Since 2008, the Mayhem Festival has been a staple of North American touring metal fests, and its stages have been graced by such heavyweights as Slayer, Slipknot, Dragonforce, Lamb of God, Hatebreed and Killswitch Engage. Known for diverse lineups from subgenres all across the metal spectrum, Mayhem has raised the bar with their 2011 tour. The festival is also introducing a revolving opener structure, which will swing Main Stage opening duties between Trivium, In Flames, and Machine Head.
Mayhem Festival is sporting three stages this year: the Jagermeister Mobile Stage, the Revolver Stage, and the Main Stage. Although there is no Salt Lake City stop on the tour this year, it will hitting the Nampa Ampitheatre in Nampa, ID on July 13th. Here’s a breakdown of the bands you can expect to shred your ear-holes this summer!
Jagermeister Mobile Stage
The Jager stage is unique in that every stop will be opened by a different Battle of the Bands victor—some of the acts include Drown Mary, Nihilist, Hemlock, and Psychostick. SLUG coverage of the Nampa, ID festival date is fortunate to see an SLC hometown favorite opening this stage: A Balance of Power, a thrash-and-sludge death metal band that just released their latest album in April of 2011. These guys are no strangers to opening for big names—in their 7 year career, they’ve already shared the stage with Soulfly, Lamb of God, Hatebreed, Rob Zombie and Three Inches of Blood. This marks their first year on the Mayhem Festival Tour.
Following the rotating opener is Oregon-based Red Fang. Their debut album was released by Sargent House in 2009 before getting picked up by Relapse Records for their 2011 effort Murder the Mountains and hitting the international tour circuit, including the Metalliance Tour and opening for The Melvins. With a sludge and groove that is reminiscent of Soundgarden or the mountain-man-metal glory of Scissorfight, they are a perfect kick-off to the show.
Next is Kingdom of Sorrow, formed in 2005 by scene veterans Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Kirk Windstein of Crowbar and Down. After sharing a stage with Hatebreed, Crowbar was invited in ’05 for a stint of UK dates, and during that time the two friends put together the idea for an act inspired by their love for granddaddy bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Pantera. They have released two albums, Kingdom of Sorrow and Behind The Blackest Tears, on Relapse Records, and this will be their second time tearing up the Jagermeister Stage at Mayhem Fest.
Massachusetts metalcore follows with Unearth. A staple of the genre, these boys have been around the block since 1998, hitting their first critical success with second release The Oncoming Storm in 2004 on Metal Blade Records. This is a band that has toured almost nonstop during the last decade, and with past fests like the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, The SXSW, Ozzfest and The Headbanger’s Ball Tour under their belt, fans can rest assured they have a high-energy and polished live show. Less than two weeks have passed since the release of their newest album, Darkness In The Light, which has garnered exceptional reviews from fans and critics alike, and is being called their best album since The Oncoming Storm.
Following will be the thrash-metal young guns Trivium, hailing from Orlando, Florida. Success has moved fast for these guys, whose 2003 high-quality demo Ember To Inferno got them noticed and signed to Roadrunner Records. 2005 saw the release of Ascendency, widely considered to be the band’s breakthrough album, which received rave critical reviews, including “Album of the Year” from Kerrang! Magazine. They followed up in 2006 with The Crusade, which was a huge departure in style with its overwhelmingly clean vocals, but still a critical success. Shogun was released in 2008, bringing back Matt Heafy’s screams with it, and songs laden with international mythology. Their latest release, In Waves, is scheduled to drop August 9th, but fans can check out newly released tracks “In Waves” and “Dusk Dismantled” online. (Note: This set spot will be occupied by Hatebreed on the August 5-7th dates of the Mayhem Festival Tour.)
Headlining the Jagermeister Stage are the pioneers In Flames, a band that many other acts on the Mayhem Fest claim as influential in their own sound. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, their music laid the foundation for the now-famous Gothenburg metal scene along with At The Gates and Dark Tranquility. In Flames has been tearing up the international scene since 1990, and their standardizing of the melodic death metal sound, with its harmonizing guitars, synth accents and clean/scream vocal mix has paved the way for many to follow, including the new wave of metalcore bands. 2011 saw the release of their first album in three years, Sounds Of A Playground Fading, which is their first without founding guitarist Jesper Strömblad who left the band in 2010. You’d be hard-pressed to find a festival these guys haven’t played in 20 years of metal mutiny. They’ll be sure to smash the crowd to bits. (Note: In Flames will headline the Revolver Stage July 12-20.)
Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, Straight Line Stitch formed in 2000, and after releasing a demo and EP, they added Alexis Brown as vocalist in 2003, making her the lone female on this year’s Mayhem Fest roster. They’ve released five various EPs and full length albums on their own until 2008’s When Skies Wash Ashore, which was released by Koch Records. Their latest release, The Fight Of Our Lives, came out in March of 2011 and was produced by Grammy-winning Johnny K and included guitar work from Kris Norris of Darkest Hour. Their songs are aggressive and melodic, and Alexis’ vocals sway from singing to screaming with ease, reminiscent of hard rock acts like 36 Crazyfists and Bullet For My Valentine. This will be their first time touring with the Mayhem Festival.
Following SLS are the deathcore maniacs All Shall Perish of Oakland, CA. After being picked up by Japanese label Amputated Vein Records for their first release, they came to the attention of Nuclear Blast, and let loose The Price of Existence in 2006 to excellent reviews. Their follow-up release in ‘08, Awaken the Dreamers, cemented the band’s place at the forefront of the genre, combining soul-shredding brutality with progressive song structure that together made a critically acclaimed masterpiece; Kirk Hammett of Metallica lists the album as one of his top 25 metal records of the decade. On July 26th, they will release This Is Where It Ends, their highly anticipated fourth album with new guitarist Francisco Artusato and drummer Adam Pierce; fans who are attending Mayhem Fest can find the album for purchase early at the band’s merch table. And you don’t want to miss this musical massacre!
Next up is Suicide Silence of Riverside, CA, a band with influences all across the death and grind spectrum, including some complex time changes reminiscent of mathcore and screams that conjure up the ghost of Zao. After various EP releases, the group was signed to Century Media in 2007, and released their first full-length album The Cleansing, which was one of the best-selling albums in the label’s history. Past tours have put the band next to such acts as Mudvayne and Black Label Society, and they’ve twice been awarded with Revolver’s Golden God award. July 12 will bring the release of their follow-up album, The Black Crown. This is their second appearance on the Mayhem Fest roster.
Headlining the Revolver Stage are Machine Head, a staple of the genre since 1992 when they formed in San Francisco, CA. This band has been through some crazy shit in its nearly 20 year career; aside from the usual plague of lineup changes, they’ve had major record label controversy and even dealt with post-9/11 hype blocking their video from national television. Despite it all, they have maintained, creating standards like The Burning Red and Supercharger, and touring with huge names like Slayer, Dream Theater and Metallica. Their 2007 album The Blackening was their biggest critical hit, with many calling it the album of the year and drawing comparisons to Metallica’s Master of Puppets. September 27th will bring their latest release, Unto The Locust, their seventh studio effort; fans can check out the first single Locust online. This is their second appearance on the Mayhem Festival tour.
First up on the Mayhem Main Stage is the unholy Megadeth, a band which needs no introduction (but I’ll give you one anyway, if you’re unlucky enough to not know their legend). As part of the “Big Four of Thrash” of 80s metal (along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax), Megadeth and their frontman Dave Mustaine are responsible for creating the thrash-metal genre as we know and love it, influencing untold numbers of bands since their founding in 1983 with their technical style, insane guitar solos, distinctive song structures and wide-reaching themes of politics, religion, and war. This is a band that has seen the best and worst of the music industry. They’ve suffered the lows of infamous substance abuse issues, lineup changes of over 20 members in 26 years (save Mustaine and co-founder David Ellefson), and disbanding in 2002 over Mustaine’s physical health issues. And yet their highs are almost untouchable: over 30 million albums sold worldwide, nine Grammy nominations, and albums like Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? defining the genre and clearing the way for some of today’s best-known metal bands. With their consistency and drive to better themselves and their sound, even after almost 30 years in the business, Megadeth is an ancestor for metalheads to worship if ever there was one, and is gracing the Mayhem Festival for the first time in 2011.
Next on the bill is Godsmack, heavy hitters from Massachusetts who have become one of the highest-grossing artists in the US even as the music industry suffers. Since 1995, the band has three consecutive number-one albums, and 15 songs in the Top Five, which is a record for a rock artist. With frontman Sully Erna channeling the charred soul-vocals of Layne Staley, the band has become renowned for their tuned-down, churning, dark sound and unapologetic lyrics with singles like “I Stand Alone”, “Voodoo” and “Keep Away”. In 2010, the band released their latest album The Oracle, which became the first hard rock album to reach number 1 that year, and was supplemented by across-the-board critical praise. They’ve opened for Metallica, been part of the madness of Ozzfest, and even drew huge crowds for their own arena tours, and now they join Mayhem for the first time.
Headlining the Main Stage is Chicago’s Disturbed, who since 1996 have shot to the forefront of heavy metal with over 13 million album sales worldwide. After recording demos in 1998, the band was found and signed by Giant Records, and in 2000 released debut album The Sickness, which ascended the band to almost instant stardom; even metalheads who aren’t fans can conjure the jumping screams that open single Down With The Sickness. The rocky, demonic singing of frontman David Draiman is unique and instantly gripping (the man’s been named one of the Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time by Hit Parader) , creating a nightmarish tone that is reflected in the drop-tune of guitarist Dan Donegan. Their songs positively hammer the listener into submission with theatrical lyrics, sweeping melody and almost tribal beats. Their latest effort, Asylum, was released in August of 2010 to critical success, and became their fourth number-one album in a row; the only other bands in history to claim this epic feat are Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band. They’ve headlined Ozzfest next to the man Ozzy Osbourne himself, and toured with the likes of System of a Down, Marilyn Manson, Five Finger Death Punch, and Stone Sour ; this will be their second Mayhem Festival to date.