Metallica cover)/ School's Out (Alice Cooper cover)


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