Michigan moshers turn out in force for the return of the annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.

The latest incarnation of the annual summer metal festival rolled into the DTE Energy Theatre bringing a picture perfect summer day with it. Michiganders love their concerts and “Pine Knob,” as the amphitheater is forever known as to the locals, is the best place to catch a show on a summer day.

The parking lot where the Victory Records stage was located had a respectable crowd built up early on. The local act Heartsick who had won the Coldcock Whiskey battle of the bands for this date opened up the day with great vigor. Formerly known as Know Lyfe, they are preparing to release a follow-up album to their 2011 album, Empire Of Wolves.

Code Orange who hails from the steel city of Pittsburgh took the stage next. The young hardcore band has made their mark on the scene touring with Killswitch Engage and Twitching Tongues, a fact that was evident by the large crowd that came early to witness their opening slot on stage.

Texas thrashers Shattered Sun took to the stage and were greeted by an overwhelming wave of cheers of support. Their support on the Testament and Exodus tour earlier this year won them legions of fans across the nation. The fans gathered in the pit were very familiar with their set of songs from their release, Hope Within Hatred, with a non-stop mosh pit spanning the width of the stage. Twenty-five minutes was hardly enough for the frenzied crowd which sung along word for word to each song they played. Frontman Zetro of Exodus has proclaimed them the future of metal and it’s a crown of honor the band definitely lived up to on this day.

Sworn In from Illinois picked up from there with a ferocious and intense set that kept the maelstrom of bodies going in the pit and flying over the barricades to the stage.

Sister Sin out of Gothenburg, Sweden and fronted by the sexy Liv Jagrell changed the tone of the parking lot back to a more old-school metal show. They have a more traditional metal sound which is a welcome break from the barrage of insert-prefix-here-core sound that has been prevalent in the metal scene as of late.

The guttural sounds of Jungle Rot dominated the parking lot seemingly shaking the trees flanking the back of the fenced off area with a thick wall of sound. One of the hardest hitting acts on the roster this year, they showed no mercy with an onslaught of brutal death metal.

Thy Art Is Murder fought their way from halfway around the world out of Sydney, Australia to prove that there is more to music from the land down under than three-chord riffs. The highlight of their set had to be the young fan bound in his wheelchair being crowd-surfed to the stage. The sight of him with arms triumphantly raised in defiance of his condition as his metal brethren carted him overhead showed the true bond of the festival experience, the crowd united as one.

The haunting keyboard notes preceding the Whitechapel set were greeted with an ominous but brief overcast sky that brought a slight chill to the air. The size of the crowd had swelled to fill the entire area all the way back to the main gate entrance as the band took to the stage. Unrelenting through their time slot they were by far the heaviest act of the secondary stage this day.

Kissing Candice and Feed Her To The Sharks were the final acts to round out the smaller stage which found them playing to a sparse crowd due to the scheduling of the main stage acts. They were not without support, however, as a small but fiercely dedicated group of fans stayed to support their sets before making their way to the main stage.

The Devil Wears Prada opened the main stage for the night, having moved up from the secondary stage they played on the festival back in 2012. Known for their dark, brooding lyrics and intricate melodies they brought the crowd running from the secondary stage to get the main stage festivities underway. Though they are considered a Christian metal band, their music has an attraction that defies any labels or boundaries in their fan-base. Even though they had only thirty-five minutes to play, they made the most of it with an aggressive raw set that kept the energy of the day flowing.

Supergroup Hellyeah are a powerhouse of a group who never fail to pack the seats in a venue before they take the stage. A stalwart icon on many festivals and tours have seen this group become one of the most popular draws everywhere they go. A true heavy metal band in every aspect of the genre, they never fail to incite the audience into a frenzied outpouring of support from start to finish. Guitarist Tom Maxwell had returned to the lineup after being absent to heal from a broken foot early in the tour, sitting on the edge of the stage but still shredding. Chad Gray is an explosive frontman who spends as much time leaping thru the air as he does singing.

Hellyeah has also partnered up to support to the domestic abuse prevention organization, No More. The band recently released a video for the song “Hush” in April of 2015 as part of their #HUSHNOMORE campaign. The video touches on Gray’s own personal experiences dealing with the struggles and scars of family violence and the damage it caused. It’s a subject Gray felt compelled to share his feeling on as many in the metal community have dealt the same issues with no outlet to vent. Having the support from a band like Hellyeah has helped give comfort and solace to those who might have otherwise kept hush themselves, afraid or ashamed to speak out and seek help. You can find more information on the No More organization here view the video for Hush below.

The sun slowly dipped below the expansive grass hill of the venue as the legendary King Diamond took to the stage. Still dealing with the symptoms of an eye infection, he was forced to appear without his trademark face paint this night. Even without his makeup, the King is still a formidable and daunting persona on stage. The band was backed by a two-tiered set made up to look like a church with candles, skulls, blood and other objects of the dark arts that set the tone for the musical hour-long sermon he delivered. The setlist encompassed songs from almost every era, as well as a few Mercyful Fate covers. Not without levity, he pointed to his face before launching into Eye of the Witch and scowled that the song was about his evil eye and it’s attempt on his life.

The amphitheater was firmly enveloped in the dark of the night when Slayer finally launched into their performance. The curtain dropped to the band opening with”Repentless” off the new upcoming album of the same name. Backed by walls of flame, crosses and a large video screen portraying endless scenes of carnage they blazed through a seventy-five-minute set that was satisfied everyone in attendance.

Slayer fans are cult-like in their fandom for the band, with guitarist Kerry King stating that the band is “more of a lifestyle” to some these days. Rounding out the end of the night they finished with two of their classic tracks, “Raining Blood” and “Angel Of Death,” which have long been the flagship tracks of their legacy. There is no disputing Slayer as the champions and torch-bearers of the thrash metal genre. Brazen, unapologetic, and repentless to the end, they are the sum of what the annual Mayhem Festival is all about.

All images by Josh Kahl

Rockstar Mayhem Fest
Website | Facebook | Twitter

No More
Website | Facebook | Twitter

HELLYEAH – Hush (Official Video)