Mayhem Explained

You’ve probably noticed: there are a lot of festivals.

It doesn’t matter that not all are a rousing success (look at the rampant cancellation of dates from the reborn Lilith Fair) or that some get scrapped completely (San Diego’s Street Scene is taking the year off, much like Tempe Music Festival did). Each summer, there seems to be more and more of them, regardless of the economic climate or what seems to be a complete lack of demonstrated need.

The Mayhem Festival, though, actually kind of does serve a purpose. Filling the heavy metal void left by the Ozzfest, the Mayhem Festival started in 2008, founded by Warped Tour mastermind Kevin Lyman and his partner John Reese, and unsurprisingly sponsored by Rockstar energy drink. Even though it’s one of the newer festivals, the headliners are mostly a bunch of dudes that have been around since before Ozzfest started, right here in Phoenix in 1996. Let’s take a look.

Korn: No stranger to festivals, Korn founded the Family Values Tour in 1998. But that was 12 years ago, and Korn didn’t have nearly as awesome an aughts as Apple or Peter Jackson. They released a string of disappointing albums—most significantly 2007’s untitled effort, which only sold a half-million copies, compared to 1998’s quintuple platinum Follow the Leader—and lost long-time drummer David Silveria and guitarist Brian “Head” Welch; the latter became a born-again Christian, inspiring lots of less-than-inspired “God got head” quips. Perhaps the Mayhem Festival will help frontman Jonathan Davis get his dreadlocked swagger back. Also helpful: Their new record, the forthcoming Korn III – Remember Who You Are, is produced by Ross Robinson, who helmed their first two (successful!) records.

Rob Zombie: Korn have a lot of shared history with the Astro Creep, who was originally supposed to be a part of the original Family Values lineup, before being replaced by Rammstein. (They ended up touring together anyway a year later.) But really, who even thinks of Rob Zombie as a musician at this point? There’s no doubt he’s been successful as a director—he’s two Halloween movies deep at this point—but he kind of has that Will Smith thing going on at this point, where he’s still putting out albums, but you’re not really sure why. This year’s Hellbilly Deluxe 2 was his first studio album in four years, and there’s always a nagging feeling of “clinging onto past glory” when you release sequels to albums or songs (When is Metallica going to get around to “The Unforgiven IV”? And will it be in 3D?)

Lamb of God: Even though Lamb of God’s commercial breakthrough came later than Korn or Zombie’s, they’ve been around for just about as long, though they were originally called the slightly more sacreligious “Burn the Priest.” Unlike those two, though, they haven’t really “peaked,” rather steadily releasing successful albums that stay well under the mainstream radar every few years. Though they still can’t seem to let go of their beef with religion: Latest album Wrath has song titles including “Fake Messiah” and “Choke Sermon.”

Five Finger Death Punch: Wait, what’s this? Five Finger Death Punch, the Mayhem Festival’s fourth-billed act, actually didn’t come together until 2005, the year Rob Zombie turned 40? Weird as it sounds, the LA dudes are actually making their second appearance on the Mayhem Festival main stage, and only have two full-length records to their credit. In a genre dominated by (often quite literally) grizzled veterans, it’s refreshing to see relative newcomers holding their own, despite the troubling message in the title of their latest album, War Is the Answer.

Fri., July 16, 2:15 p.m., 2010
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Albert Ching
Contact: Albert Ching