Featuring SLAYER / KING DIAMOND / HELLYEAH
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and MORE
Susquehanna Bank Center
Camden, NJ • Friday, July 17, 2015
Touted as the biggest heavy metal festival, the 2015 Mayhem Festival featured 13 bands on two stages with headliners as well as up and coming bands looking for exposure. The first nine bands played on the Victory Stage, set up on the Ben Franklin concourse side of the venue. Up first at the bright and early time of 1:25 pm, Code Orange hit the stage to a very light crowd at this time of day. A hardcore punk band from the Pittsburgh, Pa. area, they tore through a 25-minute set. With quick set changes to keep the day rolling, Shattered Sun was up next, a six piece metal band from Texas, with the crowd getting a little larger and the mosh pit starting to fire up in front of the stage. If their set had been longer than the 23 minutes they played, I'm sure they all would have had major headaches with all that head banging they were doing. A bonus factor at Mayhem is that it gives the fans the opportunity to meet all the bands on the bill that day. Each band has its own booth and right after they play, they head to their booth for autographs and photo-ops for the fans - very cool.
Next was Sworn In, a five piece from Illinois, with most of their 25-minute set coming from their just released April album The Lovers/The Devil. There wasn’t much time to roam the grounds because of the quick set changes, so I pretty much just journeyed to the water stations for some much needed hydration on a hot day in July. Back to the stage, Sister Sin was performing, a four piece band from Sweden, with a female singer who just took command of that stage, constantly moving from side to side and stopping some at the front for all of their 25-minute set. Next up, Jungle Rot, a four piece band from Wisconsin, made the most brutal statement of the day when lead singer Dave Matrise tells the crowd he wants to see an avalanche of bodies coming over the barricade. He got his wish as person after person rushed over the barricade. It got so bad that security in the pit told us photographers to get out to avoid the Mayhem. All this music and it’s only 4:40.
Thy Art Is Murder was up next, a five piece band from Australia who took the stage and used their 25 minutes to play music from their three former and most recent release, Holy War (June 2015). Finally a 40-minute set from Whitechapel was next. A six piece band from Tennessee, these guys played last year’s Mayhem Festival and received a nice applause from the crowd. After their set, the energy kept going as I set off to the main stage for the first band of the night inside. Making my way into the main stage, I was shocked to see so few people in the pavilion, probably because the last two bands on the Victory Stage had overlapping times with the main stage acts.
Opening up the main stage, it was Devil Wears Prada, another band from last year’s Mayhem, but this year they got to play the main stage. A four piece band from Ohio, they played to a sparse crowd who were up and head banging as lead singer Mike Hranica kept up the stream of screams along with running around like a wild man on stage. As we photographers finished shooting, we rushed back outside to the Victory Stage for Kissing Candace, a five piece band from New York, coming onstage all wearing masks that looked to me like a young version of Slipknot. Adding a bit of theatrics with gore, I'm not sure where the Candace part comes from, but I sure as heck thought it was all guys. But for their 20-minute set I thought it was entertaining. Now we rushed back to the main stage again for Hellyeah, a five piece metal super group who brought their Blood for Blood Tour to town. The fans bagan filling up the pavilion now and set up shop for the rest of the night. Hellyeah conquered the night as lead singer Chad Grey was all over the stage, drenched in fake blood on his face, jumping off boxes and speakers and screaming into the cameras and interacting with the crowd. I don't know where this guy gets his chops from but he can wail. One last venture back out to the Victory stage for the last band of the day, Feed Her To The Sharks, (kind of weird with what's going on this summer with shark attacks), another five piece band from Australia. These guys all came out in white T-shirts with a shark fin printed on them. They had to really give it their all to close out the Victory Stage as there were very few people left on the lot; most were inside for the last two headliners.
Show times were overlapping, so we cut our shoot quickly to get back to the main stage for King Diamond. Now I have heard of this band but nothing recently as they last toured quite some years ago, so I did not know what to expect. I have to admit, they had a very cool and enormous stage set resembling a castle with gargoyles, stained glass, steps to a ramp that went behind the drummer and where King Diamond himself rose up on a platform wearing his traditional face war-paint and, of course, with his signature bone-cross microphone. In their 60-minute set, they gave the crowd all their favorites from King Diamond and his other band Mercyful Fate, which I have also heard of but not what they played. As he retired for the night, the crowd stood enmass applauding and chanting, “long live the King.”
For the night’s closer it was Slayers, performing their third mayhem Fest Tour but their first headlining. The stage was draped with a huge white curtain, and as the lights went out the curtain dropped to reveal the band on stage with a massive video screen behind them and smoke and fire-bombs going off constantly. They opened with their new single "Repentless", and continued through their extensive catalog. Chains hanging from his jeans and head banging through the set, Kerry King was the most energetic of the group. Lead vocalist/bassist Tom Araya sounded flawless and hardly moved from behind that mic stand. Rounding out the band were Gary Holt on guitar and Paul Bostaph on drums, who could not even be seen through that massive kit. For thirty-plus years in the business, Slayer is still one of the best heavy metal bands out there. To finish their 75-minute set, they closed, appropriately, with "Raining Blood" followed by "Angel of Death" to put the lid on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2015. With the incredible lineup of groups we heard, I have to wonder how the organizers will be able to top this year’s version. I guess we will have to wait and see.
– Gary Crouthamel, Concert Photojournalist
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