A cold spell arrived with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre outside Chicago on July 27. Not that they needed it, but the cool temps gave fans just another reason to rock a little harder. Rob Zombie brought a carnival atmosphere and Five Finger Death Punch hit the crowd with an onslaught of lights and in-your-face metal. They were joined on the main stage by the richly melodic Mastodon and Swedish death-metal outfit Amon Amarth.
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The Mayhem Festival operates like a fine-tuned machine. All artists hit the stage within minutes of their scheduled set time. With twenty bands performing over four stages, and any number of technical issues that could potentially creep into play, the stage crew did a fantastic job ensuring that there was no shortage of live music.
Amon Amarth welcomed fans to the amphitheater stage first, complete with the bow of a Viking ship at center stage. The boat provided a strong setting for their Viking-influenced songs, and also featured a smoke-breathing dragon with glowing red eyes. Frontman Johan Hegg led them through a six-song set that just eclipsed 30-minutes, opening with “Destroyer of the Universe.” Touring on “Deceiver of the Gods,” their dark lyrical base and heavy music helped to quickly draw fans toward the main stage shortly after Children of Bodom closed out the side stages. Hegg also noted the cool weather, stating, “Finally weather we understand. As Swedes, it’s like coming home.”
Textured vocal harmonies and deeply layered melodies combined with well-timed tempo changes drive Mastodon’s thick sound. Though they didn’t perform “Curl of the Burl,” their biggest hit from most-recent release, “The Hunter,” Mastodon did play “Black Tongue” and “Dry Bone Valley.” Led by drummer Brann Dailor’s technical play, the guitar tandem of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher laid swirly riffs that fully encapsulated the outdoor venue. Toss in the combined vocals of duties of bassist Troy Sanders with Hinds and Dailor and their live sound was symphonic.
Five Finger Death Punch have a fan base that has snowballed into an army over the past couple years. Their catchy metal anthems combining technical play, aggressive lyrics and vocalist Ivan Moody’s honest, in-your-face presentation have an endearing quality. They had the best light show of this year’s Mayhem Festival and slick, aluminum “5FDP” knuckles suspended as a backdrop.
“Under and Over It” and “Burn It Down” opened their show. Moody dedicated “Bad Company” to servicemen and added, “If you see one in the seats, shake their hand, buy them a drink, and thank them.” They also performed their latest single, “Lift Me Up” from the much anticipated “The Wrong Side of Heaven…, Vol. 1.” The new album hits the streets on Friday, July 30.
Rob Zombie was the headliner but FFDP definitely had their share of fans at the show. Chants of “Five Finger” and “Death Punch” filled the air. They finished strong with “Coming Down,” “Never Enough” and “Far From Home” before closing with old-school “The Bleeding.” Nothing’s been announced, but with new music on the horizon, including “Vol. 2” later this year, a headline tour should be in the cards before the end of the year.
A smoky haze and multitude of colored lights are standard fare for the headline act, but Zombie appeared atop a multi-story skull platform with “ZOMBIE” inscribed across its forehead. Dreads and fringe were tossed from side-to-side as the vocalist of the macabre pranced across the stage. A massive, inflatable devil during “Superbeast” opened fans to the workings of Rob Zombie’s horror-filled mindset.
White Zombie classics “More Human Than Human,” “Super-Charger Heaven” and “Thunder Kiss ’65” mixed nicely with “Living Dead Girl” and the more recent “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown.” John 5 and Piggy D., on guitar and bass, and Ginger Fish on drums blend catchy hooks into their signature haunting sound.
Considering the show was on a Saturday, attendance was light compared to last year’s festival featuring Slipknot and Slayer [review] on the main stage and Anthrax and The Devil Wears Prada [review] on the side stages. Great production value and hardcore lineup on the side stages should have fared much better.
Mayhem Main Stage set times:
Rob Zombie 9:50 – 11:00 p.m.
Five Finger Death Punch 8:20 – 9:20 p.m.
Mastodon 7:15 – 8:00 p.m.
Amon Amarth 6:25 – 7:00 p.m.
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