Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mayhem Fest: The Performances

The best part of Mayhem Fest is, of course, the actual bands’ performances. I went off on a tangent full of rants about the festival in my last entry, but really it is the music that matters the most. Unfortunately it took my friends and I a long time to leave so we showed up at the show about an hour late. We missed Whitechapel and Job for a Cowboy, which was a little disappointing because I’d really wanted to see them both. Whitechapel, a relatively new band hailing from the UK is a very heavy and interesting deathcore band that has been gaining a lot of attention in the extreme metal scene. In fact I noticed that lots of people were wearing their shirts at the festival, which was a big surprise since I thought they were still pretty small (I even saw a 40+ Mom wearing one). My advice like I said before is to get to the venue a couple hours early so you can get a good parking spot and then tailgate with your own food and drinks. This way you can jump in line before the gates open and see the opening bands plus you won’t need to buy food or drinks for a while. I wasn’t as bummed about missing JFAC because I’ve seen them before and I don’t like the direction their music has gone. They went from a really unique grindcore band (complete with pig squeals) to a pretty generic death metal band. By the way, I will be discussing this new subgenre trend known as "Deathcore" in my next entry including a review of Whitechapel's latest record.

Since we had will call tickets and really wanted to get into the show, we just sort of jumped in line near the front after grabbing the tickets rather than walking to the end of the nearly mile long line. I practically ran across the lawn when I realized that God Forbid was already playing. By the time I got to the front of the crowd by slam dancing across the pit, they only had three songs left. They sounded amazing despite having lost one of their core members, Dallas Coyle. However, between Byron Davis and Doc Coyle they rocked really hard although I missed hearing any of their new songs. At the end of the set Doc Coyle threw his pick into the crowd and I happen to grab it! This makes my level of awesomeness triple what it was before and I will definitely attend the next tour that God Forbid goes on so I can experience a full set. I headed to the next stage where Behemoth began playing their very dark and insane set. I respect them but I don’t really like their music and they are hit or miss for most people due to their heavy black metal influence. Their painted faces and weird masks were certainly a spectacle.

Next came All That Remains, one of my favorite bands to see live, and they seriously performed well. They mostly played songs from their latest album Overcome and their previous release The Fall of Ideals and the crowd responded really well. Most people seem to know their music and their lyrics and I bonded with some random people as we sang “Two Weeks” at the top of our lungs. The best surprise was the band that came next, The Black Dahlia Murder, who are one of my favorite extreme metal bands. My friends and I thought we had missed them because the Mayhem website had listed them below Behemoth (which I thought was weird knowing that BDM was a much bigger band in the scene). I grabbed my friend Alex, the guitarist of Nekrogoblikon, and we rushed headfirst and fists flailing into the mosh pit. It wound up being the most intense pit of the show and I was breathless for most of it since I was screaming the lyrics half the time and moshing during the rest. Even so, I got a decent 12 second video of the pit but I was afraid of getting knocked over and breaking my camera (which almost happens in the video). They are one of the best death metal bands to see live and they have quite a stage presence. I especially like how much their vocalist gets into the music and his growls and shrieks are unparalleled. I almost lost my voice during my favorite song of theirs, "What a Horrible Night To Have a Curse".

Right after this amazing set, Trivium came out and put on a decent performance. They sounded pretty good but I was a little upset with their set list because they didn’t play many of the songs that I really like. This is weird because since they only had a 30 minute set I would think the band would want to play their best songs. The highlights were "Down From the Sky" and their finale of Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr turned into a huge mosh pit that was ridiculously fun. I want to make it clear that I don’t simply listen to music and take pictures at shows, I participate and live the experience. I still remember getting knocked on my ass in the first mosh pit that I had ever been in when I was about 13 and I have always gone back for more. I think my mosh skills are at a new level of badassery since I wasn’t knocked over a single time and went toe-to-toe with some monster human beings. Next came Cannibal Corpse and although their synchronized head banging and hair twirling was a cool sight, I don’t like their music and their vocals annoy me.

The mainstage performances were all excellent beginning with the other UK band on the tour, Bullet for My Valentine. They played several songs from each of their albums opening with "Waking the Demon," and although a lot of the crowd on the lawn were talking shit about them (damn diehard Slayer fans) they really sounded great. They did extra screaming vocals on parts that were clean on the album in order to sound heavier to this type of crowd, which I thought was a solid move. I would definitely like to see them on a regular tour sometime. Next came the mighty Killswitch Engage who completely rocked the whole crowd with their incredible music. They played several songs from the new self-titled album including "Starting Over" but also played a few songs from all their albums. They opened with "My Last Serenade" and closed with their incredible cover of Dio’s "Holy Diver" that even the Slayer kids were compelled to dig.

Finally Slayer came out and the neo-nazis and diehard fans went crazy, reciting every word of their songs and dancing demonically around plastic trash fires. I’m not really a Slayer fan but I respect them and I know they influenced a lot of the bands that I listen to. Kerry King’s guitar solos were pretty awesome to see live and the pyro and lighting effects were cool. I realized that I do in fact like more of their songs than I thought before the show, but I find pure thrash metal to be pretty boring. I’d much rather listen to bands that have the influence and borrow some of its elements but the lack of melodies and monotone vocals just don’t do it for me. My favorite songs by them were “Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood”, their most well known tracks. Their lyrics are kind of stupid in my opinion and I feel like they try to make disturbing and f*cked up lyrics just for the shock factor. It may have been interesting in 1988 but its getting old and they really haven’t altered their sound at all. I like bands that evolve and this band has stagnated almost to the point of being boring. I definitely crossed off seeing Slayer live from my list of Metal things to do before I die.

Marilyn Manson was my favorite performance of the show. Not only did Twiggy Ramirez come back to the band to help write the new album but he also delivered his crucial touch to their live performance of their older songs. My friend commented that they only played songs from albums where Twiggy had been a part of the band. They didn’t play any songs from Eat Me, Drink Me or The Golden Age of Grotesque, which was a bit disappointing. However, they played many songs from Anti-Christ Superstar including “Tourniquet”, “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” and “Little Horn”. Brian Warner (Manson himself) has an immense stage presence and came out wearing a grim reaper looking hood. He also used various hats throughout the show and his mic doubled as a dagger. The sets they used were really elaborate and included a dismal version of the American flag for his first song of the set, “We’re From America”, which brutally critiques American culture. The lighting effects also added to the darker mood of the show and it left me mesmerized. I’ve been a Manson fan for about 6 years and since this was the first time I was seeing them live, I was certainly prejudiced towards liking their performance. Warner’s vocals sounded immense and his shrieks were hauntingly beautiful live. I also liked the fact that he doesn’t sing the same way as he does on the studio albums and prefers to change up his style and improv a bit. When the set was over after only an hour I really wanted more and stood baffled by the grandiose experience. I definitely want to check out their next headlining tour so that I can hear more of my favorite songs. Marilyn Manson’s lyrics are beautiful, poetic and filled with deep meanings despite his shock rocker image. I will be reviewing his latest album soon!

Pictures and Videos will be posted soon. Mayhem Fest was Nasty! 9/10. The only reason it loses a point is due to the plastic fires and lack of water.

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