For the last eight years Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has been the hottest ticket of the summer, as it’s the only metal festival in the United States that could be in some sense similar to its European counterparts. The tour is regularly divided in two stages; a small open air stage, and a main stage. For this year’s edition the small stage (Victory Records stage) included bands like: White Chapel, Thy Art Is Murder, Jungle Rot, Sister Sin, Sworn In, Shattered Sun, Feed Her To The Sharks, Code Orange & Kissing Candice. The main stage was composed by The Devil Wears Prada, Hellyeah, King Diamond & Slayer.
The 2015 edition of Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, AZ was supposed to be one of the hottest dates, as the temperatures on the valley were already over 110 degrees during the week previous to the event, so we were anticipated a 113 weather for that day, fortunately for us last Friday brought an overcast weather with an outside temperature of over 106 to 108 (still hot, but not as hot as 113 degrees with open skies could it be). So I prepared myself for the event by not only wearing bright clothes, but also packing a light backpack, and enough water for the day.
I arrived to the venue around 1pm, pick up my press credentials and jump right into interviews, as my day was divided between interviews and shooting the Victory Records stage, and the main stage later on. I stopped by the Ladies Of Metal tent for a quick chat as they were having a tent at the festival for the first time ever at Mayhem Fest, and their online presence has grown quite a lot in the past five years.
After that I moved towards the stage to photograph Shattered Sun, a band from Texas that caught my attention when they were the touring opener for Testament & Exodus a couple of months ago. Their sound is fresh, and their new album Hope Within Hatred debuted #1 on the CMJ charts on its release week. The band played material from their new album including; Awaken, The Ultimatum, Hope Within Hatred, No Sympathy and a couple other songs, with 25 minutes per band is quite difficult to get a full spectrum of what their full live performance is all about, but enough to have an idea of how good they are. Shattered Sun will be back this fall on a tour with Soulfly, Soilwork, and Decapitated.
After Shattered Sun, I had a chat with the guys of Thy Art Is Murder an Australian band that has caused a deep impact on the metal scene since they released their album Hate a couple of years ago, and their latest piece Holy War was just released this year, unfortunately for this crossover schedules I missed out Sworn In, a young band that it was recommended to me, but my good friend Matt Wilson at Matt Wilson Photography got some killer shoots for us to share.
Around 3:20 pm I returned to the Victory Records Stage to shoot one of the bands that I personally wanted to see, Sister Sin, this Swedish quartet blew me away since they released their album Now and Forever back in 2012, then they put up an amazing show when they toured North America with Doro that same year. To say the least it was odd to see them on the Victory Records stage, as they are more hard rock/heavy metal oriented than any of the bands they were sharing the stage with.
Their set was short but it was a sampler of all their albums from One Out Of Ten out of their first album Switchblade Serenade (2008), Outrage out of their True Sound Of The Underground (2010) album & Fight Song out of Now and Forever. All that was mixed out with; Food For Worms, Chaos Royale, and Sail North from their latest album Black Lotus (2014). It was a great and furious show, unfortunately too short to understand the full power of this band live.
After Sister Sin, because the interview schedule I did miss Jungle Rot, but I did returned around 4:30 pm to shoot an amazing and one of the most responsive and entertaining shows at the Victory Records Stage, and I am talking about of Thy Art Is Murder‘s set. Which was massive, even though they had also 25 minutes, the energy and the heaviness of their show was enough to incite a couple mosh pits in the middle of the crowd, and even the crowd knew some of the song’s lyrics, and they respond quite fantastic towards vocalist CJ McMahon. Thy Art Is Murder played a mixed set of songs from their last two albums; Reign of Darkness, The Purest Strain of Hate, and Shadow of Eternal Sin out of their Hate (2012) album, and Light Bearer & Holy War out of their recently released Holy War (2015). A great sampler from a band on the rise definitely. Unfortunately I had to miss the rest of the bands at the Victory Records stage as I was doing interviews. However, even though it was a muggy day and the temperature was around 108 degrees a good number of people show up to the stage.
Forwarding towards the main stage, the Hellyeah show was quite energetic as the sun started to go down, and the covered part of the Ak-Chin Pavilion felt like a little break from the muggy weather that was still lingering around. Hellyeah‘s show was energetic, and quite focus on their new album Blood For Blood (2014) from that album they played: Soul Killer, Sangre Por Sangre (Blood for Blood), Demons In The Dirt, Moth, and Cross to Bier (Cradle of Bones). War in Me & You Wouldn’t Know where the only oldies that they played.
After Hellyeah, the expectations started to arise as King Diamond has not been on a Arizona stage since 2005, you might remember that last year he did cancel his show at the Rialto in Tucson as he got food poisoning. Well, this time around the circumstances where different, the stage was bigger, and the crowd was really pumped out to see him again. After a quick change over the stage was ready, and the mood was set. Lights went down, and a huge pentagram was raised up in the back of the stage with King emerging from it
A real dark and malevolent feeling was slowly creeping up at the Ak-Chin Pavilion (I really don’t think that stage had witnessed so much evil since Iron Maiden in 2012). King opened the night with the classic The Candle out of his début album Fatal Portrait (1986) followed by Sleepless Nights out of the Conspiracy (1989) album, followed by the all time classic Eye Of The Witch out of The Eye (1990) album. His performance at that point was absolutely astonishing, even though some disoriented concert goers didn’t know who he was, or his importance, they acknowledge his talent on stage..
The show continued with; Welcome Home (GRANDMAA!!!!!) a medley composed by Tea / Digging Graves / A Visit From The Dead, and two bonus gifts from the past; Evil & Come to the Sabbath from the Mercyful Fate catalog. Now, I don’t know if this is a classic thing to do of King Diamond (this was my first time seeing him live), but I was amazed to hear some songs from that era. King Diamond closed the show with The Family Ghost, The 7th Day of July 1777, and Black Horsemen. Overall it was one of the best shows I have ever seen, and have the pleasure to photograph at Ak-Chin Pavilion, his stage props, how the light affected the mood of each song, it was just fantastic to the point that I was wondering, why he wasn’t the headliner?, but that is a whole other story.
The change over to Slayer was quick, and the band promptly took the stage around 9:45 pm, opening their set with their new single Repentless out of the band’s upcoming album under the same name, which is expected to be released this September 11th. The rest of their show was quite different from the one at Comerica Theater last November (bigger screens, more fire power, more badass in other words). also the set list changed significantly. The inclusion of songs like: Jihad, God Send Death, When the Stillness Comes, Implode, Mandatory Suicide, and Ghosts Of War made this Slayer experience a bit more different. There was the usual suspects, Hell Awaits, South Of Heaven, Raining Blood, Angel of Death that put a semi full Ak-Chin Pavilion to chant ‘Slayer, Slayer, Slayer‘ without stop between songs. Amazing show as always, and the crowd definitely appreciate the variety on their set list.
Even though I noticed a decline on the number of people attending to this year’s festival, it was a good experience , not only in the sense that it was not that hot first that all, and the bands delivered an amazing show when they hit the stage. I hope Mayhem Festival brings more of a A-game for next year edition, a more large number of bands, perhaps a second small stage, something that could attract those that for any reason decided not to attend the festival this year.