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Monday, July 21, 2014

Mayhem Festival @ The Rave

July 18, 2014

mayhem festival at the rave
Photo credit: Sam Shea
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Friday's Mayhem Festival tour stop at the Rave may have borne the imprimatur of Rockstar Energy Drink, but the company's commercial presence was about as low key as the samples of its new Blue Ice and Mango Orange Passion Fruit flavors were tasty. And though the event may have kind of copped its name from a legendary Norwegian black metal band and lacked a presence of similarly overwhelmingly gravitas on its 17-act, three-stage bill, it didn’t skimp on heavy music. That the Milwaukee date of the tour was technically merely “A Taste of Mayhem,” minus Korn and Avenged Sevenfold as headliners friendlier to mainstream sensibilities, may have even lent it credence to more discerning genre patrons.

Some of those fans who’ve been attending metal shows in the city may have even experienced deja vu of seismic proportions, too. Erstwhile rapper actor Ice-T, fronting his Body Count thrash side project on the occasion of their fifth album in 22 years, mentioned that the last time he and his multicultural assemblage played The Eagles Club was at the late, internationally renowned Milwaukee Metalfest, sharing a bill with Florida death grinders Cannibal Corpse. As it would happen, Cannibal Corpse would follow Body Count tonight as well. But T was in provocative, raconteuring pique. He warned a 16 year-old girl in the front row not to get gang-raped in the night's atmosphere heavy with testosterone. He disseminated less gender-specific advice in a song from Body Count's latest offering, "Talk Shit, Get Shot." And in prefacing the song that gave them a season of national infamy in late ’92, T declared "Cop Killer" Milwaukee's national (sic) anthem.

No less colorful, albeit without the cachet of a starring role on a current TV show nor a gangsta back story, is Richard "Big Dad Ritch" Anderson of Texas Hippie Coalition (THC for short; get it, tokers?) His shiny black cowboy hat, dark sunglasses, broad and occasionally growling drawl and thick, waxed mustache gives the impression of a heathen branch of a family tree shared by Charlie Daniels and Tad Doyle. The band’s sound matched their frontman's look, pummeling Southern boogie rock with the sludgier aspects of grunge. Though placed early in the Rave stage's bill and likely not as well known as other acts playing that night, Anderson won over listeners with anthemic numbers fit for crowd participation. Encouraging the throng about him to make enough ruckus to make up the higher-profile bands still sleeping off the previous evening's psycho-chemical indulgences while acting as a booster for the crowd's own cannabis and alcohol intake put them in some good stead as well. It's always funny to hear such folks bid goodbye with "God bless you!," but THC's bridging of the earnest and goofy makes it an oddly apt farewell.

Apparently taking the Lord more seriously are Islander. Though bereft of a terribly fiercely metal band name—a trait they share with Eagles stage English metalcore headliners Asking Alexandria—their alternately angular and melodic Rave Bar set seemed to win them new fans. The T-shirt worn by lead vocalist Mikey Carvajal from classic Christian extreme metal band Living Sacrifice (who also played the bar stage for at least one Milwaukee Metalfest) could have been enough to signal to the uninitiated his group's spiritual allegiance; the absence of profanity in his banter between songs could be a clue as well. Self-reflective lyrics referencing hope or a lack thereof set them apart from Mayhem's prevalent air of self-aggrandizement and bravado, too.

Danny Leal of Texan deathcore act Upon A Burning Body could be the polar opposite of Carjaval: bare-chested, copiously tattooed, intensely glowing as he screamed F-bombs in and between songs often referencing his Mexican background. A force seemingly on the rise within their scene, as their third album to be released next month is poised to debut in the top 100 of Billboard's general album sales chart, they aren't bereft of humor. Whether it's always intentional or otherwise may be a tough call, however. Leading a Rave full of mostly Wisconsinites in a hell-bent iteration of "Deep In the Heart Of Texas" can summon any number of mental pictures, perhaps but one of Mitch Miller's remains spinning at tornado speed in his coffin comes to mind is but one that can come prominently to mind.

Florida's Trivium were the biggest U.S. act of the night. Befitting their last four albums' Top 25 success, a giant steel rendering of their regal logo accompanied them on the Eagles stage. More evocative of the martial grandeur that has become their strong suit are the increasingly flexible register of Matt Heafy's voice and the interplay of his rhythm guitar and Corey Beaulieu's lead. The appropriation of a pentagram into their current merch graphics and Heafy's nearly avuncular cussing made for a kind of mainstream of the transgressive Satanism that characterized Mayhem Festival's precedent Metalfest for so many years.

This could have been an orgy of feedback and (occasional) blast beats extending to bar time. Perhaps with younger fans and an active tour schedule in mind, things wrapped up around midnight, thereby conserving everyone's strength to rock another day.