The Mayhem Festival has presented heavy metal fans with a cacophonous showcase of staggeringly brutal sounds since it began with a resounding bang in 2008. The fifth edition of the traveling show attracted about 7,000 people to Cricket Wireless Amphitheater on Tuesday.
Slipknot’s headlining performance at the venue’s main stage capped more than 10 hours of head-banging, moshing and crowd surfing. One of the most undervalued bands in rock, Slipknot, is often dismissed as a dystopian version of Kiss. While its members wear creepy masks and matching jumpsuits, Slipknot serves as a genuinely unsettling harbinger of doom.
By pairing nightmarish themes including nuclear fear and mental illness with abrasive metal, Slipknot provides its otherwise dispossessed followers a forceful voice. The band from Iowa is also very entertaining. Abetted by three drummers and blinding pyrotechnics, Slipknot’s percussive spectacle resembled a fireworks display gone terribly awry.
Slayer also relied on fire. Flames leaped from amplifiers stacked in the forms of inverted crosses during the influential band’s fearsome set. The shock value of Slayer’s satanic imagery was diminished by the blistering sun.
Even the immovable Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead seemed slightly drained by Tuesday’s scorching temperature. Yet the primal din of his legendary British trio imposed a physical challenge no less forgiving than the suffocating heat. Motorhead’s blues-based metal represented the festival’s sole flirtation with the roots of rock.
Anthrax, one of the bands responsible for the acceleration of the tempo of metal, concluded the first portion of the day with a frenetic performance at the larger of two secondary stages. Unlike its makeshift appearance in January at the Midland Theater, all five of the thrash band’s members were present. Longtime fans greeted renowned songs like “Madhouse” and “Antisocial” with commensurate reverence. With its roots in the ’80s, Anthrax appealed to an older demographic.
The most dedicated fans of Asking Alexandria, however, were exuberant teenagers. While the British band thrilled its young fans, many of the day’s most interesting acts appeared at a poorly positioned third stage. Even when the unlucky bands that performed at this showcase weren’t simultaneously competing with the likes of Asking Alexandria, loud ambient noise from the other stage made listening unnecessarily difficult.
Even so, bands including Upon a Burning Body, impending stars from San Antonio, Texas, and Conflicts, an aggression-fueled act from Kansas City, managed to make powerful impressions.
The high temperature and the duration of the event led to a few additional problems. Numerous attendees collapsed from heat exhaustion and tempers flared. In ways both salutary and sinister, the Mayhem Festival lived up to its name.