Mountain View. California. Sunny. 82°.
With every meteorologist proclaiming the apocalypse across the West Coast, it was not as miserably hot as was expected. Yet with the arrival of the first band of the annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, the heat (and volume) was definitely turning up, and for the duration of the day, more than a baker’s dozen worth of bands played across four stages, culminating with the sun setting just in time for Rob Zombie to heat it up again with plenty of fire and pyro!
I missed Battlecross, Born of Osiris, and Emmure, so I have no photos of them. As Battlecross started, I was in the midst of browsing the merchandise tents and I apparently took too long; when Born of Osiris was on, I was halfway across the venue in the press area; and when Emmure was on, I was taking a breather to eat lunch, something that I don’t often get a chance to stop and do at festival shows.
Almost the entire show is a haze of photographing 3 songs, wait 15 minutes, photograph 3 songs of the next band, wait 15 more minutes, etc… it didn’t exactly give me the time to fully enjoy and absorb each of the bands sets. Therefore, most of the rest of this story has been taken from Wikipedia, band press releases and the ‘About’ section of their Facebook pages, mixed with a few of my own comments from the few full sets that I actually did get to see…
As 1:15 approached, first up on the Musician’s Institute stage, one of the two stages in the parking lot, was Thrown Into Exile. Founded in 2011, Thrown Into Exile is intent on forging their own unique place in the world of heavy music while paying homage to the bands and artists who inspired them, such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer. Last year, they won their regional “Road to Mayhem” competition over dozens of other bands to secure a slot performing on the Sumerian Stage, and this year, they have the dubious honor of opening the show every day!
Huntress was spawned from the union of Jill Janus and Southern California metal band Professor. They thrive on thundering drums, heavy riffs, spectral solos and catchy choruses that come from the band’s musical concoction of occult science and bong rips. Their style has been observed as classic heavy metal with influences of thrash and doom metal.
ATTIKA7 describes their lyrics and ideology as genuine and conveys a true American outlaw lifestyle. They play very heavy, down-tuned and melodic harmonies, all the while boasting brutal hooks and grooves. The band draws from musical influences including their own former bands, and has been compared to the likes of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Pantera, and White Zombie.
Born of Osiris epitomizes deathcore, while taking heavy influence from technical and progressive metal, involving frequent use of keyboards, unusual time signatures, synthesizers and programmed electronics. A majority of the band’s songs are written in drop-C and drop-G tuning on six- and seven-string guitars.
Butcher Babies have a visceral sound matched only in scope by their explosive stage show. With two front women, they juxtapose brutal, aggressive riffs with beautiful melodies that wail with anguish and hope for redemption. They consider themselves the “perfect anti heroes for today’s lackluster corporate music scene”, and are answering the demand for a resurgence of the days when going to a rock show was an event with their blistering combination of theatrical presence and balls out metal.
In order to get their spot on Rockstar Mayhem Festival, local Bay Area band Mudface beat out at least 10 other local bands in a “Road to Mayhem” Battle of the Bands competition at DNA Lounge in San Francisco. In order to get their actual late-afternoon set time on the Sumerian Stage, they had to get here before the other two local bands (that won other “Road to Mayhem’s”) arrived!
Motionless In White is known for their dark, horror themed lyrics, heavy, ominous sound, goth styled physical appearances, and their energetic and demanding live shows. Unafraid to make music as intense as it is intricate, their ability to interweave powerful lyrics and strong musicianship with striking imagery that has captivated both fans and media alike.
Over their nine years of their existence, Job For A Cowboy have built a loyal fan base through their devotion to touring and a die-hard commitment to creating relentlessly hostile, visceral, and involving music, and they still stand as one of the most exciting and inspiring bands in death metal. Having torn up the road with metal legends Slayer, Megadeth, and Cannibal Corpse, Job For a Cowboy once again stirred up the mosh pits at Mayhem!
It is always a pleasure to see MACHINE F*CKING HEAD play a hometown show; this band deserved more than the 35 minutes of their set time, but we will take what we can get! This was also one of the first shows featuring their brand new bass player, Jared MacEachern. Jared did a great job of filling the void in Machine Head, and his style felt as if he was recreating Jason Newsted circa Metallica in 1996 with an amazing amount of energy that matched the rest of the band and the lasted the entire set.
Children of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho has been named “Best Metal Guitarist” by the readers of Guitar World, besting well known players such as Kirk Hammett of Metallica to win the coveted award. Their unique union of haunting melodies, rhythmic sensibility, guitar-and-keyboard interplay and king-size solos is supercharged to the maximum, and the results are poised to push the band to an altogether new pinnacle. This enthralling mix of modern heavy metal, melodic hooks and the guitar acrobatics of Laiho have solidified the critically acclaimed quintet as one of the most revered hard rock acts in the world and one of the leading voices of metal’s new generation.
With the exception of playing first everyday (Thrown Into Exile) while people are still in line and filing into the venue, in my opinion, Amon Amarth might possibly have the second-worst time slot of the whole festival. Yes, playing on the main stage is amazing, but just as people are filing into the venue during the first band, with only a 5-minute break in the music, now people are moving over from the parking lot stages to the main stage, possibly stopping for beer, food, restroom, merchandise, etc. along the way.
Hopefully, these distractions didn’t take the length of Amon Amarth’s set for the majority of concertgoers, because then they will have missed the 12 foot tall hull of a viking ship, complete with a smoke-breathing dragon head, upon entering the main stage area. Perfect for Amon Amarth, of course, since their lyrics mostly deal with the Vikings, their mythology and their history.
4 days prior, Mastodon played a 45-minute set at a semi-private corporate gig (Converse Represent) in San Francisco at Slim’s, a 500-capacity club, and today, as most people have finally settled into their seats, Mastodon plays for thousands more. Although their music doesn’t require any stage props and they have traditionally had a fairly lo-fi visual presentation, Mastodon should have brought something, since they were playing after Amon Amarth’s huge Viking ship! Regardless if there’s a few hundred or thousands watching, they still sound great live; their 10-song set was 7 songs in favor of their latest album The Hunter, and of course they ended with older crowd favorite “Blood and Thunder”.
Five Finger Death Punch — you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I honestly don’t think there is any middle ground. They seem to get pigeonholed as the band to see if you happen to be the type of person who regularly wears Ed Hardy, Affliction, and/or TapouT clothing. Zoltan Bathory, their guitar player and founding member, is a co-owner of a high end fight gear manufacturer that works closely with UFC fighters and MMA fight leagues, and so this affiliation may have something to do with that. I don’t know. What I do know is that onstage, Zoltan seems very focused, other guitar player Jason Hook and bass player Chris Kael are full of energy, Jeremy Spencer is a hard-hitting drummer, and their singer Ivan Moody talks a lot. A LOT! Their set was 60 minutes and he probably talked through a good 15 minutes of it. Song, talk, talk some more, song, invite little children onstage, swear in front of said children and make one of them give the crowd the middle finger, song, talk, talk some more, yay for the troops, song… On their last two tours, 5FDP had a hundred different things happening on stage, with stage props, the biggest drum riser I have ever seen, and 3 levels of LED walls, but for this Mayhem set, although they had more than Mastodon, it seemed a bit stripped down for Five Finger Death Punch.
What can I say about Rob Zombie’s live set that hasn’t been said before? As per usual, Rob’s band was masked for the first song. I don’t remember if Rob himself was wearing a mask, because he was at least 8 feet above ground level on a huge stage prop, and there was much else happening to take pictures of that were closer and at stage level. Sans masks and giant stage prop by the 2nd song, throughout the set, there was fire, pyrotechnics, horror-themed visuals on the LED screens, a Grand Funk Railroad cover with American flags broadcast across those screens (seems more appropriate for 5FDP to have performed this cover…), more stage props including a giant boom box, a giant devil mascot running across the stage a la Iron Maiden’s Eddie, Rob himself running through the 100-level and 200-level seats during an amazing extended John 5 guitar solo, a drum riser that rose 6 feet during the drum solo, more fire, and more pyrotechnics. Half of the 60-minute set was pre-1999 classic solo and White Zombie songs like “More Human Than Human”, and the other half consisted of 3 new songs, and 3 songs that spanned the 14 years in-between.
See a full gallery of Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Machine Head, and the rest of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival 2013 photos, among many other bands, at Alan Ralph‘s photo portfolio.