Friday, 26 July 2013 09:02

Great Metal Moments at Mayhem Festival

By Mark Bolles | Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saturday, July 20 was another steamer. Hot and hazy, lazy day. This would not do, ‘cause I was headed for Mayhem—ROCKSTAR Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, that is. Cold caffeine was needed, and lots of it. A full roster of hard rock bands was slated to perform at Saratoga Performing Arts Center over the course of 10 hours. The thought of it made my head hurt. I quickly downed a large can of Starbuck’s Double Shot (apologies to ROCKSTAR), and proceeded to the show.

Sound rolled like thunder over the lawn at SPAC. Motionless in White was on the Musicians Institute stage. ‘Emotionless in White’ would describe my opinion of this band, stylized with black and white makeup and handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths like ghostly bandits. At this point I would like to inform readers that I am indeed a fan of heavy metal, but would not describe myself as a metal head. I’m not judging the genre here. 

Okay, Emotionless in White failed to impress, but what followed was another story.

Butcher Babies took the Jager stage and suddenly the show got interesting. Was it the two vixen vocalists? You bet! These ladies in leather were more than a novelty in a style of music dominated by men. These gals meant business and encouraged the rowdy crowd to chant “there’s blood everywhere!” At this point a guy with a green mohawk and blood on his face emerged from the audience. Should have stayed out of the pit, dude.

Three stages on the SPAC lawn kept the music constant, the flow of sound relentless. Now it was Born of Osiris on stage. Guitarist Lee McKinney proved that great metal is more than shredding chords. His precisions in playing and technical solos were amazing. This quality in guitar playing was also evident in the last of the lawn bands—Children of Bodom. Meanwhile, bands like Emmure and Job for a Cowboy ground the music in a loud and boring way. Job for a Cowboy singer put it best when he said, “yeeeeaaaarrrrgh!” Finest of the day bands was Jager stage headliner Machine Head with a perfect blend of power, perfection and professionalism.

Main stage: The crowd migrated to the amphitheater where it looked as though Vikings had invaded the stage with a clinker built warship. This was the set for Swedish band Amon Amarth who hammered out songs about Norse Gods and bygone times in ancient Europe. Next was Mastodon. The bright guitar sound was noisy and aurally abusive. Maybe it was bad sound off the board? I don’t know, but I was assured by fans that Mastodon is indeed great. 

I’ll give ‘em this; like the mighty Mastodon, they were mostly hairy.

This show was arguably a double headliner. Five Finger Death Punch had a huge draw being more mainstream than all previous acts of the festival. I had endured 10 bands by this point, some of which I liked much better than FFDP. The caffeine had worn off five bands prior and now I was approaching catatonia. Still, there was Rob Zombie to get through.

I saw Rob Zombie with White Zombie at the Meadowlands nearly 20 years ago. Rob was weak, his voice wrecked nearing the conclusion of a long tour. That said, my expectations for the evening’s performance were low. I felt as though Mr. Zombie owed me for that crappy show so many years before. Lights on, music starts, then—wow! Rob Zombie delivered x 10. It was a visual extravaganza like a musical fun-house. Huge video screens, pyro, robots, devils and skeletons. Thank you Rob Zombie, we’re even now.

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