The 6th annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival arrived in Tampa to 100 degree temperatures, but that didn’t stop the rabid metal community from showing up.
Headlining this year’s event was Rob Zombie, with supporting acts Five Finger Death Punch, Mastodon, and Swedish Death Band, Amon Amarth on the main stage.
Rob Zombie and his bandmates, which includes Piggy D on bass, Ginger Fish on drums and world-renowned John 5 on guitar, brought out all the balls, bubbles and everything else you can imagine.
Props included a full-sized robot that showed up on stage during “More Human Than Human,” the largest boom box you’ll ever see during “Dead City Radio,” and a huge mechanical tank-like road grater during “Meet the Creeper.” Other stage props included 15 plus huge video screens and the extreme use of pyrotechnics that Rob Zombie is known for during his shows.
Today’s show was a special one, as it was John 5’s birthday, with the crew putting up a huge birthday cake on the screen and then busting into “Living Dead Girl.” John 5 played the “National Anthem” with his teeth and the band followed with Grand Funk Railroad’s 1973 hit, “We’re an American Band.” Rob broke out a red, white and blue “Uncle Sam” meets the “Walking Dead” zombie outfit. They finished off their set and the Mayhem Festival with their biggest hits in “Thunderkiss 65” and an encore of “Dragula” with a guitar solo by John 5 in between the two songs.
The performance by Rob and the guys was a sight and sound overload and you couldn’t take your eyes off the stage. Prior to their set, I told myself that I was only going to stay for a few songs, as I have seen Rob and White Zombie many times throughout the years, and the elements and the duration of the day were taking its toll. I soon realized that you couldn’t leave this show as Rob Zombie’s performance and stage show was one of the best that I have ever seen.
If you haven’t seen this band before or at least this version of Rob’s band and they come to your town, get there by any means that you can, because you will not forget it.
Before Zombie took the stage, Five Finger Death Punch proved once again that they can be considered to be one of the top acts in the metal community. Five Finger Death Punch has been rising to the top of their game in the HR/HM community and this was shown by the anticipation of their set by the fans.
I approached people in the crowd throughout the day to get a read on who wanted to see who, and it was about a 65/35 split of Five Finger Death Punch to Rob Zombie. This result really took me by surprise but once they hit the stage, they crushed the crowd with a set full of non-stop radio hits and the fans didn’t disappoint as it seemed they knew all the lyrics.
They opened with “Under and Over It,” and continued with their hits “Burn It Down,” “Hard to See,” and the fan favorite cover of Bad Company’s hit “Bad Company.”
During Five Finger Death Punch’s set they had members of their crew go and search out the young fans in the crowd and bring them on stage for their track “White Knuckles.” About 12 kids under the age of 14 were on stage rocking out with their hands held high with the “horns” raised or with their fists pumping and heads banging. Yes, the metal community and family are still growing and refuse to give in. Parents that grew up with this kind of music are passing it on to their kids, and you know what they say, “The family that rocks together stays together.”
Singer Ivan L. Moody always knows how to work a crowd and his bandmates Zoltan Bathory, Jason Hook, Jeremy Spencer, Chris Kael, and Darrell Roberts provide not only the backing music but include their own colorful stage performances.
Once again with this live show and recent studio release The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1, Five Finger Death Punch has solidified its place with a few other bands on top of the new wave of HR/HM and I do not see them relinquishing that position any time soon.
The other two bands headlining the main stage at this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival were Mastodon, and Amon Amarth. Amon Amarth was the first to hit the main stage and brought their version of death metal to the swarm of awaiting fans. Some would say that because of the lyrical content that they play Viking Metal, but they prefer to be labeled a death metal band. It is difficult for a first time observer to believe this because of the huge Norse imagery on stage and in the lyrics. Tonight’s props included a huge Viking ship and each of the members of the band took turns at the helm. Lead vocalist, Johan Hegg, was in complete control of the stage and crowd. Guttural vocals combined with buzz saw riffs and rhythms were heard throughout their set. Songs in their set included, “Destroyer of the Universe,” “Pursuit of the Viking,” and “Twilight of the Thunder God.” Even though I am not a huge fan of this style of metal, I can appreciate it when it is done well, and Amon Amarth succeeded at doing this tonight.
After Amon Amarth, Mastodon took the stage at this years’ Mayhem Festival, with their brand of no-frills, no gimmicks, straight forward heavy metal. Based out of Atlanta, this veteran group consists of bassist Troy Sanders, guitarists Brent Hinds & Rick Kelliher, and on the skins, Brann Dailor. Mastodon has gained many accolades for their stellar conceptual releases, which include Album of the Year in 2004 by Revolver and Kerrang for their release, Leviathan, and a Grammy for “Colony of the Birchman” and “Curl of the Burl” in 2012.
Mastodon opened their set with “Black Tongue,” followed by crowd favorite, “Crystal Skull,” off their 2006 concept album Blood Mountain.
I wasn’t familiar with a lot of Mastodon’s music prior to hearing them, but after they finished their 10 song set with “Bedazzeled Fingernails” and “The Sparrow,” I immediately placed them on the “music to purchase” list.
On the side stages, four bands stole the show. Battlecross, Motionless in White, Attika 7, and the dual female fronted Butcher Babies.
Battlecross is the reason why you get to Mayhem early. They have been ripping apart Sirius/Xm’s Liquid Metal for over a year now and I couldn’t wait to check them out. Formed in Detroit, Battlecross is a full blown heavy metal assault that will keep your head banging for hours even after their set concludes.
Releasing their debut album Pursuit of Honor in 2011 and sophomore release War of Will just last month, Battlecross is exactly what the metal world needs.
Hitting the Jagermeister stage around 1:30 pm, Battlecross unleashed thirty minutes of brutality. They played seven songs from both of these albums including “Man of Stone,” “Force Fed Lies,” ” Flesh and Bone,” and” Push Pull Destro.” It will be interesting to see how this band progresses and the reception this band receives in the coming years.
One of the bands on the “Musicians Institute” stage was Motionless in White. They were formed in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 2005. If you are looking for a label to mark this group with, you would say metalcore meets heavy metal with a gothic-horror look and sound. They are lead by lead singer Chris “Motionless” Cerulli, who on this day donned a Vinny Lecavalier jersey for the home-town Tampa fans while the rest of the band wore their horror/zombie garb and killed it today. Their short but stellar set featured recent singles “Devils Night” and their current anthem on Sirius/XM’s Octane, and crowd favorite, “America.” This track is an example of what Motionless in White believes is wrong with American society and their fans came out in droves to support them today.
I saw this band last year on the Vans Warped Tour and through non-stop touring and the release of their second full length album, “Infamous,” Motionless in White is at the cusp of moving to the next level of success. How that is accepted by their hardcore fans is yet to be seen. Check them out at MotionLessInWhite.net
Also on the Musicians Institute Stage was Attika 7. If you haven’t heard of Attica 7 by now, you will probably recognize some of the names in this supergroup.
Members of Attica 7 include lead vocalist Evan Seinfeld, from Biohazard, Zack Broderick of Nonpoint, Ira Black, from Metal Church, Tony Halt, of Upo, and actor Rusty Coones from FX’s Sons of Anarchy. Guitarist Rusty Coones developed most of Attica 7’s music on their new release, “Blood Of Our Enemies,” while fighting a double life sentence in prison.
Attica 7 brings an in-your-face metal onslaught, combining old-school guitar solos, melodic vocal lines, and a take no prisoners’ style that suits this biker band and their fans perfectly. I sat with the lead singer, Evan Seinfeld, and we discussed several topics, including, the band, their new release, his acting career (OZ on HBO), and his previous VH1 Supergroup “Damnocracy”. This interview can be seen/heard………. If you are looking for some new music with an old-school metal flare, pick up a copy of Attica 7’s “Blood of Our Enemies”, which was produced by Avenged Sevenfold and Godsmack producer, Murdock.
A new player in the heavy metal game took the Jagermeister side stage at Mayhem.
Butcher Babies is an LA-based band fronted by dual-lead female vocalists Carla Harvey and Heidi Sheperd. These two women are as brutal as they are beautiful, as they attack the crowd with crushing metal harmonies. Butcher Babies assaulted the crowd with a combination of metal, punk, & thrash guitar riffs and drum beats. Butcher Babies started their set with their most recent Sirius/XM Liquid Metal single, “I Smell a Massacre.” Other highlights from the Butcher Babies’ set included the track that spawned their first video that was released, “Mr. Slowdeath,” and the title track of their July 2013 release, “Goliath.” Butcher Babies concluded their set with “Axe Wound”, leaving the crowd satisfied but wanting more. Butcher Babies is a band that received most of their initial attention because of their stage show and the attractiveness of their vocalists, but are getting more notoriety solely based on their music. I interviewed Carla and drummer, Chris Warner, backstage and the audio and pictures can be found here………………
This year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival provided the metal community, something for everyone. It also provided new acts and old, an avenue to attract new fans to their music. We witnessed the resurgence of a seasoned veteran (Evan Seinfeld) who has been out of the spotlight for a while with his new band Attika 7 and newcomers Battlecross and the Butcher Babies starting to gain momentum.
It is refreshing to see a festival that is run with precision and without issues. The bands and equipment were moved on and off the stage seamlessly and in a timely fashion and on schedule.
It is also a pleasure to be a part of a community of individuals who attend these shows and know that it is not only about the music but the bond that the Mayhem Festival provides to all that experience it.