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Concert Reviews:
Mayhem is a day-long metal blast at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2014

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has taken a few lumps this year.

In its seventh year, the 11-hour traveling heavy rock festival's looked a little bit weak on paper -- despite the addition of a third auxiliary stage that meant more metal for the moshers. It's not so much the caliber of the acts as the sizzle; headliners such as Avenged Sevenfold and Korn are making repeat visits to most of the markets, including the Detroit area, rather than launching new projects. Save for the return of rapper Ice-T's hardcore outfit Body Count -- whose hit "Cop Killer" sounded as incendiary on Wednesday, July 17, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre as it did 22 years ago -- there was little sense that this year's Mayhem would be the launch pad for anything truly significant.

But once on the ground at DTE, a day full of headbanging proved to be more than enough to bring a nearly full house out for another year of Mayhem.

Avenged Sevenfold frontman M. Shadows touch on of this year's skepticism during his group's 80-minute, Mayhem-closing set on Wednesday, acknowledging those who claimed "Avenged Sevenfold isn't metal enough to be on this tour." That, of course, depended on one's definition of metal, but while A7X is unapologetically mainstream it certainly plays with fiery conviction -- literally, when it came to fire as flames shot up from behind the drum kit during nearly ever song of the quintet's 11-song set.

Truncated a bit from last October's show at Joe Louis Arena, A7X's set focused a bit less on sixth and latest album, the chart-topping "Hail to the King," in favor of a wide-ranging career retrospective that included longtime favorites such as "Nightmare," "Bat Country," "Almost Easy," "Afterlife," "A Little Piece of Heaven" and "So Far Away," the latter dedicated to late drummer Jim "The Rev" Sullivan. "Hail to the King" got its due, of course, via forceful renditions of "Shepherd of Fire," "This Means War" and the title track, and by the time "Unholy Confessions" wrapped up the set, and the day, A7X had certainly made a persuasive argument that it did indeed belong on the Mayhem roster.

Korn brought it as well, tearing through an hour of its distinctive blend of metal, hip-hop and electronica with muscular bravado and edgy dynamics. A particularly healthy looking Jonathan Davis delighted, as always, with his bagpipe licks for "Shoots and Ladders," while the group is still clearly pumped by the return of co-founding guitarist Brian "Head" Welch and the fierce material from last year's album "Paradigm Shift." Davis also hammered in Korn's veteran status during the closing "Blind," bringing his two youngest children -- daughter Pirate and son Zeppelin -- to join dad in some headbanging.

The metal man of the day award, however, went to Asking Alexandria frontman Danny Worsnop who, already dealing with one injured ankle, twisted his other, forcing him to hobble around during the quintet's seven-song set. Worsnop never quit or even sat down, however, another indication that Mayhem has more moxie than some of this year's critics anticipated.

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