For our second day of Mayhem Fest live coverage, Darkhouse Image, JOR-EL and yours truly braved the Texas heat to get close to some of our favorite bands at Gexa Energy Pavilion. With so much going on across not one, not two, but three festival stages we had to formulate a plan of attack to catch ‘em all, but we got it done. So here we go with Day 2 and the Three Musketeers, featuring JOR-EL’S thoughts on DARKEST HOUR and CANNIBAL CORPSE, The Maestro’s MUSHROOMHEAD, VEIL OF MAYA and ILL NIÑO/BODY COUNT experience, Darkhouse’s photos of it all, and finally, Sinister Phoenix, seeing her favorite band, SUICIDE SILENCE!!
Not long after arriving at Gexa, I checked in at the press area then made a beeline for the Sumerian Records Stage to catch the band I was most excited to see this year, VEIL OF MAYA. I can’t even do the stellar musicianship of this band justice, and live they were an exercise in precision. Opening with new (well, new-ish) song “Subject Zero” the stage was set for chugging riffs and insane bass lines galore, along with some sick drumming. “Punisher’ and “Crawl Back” were next, two of my favorites in the band’s catalog, as they are polar opposites musically, followed by “20/200” and “We Bow In Its Aura”. What makes “Aura” great, especially live, is the fact that everyone goes off in totally different directions at times, and it still sounds seamless. Then when they come together it’s like they were never apart. The [id] record made an appearance with “Unbreakable” which got a huge rise out of the crowd before perennial favorite “It’s Not Safe to Swim Today” closed out the seven-song set with furious abandon. VEIL OF MAYA brought their A game 100% and the Dallas faithful loved it!
Man, what can I say about MUSHROOMHEAD? It was 100 degrees and they still took the stage in full gear, vocalists J Mann, Waylon Reavis and Jeffrey Nothing each taking battle stations across the stage as they roared into “Our Apologies” from newest album The Righteous & the Butterfly and then “Sun Doesn’t Rise”, my introduction to the band over a decade ago. At this point their crowd was twice the size of anyone’s who had already played and there was a sea of MUSHROOMHEAD shirts and tattoos everywhere. Jackie Laponza of UNSAID FATE joined them for “We Are the Truth”, as she does on the record and she is pretty goddamn monstrous live. The show was already energetic and she kicked it up a few notches for sure! Another highlight was the band’s cover of PINK FLOYD’S “Empty Spaces” which bled over into closer “Born of Desire” from XX. I have to say though, that 25 minutes of MUSHROOMHEAD at 3:30 in the afternoon is just not enough. They had better come back to Dallas on their own because they are just too much fun live.
DARKEST HOUR erupted into their set with “Wasteland” which also opens their latest self-titled release featuring grooving down-tuned guitars and southern styled solos. One of the heaviest songs ever written by the group “Rapture in Exile” followed superbly by showing the crowd that they still know how to thrash it up live; this incited immediate circle pits and crowd surfing. The dudes toned it down just a notch and revisited their 2007 release Deliver Us with the extra melodic “Demon(s)” which I will say guitarist Mike “Lonestar” Carrigan completely nailed the strenuously double sweep-picked solo better than I have ever witnessed.
Kicking off the second half of their short set with “Savor the Kill”, we got to see the two newest members Travis Orbin (Drums) and Aaron Deal (Bass) completely ripping their parts with ease even adding a little extra flavor. The thrashing “Violent by Nature” followed flawlessly including Mike Schleibaum and Lonestar double timing the middle harmony of the song which set it off even harder. DARKEST HOUR ended the set eloquently with the opening track to 2005’s Undoing Ruin“With a Thousand Words to Say but One”; the lyrics are very deep to this one and John Henry couldn’t have performed them any better with a perfect finale.
As soon as I finished with MUSHROOMHEAD I walked over to the Victory Records Stage to catch ILL NIÑO, a band I recently got back into due to new album Till Death, La Familia being so good. They were two songs into their set, “La Epidemia” and “If You Still Hate Me” (a favorite!) when I glanced over to the right. WHAT THE FUCK?!? BODY COUNT is on at the same time?? What kinda shit is this?!? I don’t know what brain surgeon scheduled bands to be on at the same time, but that was no bueno. I hung around for “This Is War” then had to catch the end of BODY COUNT.
Lucky for me I was able to catch five of their tunes. I was determined to see them again because when I was 18 at the very first Lollapalooza in 1991, ICE-T did one set by himself, then a second with BODY COUNT and on that day they wiped the stage with EVERYBODY! Guess what; as soon as they tore into “Manslaughter” I knew they hadn’t lost a fucking step. Ernie C and Juan of the Dead made their guitars scream for mercy during “Body Count” and then a cover of “Disorder” by The Exploited. New single “Talk Shit, Get Shot” was up next, followed by closer “Cop Killer”. What made this version even cooler was that label mates Mike Schleibaum from DARKEST HOUR and VEIL OF MAYA’S Brandon Butler both joined ICE-T up there for the chants of “Fuck the Police!!” bringing my day to a raucous ending. I’ll let JOR-EL and Sinister Phoenix take us home…
With the loss of Mitch Lucker, SUICIDE SILENCE have certainly had their share of setbacks for quite a while. The question at hand being would they move on and find a new vocalist or call it quits? They decided to bring in Eddie Hermida (previously the vocalist for ALL SHALL PERISH) which fans were very uneasy about. They began working on a new album, You Can’t Stop Me, in Mitch’s honor, as the phrase “you can’t stop me” came from a set of lyrics that he had left behind before he passed. In my own personal opinion, I refused to listen to the new vocalist, as I am a huge SUICIDE SILENCE fan and was very stubborn about the fact that they were moving on. At a show prior and again at Mayhem Fest, it was proved that my stubbornness was irresponsible and wrong. Eddie performed amazingly and is a wonderful replacement for Mitch. They played old favorites like “No Pity for a Coward.” A wall of death was started and the fans in Scranton went crazy while the band played “Fuck Everything.” They finished their set with their most popular song “You Only Live Once” with the fans singing their hearts out to every word.
Heavy hitters of Death Metal CANNIBAL CORPSE closed out the Coldcock Stage with a full audience still hanging around before the main stage madness was to begin. Starting things off real nice and sludgy, “Scourge of Iron” set the pace followed by the frantic “Demented Aggression”; this is when the moshing began to get crazy. Slowing it back down to a medium head bang, the group ran through the old school sounding “Evisceration Plague” from 2009’s album of the same moniker. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher instructed the crowd to try and keep up with his head banging, “But you will fail!” and began one of the staples of the CANNIBAL CORPSE set “I Cum Blood”; this man cannot be beat!
Although it’s unusual to see a band like this play a shorter set, they totally kept it interesting by playing “Decency Defied” from The Wretched Spawn which is half groove, half slam to blend everything together. We were next told that if anyone wasn’t moving to “Make Them Suffer” as they then played that song. Anyone who has seen these guys before already knows that they always end their set with the ever popular “Hammer Smashed Face” and “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” which immediately whips the audience into a frenzy whether they expected it or not, and that day wasn’t any different. It’s always amazing to see a group that has been around for 25+ years put some of the new school guys to shame.
There you have it folks! Two days of ass-kickin’ metal at Mayhem Fest!! Be sure to stay tuned for the on-site interviews The Maestro conducted!!
LIVE REVIEWS: JOR-EL, MAESTRO, SINISTER PHOENIX
LIVE PHOTOS: DARKHOUSE IMAGE/SINISTER PHOENIX PHOTOGRAPHY