WORDS BY: RAVEN BENWAIT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ANNA SKLAVOS
Crowd surfing, mosh-pits, multiple performance stages, black band t-shirts, blood, sweat, bands, fans and a whole lot of metal is what you would see at Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. At Toronto’s very own Echo Beach, the 14-band tour arrived for a full day festival on the hot summer grounds on July 15, 2015. The metal-filled day consisted of a whole lot of musical twists and fun.
Early on in the day, Victory Records Stage openers included: Kissing Candice, Code Orange, Feed Her To The Sharks, Shattered Sun, Sworn In, Sister Sin, Jungle Rot, Thy Art Is Murder, and Whitechapel.
The Main Stage Headliners featured: The Devil Wears Prada, Hellyeah, King Diamond, and Slayer.
The first act we caught up with was Australian Deathcore band, Thy Art is Murder. Vocalist CJ McMahon walked onto the Victory Stage with a whole lot of energy following the band. “Reign of Darkness” was the first song that Thy Art is Murder opened with, following with “Shadow of Eternal Sin”, “Light Bearer” and “The Purest Strain of Hate.” I was surprised by the Toronto fanbase of Thy Art is Murder, as there were several people in the crowd taking out their violence in the mosh-pit, along with some of the more passionate fans in the front row, screaming lyrics. There was a small intermission where a fan passed a joint to McMahon during the show, who then passed it around to the band. I guess you can say, that’s how Canadians do it! Thy Art is Murder called out the Toronto fans, for an enormous circle pit right before their closing song “Holy War,” which is a newer, brutal, very satanic song. For those who haven’t taken a look at the lyrics, here is a glimpse – “Holy war, unholy followers, Holy war, brainwashed with death, holy war our unholy maker.” It’s a much deeper message if you understand religion and beliefs through their perspective. By their whole vibe and lyrics, you can sense the darkness and hate. “Religion seriously has you and others around you,” was a t-shirt Andy Marsh was wearing on stage. I’ve also got to compliment their artwork, as it is very creative and ofcourse, filled with darkness – definitely something I would take multiple looks at.
Thy Art is Murder is a five-piece band that shares their beliefs on their dissatisfactions with all aspects of modern life – politics, religion, environment and social norms. Being such a dark band, they have received some hate after the releases of their three albums, but they have not toned down their musical art for the sake of others. They still release their best work and continue to unleash the hate, with one message said by the band – “get in the pit or get out of the way.”
Next to hit the Victory Records stage arose Whitechapel, the 6 piece death metal outfit from Tennessee. The minute they hit the stage, they opened with “The Saw is the Law.” Instantly, all of the fans knew the words and began head-banging. “Let me Burn” and “Our Endless War” are two very famous ones that all the fans knew the words to as they screamed, waving their devil horns in the air. Whitechapel asked the Toronto fans for a wall of death. Lucky me, I got right in the front of it, so I can say, I got the real concert experience. Boys and girls, Whitechapel is what you can call real Death Metal. The fans are not afraid of a punch and you will see both genders in the mosh-pit which is not very common. Vocalist, Phil Bozeman was very energetic and kept the crowd going rowdy. “Faces” from their most recent self-titled album was a fan favourite, then Whitechapel closed with “I, Dementia.” Fans were covered with sweat and I spotted some blood; “brutal” is one word to describe their set. You could tell numerous people enjoyed their set because I saw hundreds of people wearing Whitechapel t-shirts.
Whitechapel is a band who I have seen grow throughout the years. I first heard them when they released This is Exile in 2008, after their first album in 2007. Since then, they have release another two albums, the most previous one being their self-titled album and Our Endless War. From Metal Blade records, this band is named after the Whitechapel district in East London, which references the series of murders committed by Jack the Ripper, which you can spot when you listen to their lyrics closely. Their musical influences lean towards Death Metal including Cannibal Corpse and Bloodbath, as well as some hardcore background.
Now it was time to switch to the main stage, where The Devil Wears Prada instantly began their set with “Escape,” which had the fan girls screaming – I was pretty surprised to see fan girls for this band. Anyways, The Devil Wears Prada continued their 35 minute set with “Born to Lose,” “Sailor’s Prayer” and “Outnumbered.” Main vocalist, Mike Hranica was keeping the crowd entertained on the high Echo Beach stage. He would run around the stage and involve the crowd as much as he could into the music. Hranica was definitely a pleasure to photograph with his energy. The crowd was not as rowdy as I expected seeing as The Devil Wears Prada is quite known worldwide, but there were fans enjoying the show regardless. The band played “Danger: Wildman” and “Supernova” before closing with “Mammoth.”
From Ohio, the four piece Metalcore band has been one since 2005 and released five full-length albums. This band was founded by all Christian members who maintain a theme representing their religion. I found it a little ironic how they had Thy Art is Murder who is pretty much anti-religion and then The Devil Wears Prada who are Christian playing in one tour – quite an interesting twist. Anyways, some of their full- length albums include With Roots Above and Braches Below, Dead Throne, Dead and Alive and most recently, 8:18. Currently, they are working towards their “Space EP” which will be out on August 21st via Rise Records.
Next was Kissing Candice, who walked onto the stage with some pretty interesting costumes, which you can see in our photos. Vocalist Joey Simpson had one of the best costumes and he was running around the stage, keeping the audience entertained. You could tell, not many people have heard these guys before, but due to their stage performance consisting of a theatrical presentation of their music including fog, lights, and gallons of blood, they will be a band to remember. Their music is said to be a combination of Hollywood Undead and Slipknot. I could see that with the costume choices and hard rock. Conjured is their most famous release as a band. These guys are still a work in progress, but I, along with many people who watched them at Mayhem are interested in seeing what is to come from this twisted combination of metal, hardcore, industrial and electronic music, in their unique, cinematic fashion.
At this point, the Mayhem Festival grounds were getting busier, but not as much as previous Toronto dates in the past. I expected a larger population at Echo Beach at this point. Despite it not being too busy, I was quite entertained by the twist in the variety of bands. There were completely different bands, some Metalcore, some Death Metal, Hard Rock, Deathcore – something for everyone there!
Next up on the main stage arrived HELLYEAH with a huge burst of energy we were all waiting for. From Dallas, Texas, the 4-piece Supergroup consists of Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray, Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, bassist Kyle Sanders and former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul. They opened with “Soul Killer,” leading to “Sangre por Sangre,” – in other words “blood for blood.” During this song, Gray drenched his face in blood which was good symbolism for this song. Gray was so very energetic and would run across the stage and sing with so much passion. I remember seeing him with Mudvayne and he was always so energetic; he is an experienced vocalist who knows how to keep the crowd alive. Members of the crowd began to crowd surf and there was a huge mosh-pit; they definitely put security to work! HELLYEAH continued with “War in Me,” “Moth,” “Cross to Bier,” and “Say When.” They closed with “You Wouldn’t Know.”
HELLYEAH has been together for eight years, released three albums, headlined countless tours and are said to have made their biggest statement with their album BLOOD FOR BLOOD. This band describes this album as their most “metallic album.” A song “Demons in the Dirt,” is filled with anger and hate, which leads to “Gift,” a rowdy Rock and Roll energy which reminds me a bit of Motorhead. They also have a twist of some more emotional tunes such as “Hush” and “Moth to the Flame,” proving that you can be emotional with heavy, loud instrumentals. Definitely a Supergroup to check out if you haven’t already.
Back to the Victory Records stage was Feed Her to the Sharks which played a quick 20 minute set. What appealed to me most about this band was definitely their name and their stage art set-up which consisted of a whole lot of blood and sharks – creative. The Australian band has released a total of three albums, which their most recent one Fortitude, with Victory Records. The crowd was not huge for these guys, but there were some fans lined up at the front of the stage. They sang along to songs like “Misery,” “Buried Alive” and “Burn the Traitor.” The 5-piece Metalcore band is definitely passionate about sharks, as they celebrated Shark Awareness day – just an interesting fact.
Next up on the line was the very famous King Diamond – the band majority of the crowd had been waiting for. The stage set-up was spectacular – it’s like you walked straight into an 1800’s satanic horror film, with pentagrams and vintage statues and a staircase around. The band members walked onto the stage with style and spooky music to keep it interesting. They opened with “The Candle,” leading to “Sleepless Nights,” “Eye of the Witch,” and “Welcome Home.” Vocalist King Diamond was entertaining the crowd like it was a theatrical show, as he would march around the stage while singing and use gestures to act out scenes. He would cover his face from the sun as it was covered with black and white inverted crosses, air guitar on his microphone made of a femur and tibia bone made into a cross, as he hopped around the stage like in a vintage theatrical film. “Come to the Sabbath” was an interesting one as a woman walked out and seemed to have acted out some sort of ritual. They closed with “Black Horsemen,” which had the crowd going nuts.
This Danish heavy metal band formed in 1985 by vocalist King Diamond, guitarists Andy LaRocque and Michael Denner, bassist Timi Hnasen and drummer Mikkey Dee. They have been around for a long time, so I was quite surprise to see them Mayhem Festival, which in the past has been more modern day metal bands. King Diamond is a band who follows The Satanic Bible. They were called one of the only performers of the ’80s Satanic Metal who were more than just posers using a devilish image for shock value. King Diamond has expressed that religion has led people to kill and destroy eachother, which is logically impossible to prove the presence or absence of any God.
Last but not least, it was time for Slayer! The curtains were closed shut so the stage set-up could begin. There were pentagrams and logos shining onto the curtains, and once the curtain dropped, there was Tom Araya, Kerry King, Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt playing “Repentless.” There were flames of fire bursting around the stage, keeping the enormous crowd entertained. I had never seen Echo Beach so packed in my entire life! Slayer continued on with “Hate Worldwide,” “Jihad,” “Disciple,” “God Sent Death,” and “War Ensemble.” The fan-base was huge, consisting of all ages to elders, parents, young adults, teenagers and children. I was impressed by the mosh-pit – definitely the greatest one I’ve seen in a long time. People showed no mercy and were even crowd surfing. This crowd was pretty awesome and would high five one another and would approach people they didn’t even know to headband together. I even saw a little bit of blood in there. “Implode” was a good one, which lead to “Mandatory Suicide” and “Chemical Warfare.” Being around for so many years, you’d think Slayer must have lost it, but that is not the case – Slayer continued on with an awesome set. They closed with two of the most fan favourites – “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death.” Their 75 minute, 16 song set was one that I am glad I did not miss. For those that did – bummer.
Slayer – where do I begin with these guys… Their musical style involves fast tempo picking, double bass drumming and riffs from irregular musical scales. Slayer is one of the big four thrash bands along with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. They are a pioneer of a thrash metal subgenre of heavy metal music. Their music and art covers topics ranging from serial killers to Satanism, necrophilia, anti-religion as well as religion, Nazism and warfare. They have received lots of criticism from religious groups, yet a lot of praise from others. Their music is highly influential in the metal music world and they are the biggest legends of time!
Overall, Mayhem Festival was different from previous years – this one consisted of bands from all sub-genres. Bringing Slayer and King Diamond was a fantastic idea because it brought crowds of all ages. This festival was the most passionate one I’ve ever attended in Toronto’s metal music scene.