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Mayhem Festival shreds Indianapolis

Miss May I onstage at Mayhem Festival - Klipsch Music Center, Noblesville, IN July 19, 2014
Miss May I onstage at Mayhem Festival - Klipsch Music Center, Noblesville, IN July 19, 2014
Ryan Smith

Mayhem Festival 2014 at Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, IN July 19, 2014

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By the time Avenged Sevenfold took the stage to close out the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, a full 18 bands had played on a total of four stages (one main and three side stages), representing no shortage of metallic subgenres. While the lawn and pavilion of the main stage imposed a certain amount of order to the crowd, earlier in the day had been one gigantic mass in front of the three side stages with throngs of metalheads amassing in an attempt to get as close to the stage as possible.

A member of Mushroomhead crowdsurfing
A member of Mushroomhead crowdsurfing
Ryan Smith

The two bands who carried the day had a couple of things in common: they both have elaborate stage shows and neither are considered to be strictly metal bands. Headliners Avenged Sevenfold didn't just have the songs but they had an amazing stage set. It had a medeival castle feel with a gigantic skeleton warrior in the center and giant monitors in what appeared to be windows that projected the band members to gargantuan proportions, and it featured pyrotechnics and explosions to boot. Earlier in the day, industrial metal collective Mushroomhead carried the day with their combination of costumes, compelling songs and strange effects like water drums captivated many a concertgoer.

The big, true-blue metal acts (Cannibal Corpse, Suicide Silence, Veil of Maya) were out early on the side stage, while the closing/headlining acts were perhaps the least “metal” of the day. Main headliners Avenged Sevenfold lead singer M. Shadows acknowledged the allegation that they weren't “metal enough to headline” the festival, and sardonically commented they would prove that was true by playing their “A Little Piece of Heaven.” And Korn, who preceded Avenged, are of course heavy but they have their own unique sound that's not strictly metal.

The festival also included two veteran acts who have experienced a great deal of controversy. The first was Ice-T's Body Count, whose incendiary early song “Cop Killer” ignited a media firestorm in the early 90s, the second was shock death metallers Cannibal Corpse, who meet no shortage of controversy due to their graphic lyrics and cover art and are often censored abroad. Body Count played primarily songs from their first album with some new ones thrown into the mix. Ice-T made for a good frontman, interacting with and commenting on the crowd throughout the show. Times have changed, however, and neither Body Count nor Cannibal Corpse seemed quite as threatening as they did in their heyday, although they still managed to whip the crowd into a frenzy.