July 10, 2012
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Erik Gomez
Photos by Crystal Prather
Mayhem Music Festival - Dallas
How do you go about feeding a bunch dudes and chicks dressed in black standing outside in the middle of a brutal Texas summer? It's simple really. Mix in a few ingredients - like Slipknot, Anthrax, Slayer and Motorhead - throw them into a pot and you have the perfect recipe for 'mayhem stew.' Trust me! It satisfies the hunger of thousands.
The RockStar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has turned out to be one of the more entertaining summer tours to hit the road in recent years. When it comes to people watching, this tour can't be beat. I marveled at the spectacle of humanity on parade throughout the day. What is it about metal that brings out the wild side in people? Freedom was the only answer I could come up with. On this particular day - and night - I witnessed thousands of free-spirited individuals rock themselves into a tizzy on what turned out to be an extremely hot and arid day.
It's amazing how fast the sun can take a toll on you physically. Mentally however, it is a different story. The Jagermeister stage was a steaming, sweaty sea of humanity as one metal band after another took to the stage. Mother Nature was doing its best to complicate the date for hardcore metal heads. It didn't stand a chance. The music performed by band's like Upon a Burning Body, Betraying the Martyrs and Asking Alexandra more than helped people forget the conditions outdoors. And when you had a group like death core pioneers Whitechapel laying it all out on the line, well, who cared if you were getting oven-baked outdoors.
After a couple tail whips and heel clicks from the dudes of Metal Mulisha, the San Diego based head bangers, As I Lay Dying took to the stage. Their performance was in a simple word, awesome. The band's name is actually a nod to the great William Faulkner's novel of the same name. However, the similarities between Faulkner and As I Lay Dying lyricist Tim Lambesis end right there. Contrary to the Pulitzer Prize winning author's preference to type out his thoughts, Lambesis is more comfortable screaming and growling his words. It didn't mean, however, he wasn't in command. Towards the end of the band's set, the singer told those assembled before him to form a "wall of death ". For anybody who is out of touch with mosh pit procedure, the crowd splits itself down the middle creating a path back to the sound board. When the band starts playing, both sides charge one another. Think of the fight scenes in the move Braveheart and you'll get the picture. It was quite a sight to see.
I want to give Anthrax a lot of credit. They could have opted for the main stage in the covered pavilion where the other headliners were going to perform, but they chose to close out the Jager stage in the blistering heat. Kudos to them! Anthrax, with its amazing original vocalist Joey Belladonna, sent the crowd into a feeding frenzy when they hit the stage. There were sweaty bodies slamming into one another, hot chicks flashing their assets, and some of the greatest metal songs you'll ever hear. I got the chills listening to the music while sweating my tail-end off. This band has not lost any ferocious approach to music through the years. Instead, it has intensified. You knew Anthrax was having a good time as Scott Ian smiled at the crowd that was fist pumping the air.
One of the problems with hot summer festival shows is the allure of "ice house" accommodations where you can purchase alcohol, sodas or water. The structures are sufficiently cooled off and a great way to beat the heat. The only problem is you can't stay inside too long, or you'll miss some of the amazing bands that are performing. Fortunately for me, once I ventured out into the real world, it was time to head over to the covered pavilion where the main stage awaited. Fortunately, one of my favorite bands, The Devil Wears Prada, was the first band to perform. Up to that point, they were by far the loudest band - yes louder than Anthrax. Three songs from the band's incredible EP, Zombie, shook the foundation I was standing on. Word is slowly getting out about this Dayton, Ohio group, and it's all good. Singer Mike Hranica shook with intensity. He, along with his band mates, left it all on stage during their 30-minute set. Their performance was for too short in my opinion then again, Motorhead was scheduled right behind them. Seriously, how could one complain?
Lemmy and crew announced their arrival with the familiar bass driven chug of the Motorhead staple, "Bomber." There eleven-song set ended with the classics "Ace of Spades" and "Overkill." Let me tell you, Lemmy has held up remarkably well the 37 some odd years he's been leading metal insurgency around the world. He's as revered today as any rock figure, and deservedly so. Motorhead doesn't make music for radio, and never did. But somehow, over the years the band took on this legendary status. It makes this group a must-see by anyone who claims to love hard rock or heavy metal.
Slayer came on just as heavy winds swept through the amphitheater clearing the lawn. Happy to hear that guitarist Jeff Hanneman is doing okay. He missed the tour after a spider bite gave him necrotizing fasciitis. Since contracting the flesh-eating disease in January 2011, Hanneman's participation has been minimal with Slayer during his recovery and rehabilitation. He has performed only two songs with the band, and that was during an encore at one of Slayer's Big 4 performances in April 2011.
One of the most consistently solid bands over the past 25 years, Slayer did not disappoint the diehard metal heads. Kerry King and company kicked off the proceedings with their Grammy nominated hit, "Disciple." Then Slayer reached back to the '80s and treated the crowd to selections from its trio of brilliant albums of the '80s that transformed them into metal gods. Seasons of the Abyss yielded "War Ensemble", "Dead Skin Mask" and the title track. The epic Reign in Blood produced "Altar of Sacrifice", "Jesus Saves", "Angel of Death" and the classic "Raining Blood." Finally, Slayer unleashed "Die by the Sword", "Mandatory Suicide" and the album title track, "Southside of Heaven." By the time King, Tom Araya, Dave Lombardo, and guest guitarist Gary Holt finished the group's set, this crowd was worn out mentally and literally numb physically.
I'll be honest. I didn't think there was any way Slipknot was going to even come close to following Slayer's performance before them. Trust me, this crowd was exhausted. Or so I thought. With the help of some M-80's and flames, Slipknot was 'fired up' when they hit the stage. Missing from the show were guitarist Jim Root whose appendix burst, and of course the late, great bassist, Paul Gray. Halfway through the show, a giant banner displaying the number "2" appeared as a backdrop when singer Corey Taylor dedicated a song to the band's fallen brother.
It did seem odd with only seven musicians on stage. Then again, odd is the operative word when you're talking about Slipknot. Clown (Shawn Crahan) rode his hydraulic keg drum, getting off occasionally to beat it with his trusty bat. I also want to give props to Taylor. Despite the Texas heat, the constant array of flames going up around him, coupled with a thick rubber mask and coveralls, he owned this stage.. Toward the end of the band's set, I saw Corey on the side of the stage pounding down water and being held up by stage hand as he regained his composure. As soon as the band finished their set, the singer collapsed. Several people rushed to his aide to carry him off backstage. There was no doubt he had given it his all.