08.11 Rockstar Mayhemfest 2011 ~ Turning Up the Heat

By Jennifer Russo

Think a little heat is going to stop the metal-heads from coming out in droves, wearing the blackest of black?  Think again.

It’s a sweltering 103 degrees at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, but the temperature is perfect for some bodacious sweaty shoulder waves as the crowd surfers brave the outdoor sauna to get a little closer to their metal heroes tearing up the stage.  The horns are up, the tats are exposed and the Rockstar drink tent is like a desert oasis.  Complimentary sugar-highs flew off the tables as concert goers tried to rehydrate after drinking in the sun for countless hours, taking in fourteen bands and three stages plus the consistent buzz of motorcycles as the Metal Mulisha performed their death-defying aerial tricks side-stage. pulsecopy

Kicking Mayhem off this year was Dead Season.  Contagious and aggressive power-rhythm started the show off right, serving up for the crowd a first course that whet everyone’s appetite for more.  Following that were Straight Line Stitch, with a punk-laced, whiplash-inducing female-fronted performance that could easily have benefited countless ambulance chasing lawyers.  Red Fang roared out next with a sound that I can only describe as groove-metal that sort if reminded me of Danzig, but more in-your-face.

All Shall Perish graced the stage, promoting their new album This is Where it Ends, and the crowd responded by pushing up closer to the stage and bitch-slapping staff members with their hair as they banged their heads in time. Says rhythm guitarist Ben Orum, “This is probably the most mature album to date with more advanced songwriting and a more melodic sound.  The new members in the band add a new and different feel to everything.”  Speaking of which, new lead guitarist Francesco Artusato went to Berklee right here in Boston.  He later found a love for playing metal and joined the band last year. “In my case, it was a natural evolution from classical to jazz, then rock to metal, but I still love all kinds of music as long as it’s well played and well performed.”  The band will be playing with Black Dahlia Murder after the Mayhem tour and we can expect to see them in Worcester this fall.

pulsecopy2Mayhem fan favorites Kingdom of Sorrow blasted out onto the stage, blasted out a couple songs, and blasted out the sound system.  With Jamey Jasta’s fierce vocals and the intense heat, it’s no wonder the speakers couldn’t handle the load.  He gave a thumbs-down sign with a smile while the issue was worked on and the loyal audience began chanting his name.  Within minutes he was back where he left off and the crowd threw their hands up in appreciation.  Suicide Silence and Unearth followed with sets featuring a couple of new songs from albums set to release, giving us a preview of what will be a great year of new music.

Machine Head took the stage next, giving fans a taste of their new album Unto the Locust ~ which drummer Dave McClain tells me is a metaphor for a certain type of a person who comes in like a locust that goes wherever the wind takes it and destroys everything it lands near. I nod my head because I’ve experienced those people in my life, as I’m sure everyone has at some point.   I asked him about the KISS tattoo on his arm and he let me know that KISS was the band that influenced him and he feels it’s a great tribute to have a band inked.  “There was actually a guy in Poland that had a tattoo of both me and of Tommy Lee on his arm.  That proves our band means so much to someone and it’s really an honor.”  Dave, who has been playing in bands since he was around 14 years old, shares the secret of Machine Head’s success:  “Having a singer who refuses to take no or failure for an answer.  He is so determined.  Even when people were kicking us down he did everything he could to keep this band somewhere.  Every band will go through that, but when you keep getting up it’s a f*** you to those critics and it gets you a lot of respect.”  The band is going on a South American tour with Sepultura later on this year and will also come back to the U.S. to promote the new album.

Swedish melodic-metal band In Flames is the last to take the Jaeger Stage, closing out the parking lot portion of the festival in true unadulterated fashion.  They are the epitome of showmanship, and their obvious love of what they do is infectious.  The band not only composed, but is also mixing, their new album and guitarist Björn Gelotte told Pulse that “…when you build something and let someone else mix it, there is a chance that things might get lost along the way. We wanted to do it ourselves and we’re really happy with it and how it turned out.”   Björn always knew he wanted to be a musician for a living, though he went school to become an electrician.  “Music didn’t always pay the bills, but the more we toured the more we started to notice that people were coming to see us and not just the bands we were supporting and it eventually balanced out.  This is what I do and what I love and so far it’s been more than worth it.” pulsecopy1

Moving to the main stage: Trivium gave the audience a glimpse of their new album In Waves, which guitarist Corey Beaulieu shared with me is their “…defining record which really solidifies what our sound is, something you can listen to and know is Trivium. Infusing elements from all our records and experimenting with new sounds, we took it, molded it and pushed the boundaries so there is a lot of diversity from song to song.  You really have to hear the whole record to get the whole vibe. Every song is very identifiable and the album really has a live and energetic feel to it.”  Trivium will be sharing a stage with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden later this year. Knowing Corey is a big fan of the Patriots, I asked him what his prediction was for the upcoming season.  “Obviously they have such a good team that it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll be in the playoffs, they just need to pick up a really strong defense and maybe some young players to get them over that hump and into the Superbowl and hopefully they can kick the sh** out of the Jets again.”  Let’s hope he’s right!

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To say it was an honor to sit down with Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick is definitely an understatement.  Although he was a very laid back guy and easy to talk to, he definitely emitted that rock-legend aura that could tongue-tie any entertainment reporter.  There to promote their new album, Thirteen (because it is actually their thirteenth record) ~ which will come out late this fall, Chris tells me that the album “…shows the raw diversity of the band. I think it displays a timeline from the early really heavy thrash days to the more mid-tempo sound of today.”  I asked Chris what makes a band like Megadeth stand the test of time and he told me that it’s “…a bit of luck definitely, but I think it’s because though music has changed over time there’s always that certain sound that Megadeth has that’s retained. Whether the song is an anthem or a ballad or an old thrash tune, you can still hear Dave’s influence and it keeps fans returning.”   Chris shared with me his most memorable fan experience ~ which happened when he was about to play a show in the Midwest. “We had a meet and greet before the show and unfortunately this person had been a burn victim, with scars over 70% of his body. The one thing I noticed right off the bat was how much he still loved life.  To this day he will always be an inspiration for me. Hopefully I’ll see him again so I can let him know that.”

Local boy Sully Erna of Godsmack proudly wore his Red Sox hat onto the stage as the band broke out into “Cryin’ like a Bitch,” getting the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy.  Midway through the set, the band threw in a montage of 80s rock and roll covers and the audience turned into a record sized chorale group as they sang along to some old school Sabbath.  Sully reminds the crowd why he loves his hometown so much, shouting out how Bostonians never take sh*t from anyone, reminiscent of a pre-game pump-up speech worthy of a Hollywood feel-good sports film.

mayhem11-1259-copyA big black curtain went for a slight intermission and stage set up.  It dropped to reveal a thousand LED lights which formed into a large screen behind the drum kit.  Black and white images flashed across the strobe-lit stage as the members of Disturbed came out one by one to an increasing volume of cheers.  Dave Draiman stomped out and went right into their latest song, “Asylum.”  The band also performed hits from their older albums, which the crowd jumped, moshed and screamed along to readily.

Though the heat was nearly unbearable, you really can’t ask for a better show than a full day celebrating the perfect musical marriage of old school and new school metal. Though there may not have been any bouquets thrown, there were plenty of empty water bottles tossed around.  Worth the nasty sunburns and sore throats?  Definitely.

All photos by Jennifer Russo

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