Rockstar Mayhem Festival 2014

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Thursday, August 7, 2014

I’ve been to Mayhem Fest every year since its inception in 2008 and covered it every year since 2009. I remember flying back from a trip to Australia and New Zealand with my family, to drive the next morning all the way up to New York to catch the final date of the tour in 2008. It was amazing to see such a diverse group of metal bands on one touring bill. With the exception of the inaugural installment, I’ve covered every year of the festival since.

Over the course of the last seven years, we’ve seen some great bands on the bill. We’ve also seen the line up becoming increasingly stale over the last few installments, especially in terms of the main stage. Many bands on the main stage over the past few years have played the festival multiple times. Given how many great metal bands there are out there, it’s hard to imagine that the festival can’t manage to keep churning new bands into the mix.

While the organizers added a third side stage last year, it severely lacked the crowd draw that the other two stages had. This year, the organizers did a better job dispersing talent amongst the stages. They also positioned the three stages side-to-side with the second stage between the two stages that overlapped. While there was occasionally an issue with the two overlapping stages having sound overwhelm the stage you’re watching, it worked for the most part and certainly helped crowds congregate for all stages. It was also a lot easier for photographers to cover everyone, since we’re only given the first three songs of every band to photograph. We appreciate that, Mayhem.

Note: If you’re looking for a review and photos of Avenged Sevenfold, you sadly won’t find any here. BUT, we had the opportunity to cover them twice earlier this year at Carolina Rebellion 2014 and Welcome to Rockville 2014 so definitely check those out!

 

Asking Alexandria (Bristow, VA):

I’ve covered Asking Alexandria many, many times over the years. Usually, they’re pretty solid. Not today. While the sound inside the pavilion is usually never very good, I couldn’t chalk up their lack of appeal up to the sound system. The band lacked their signature sound and level of enthusiasm that I’m used to seeing. The band didn’t really seem like they wanted to be there and most of the crowd didn’t seem like they wanted them to be there, either. I was also disappointed they didn’t have “Not the American Average” and “Closure” in their set. A disappointing set from a normally great live band.

Vocals: 6
Crowd Response: 7
Overall Sound: 8
Band Activity: 8
Overall rating: 6.5

Set list:

1. Don’t Pray for Me
2. Run Free
3. To the Stage
4. The Final Episode (Let’s Change the Channel)
5. Moving On
6. Killing You
7. The Death of Me

 

Body Count (Bristow, VA):

While we all know Ice-T (or, as he likes to be referred to now, ‘Ice Mother Fucking T, BITCH’), I couldn’t believe the support his band Body Count received at Mayhem this year. I’d never really heard any music from Body Count, but behind their new album Manslaughter, I was excited to finally check them out. They were definitely one of the better bands on the side stages and I absolutely loved their level of energy. Ice T was well loved by the crowd and the rest of his band had so much energy. It was definitely one of the best sets of the day.

Vocals: 8
Crowd Response: 10
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 10
Overall rating: 8.5

Set list:

1. There Goes The Neighborhood
2. Bowels of the Devil
3. Manslaughter
4. Body Count
5. Disorder [The Exploited cover]
6. Talk Shit, Get Shot
7. Cop Killer

 

Cannibal Corpse (Camden, NJ):

I remember covering Cannibal Corpse a few years ago on Mayhem. I can enjoy the music of pretty much any metal band out there, but the vocals are where most lose me. While various styles have grown on me over the years, the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Suicide Silence have definitely not grown on me. Still, Cannibal Corpse, while seemingly only big within their respective genre, drew one of the most insane crowds of the day; full of mosh pits and violent headbanging. They may be boring live, but their fans are diehard and I’ve got to respect that.

Vocals: 7
Crowd Response: 10
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 5
Overall rating: 7

Set list:

1. Scourge of Iron
2. Demented Aggression
3. Evisceration Plague
4. I Cum Blood
5. Decency Defied
6. Make Them Suffer
7. Hammer Smashed Face
8. Stripped, Raped and Strangled

 

Darkest Hour (Camden, NJ):

With genres being seamlessly blended together now for so many bands, labeling them one genre over another seems to be a disservice to not only the band, but music as a whole. Having listened to a few songs from Darkest Hour leading up to this review, the band seemed a lot harder in person than they do on CD, but don’t worry – that’s not an insult.

Aside from the occasional song here and there, I wasn’t too familiar with Darkest Hour going into their set. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked them. While still a bit harder than many of the screaming bands I’ve grown to love from Warped Tour, Darkest Hour were still very approachable with their great blend of melody and metal. Definitely a band I’ll be paying more attention to in the future.

Vocals: 9
Crowd Response: 8
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 9
Overall rating: 8

Set list:

1. Wasteland
2. Rapture in Exile
3. Demon(s)
4. Savor the Kill
5. Violent by Nature
6. With a Thousand Words to Say but One

 

Emmure (Bristow, VA):

I’ve had a very amusing history with Emmure. Despite not being a big fan of the band, I’ve shot them many, many times over the years. Sure, some of their more vocal fans will attack you if you say you don’t like them, but the band seems to be full of some very gracious individuals. Having met vocalist Frankie Palmeri at Welcome to Rockville 2014, I was surprised at how friendly and approachable he was. Given his on stage persona, it was easy to misconstrue where the bad guy ended and the nice guy began.

While that was a big stepping stone for me to listen to the band more, I’ve listened to a few songs they tend to play a lot live (especially “Nemesis”) and with how good they are live (which was the only reason I continued to cover them despite not being a big fan), it’s helped me start to appreciate their music more than I did. Perhaps I’ll even be a fan one day? Shocking, I know!

Vocals: 8
Crowd Response: 8
Overall Sound: 8
Band Activity: 8
Overall rating: 8

Set list:

1. Bring a Gun to School
2. Nemesis
3. N.I.A. (News in Arizona)
4. Sunday Bacon
5. I Thought You Met Telly And Turned Me Into Casper
6. Most Hated
7. E
8. Children of Cybertron

 

Ill Niño (Camden, NJ):

It has been about six or seven years since the last time I saw Ill Niño live. I don’t remember who they were touring with, but they were headlining a show at this tiny hole-in-the-wall venue called Jaxx (now called Empire) with our sites other co-owner Chris. Despite being before my time of shooting shows, I was blown away by how good they were.

While I’ve seriously neglected listening to them – most likely due to my dislike of newer albums like Dead New World and Epidemia – but after listening to their newest album Till Death, La Familia I regained my need to have the band on my iPod. While I doubt they’ll ever be able to entice me in the same way that I was when 2001’s Revolution Revolucion and 2003’s Confession came out, it was just great to know I could put on an Ill Niño record on and want to mosh and scream along. While much of the energy I remembered seems to have gone, the band still sounds great. Definitely hoping half a decade doesn’t go by before I see Ill Niño again.

Vocals: 8
Crowd Response: 7
Overall Sound: 8
Band Activity: 8
Overall rating: 8

Set list:

1. La Epidemia
2. If You Still Hate Me
3. This Is War
4. Te Amo…I Hate You
5. God Save Us
6. Liar

 

Islander (Camden, NJ):

For the most part, I was at least marginally familiar with every band on the bill of Mayhem Fest 2014…except for Islander. I’d never heard of them or heard their music. When it came down to deciding between photographing them or Veil of Maya, I chose Veil of Maya; mostly due to the fact Veil of Maya was highly recommended by my peers. Thankfully, security was nice enough to let us into the pit past our three-song limit to get a few shots of Islander.

While I did thoroughly enjoy Islander live, I didn’t truly get their sound until I got home and started listening to them on Spotify. I love their sound, style and vibe. While you could tell a little bit of this live, I felt I wasn’t able to see an accurate sample size until I got home and really listened to them. Islander was definitely the surprise band of Mayhem Fest for me.

Vocals: 8
Crowd Response: 5
Overall Sound: 7
Band Activity: 6
Overall rating: 7

Set list:

1. Counteract
2. Hearts Grow Cold
3. Criminals
4. Coconut Dracula
5. Lucky Rabbit

 

Korn (Bristow, VA):

I’ve had a very up and down relationship with Korn over the past decade. 2003’s Take a Look in the Mirror was the last album that, to me, truly felt like a Korn album. At least what we knew Korn sounded like and had become accustomed to. Following the departure of Head, the weird musical exploration the band went on left a lot of fans wondering if the band would ever return. 2011’s The Path of Totality made absolutely no sense given the bands sound, but also managed to be the first Korn album I actually enjoyed listening to in roughly eight years. This year’s album, The Paradigm Shift, despite being rough at times, was one of the closest-feeling albums to Korn’s signature sound.

I’ve covered Korn, many, many times over the years, including earlier this year at Welcome to Rockville 2014, and seen them even more times than that. 2003 wasn’t just the end of an era for their genre-topping music, but it was also a signal for a long spiral of terrible live performances. It got so bad that even my nostalgia couldn’t bring me to see them live. While their music hasn’t quite returned to its former glory, their live shows have greatly increased from the stagnant level they’d stayed at for years. The last few times I’ve seen them have restored my hope that Korn could possibly return to glory. At least live. Their set lists still need some work, but given how far they’ve come, a generic set list is okay as long as the performance itself is good. Thankfully, Korn have remembered what it’s like to be a great live band again.

Vocals: 8.5
Crowd Response: 10
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 9
Overall rating: 9

Set list:

1. Falling Away from Me
2. Twist
3. Got the Life
4. Love & Meth
5. Spike in My Veins
6. Hater
7. Shoots and Ladders
8. Coming Undone
9. Here to Stay
10. Never Never
11. Freak on a Leash
12. Blind

 

Miss May I (Bristow, VA):

Like most of the bands on this tour, I’ve covered Miss May I many times over the years. What made this set different – and I stated this earlier in the review too – was my newfound love for these kind of bands. A few years ago, I never would’ve found myself listening to bands like Miss May I in my spare time. So much has changed.

I had my reservations on how well they’d be received at Mayhem, given they’re the kind of band that lives for Warped Tour, but my reservations were swayed as soon as the band started their first song. The energy they showed was incredible, especially vocalist Levi Benton, who is fantastic live. Tons of energy, great voice and the crowd ate it up. The crowd went absolutely nuts for “Hey Mister” and “Relentless Chaos”.

Vocals: 9
Crowd Response: 9
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 10
Overall rating: 9.5

Set list:

1. Refuse to Believe
2. Relentless Chaos
3. Day by Day
4. Gone
5. Hero With No Name
6. You Want Me
7. Hey Mister

 

Mushroomhead (Bristow, VA):

While I was excited to see Ill Niño again, Mushroomhead was truly the soul reason I wanted to cover Mayhem this year. The last time I covered Mushroomhead was way back at Rock on the Range 2010. They’re certainly not the hardest band on the tour musically. In fact, they’re one of the mellowest. Despite that fact, the band strives to be one of the most entertaining bands and they easily succeed there. Between their amazing masks, water-filled drum kits and crowd surfing, no one touches Mushroomhead on entertainment value.

Unfortunately, due to the number of members in the band and the small size of the stage, I felt their stage act was forced to be too confined for its own good. Members were not given much room to move around. Their set list was pretty good, though I really wanted to hear “43” live again. Still, Mushroomhead far exceeded my expectations and were far and away the best band on this years Mayhem Fest…and for good reason. I can’t wait to see these guys again. They’re a photographer’s dream.

Vocals: 9.5
Crowd Response: 10
Overall Sound: 9.5
Band Activity: 10
Overall rating: 10

Set list:

1. Our Apologies
2. Sun Doesn’t Rise
3. We Are The Truth
4. Solitaire/Unraveling
5. The Dream Is Over
6. Empty Spaces [Pink Floyd cover]
7. Born of Desire

 

Suicide Silence (Camden, NJ):

As I stated in the Cannibal Corpse section of the review, While I can appreciate the background music, I can’t stand the vocal style for both them and Suicide Silence. Unfortunately it’s been so long since I shot them last that I find it too hard to compare how new vocalist Hernan “Eddie” Hermida compares to former vocalist Mitch Lucker (who passed away in 2012). I also feel it’s a bit unfair to compare vocalists who take over after such a tough transition period.

Despite my feelings towards the bands vocal style, their energy was fantastic. Their crowd was running circles around the soundboard and crowd surfing like crazy. They also seem to really like Hermida.

Vocals: 7
Crowd Response: 10
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 8
Overall rating: 6.5

Set list:

1. Unanswered
2. No Pity For a Coward
3. Cease to Exist
4. Fuck Everything
5. Wake Up
6. You Can’t Stop Me
7. You Only Live Once

 

Texas Hippie Coalition (Camden, NJ):

Texas Hippie Coalition was certainly one of the more…entertaining bands on the bill, especially vocalist “Big Dad Ritch”. I was actually amazed by how much I liked them. A great mix of metal and just balls-to-the-wall hard rock. They had tons of energy and ridiculously catchy songs. Definitely in my top three bands at Mayhem Fest.

Vocals: 9
Crowd Response: 9
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 9.5
Overall rating: 8

Set list:

1. Hands Up
2. El Diablo Rojo
3. Turn It Up
4. Whisky Burn
5. Pissed Off and Mad About It

 

Trivium (Bristow, VA):

While I’ve never been a huge fan of Trivium, they’re one of the better live bands that I tend to see on all of the years big metal tours and festivals. A few songs off each album stick with me, but as a whole I’ve never been able to stick with them. Still, despite not being the most energetic of live bands, they’ve always been great live. Vocalist (and guitarist) Matt Heafy has always managed to sound great despite their rigorous touring schedule. They may be seasoned veterans, but it’s still great to see them bringing their A game to a main stage opening gig. We also covered Trivium this year at Carolina Rebellion 2014.

Vocals: 8.5
Crowd Response: 8
Overall Sound: 8
Band Activity: 8
Overall rating: 8

Set list:

1. Black
2. Built to Fall
3. Strife
4. Through Blood and Dirt and Bone
5. Dying in Your Arms
6. Anthem (We Are the Fire)
7. In Waves

 

Upon a Burning Body (Bristow, VA):

Upon a Burning Body came out of nowhere and took me completely by surprise. I shot them at Warped Tour 2013 due to a lapse of time between bands I wanted to shoot. Their song “Sin City”, which I believe they opened with, blew me away. I’d never been into the deathcore scene and wasn’t expecting to be weened into it. Despite listening to them a bit last year after Warped, they were best served to play Mayhem. The catchy spoken breakdowns from their songs – namely in “Intermission” and “Texas Blood Money – made their sets an absolute blast.

Vocals: 9.5
Crowd Response: 9.5
Overall Sound: 9.5
Band Activity: 10
Overall rating: 9.5

Set list:

1. Red Razor Wrists
2. Intermission
3. Mimic
4. Texas Blood Money
5. Scars
6. Sin City

 

Veil of Maya (Camden, NJ):

Veil of Maya was another newcomer that I wasn’t overly familiar with. I was told to make sure to cover them, and I was definitely impressed. Their style of music didn’t blow me away, but I loved their energy and I was surprised they drew such a big crowd. Songs like “Punisher” and “It’s Not Safe to Swim Today” were definitely crowd pleasers. I enjoyed checking out their set twice.

Vocals: 9
Crowd Response: 9
Overall Sound: 9
Band Activity: 9
Overall rating: 9

Set list:

1. Subject Zero
2. Punisher
3. Crawl Back
4. 20/200
5. We Bow in Its Aura
6. Unbreakable
7. It’s Not Safe to Swim Today

I’d say it was another successful bout for us on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. Two dates and fourteen bands photographed. Not everything was perfect, including the festivals idiotic side/main stage pass decisions, but for the most part Mayhem seems to be hitting on cylinders. I’m excited to see what they’ve got in store for us in 2015.

Interested in seeing our coverage from previous years? Check them out here: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

Leave a Reply