Review by Aaron Tamachi and Jett White
Photography by Aaron Tamachi

Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival barreled into Toronto’s TD Echo Beach for a 10-hour summer show amidst the sand and sun.  The festival was welcomed with open arms as it unleashed 13 metal acts upon the Toronto crowd, including headliners Slayer, along with King Diamond, HELLYEAH, The Devil Wears Prada, Whitechapel, Kissing Candice, Thy Art is Murder, Jungle Rot, Sworn In, Shattered Sun, Feed Her to the Sharks, and Code Orange.

Mayhem featured two stages this year, compared to three the year prior, and boasted a heavier metal sound as opposed to last year’s more commercial bands.  There was an obvious divide between the younger and older generation of show goers, as the latter had clearly come to see Slayer and King Diamond – bands that have both been around in excess of 30 years.  However, no matter who ticket holders were there to see, there was a noticeable level of respect between fan bases.   This idea was even conveyed with a comment from HELLYEAH front man Chad Gray, who advised everyone to leave their problems at the gate and pick them up again on their way out, because the show was about having fun and being in it together.  Gray, always the extreme front man, delivered an energetic and blood-soaked 8-song performance that included “Moth” from the band’s most recent album, Blood for Blood (Sangre por Sangre).

Throughout the daytime hours of the festival, bands like Sworn In, Whitechapel and Jungle Rot kept early show goers entertained and engaged, but the venue didn’t truly begin to fill in until evening approached.

Throughout the fest, fans committed frequently to circle pits and Walls of Death, mosh pits, and smoking the devil’s lettuce… lots and lots of it, such that blue sky continued well into the night hours.  Whitechapel’s Phil Bozeman and Chris McMahon from Thy Art is Murder didn’t hesitate to partake on stage during their respective performances.

Fuck yeah! Thanks Canada for your weed!” declared McMahon before launching into a tangent about the likeability of Canadians. “I love coming to Canada, but you guys are too fucking nice… except for one. I need you guys to do me a favor. There’s a fat fucking ginger kid in a Code Orange shirt that stole my hat. I want you to kick the shit out of him, and bring him to our tent later so I can slit his throat!” Clearly, the comment was way over the top, and it was lucky that no one took him seriously and carried out the deed.  Yet, despite being unnecessarily extreme, the point was driven home that certain people needed to mind their manners.

Aussie band Feed Her To The Sharks gave an epic performance that closed out activity on the second stage, and made way for the final bands of the night on the main stage.  Kicking it off was Danish born and bred King Diamond, with their unique and eclectic mix of opera-infused metal in a visual package of Alice Cooper meets Judas Priest, and all wrapped up with a satanic bow.  Their impressive 10-song set included a medley of “Tea/Digging Graves/Visit From the Dead”, over which fans went ape-shit.  Diamond amped up their set with a jaw-dropping stage set-up, which featured LED inverted crosses, a Baphomet pentagram, gargoyles, and an elevated platform flanked with staircases. Aside from the props, the band employed a masked old woman who criss-crossed the stage and interacted with front man Kim Peterson during “Welcome Home”.

Last up was one quarter of the Big FourSlayer. Their 16-song set included fan favourites “God Hates Us All,” “When The Stillness Comes,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Raining Blood,” and “Angel of Death”.  The band opened with the title track from their upcoming 11th studio album Repentless.  Sounding as good live as he does recorded, lead vocalist Tom Araya led the band through a hellraising performance that included awe-inspiring, fiery guitar solos from Kerry King and Gary Holt.  The set included a phenomenal yet almost-blinding light show that made up for a minimal stage set up, but for their massive band banner that draped behind them.  The show was also big on pyro, but short on words. Never much for speeches, Araya addressed the audience mainly when thanking everyone for coming out.

Though Slayer failed to deliver an encore – something that disappointed several fans – the fact was that none was needed.  It had been a long set amidst a long day, and left the audience anxious to hear which bands will be included on next year’s Mayhem Festival.

Click to enlarge photos