Review: Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Killswitch Engage rock the Mayhem Fest
With Ozzy and Sharon’s metal roadshow Ozzfest on hiatus, Mayhem Festival and its sonic frenzy has proven a heady alternative for metal fans.
Tuesday’s Tampa stop brought speed metal, death metal, metalcore, etc. and included bands Bullet for My Valentine, the Black Dahlia Murder, Trivium, White Chapel, All That Remains, Behemoth, God Forbid, Job for A Cowboy, Cannibal Corpse, Killswitch Engage (above) and co-headliners Slayer and Marilyn Manson.
Note: Neither Ozzfest nor Mayhem have been festivals I’ve considered attending in the past, but here’s to broadening horizons in ’09, eh?
A small but eager after-work crowd was trickling in when I arrived. Per usual, black, sleeveless tees, tattoos and fishnets were on site. But on the whole, it appeared that kids and adults opted for comfort over fashion. Even Jay Cridlin’s Death Cab for Cutie shirt may have been acceptable here. Goth gear, it seemed, had toned down considerably too -- August in Florida can’t be an easy time for that.
Like any good metal act should, Massachusetts 5-piece Killswitch Engage made its entrance on the main stage to thunderous blasts of fire. Dressed in matching tuxedo shirts, they blared their signature emotive, often operatic metalcore, like on new Starting Over.
Caped guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz paraded around the stage, blew air horns, used props. For all Mayhem’s gloom and doom, it was evident that Dutkiewicz was its main source of comic relief. For example, in an attempt to rouse the "people in the back with their arms crossed," he said, "this is not a menstruation support group – it’s a (expletive)] metal show." And further, "Is this Tampa or tampon, Florida?" he asked.
The triumphant My Curse evoked the biggest response, as well as carefully-timed jumping, from the crowd. Heads turned as a fan ran back and forth across the lawn, which had been closed by the Amp (I assume due to lagging ticket sales). Security chased without success. Glorious. As their finale, Killswitch crushed Ronnie James Dio's Holy Diver.
Slayer’s stuff is aggressive, but it’s also incredibly technical and precise. Kerry King stopped his squealing solos on a dime. And the dueling kick drums (they practically originated that) were booming, but crisp. When I asked a guy in front of me for help with a few song names, I loved his response – "Why, are you going to tell someone what they’re missing?" My new friend!
From there on he helped me identify Dead Skin Mask, where the guitars drifted from spooky to crunchy, and Angel of Death, off 1986 Rick Rubin production Reign in Blood. And it was clear James Hetfield and Metallica had paid close attention to South of Heaven.
After most of the songs, vocalist Tom Araya gave his deepest thanks for the crowd’s support. Then he’d get back to roaring. Finishing with their biggest hit Raining Blood, Slayer put forth 60 minutes of bone-crushing rock, no compromises.
I imagined anything Marilyn Manson might do now, could sound flimsy and pop-ish after Slayer. Only time would tell.
Manson crept across the stage in a black jacket with the words "Hell Etc." He started into industrial banger We’re from America, off the new High End of Low, a disc he claims will, "scare parents properly again." (It’s doubtful anything at this point will top 1996’s Antichrist Superstar, though.).
As one of the ‘90s biggest villains, Manson (aka Brian Warner) will likely remain a household name for many moons. But the longer he carries on the persona, the less shocking it becomes.** Not that his fans care about that part. In fact, they were wildly enthusiastic from start to finish. And to Manson’s credit, his show is entertaining – it’s a production in fact.
Draped in an American flag and sporting an army helmet, he’d spit water, beer, whatever, across the pit. A stage hand would bring him another bottle, he’d take a sip, and spit some more. Fans clamored for the chance to catch his moisture. In one "scene" a stage hand held up cue cards in front of a giant photo lamp/shield-thing, then Manson would toss the cards away.
On ultra-glam The Dope Show, Manson clutched a top hat and gyrated on the mic. (if you remember, he was once arrested after a show in Florida for feigning sexual acts onstage with other band members). He moaned, "there's a lot of pretty, pretty ones that want to get you high, but all the pretty, pretty ones, will leave you low and blow your mind." Twiggy Ramirez, who just recently reunited with Manson after nearly a decade, now played guitar (rather than bass).
Manson rambled on about being an alcoholic, a drug addict and... a baboon at Busch Gardens. He said he did drugs for the first time right here in Tampa, in fact. But after that baboon part, I am not sure if anything he said was to be taken seriously.
He groaned, moped and stumbled around clumsily on Annie Lennox cover Sweet Dreams, a song that helped put him on the map. Glowsticks waved, the pit swayed. The biggest and best came last -- The Beautiful People. The crowd sang the "hey, hey what do you say," parts loudly and threw horns.
At 40, Manson’s gut is bigger. His steps are slower. And again, more rock than shock here, but engaging nonetheless.
-- Carole Giambalvo, tbt*
* At this point, I’d say 1/3 of the crowd was soaked, as the Amp’s roof provided zero shelter from the sideways rain.
** I say this knowing what Manson recently said on his MySpace page: "If one more 'journalist' makes a cavalier statement about me and my band, I will personally or with my fans' help, greet them at their home and discover just how much they believe in their freedom of speech," Manson wrote. "That is a threat."