The annual metal festival charged into the first of their two New England dates, leaving concert goers bruised, sweaty, and smiling.

The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has been a staple for heavy metal fans since its start in 2008. The festival has been streamlined this year to pack 14 bands onto two stages in one day, giving a little bit of something for everyone with a mix of local, upcoming, and established national touring bands.

The day started in the parking lot listening to fans talk about days of concerts past like the scene in “Jaws” when they are comparing scars. Many fans were proudly wearing their favorite band tour shirt from prior shows, displaying their loyalty and dedication to the music.

The doors opened at 1 pm with a line that was at least 10 to 15 minutes long. Unfortunately, the Coldcock Band Winner, sponsored by Coldcock Whiskey, were done playing their set by the time most of the crowd made their way through the gates.

The Victory Records side stage was placed near the food court, with tables and benches set up for convenience allowing people to rotate in and out of the crowd from band to band. There were booths set up along a wall where band merchandise was sold and various meet and greets were scheduled throughout the day.

Code Orange (formerly Code Orange Kids) is a hardcore band from Pennsylvania that formed in 2008. Code Orange started the day off in the tough opening slot but did their part to get the stir the crowd up. Code Orange is supporting their 2014 album release, I Am King. After the Mayhem tour, the band will be heading to Australia in September.

Shattered Sun, a metal band from Texas that formed in 2005, brought their ruthless brand of metal to the stage. Working the crowd up, singer Marcos Leal jumped from the stage to the barrier, singing and joining the crowd up-close and personal. Shattered Sun is supporting their 2015 debut release Hope Within Hatred, following Mayhem with a month long tour with Soulfly.

Sworn In is an emo-metal core band that formed in 2011 in Illinois. Sworn In is touring in support of their latest album The Lovers/The Devil released in 2015. Sworn In were well slotted, allowing the crowd in the more aggressive mosh pit a breather.

Sister Sin is a Swedish old-school metal band that has been around since 2002 and is supporting their latest album Black Lotus. Guitarist Jimmy Hiltula used an aptly named amplifier model called “Satan” by Randall to summon the crunchy tight bottom end of the simple but effective riffs. It gives the perfect platform for singer Liv Jagrell’s sultry and smokey vocals. Their final song “Sail North” got the crowd going with their chorus of “whoa-oh” and driving tempo.

Jungle Rot, an old-school death metal band from Illinois, just released their ninth studio album titled Order Shall Prevail in June of 2015. The highlight of their set happened when singer/guitarist Dave Matrise asked the crowd to form a human waterfall with fans surfing their way up and over the barrier.

Thy Art Is Murder is an Australian deathcore band touring for their recently released album Holy War. Singer, CJ McMahon broke his growling vocals long enough to announce they were from Australia, where some of the toughest people alive live. To back this up, he told a brief story of an Australian surfer, Mick Fanning, who was attacked by a shark during a surfing competition earlier that day. Fanning managed to punch the shark and come out of the water unharmed. CJ established a consistent back-and-forth relationship with the crowd. At one point he kicked a soccer ball signed by the band into the crowd, which he jokingly said was “worth about two dollars” and then jumped onto the barrier to sing and interact with the crowd.

The day became a little challenging when a crowd favorite, Whitechapel ended their set on the side stage minutes before The Devil Wears Prada took the main stage continuing into Kissing Candice on the side stage and Hellyeah on the main stage. Feed Her To The Sharks took the side stage, then King Diamond and Slayer finished off the night on the main stage.

Whitechapel and The Devil Wears Prada both put on solid performances based on the crowd reaction. However, the crowd began to split between the stages with many fans choosing to jockey for a position at the front of the pit for a good spot for the headliners.

Kissing Candice, an offshoot of Dr. Acula is a mask-wearing, blood-covered, horror themed melodic deathcore band out of New York. Don’t let their image fool you, their musicianship and stage presence kept the crowd that was left at the side stage moving and glued to the show.

Hellyeah is currently touring in support of their latest album Blood For Blood, released in May 2014. The band is a supergroup with a mix of seasoned musicians showing rock is all about great music and good times. Singer Chad Gray moved around on stage like a man on fire, drawing the crowd into the show. The crowd responded well as they sang along and swayed in time with the music.

Feed Her To The Sharks, another melodic metal-core band from Australia, closed out the Victory Records stage feeding the remaining crowd a large dose of tight electronic based growling metal, proving their spot as the side stage headliners.

King Diamond put on a strong and robust 60 minute set full of theatrics. Even the stagehands wore robes as they brought on and removed items from the stage. From the upside down crosses to the two-story staircases with gargoyles, to the pentagram with a goat and the crossbones microphone holder, King Diamond’s stage show mesmerized the audience. King Diamond got one of the greatest reactions from the crowd as they cheered him saying, “All this humid weather is making me thirsty, thirsty for…. TEA!” Feeding off of the crowd energy, the band then broke into the song “Tea” off the 1988 classic metal concept album Them.

Slayer closed out the night in true thrash metal fashion supporting their much anticipated 11th studio release Repentless due out in September of 2015. Over the last several weeks the band has started to sneak and release singles, including the title track. The final four songs played by Slayer are the four horsemen of their songs which include: “Hell Awaits”, “South Of Heaven”, “Raining Blood”, and “Angel Of Death.”

There has been some controversy regarding the downsizing and streamlining of the festival this year through media outlets between one of the co-founders of the Mayhem Festival and a headliner. This back and forth has sparked a debate over the fate and the direction of the festival and bands in the future.

All are impacted by economics: bands, promoters, venues, and concert goers alike. It is with hopes that this recent discussion sparks an honest debate on a way to continue improving the festival, making it a memorable experience for the fans, and reaching a fair and equitable agreement with the bands to find a happy medium for all involved.

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Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival
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