Last summer's Rockstar Energy fun day was brought to us by the letter M: Mud, Motorhead and Mayhem (big M and little m). With a little help from S: Slipknot and Slayer.
With only a little afternoon rain, mud was a no-show today at the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival at First Niagara Pavilion. Fans went home with ears rattled and heads properly banged but without the need to re-create a Tide commercial.
The early part of the day was a thrashfest in the parking lot with the likes of Children of Bodom, Emmure, Machine Head, Job for a Cowboy and Butcher Babies, led by the rare Mayhem screaming femme. The daylight was prime people-watching time if you're into freaks wearing horror masks, face paint and various death-metal accessories. The scariest guy had a Jackson Pollock effect on his shaved head -- with blood.
At the dinner hour, the black-shirted army migrated to the main venue where Swedish band Amon Amarth (named for a volcano in Tolkein's Middle-Earth) delivered its melodic Viking metal on a stage outfitted with a giant smoke-breathing dragon boat. That was only half as impressive as the members' ability to swing their hair in unison. Singer Johan Hegg's deep baritone speaking voice was so awesome he should be taken right to Nashville to cut an album of country murder ballads. With Amon Amarth, he put caustic roar on thundering songs like "Destroyer of the Universe" and "Deceiver of the Gods."
Mastodon, more the thinking man's metal band, doesn't mess with props and swinging hair. The Atlanta quartet's 45-minute prog-driven set highlighted the heavy riffs and soaring synchronicity of guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher and potent drumming of Brann Dailor. Mastodon's smart, melodic approach did not inspire moshpits, but there was every reason to hang back and revel in the head-spinning virtuosity of songs like "All the Heavy Lifting" and "The Sparrow."
The testosterone level took a quantum leap with Five Finger Death Punch (5FDP), keyed by Ivan Moody's aggressive combo of growling and clean vocals and by the power of Zoltan (guitarist Bathory). The LA quintet hit the stage with the popular "Over and Under It" and kept the metal angst coming.
If a network is looking for a metal variety show host, Moody could be the man. He filled the stage with kids, like a mohawked Art Linkletter, and rallied a "U-S-A!" chant with a "We Support Our Troops" banner in relaying a story about a fallen soldier whose iPod was stuck on Five Finger Death Punch. He proceeded to put the crowd into battle by ordering circle pits for "White Knuckles."
He did the promoter a favor by making one of the set highlights a preview of next Friday's concert with a cover of Bad Company's self-titled anthem, prompting a sing-along most likely from the elder members of the base. The cell phone/cigarette-lighter salute was a cool effect on sludgefest "The Bleeding"
Nothing, outside of a mudpit, creates more Mayhem than a Zombie, and this one had Rob. The Rob Zombie hour was a ghoulish spectacle launched with the lurching new rocker "Teenage Nosferatu [Expletive]."
As Moody promised, the headliner had a stage full of "fire and brimstone," plus a crack industrial boogie crew to churn through such RZ classics "Superbeast" and "More Human Than Human" (with giant dancing robot) and a souped-up cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band" that turned the stage red, white and blue. He also added a touch of Metallica.
Zombie was creepy fun, as always, but not half as scary as some of the people in the parking lot.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.