Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival | 7.20.12

ingrid sqTaylor demanded the crowd scream along to 2004’s “Duality” as a tribute to Paul Gray, and it seemed as though the song summoned Gray’s soul to the stage.




Verizon Wireless Ampitheater, Maryland Heights, Mo.                                      Nick Licata Photos


There is a near-familial feel to metal shows. Sure, there are a large number of sweaty bodies slamming into each other, but whose family doesn’t feature a little of that? The point is, when someone falls down, you pick them up. When someone screams, it’s a release of anger, frustration, and violence that is (most of the time) healthy, and well thought out.

With Slipknot’s first return to St. Louis in a few years, and most notably since the death of lead bassist and founding member Paul Gray, it felt like the perfect form of therapy for the band and their hardcore following of fans. Despite the soundtrack to Hell playing for most of the day, in this summer of hellish heat, it was an oddly gorgeous day.

Before the Iowa band would get their chance to darkly shine, the Rockstar Mayhem Festival would feature a collection of bands that made up one of the best touring metal lineups since the heyday of Ozzfest.

An upcoming generation of metal-heads including Betraying the Martyrs, White Chapel, Asking Alexandria, and The Devil Wears Prada could learn from legends like Anthrax, Motorhead, and Slayer. Anthrax fulfilled their promise of “no filler” with a set packed with energy and hits. From opener “Caught in a Mosh” to closer “I Am the Law,” 51-year-old lead singer Joey Belladonna got around the stage and got the mostly older crowd throwing up their horns and chanting along. Most of the crowd that had shown up early for Asking Alexandria and The Devil Wears Prada had cleared out by that point to drink free Rockstar, but those who had stuck around headed to the main stage after their set, readier than ever to head bang.


In the metal world, there are probably not two more ideologically different bands than As I Lay Dying and Slayer, but at Mayhem, as long as you bring the heavy, no one seems to mind. As I Lay Dying were by far the youngest band on the main stage this year, with only 12 years together under their belt. With a respected catalogue of releases and a new album on the way, the band was well prepared to set the bar high. New song “Cauterize” had the lawn in its best-formed circle mosh of the evening.

Motorhead sound terrible. Let’s be honest, though: That isn’t really their appeal. Lemmy Kilmister is still a legend; Phil Cambell is a reliable, tough British guitar player—that, and you can actually understand what he says when he speaks with the crowd—and, lastly, Mikkey Dee brought a thunderous drum solo worthy of the band’s legendary reputation.

What is there to say about the next bands except…SLAYER! Yes, this was indeed yelled about as many times as there were people in attendance. In all seriousness, though, the band was incredible. While all band members deny any sort of religious affiliation, Slayer does certainly enjoy stirring up the easily offended, making their unusual interests well known. The group emerged with two giant upside-down crosses composed of speakers that shot burst of flames. In a hypothetical elevator to hell, one might not be surprised to hear “Hell Awaits” or “Raining Blood,” which is a pretty great compliment for a metal band that doesn’t exactly shy away from controversy. Twenty-six years after Reign in Blood, Slayer still recreates its diabolic sound perfectly.

Slipknot are the most popular metal band of the last five years. Being on top always means you will have your fair share of people who will dislike you simply for that fact. Slipknot seems not only to have embraced that, but to thrive on it. Lead singer Corey Taylor simply takes control of the crowd and stage, allowing the rest of the band the freedom to utilize the many moving portions of the stage, and even travel into the crowd during “Spit It Out.”


The band embraces what has brought it to the point in its career where it can headline over a band like Slayer, and stick to it. Only playing three songs off their latest release, even if it is a few years old now, gave Slipknot the opportunity to open up a large portion of their set to their first two albums, an impressive 9 out of 14 songs played. Taylor demanded the crowd scream along to 2004s “Duality” as a tribute to Gray, and it seemed as though it summoned Gray’s soul to the stage, as the song transcended what is generally considered metal and became pure emotion. At the end of the day, that is what the best do: transcend genre to convey an emotion that anyone can respect, if not appreciate. | Bruce Matlock

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