Arts and Entertainment

Mayhem Festival proves heavy metal will never die

Slipknot will headline the Rockstar Mayhem Festival on July 9 at White River Amphitheater in Auburn. - Courtesy of Nigel Crane
Slipknot will headline the Rockstar Mayhem Festival on July 9 at White River Amphitheater in Auburn.
— image credit: Courtesy of Nigel Crane

The epitaph for heavy metal music has been written many times in its 30-year lifespan.

Whether it was punk in 1976 or Kurt Cobain in 1991 dealing the death blows, metal has always bounced back, each time regaining its popularity as a dominant genre in the music industry.

This summer, heavy metal is again roaring back, this time in the form of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, a 13-band, three-stage metal-stravaganza – featuring Disturbed, Slipknot, Dragonforce and Mastodon (if you’ve never heard of them, ask a teenager) – that will storm into the White River Amphitheater on July 9.

The tour’s genesis came as concert promoter Kevin Lyman finished up the 2007 Vans Warped Tour, a multi-band festival featuring alternative and punk bands that started in 1995.

“My cell phone started ringing and it was Metal Blade and Roadrunner Records (both primarily heavy metal record labels) asking me about getting more of their bands on the Warped Tour for the next year,” Lyman said.

According to Lyman, the labels were encouraged by the success of metal band As I Lay Dying’s newest release, “An Ocean Between Us,” which debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard Chart. The band had been one of the featured artists on the Warped Tour the month the album came out.

The gears in Lyman’s head began turning.

Lyman said although a handful of big metal tours were already in existence, including the Family Values tour and Projekt Revolution, anchored by Korn and Linkin Park respectively, as well as Ozzfest — he thought there was room for another.

On the main stage the show will feature Mastodon and Dragonforce, both established national bands, in addition to the multi-platinum Slipknot and Disturbed.

According to Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor, 33, his band, immediately saw the plus side of joining the tour.

“I thought it seemed like there were some bands that had a lot of mainstream appeal,” he said. “I thought they’d bring in some fans and give us the opportunity to play for some people who may never have heard us before.”

For the second tier bands, such as Machine Head, Walls of Jericho, Five Finger Death Punch and Suicide Silence, national acts either too new or without the financial support of the bigger bands, the tour gives them a chance to play before a lot more people than the usual club or theater tour.

For Suicide Silence guitarist Chris Garza, 22, the tour is an opportunity to expose more people to his band’s extreme metal stylings, as well as chance to tour with some of his heroes.

“I’ve been listening to metal since I was in the sixth grade,” he said. “Mostly stuff like Slayer, Metallica, Korn, Pantera and Slipknot. I’m looking forward to seeing them (Slipknot). I’ve never seen them before.”

Ivan Moody, singer for Five Finger Death Punch, whose new new single “The Bleeding” is in heavy rotation on heavy music radio stations nationwide, said it was also about getting to tour with your influences.

“I have to say, I haven’t been this excited about a tour since Korn took us out last year,” Moody said. “It’s going to be crushing.”

Like Garza, Moody said Slipknot is the band to see.

“Corey Taylor (lead singer of Slipknot) is hands-down one of the premier frontmen in music,” he said. “And I am excited as hell to share a stage with him and the other guys.”

Zack Pearson, 30, is the lead singer for Utterance, a Tacoma based metal band.

Pearson, a Federal Way High School graduate said the draw of the music was in the fact that anybody can join the metal tribe, go to a show and let their everyday life fade into the background for awhile.

“Metal is a working class underground scene,” he said. “They draw people that were picked on their whole life and never had the outlet or help we needed. Metal was always there for us. I think what metal has done is given us an outlet to go and see people like ourselves, people that may have gotten picked on in school, people that were the losers in school. You come to a metal show and you can hang with your friends and know that, work may suck, you may be having trouble with your relationship, but you can come to a metal show, lose your mind and forget about all the nonsense that goes on during the day.”

For Unhailoed drummer Dylan Brown, 17, it’s a chance to gain inspiration and validation.

“I love the technicality and feeling when I’m on stage or just playing music,” he said. “I love being on stage, it’s my favorite place in the entire world. The music makes me want to keep excelling at whatever I do.”

Shawn Skager can be reached at (253) 826-3260 ext. 5050 or by e-mail at sskager@

Info box

The Rockstar Mayhem Festival begins its 30-date run July 9 at the White River Amphitheater in Auburn. The tour will feature Slipknot, Disturbed, Dragonforce, Mastodon, Machine Head, Airbourne, Five Finger Death Punch, Walls of Jericho, Underoath, Black Tide, Suicide Silence, 36 Crazyfists and The Red Chord. Tickets are $28.20, $44.40 and $55.55 and are available online at or at the White River Amphitheater box office, which is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Learn more at

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