Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival - Ak-Chin Pavilion - 7/11/2014

It was a night of active rock radio hits, pyro, and more of what we've come to know from the best traveling hard rock music festival out there, as the 7th annual Rockstar Mayhem Festival made its way through Ak-Chin Pavilion on Friday. Nu metal pioneers Korn and Avenged Sevenfold co-healined the main stage with up-and-comers Asking Alexandria and Trivium.

While fans were still trickling in during Trivium's short opening set with temperatures scorching well above 100 degrees in the pavilion, the band blasted through a quick seven-song, 35-minute opening set. English metalcore act Asking Alexandria followed, to the delight of their younger fan base, which showed up early enough to catch their set while the older guys stood in the back.

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Singer Danny Worsnop was full of smiles as his band ran around the stage with a something-to-prove mentality that he clearly didn't match. It's not that Asking Alexandria doesn't have the potential to continue to move up the ranks in the rock world, but Worsnop's lack of metal singer stage presence makes it hard to connect with the material in a live setting, and he is clearly out of shape, as he struggled throughout the set. Valley resident and rhythm guitarist Cameron Liddell along with lead guitarist Ben Bruce are truly the highlight of the band, as they did their best to make up for what the singer lacked. The band's latest single and the track that put them on the map "Break Down the Walls" was not included in their set.

The true beauty of a tour like Mayhem is watching the two headliners go at it every night like two heavyweights in a boxing match for rock 'n' roll supremacy. Metal veterans Korn wasted no time showing how they redefined the entire metal genre right out of the gate with opener "Falling Away From Me." You'd never know that lead singer Jonathan Davis was approaching his mid-40s the way he stormed around the stage. The band highlighted as much of their back catalog as possible during its hour-long set with tracks like "Twist," "Got the Life," and "Did My Time." The best moves the band may have ever made were recruiting drummer Ray Luzier and reuniting with guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, as the pair provided a spark was the perfect complement for new material like "Spike in My Veins" and their latest single "Hater" and adding new life to staples like "Shoots and Ladders." The band's entire career has been summed up with the title from their 2003 Grammy-winning song "Here To Stay." The band seemed to have very little room onstage due to the production of Avenged Sevenfold's massive set up but it didn't take away from their set. The crowd erupted during "Freak on a Leash" and "Blind."

Avenged Sevenfold (A7X) came right out of the gate swinging with opener "Shepard of Fire" from 2013's Hail to the King, with a backlit stage full of flames. From a production standpoint A7X was clearly on a different level then Korn, but newer tracks like "Shepard of Fire" are really nothing more then the band paying homage to their heroes Megadeth and Metallica. "Nightmare" followed and was a monster. Singer M. Shadows was on point vocally throughout the night. "Bat Country" followed and still may be Avenged Sevenfold's best single to date.

The band slowed things down for "Buried Alive" and "Seize the Day," and the songs quickly turned into singalongs. The heavy "Critical Acclaim" followed and it is still one of the band's best songs to date, and hearing deceased drummer The Rev's vocals on the backing track can still give you goosebumps. The Metallica rip-off "This Means War" highlights where the band is failing musically without the songwriting skills The Rev provided. While in their previous releases the influences of their heroes have always been present, tracks like this show very little effort at all in the songwriting department. Speaking of lack of effort, guitarists Zacky Vengeance and lead shred master Synyster Gates couldn't have looked less bored and unengaged during the entire performance. It was nice to hear older material like close "Unholy Confessions." The difference between Korn and Avenged Sevenfold isn't radio hits because they both have plenty, the clear difference is that Avenged Sevenfold needs the fire and as much production as possible to make up for lack of energy while Korn could have played opening slot that Trivuim had during the daytime and they would have still shown more passion then Avenged Sevenfold.

Critics Notebook:

Last Weekend:Mayhem Festival at Ak-Chin Pavilion, July 11, 2014

Personal Bias: I think that Avenged Sevenfold is one of the best active rock bands of the past decade, and I've seen them around 30 times.

Overheard: "The guitar players look bored."

The Crowd: Metal fans of all ages.

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