On Tuesday July 29th, The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival landed in Darien, NY. The relatively new tour was founded in 2008 but it already boasts significant headlining acts as well as many, very talented, smaller groups. This year was no exception. Focused on the metal genre, the festival still incorporates many subgenres such as thrash, nu metal, metalcore, industrial, and death metal, among others.
The bands were divided between three smaller stages and one main stage. The Coldcock American Herbal Whiskey Stage, the Sumerian Records stage, and the Victory Records Stage. The bands alternate playing times between the three stages so that there is no break in the music excitement.
Avenged Sevenfold was the headlining act for the evening. Their set started at 9:45 pm and by that time, the temperature was below 60 degrees. Fortunately, as M. Shadows the lead vocalist pointed out, the band had “brought the fire.” He was of course referring to literal fire as the group was backed with a dynamic pyrotechnic display and a 15 foot skeleton king statue seated on a throne. The extravagant setup combined with the active music kept the crowd engaged as A7X powered from one burner to another. Arin Ilejay, the drummer and newest member of the group held his own while guitarists Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates maintained the momentum with one solo or riff after another. The band gave the crowd a show as they flew through the 11 song set totaling over an hour.
Prior to A7X’s set, 3 other bands played at the mainstage. The first was Trivium. Despite their highly talented and technical style of metal they had trouble engaging the crowd. Many of the fans were still filing into the seating area halfway through the group’s set. The massive stage seemed to swallow the band and their involved musicianship left little opportunity for showmanship. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Matt Heafy, mentioned that the band had just experienced the best crowd of the tour at the previous stop; Montreal. Quite the insult to the staunchly American and decidedly not-Canadian crowd.
Following Trivium was Asking Alexandria. The British metalcore collective took to the stage. Co-founder and vocalist Danny Worsnop strutted about the platform with his white coat and reflective aviators. The band’s sound, while typical of modern metalcore acts also has clear influences from older metal acts such as Aerosmith, Mötley Crüe, or Poison. The glam/hair/arena rock vibe, while not prominent, kept Asking Alexandria from being “Just another metalcore band,” for better or for worse.
Following AA and opening for A7X, Korn was easily the group for whom I sensed the most buzz. Newly reunited with Brian “Head” Welch after his time in the metaphorical wilderness, the band recently released the full length The Paradigm Shift. This release has been generally reviewed as the best Korn album since Welch left the group in 2005. Reinvigorated and back to their old sound, Korn did not disappoint. Jonathan Davis’ vocals were on point while Reginald Quincy "Fieldy" Arvizu’s signature clicky bass dominated the low end. Welch’s guitar work was gorgeously grimy.
While the top acts took the spotlight, this year’s smaller acts brought the fury and demanded attention. Emmure headlined the Victory Record Stage with their groove-heavy, dissonant brand of metalcore. Lead vocalist Frankie Palmeri led the group in one scorching breakdown after another. Following Emmure was California based, death metal outfit, Suicide Silence. The band has garnered more attention lately after the death of lead vocalist, Mitch Lucker. Now fronted by former All Shall Perish vocalist Eddie Hermida, the band released a new full length just 2 weeks ago. It was the first release since Lucker’s death. I was curious to see how Eddie would perform in his role and I was not dissatisfied. Full of aggression and ferocity, Eddie screamed and growled out every lyric. This is Eddie’s band and there’s no doubt about it.
Body Count, the California, hip-hop influenced, thrash metal band was the most unique of the groups present. Founded in 1990 and fronted by Ice T, the old school band stumbled out of the gate due some technical difficulties. It was another 10 minutes before the issue was resolved and the band could resume their performance. Once the power was restored, the band roared to life and played some old favorites such as the controversial “Cop Killer.” Additionally, Body Count performed “Manslaughter,” the title track from the group’s newest album.
The final of the smaller bands was Cannibal Corpse. Originally founded in Buffalo, NY in 1988, Cannibal Corpse is now recognized as one of the consistent greats of death metal. After 26 years and 11 full length albums, the group showed no signs of slowing down. The breakneck intensity was on full blast with all musicians in perfect synchronicity. Lead vocalist, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, drove the group’s performance with his harrowingly guttural growls.