ROCKSTAR MAYHEM FESTIVAL: SLIPKNOT ARE THE NEW KISS, MASTODON AND MACHINE HEAD STILL OWN, AND WALLS OF JERICHO PROVE SURPRISINGLY EFFECTIVE
A very, very, VERY special thanks to Rosa Henriquez for the awesome photos. Now we’re that much closer to being like a real big kids’ website!
I think one of the things Slipknot’s fans love most about them is one of the very same qualities that their detractors so violently hold against them: their theatricality. I mean, these are nine dudes who dress up in matching outfits and wear “spooky” masks. The band’s members talk about death metal an awful lot, and, musically speaking, that influence is certainly present. But aesthetically, they belong to a line of bands like Kiss and Motley Crue. They’re showmen.
I’ve always found finding fault with Slipknot’s gimmick to be a little odd; I mean, metal is theatrical more often than it isn’t. Slipknot, like their aforementioned predecessors, certainly take it to new heights, but at the end of the day, I’m not convinced that the band’s routine is any less silly than corpse paint or, now that I think of it, giant beards (Although, in all fairness, giant beards are awesome.).
And the fact that Slipknot are so very theatrical is probably one of the reasons they’re now the headliners to this summer’s de facto Ozzfest, the Rockstar Mayhem Tour (which we saw on its Long Island stop at Nassau Coliseum on August 6). It’s not cheating to employ mechanical spinning stage risers and upside down drum solos and pyro and yadda yadda yadda when you have to play to dudes standing thousands of feet away. Our beloved Tool employ a laser light show for a reason – it’s a good way to keep the stoned dudes who couldn’t afford front row tickets entertained.
Slipknot have lost some of the anarchistic joy that came with their show when they played smaller venues; maybe it’s just because DJ Sid Wilson, who usually spends 90% of the show attacking other members of the band and hanging from whatever’s closet to him at any given moment, now sits in a wheelchair with not one but two broken heels, but the chaotic feeling of a live Slipknot show is now somewhat in absence. Still, there’s no denying that an arena stage fits the band well; older tracks like “Sic” and “People = Shit” have lost none of their edge, but more recent, hook-laden tracks, like “Duality” and “All Hope is Gone,” work incredibly well as sing-along anthems. And even if vocalist Corey Taylor still has a tendency to get winded really easily and consequently often resorts to the Vince Neil trick of just blending a few lyrics together in the general pattern of the melody, the band sounded tighter than they did when touring behind Vol. 3. This was a better closing performance than Ozzfest has had in ages.
Besides the ‘Knot, the highlights for the day were undoubtedly Mastodon and Machine Head. Alas, Mastodon aren’t debuting any material from their forthcoming album the way Slipknot did, but they proved almost surprisingly able to command a large stage; their jam band aesthetic loses nothing in translation. In fact, vocal-wise, Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds sounded better than I’ve ever heard them before.
As for MH, well, we only caught the end of their set, but they killed it, as usual. “Halo,” “Imperium” and “Davidian” provide everything you want from a metal show – raw rage expressed through demonic, evil riffs and larger-than-life choruses – and the band’s brute neanderthal energy serves the music well. I only wish we’d gotten to see more.
As for other bands on the second stage, everyone seemed to fare well. This was the first time we’ve managed to catch Suicide Silence live, and they’re already insanely adept at engaging the crowd; they somehow make screaming lyrics like “WHERE IS YOUR GOD? WHERE IS YOUR GOD? WHERE IS YOUR FUCKING GOD?” incredibly fun. 36 Crazyfists and Black Tide both seemed a little more schticky, but their fans didn’t seem to mind, and I guess that’s all that really matters.
The surprise winners for the day, though – besides, of course, Ladder Up an Ass – were Walls of Jericho. Special credit goes to front woman Candace Kucsulain, who elevated the band beyond being just another Slayerized-hardcore Hatebreed wanna-be; Kucsulian is charismatic and clearly a master at getting the crowd pumped up, and, as a result, not only did WOJ have the biggest pit we saw at the second stage all day, but she actually seemed to bring in the biggest crowd, as though she were magnetically attracting dozens of new fans every minute she was on stage. We may not be a fans of Walls of Jericho’s music, but they’ve certainly earned our respect.
Unfortunately, we were conducting interviews with various members of various bands during Disturbed and Dragonforce’s sets, so we can’t tell you much about how they fared compared to their peers. But, hey, here are some more awesome photos, courtesy Rosa Henriquez!