It’s time again for the annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival to come to New Jersey. Each year, the festival gathers some of the biggest names in hard rock and metal and showcases them to thousands of fans at dates across the country. This year, the tour is headlined by Disturbed, Godsmack and Megadeth, with underground titans In Flames, Trivium, Machine Head and many others performing in support.
Like last year, this festival will be making two appearances in New Jersey. The first stop will be at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on Wednesday, July 27. If you’re unable to attend this show or just simply want to go again, head on over to the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on Sunday, July 31 to catch that show. Tickets are still available and they start at roughly $30 for each date. Be prepared to clear your schedule for the day as the doors open for both shows at 1:15 p.m. Wouldn’t you like to bask in the sun and witness some of the biggest names in metal over the past 30 years, all in one place? You can find all the information, including set times and transportation services, at rockstarmayhemfest.com.
Out of the six main bands appearing here, Machine Head is perhaps the least known. They’re from San Francisco, California, yet they’ve achieved most of their success in Europe, as three of their six albums went silver in the U.K. Adam Flynn, the multi-talented singer/guitarist, is a true veteran of the undergroung, playing in bands since he was in high school. Shortly after Adam founded the band in 1992 with bassist Adam Duce, the group hooked up with the now former members Logan Mader and Tony Costanza. They then signed with Roadrunner Records and have been with them ever since. Currently rolling with the same lineup since 2002, the band seems to be peaking at the right time, as their last release, 2007’s The Blackening, reached number 54 on the Billboard charts, their highest position to date. They will be looking to climb higher on the list as their new album, Unto The Locust, will be released in September. Much to the delight of the eager, diehard fans, the band will be headlining the Extreme Stage. Got a Machine Head?
Led by vocalist David Draiman, Disturbed have been selling tons of records for more than a decade now. They’ve recorded numerous hits over the years such as “Stupify,” “Down With The Sickness” and “Prayer,” and it seemed like nothing could stop them from banging out more. Headliners of the Mayhem Fest, the group released Asylum in 2010 and while yet another album of theirs went to the top of the charts, Draiman announced some startling news in an interview earlier this month. The band will not tour in 2012 and they will go on an indefinite hiatus to deal with internal matters. Courtesy of KQXR radio in Idaho, Draiman stated, “This is gonna be the last tour that the American people get to see us in for awhile, if not indefinitely.” Surprising to see them get out of the game while they’re still selling millions of records, I would not turn down the opportunity to see Disturbed a few times before they hang up the instruments for a while.
Fresh off his toned-down yet awesome solo tour, Godsmack frontman Sully Erna is getting back into the hard rock game as he leads his band onto the main stage as one of the headliners of the festival. Joined by Tony Rombola on guitars, Shannon Larkin on drums and bassist Robbie Merrill, Sully’s group has maintained the same lineup since 2002, which is certainly a key to their success. Godsmack, of course, has put out many big-selling singles over their 16-year career such as “Keep Away,” “Awake,” “I Stand Alone” and their epic, smash hit “Voodoo.” The gang’s latest album, The Oracle, was released in May of 2010 and while it still maintained their signature style, it was much heavier than their previous discs. One of the biggest groups in rock today, Godsmack has sold more than 17 million albums worldwide. Like Sully told me a recent interview, he’s really looking forward to getting back into the hard rock shows and driving fans wild by performing some aggressive, explosive songs of theirs. Anytime Mr. Erna takes the stage, you are guaranteed to enjoy the show, as he is clearly one of the most dedicated, incredible musicians that you will find.
Now this is the band that will make headbangers happy. One of the most successful thrash metal bands of all time, Megadeth has been electrifying the music world since their inception in 1983. Now with two of the best guitarists on the planet, Dave Mustaine and Chris Broderick (who joined the band in 2008), Megadeth seems somehow better than ever. One of the pioneers of thrash, Megadeth has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards, including their 2011 single, “Sudden Death.” Since co-founder Dave Ellefson rejoined the band last year, the group has been touring nonstop, hitting up Europe, Australia and both North and South America. Yet throughout all this touring, the band has recorded a new album, Th1rt3en, which is tentatively set for a November release. You’re first chance to hear some new tunes, as well as great songs from their past, will be at Mayhem.
In Flames has been around since 1990, pioneering the ‘Gothenberg sound,’ and selling a few million albums worldwide, mostly in their native Sweden. They’ve put out many hit songs over the years such as “The Quiet Place” and “The Mirror’s Truth,” and have taken home many awards, including “Best International Band” at the Golden Gods in 2008. The band has gone through some turmoil recently, however, as lead guitarist and founding member Jesper Strömblad, left the band permanently due to both personal and health problems. This resulted in the band turning to on again, off again guitarist Niclas Engelin to become a full-time member. Their first release under their new record label Century Media, Sounds Of A Playground Fading, was released in June. While I’m sure that they will continue putting together great performances, I’m very curious to see how they will sound without Strömblad.
Based in Orlando, FL, Trivium is another group here that is represented by Roadrunner Records. They initially started out as a metalcore act but their style now seems to touch a bit more on the thrash end of the spectrum. While not the most household name, Trivium has recorded many fine tracks including “Ascendancy,” “Into The Mouth Of Hell We March,” which was featured in Madden NFL 09, and “Down From The Sky.” Their new album, In Waves, will be coming out on Aug. 9. It will feature the debut of Nick Augusto, Trivium’s new drummer who replaced Travis Smith. If you’ve never seen these guys, you are going to be in for a treat. Simply put, they’re a great addition for this lineup and I really feel like these guys are on the verge of launching into superstardom, especially since they will be touring with the legendary Dream Theater later this year.
Looking for one of the most badass groups of the festival? If so, head on over to the Revolver Stage to watch the deathcore darlings Suicide Silence rock the park. From Riverside, CA, Suicide Silence will be touring in support of their third full-length album, The Black Crown, which was released on July 12. The band is headed by lead singer Mitch Lucker and guitarists Chirstopher Garza and Mark Heylmun. Lucker’s voice is intriguing, as he alternates between death growls and high-pitched screams. Known for controversial lyrics (not that you can understand them), Suicide Silence has been signed to Century Media since 2007. They will be making their first appearance at the Mayhem Festival since their breakthrough performance at the first-ever event in 2008. These guys are loud, explosive and brutal. Expect to see mosh pits galore during their set.
All Shall Perish
Probably the angriest group of individuals at the festival is the death metal band All Shall Perish. These guys are gaining some serious steam, and it’s really shown as they’ve been touring all over the world trying to win over fans. In 2008, they became the first all-American metal band to perform in Serbia and it seemed like they were on the up and up. But starting in 2009, the group underwent some serious lineup changes. They are now joined by Adam Pierce on drums, who took over for Matt Kuykendall in 2010, and guitarist Francesco Artusato, who grabbed the reigns after both Chris Storey and Jason Richardson left the band. They will be playing songs from their new album, This Is Where It Ends, which was released on July 26.
Straight Line Stitch
Straight Line Stitch is not your typical hard rock/metal band. Alexis Brown, the very attractive, tatted up female singer leads the Knoxville, TN, crew with her skillful growls and clean vocals while incorporating some very catchy melodies. In March, former Darkest Hour guitarist, Kris Norris, joined the band, anxiously waiting to work with drummer Kanky Lora. Their new disc, The Fight Of Our Lives, was released in March through E1 Music to many favorable reviews and reached number five on the Heatseekers chart. They were assisted in the producing aspect of the album by the popular Johnny K., who has worked with Disturbed and 3 Doors Down, among many others. They’ve now released four CDs and while they’ve gone through many lineup changes, this one seems pretty solid. Get ready to see these guys (and girl), as they will put on anything but a dreary performance.
Straight out of Eastern Massachusetts, metalcore mainstays Unearth will be playing on the Jägermeister Mobile stage. They will be touring in support of their fifth album, Darkness In The Light, which was released on July 5. While It seems like almost every group playing at the festival has gone through some chaos with their lineup, Unearth can relate, but on a much sadder note. Founding member and bassist Chris Rybicki, who left the band in 2001, was riding a scooter when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver late last year. The group had remained friends with Rybicki after his departure and were devastated by the news but continued to march forward as a band. They toured with As I Lay Dying and All That Remains before hitting the studio in January to put record their latest. At Mayhem Fest, you will get the treat of having Killswitch Engage drummer Justin Foley behind the kit since the band parted ways with Derek Kerswill. Get ready to see them shred.
Kingdom Of Sorrow
With some people, you can just tell that they will do whatever it takes to become a successful musician. Jamey Jasta is one of those people. Active since he was only 14, Jamey is the lead singer of both Kingdom Of Sorrow and Hatebreed. In Kingdom Of Sorrow, he is joined by the immensely talented, big-bearded guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein. Windstein is quite the busy man himself, as he is still playing in the successful bands Crowbar and Down. Together, Jasta and Windstein are a dynamic duo and while they’ve only released two records thus far, it’s safe to say that these sludge metallers will put on an intriguing performance.
As featured in The Aquarian, Red Fang is the entertaining, bass-heavy sludge rock band from Portland, OR. After signing with Relapse Records, the foursome put out their sophomore album, Murder The Mountains, in April. Then in June, they went on to play at Hellfest in France, along with acts such as Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne and Clutch. Only two albums in, and already known for their hilarious and self-deprecating music videos, it’s safe to say that the sky’s the limit for these very talented dudes. There is no doubt in my mind that Red Fang light up the Jägermeister Mobile stage.
Appearing only at the show at PNC Bank, Dr. Acula is a deathcore band from Long Island. In 2009, most of the band members left and it was up to guitarist Bill Graffeo and vocalist Tyler Guida to keep the band going. They brought in a few new musicians and released The Social Event Of The Century in 2010. This brought them surprising success and they wound up signing with Victory Records. Their fourth album, Slander, was released earlier this year. Their official MySpace page, yes, MySpace, has nearly 10 million plays on it. Not bad for a website that nobody uses anymore. You could do far worse for an opener than Dr. Acula.
Beyond The Scar
Hailing from Baltimore, MD, is Beyond The Scar. Commonly referred to as BTS, they became the first band to ever open up for the southern metal supergroup Hellyeah. In 2008, the Baltimore natives played a few shows on the Jägermeister Music Tour where they opened up for Hatebreed and Type O Negative. The next year, BTS signed a deal with Dirtbag Music Records. You can catch them at their only appearance on the Mayhem Tour at the show in Camden.