Metal gets its evolutionary due at Mayhem Festival

The 2012 version of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival was like a genealogical convention of metal music.
The tour, which completed its current edition with a final show at the Comcast Theatre in Hartford on Aug. 5, had it all for all substrata of metal fans.
If you wanted to see the band that helped merge the worlds of classic British punk and metal, you had Lemmy and the boys from Motorhead.
If you wanted to see the band that helped popularize the combination known as speed metal—which took the velocity of hardcore American punk with the volume and control of classic 1970s metal—you had Anthrax.
If you wanted to see the band that pretty much invented the genres death and black metal, you had Slayer.
And if you wanted to catch a band that carries on the Grand Guignol traditions blazed by metal ancestors Kiss and Alice Cooper—but adds a modern metal twist to the mayhem— you had Slipknot.
And if you wanted to see the here-and-now and future of metal, you had bands such as Silvertung (with a metal twist on the Aerosmith/ Guns ‘N’ Roses hard rock template) and I The Breathing (with its energetic American take on Scandinavian death metal).
To those outside of metal, all metal is the same, but Mayhem shows the diversity of the genre. And what’s cool is how the metal crowd shows great respect for each facet of their favorite genre.
There was definitely something magical in the air on Aug. 5 at Mayhem Festival, and we’re not talking about black magic.
From the beginning of the show in Hartford till the close with Slipknot, the energy level of each band was through the roof. The best metal is about volume and velocity and the day had it all.
Slipknot’s performance demonstrated the genius of the band.
Their music has the velocity and volume that feeds the primal metal urge. But their stage show indicates that there is more lurking in their little gray cells. There is definitely a sense of performance art in their show. Their latest masks take their cue from modern sculpture. And the construction of percussion kits out of old beer kegs and perforated metal had all the earmarks of something that wouldn’t have been out of place among an exhibit of Calder sculptures.
And despite the primal pulse of Slipknot’s music, live, you also got a sense of the complexity of the compositions Slipknot creates.
Slayer’s performance, to say the least, was intense. They don’t really move around a lot. Yes, there are pyrotechnics (enough that would have made them right at home as a headliner). But even as the stage explodes, the music does a lot of talking. Slayer builds a lot of tension into their music, and the tension slowly builds through every song. It’s captivating to say the least.
Motorhead is definitely old school metal. But they don’t take it easy. They may have been the old men on the block on Mayhem, but their energy level gave no indication that they are ready to retire and collect their pensions.
The younger bands also stirred up the crowds to a frenzy.
There was circle pit after circle pit opening up during The Devil Wears Prada’s whiplash set.
I The Breathing set the bar for crowd surfing as their energy level stoked up the crowd.
As I Lay Dying was simply a fist to the face all set.
Metal has risen and fallen in terms of general public popularity over its lifetime and evolution. But events like Mayhem prove metal still has a vibrance and vitality that matches the velocity and volume of the best of the genre.

I give Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at the Comcast Theatre on Aug. 5 4 out of 4 stars.