August 21, 2015 Mayhem Festival Plows Through Jones Beach, NY 7-26-15
Back in 2008, Heavy Metal needed a festival in North America to take over for the steadily dissolving Ozzfest. Ready to answer the call was Vans Warped Tour founder, Kevin Lyman, and Taste of Chaos founder, John Reese, teaming up with Rockstar Energy Drink for the first ever Mayhem Festival. Highly successful with a broad range of the genres’ best acts, the festival went on to become the premiere Heavy Metal Summer event and a must attend for Headbangers across the nation. Now celebrating its eighth year in 2015, Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival returned for a twenty-six date run through the USA and Canada. A slightly downsized configuration from the prior years, there would only be the main stage and Victory Stage opposed to three side stages. Surprising many, the announced lineup came down in the early Spring of 2015 including a mainstage anchored by Slayer, King Diamond, Hellyeah, and The Devil Wears Prada, along with the Victory Records Stage with Whitechapel, Thy Art Is Murder, Jungle Rot, Sister Sin, Sworn In, Shattered Sun, Feed Her to the Sharks, Code Orange, as well as Kissing Candice. A balanced mix of veteran Metal leaders and on the rise acts, the compacted itinerary excited fans of all ages, proving sometimes that less is more. With most of the tour in the books, on Sunday, July 26th, Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival setup camp to Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York for a very windy and lengthy day of Metal.
Kicking off the day was the Texas band Shattered Sun. Going strong since 2005, the band consists Joseph Guajardo on bass guitar, Henry Garza on keyboards/vocals, Jessie Santos guitarists/vocals, Robert Garza on drums, Daniel Trejo on guitar, and Marcos Leal on lead vocals. Combining a mix of melodic Thrash guitars, clean and harsh vocals, along with powerful double bass, the band released their debut album Hope Within Hatred back in April, days after it was announced they would be on Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. Having already toured with the likes of Testament and Exodus, this Summer run further helped extend the band’s reach to more potential fans.
Coming out with looks of determination on their face, they rattled off a six-song set that included “Awaken,” “The Ultimatum,” “Waging War,” as well as their album title track and more. Leal’s growls were crisp and full of potency as the riff work of Trejo and Santos were flawless. Fans of agressive Metal with plenty of melody and harmony need to check out this band. Shattered Sun will be a part of We Sold Our Souls To Metal Tour beginning at the end of September with Soulfly, Soilwork, and Decapitated for one killer lineup.
Next was the Hardcore band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania going by the name Code Orange. Signed to Deathwish Inc., the band has been together since and have shelled out two studio records, including their most recent from 2014, I Am King. With a lineup currently of Jami Morgan on drums/vocals, Joe Goldman on bass, along with Eric Balderose and Reba Meyers on guitar/vocals, Code Orange looked fierce as they prepared to take on the crowd.
With a straight ahead Hardcore style, no frills attached, Code Orange pummeled their way through a set that included “My World,” Slowburn,” “Dreams in Inertia,” and closer “I Am King.” Each member showed the same intensity, and they unified, providing blistering, thick vocals that ignited a pit instantly. Off-set from other bands in the genre, Code Orange are true to Hardcore roots and should appeal to the purists out there. After performing select dates in the US, they will be heading over to Australia end of September to early October before they head off to the UK and Denmark.
Keeping up with the Hardcore style, Grayslake, Illinois band Sworn In came on to the stage next. A part of the Razor & Tie Recordings family, the relatively young band has released two studio records since 2013, and April’s The Lovers/The Devil shows the further progression in their sound. Having already toured with everyone from I See Stars, Upon This Dawning, Emmure, Chiodos, Attila, and more, the band have become veterans in a short period. Possessing dark imagery and lyrical content, Vocalist Tyler Dennen, Bassist Derek “Slim” Bolman, Drummer Chris George, Guitarists Zakary Gibson and Eugene Kamlyuk, brought a bit of an edge to the stage as they walked out.
Taking the audience by surprise, they broke into breakdowns that rattled the pavement as an animated Dennen’s moved about the stage, and even laid down looking at the crowd with his head hanging over the ledge for added theatrics. Busting through songs like single “Sunshine,” the chaos reached a new level when a circle pit broke out during “Oliolioxinfree.” Enjoying the disorder, Sworn In capped off the set with fan-favorite “Snake Eyes” with a Wall of Death. One thing is for sure, this band knows how to grab their listeners by the throat and not let go. Those who missed them will get to see their show when they partake in the Hate Me Tour with Escape The Fate starting in October.
Changing up the pace, and throwing more straight-ahead traditional Metal into the ring was Gothenburg, Sweden’s Sister Sin. Led by the stern, but sexy, Liv Jagrell, Sister Sin is like the best of Judas Priest and Scorpions all in one package. No strangers to American soil, the band has toured with everyone from Otep, In This Moment, Arch Enemy, and more over the years. Now with four studio records to their name, Black Lotus has been scorching hot since when it dropped in 2014. As Guitarist Jimmy Hiltula, Bassist Strandh, and Drummer Dave Sundberg took their places, Jagrell followed and the Metal riot was ready to begin.
Blasting into Black Lotus‘ opening track “Food for Worms,” “Outrage,” and single “Chaos Royale” followed thereafter. Taking the audience by surprise with their high-energy delivery, Jagrell mesmerized with hand gestures and sky-high vocals that had Metal horns in the air. Going into other songs like “One out of Ten” and “Sail North,” Sister Sin successfully impressed all as they were sent off with cheers. Returning to their home land for some shows in the Fall, hopes are Sister Sin will be back stateside sometime soon, this time headlining.
Also more pure to one genre, directly following came the Death Metal band from Kenosha, Wisconsin called Jungle Rot. Seasoned warriors of the scene for over two decades now, Dave Matrise (Vocals, Guitar), James Genenz (Bass, Backing Vocals), Joey Muha (drums), and Geoff Bub (Guitar, Backing Vocals) make up this band’s brutality. Pleasing Death Metal fans since their 1997 debut, Slaughter the Weak, each album thereafter has attained positive reviews. Recently releasing Order Shall Prevail four dates into Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, the band was ready to show off some new and classic material.
Strolling out, nondescript at first, as soon as Matrise growled out the words to “Voice Your Disgust,” a shudder came over the crowd who were blown away. Playing on with songs like “Terror Regime,” “Worst Case Scenario,” and “Ruthless Omnipotence,” Jungle Rot lived up to their fierce name. Having eyes like daggers, Matrise’s stares and deep growls were enough to make any Death Metal lover want to cheer. While there are no announced tour dates yet, chances are Jungle Rot will be around sooner than later for more shows in support of Order Shall Prevail.
Thy Art Is Murder
Coming from the land down under, Aussie Deathcore titans Thy Art Is Murder came out with a buzz surrounding them. Having been part of The Summer Slaughter in 2014, North America welcomed them back with open arms for Mayhem Festival. Signed with Nuclear Blast Records, Thy Art Is Murder continue to rise as their recently released third studio album Holy War is receiving peak chart positions. Wearing a hood over his head, vocalist CJ McMahon came out like a Grim Reaper as Bassist Kevin Butler, Drummer Lee Stanton, along with Guitarists Sean Delander and Andy Marsh took their position ready to tear things up.
Wasting no time, the venom of 2012’s “Reign of Darkness” jump-started the set as “Shadow of Eternal Sin” kept the the momentum flowing. Conversing with the audience, McMahon express discontent with humanity in general as he bellowed “The Purest Strain of Hate,” followed by “Dead Sun,” “Coffin Dragger,” and a fitting closing with “Holy War.” Thy Art Is Murder’s crunchy guitars and no-holds-bar approach were the epitome of heavy. They are currently over in Europe before heading home for touring in Australia in October, but there is no doubt the US wants more Thy Art Is Murder.
Drawing one of the biggest crowds of the earlier part of the day was Knoxville, Tennessee’s Whitechapel. Coming on almost ten years since their inception, Whitechapel has seen tremendous growth over the course of their career, and 2014’s Our Endless War is the pinnacle of it all. More precise, dark, and equally as brutal, Our Endless War has turned many heads as the band toured in 2014 and left cities in rubble. Led by founding vocalist, Phil Bozeman and Guitarist Ben Savage, as well as Guitarist Alex Wade, Guitarist Zach Householder, Bassist Gabe Crisp, and Drummer Ben Harclerode, Whitechapel approached the stage in an opposing fashion.
As the amps fed back slightly for a moment, “The Saw Is the Law” began with lightning fast drumming and Bozeman’s raw, low growls. Following with “Let Me Burn” and “Our Endless War,” the pit was in full swing as some even crowd-surfed to the front of the barricades. Continuing on, they danced around their albums with songs like 2007’s “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation” and 2008’s “This Is Exile” where a Wall of Death formed. Wrapping up the set with 2012’s “Faces” and “I, Dementia,” the overwhelming feel of dread in their songs was executed perfectly. Taking some time off from touring after pounding the pavement for a while, Whitechapel will be back before the blink of an eye.
The Devil Wears Prada
Moving over into the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater for the first point in the afternoon, opening up the mainstage was Dayton, Ohio’s The Devil Wears Prada. Releasing their fifth studio record 8:18 in 2013, they recently returned with new concept EP Space, returning to a similar concept approached with the successful 2010 EP, Zombie. Difficult to believe the band has been together for a decade now, it is even more difficult to believe it has been three years since their last appearance on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. This time around a fixture on the mainstage for the entire tour, The Devil Wears Prada looked determined to give it their all to show they rightfully belonged.
Led by Vocalist Mike Hranica, Guitarist/Clean Vocalist Jeremy DePoyster, Bassist Andy Trick, and Drummer Daniel Williams, the band was joined by touring members Keyboardist Jonathan Gering and Lead Guitarist Kyle Sipress. Creating a mood, they immediately went into Zombie’s “Escape” before 2013’s “Sailor’s Prayer.” Uniting ambient textures with thick, heavy guitars, raw vocals, and emotional singing, The Devil Wears Prada shows they continue to grow as they played on with more of their concept songs like “Outnumbered” and newbie, “Supernova.” The latter a song where DePoyster’s singing is upfront with Hranica’s vocals, the guitar tone was enough to make anyone’s head move with a catchy chorus. Dominating without let down, The Devil Wears Prada certainly proved they belong as they wound down with 2011’s “Mammoth.” The Space EP is out now and a must listen for those who even were not fans of The Devil Wears Prada prior, it will make them believers.
Taking a walk back over to the Victory Stage, the sky was cast in clouds with the threat of rain any moment, and it was a fitting dreariness for Horror-influenced Kissing Candice. The hometown hereos on Mayhem Festival, Kissing Candice was born and raised on Long Island, New York and it felt like a family reunion for the guys with the gathering they attracted. Put together by former Dr. Acula Keyboardist Joey Simpson, who leads Kissing Candice on vocals, the ensemble is completed with Michael “Pac-Man” Pak (drums), Mike “Grippo” Grippo (bass, Tommy “Dreamer” Sciro (guitar), and Walter “Walt” Dicristina (guitar). Recently signed with Victory Records in the Winter of 2015, the band released their debut album Blind Until We Burn in June after touring alongside Twiztid in May. All donning masks, the theatrics was in place for an interesting set as they lurked on the stage moments before beginning.
As Simpson eerily swayed in place, concealed behind a white mask, the show began with “Ghosted” as the band showed their blend of Nu-Metal, Electronic, Hardcore, and Industrial. Continuing with “Successful Test,” it was the energizing “Put ‘Em Up” that ignited the biggest reaction as the irresistible chorus resonated in the attendance’s head for the rest of the day. Interacting with his bandmates, as well as enticing the crowd to participate, Simpson showed to be quite the frontman, even without a face; his eyes glaring out from underneath the constraining mask was jolting. Completing the set with “Slugworth” and “Tusk,” Kissing Candice received a round of applause and walked away with some new fans. Celebrating the release of Blind Until We Burn, Kissing Candice will be taking part in a CD release party August 23rd at Revolution in Amityville for their local supporters.
Moving back to the mainstage once again, it was time for the Metal supergroup Hellyeah. For what was once thought of as a side project has become a full-time outlet of musical expression for Mudvayne vocalist, Chad Gray; ex-Nothingface guitarist, Tom Maxwell; and Pantera drummer, Vinnie Paul. Sustaining the exit of Greg Tribbett and Bob Zilla, Hellyeah brought in ex-Bloodsimple bassist, Kyle Sanders and ex-Magna-Fi guitarist, Christian Brady to fill out their lineup. Hitting their best stride yet, Hellyeah’s 2014 album, Blood For Blood, lets the band’s true identities shine as they show nothing can stand in their way. Appearing on everything from Uproar Festival 2010, Knotfest 2014, and a slew of other tours in recent years, Hellyeah are unquestionably a household name in the Metal world, and it seemed fitting to see them finally grace Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.
Jolting onto the stage without reservation, Gray led the band as they pumped out “Soul Killer” and “Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood).” Tight sounding, the band’s enthusiasm was telling to how dedicated they were to putting on a great show. In fact, the outspoken Gray express he did not care if there are 7, 700, or 7,000 people in attendance, he was still going to give it his all. That he did as he leaped into the air any chance he could get, spewed theatrical blood from his mouth and rattled out the words to songs like “War in Me,” the telling “Moth,” and “Say When.” Paying homage to their beginnings, their set ended with their first single from 2007, “You Wouldn’t Know.” Hellyeah relentlessly show they are the real deal. While some may have been a little unsure what to think of the band when they began, it is time to give them another look with the epic Blood for Blood. Their Blood For Blood Tour continues internationally before the band returns for Shiprocked in January.
Feed Her To The Sharks
Taking one last stroll over to the Victory Stage, closing out the platform was Melbourne, Australians known as Feed Her To The Sharks. Formed back in 2008, this melodic band with influence from Hardcore, Death Metal, and Alternative Metal could easily be seen on tour with bands the likes of Soilwork and In Flames, to give those unfamiliar of what they are about. Made up of Andrew Van Der Zalm (vocals), Kim Choo (guitar), Marinos Katsanevas (guitar), Robert Davies (bass), and Andrew “Stix” Cotterell (drums), after two self-released full-length albums, hard work paid off when they signed with Victory Records in 2014. Releasing their third album, Fortitude, back in February of this year, it was now time for North America to get a dose of Feed Her To The Sharks on Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.
Opening up with their single “The World Is Yours,” Van Der Zalm let out a clarified display of harsh vocals as the melodic guitar riffs of Choo and Katsanevas were reminiscent of the best of European Melodic Death Metal. Going into their older material like “Misery,” “Chasing Glory,” and “Burn The Traitor,” many in the crowd began headbanging and moshing around. Closing out with 2013’s “Buried Alive,” Feed Her To The Sharks showed this crowd they are Extreme Metal done right. This North American taste should only be the beginning as this band has a very bright future ahead of them.
After a full day of everything from Hardcore to Metalcore to Deathcore it came time for one of two of the main attractions with iconic Danish Heavy Metal band King Diamond. Led by the legacy Mercyful Fate vocalist King Diamond himself, the band King Diamond is celebrating thirty years established in 2015. Taking a break from performing for a major triple bypass heart surgery, King Diamond himself described the experience as life changing in more than one way. Now completely healthy, King Diamond has quit smoking, eats healthier, exercises regularly, and has even changed his breathing a result of the surgery. What does this all mean? It means his voice is as strong as ever and he and his band of Andy LaRocque (guitars, keyboards), Mike Wead (guitars), Matt Thompson (drums), and Pontus Egberg (bass) are bringing audiences their best show in years. This was never more evident than his successful 2014 tour where the theatrical stage, song selection, and overall performance wowed fans. Now they were ready to take on Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival just as darkness began to set in over Jones Beach.
Beginning the ceremony with 1986’s Fatal Portrait track “The Candle” King Diamond first appeared on the bridge above Thompson’s drum kit as he walked down stars singing strongly. Taking the fans for a ride with 1989’s “Sleepless Nights,” 1990’s “Eye of the Witch,” and 1988’s “Them” it was an offering of some of the best King Diamond tracks. Filling the night air with his high notes that did not waver King Diamond was complimented by ambient lighting, rich musicianship from his band, and of course his traditional top head and intricate face makeup.
Keeping the energy level high, they went into a medley of Them’s “Tea,” The Graveyard’s “Digging Graves,” and Conspiracy’s “A Visit from the Dead” for what played out as a theatrical story. Surprising everyone King Diamond welcomed Slayer’s Kerry King to the stage who joined LaRocque and Wead for a cover of Mercyful Fate’s classic “Evil.” As the three guitarists united for a powerful assault of riffs King Diamond continued to sing vitally and inspired many fans to join in. Following up with another Mercyful Fate cut from 1984 album Don’t Break the Oath, “Come to the Sabbath” had many on their feet with their hands in the air screaming along.
Having already covered a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time the thought that ran through most fans minds was what about the unforgettable 1987 album Abigail. Well that question was answered with the final three songs of “The Family Ghost,” The 7th Day of July 1777,” and of course, “Black Horsemen.” Those who missed this performance will have the chance to see King Diamond as they set to perform Abigail in its entirety on the Abigail Tour kicking off October 29th and ending December 5th.
The time had finally come for the last by certainly not least act of the day, and that was Thrash Metal legends Slayer. Approaching thirty-five years as a band, Slayer’s history is one filled with tremendous accomplishments including genre defining records like 1986’s Reign in Blood, 1988’s South of Heaven, and 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss. On top of that, the band has built a name that is synonymous with Metal, and regardless of age, continuing to be one of the most fierce on the scene. While of course fans wear a heavy heart after the passing of co-founder Jeff Hanneman in 2013, the guard of vocalist/bassist Tom Araya and guitarist Kerry King keep the band strong with Exodus’ guitarist Gary Holt and a returning Paul Bostaph on drums. Set to release eleventh studio record Repentless on September 11th, Slayer were prime to rattle Mayhem Festival like only they know how.
Wasting no time in getting things going they ransacked the amphitheater with pyrotechnics and massive video screens as they went into new song “Repentless.” Continuing on with later generation material, 2009’s “Hate Worldwide,” 2006’s “Jihad,” along with 2001’s “Disciple” and “God Send Death” followed with violent, blood curdling deliveries. Throwing in an old favorite with “War Ensemble,” the audience was given a first listen to yet to be released song “When the Stillness Comes” and “Implode.” Sounding as if a lot of hard work went into the construction of the new tracks, Araya displayed some deep vocals as Holt and Kings guitar riffs were memorable, thus stimulating even more interest in the forthcoming album.
Completely half of their set heavily concentrated on 21st century Slayer, the time came to blast into the past with an assault that had long-time followers heads spinning. Beginning with “Mandatory Suicide” before pumping out “Chemical Warefare” and “Ghost of War” Holt and King both were on fire respectfully on guitar, flying up and down the fret board with ease. Giving the crowd little time to catch their breath, the haunting riff of “Dead Skin Mask” ignited a slow sludge of head banging that persisted through “Hell Awaits.” Naturally picking up the speed midway into the latter track the mosh pit was in full force as “South of Heaven” came on as white crosses and churches illuminated the screen in the background of Bostaph. Araya still giving a grade A performance on vocals belted out the right infliction when needed as fans screamed along. Then just like that, booming drums rattled the concrete and “Raining Blood” set Jones Beach into a frenzy before the finale of “Angel of Death.”
Exiting the venue completely satisfied fans agreed Slayer was as effect as ever. It did not matter that Long Island just saw the band for a two-night stand at The Paramount in Huntington just a month prior, and the proof was in the crowd reaction. While Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival is sadly defunct after its final date on August 2nd in Dallas, Texas, the bands which participated and the audiences which came out will have fond memories to last a life time. Never mind some of the unfortunate negativity that surrounded the festival’s last go around, the fact is it still was one of the best Metal tours of 2015 and Mayhem Festival will remain a cornerstone in the genres history.