Usually I am not a person who gets excited about all day outdoor music festivals. I say this because the venue for these kind of events takes place at The San Manuel Amphitheater (formerly several other names) in the city of San Bernardino. Aside from the extremely large crowds, an event at this venue consists of extreme heat (triple digits during the summer), overpriced food and drink, and a copious amount of dust, dirt, and smoke in the air. As a person who is prone to migraines, it isn’t my scene. I would much rather prefer an all day metal festival like Summer Slaughter which would take place in smaller indoor venues away from the sun, smoke, and crowds of people.
However, this year I made an exception and returned to the venue for the first time since Ozzfest in 2007. This was because of two reasons. The first reason was because I was able to win free tickets for the event. The second reason was because of the headliners. Surprisingly, after years of concert going, I had never seen Slayer before, like many of my friends had. In addition to that, like many of my friends, I had never seen King Diamond before. I had made attempts to see both bands in the past, but things just didn’t seem to work out. I didn’t want to miss them this time. I was very excited to see both bands for the first time, and to see them share the same stage.
Upon seeing the set times, I decided that I would arrive a couple of hours late to the show. This was to help me so that I could avoid being in the sun and hopefully prevent getting sick. It was also because I was unfamiliar with the majority of bands playing on the Victory Records Sidestage. The only two bands I had interest in seeing were Thy Art is Murder and Whitechapel. After leaving late, dealing with traffic, parking, waiting in line, and walking from the car to the entrance of the venue and then to the stage, I arrived right after Thy Art is Murder had finished. I wasn’t too bummed since I had seen them three times before. And I knew that at least now I would get a full set by Whitechapel. I situated myself by the Coldcock Whisky tent, where Kerry King of Slayer was currently doing a signing. Unfortunately I was too late for a ticket to that, but my girlfriend got some up close pictures of him, which are featured below. Some introduction music began to play, and Whitechapel took the stage for their set.
I hadn’t seen Whitechapel since The California Metal Fest at The Grove in Anaheim in 2009. I also hadn’t kept up with their music since their 2010 album, A New Era of Corruption (which they surprisingly did not play anything off of), so the majority of the set was new to me. The introduction music went into feedback, and they started the set off with “The Saw is the Law” from their latest release, Our Endless War. They continued the set with two more songs from that album, (“Let Me Burn” and “Our Endless War”). I noticed that the newer music wasn’t as deathcore oriented as their older stuff. It reminded me more of djent bands such as Born of Osiris and After the Burial, while keeping the heavier edge as opposed to the more experimental focus of those bands. They moved into familiar territory for me with “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation” from their debut and the title track from This is Exile, my favorite song by them. They then concluded with four songs from their 2012 self titled album (“Possibilities of an Impossible Existence”, “Faces”, “Section 8”, “I, Dementia”). I was just happy that they had ventured into the older stuff, but they rest of the crowd seemed incredibly satisfied, as there were huge circle pits throughout the entire set.
After their set, we moved over to the Main Stage and got a good spot at the front of the lawn. The first band on the mainstage was The Devil Wears Prada. Like Whitechapel, this was a band that I hadn’t kept up with for quite sometime. I was a fan of their first two albums when they came up with, but hadn’t really listened to anything since. It was my first time seeing the band, and I’m sure my high school self would have been very excited. However, I was only familiar with one song in their set. They started off with “Escape” from their Zombie EP. The atmospheric beginning worked as a perfect opener. The crowd was somewhat small during their set, as people were still adjusting from one stage to the other. However, they gave it their all with a high energy performance and tight musical ability They continued with “First Sight” and “Sailor’s Prayer” from their most recent album 8:18, and then went on to “Assistant to the Regional Manager” from their highly popular album With Roots Above and Branches Below. I was excited when they finally went back to something off of the first two albums. They played “Reptar, King of the Ozone” from their 2007 album Plagues. I enjoyed singing along with the chorus, and wish the set consisted more of those moments. The rest of the set consisted of “Danger: Wildman” from With Roots Above and Branches Below, a new song from their upcoming Space EP called “Supernova”, and another one from 8:18 called “Mammoth”. “Supernova” was an interesting sounding song and made me curious about listening to the upcoming release. It seems that the band has taken musical chances over the course of their career, and I intend to listen through all their album sometime in the future.
Next up on the mainstage was Hellyeah. This is a well-known band consisting of vocalist Chad Gray (known for being the singer of Mudvayne) and legendary Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul (in addition to guitarist Tom Maxwell of Nothingface). I have been familiar with the band since their 2007 self titled debut, but this was my first time seeing them in action. By now, the crowd for the main stage was much more secured, and bonfire pits started appearing across the lawn. The crowd seemed to be into the classic heavy metal sound infused with a Southern twinge, and people moshed and danced around like you would expect them to during this band. The set consisted mostly of material from their two most recent albums, with the last song of the set being from their debut (and my favorite song from them). I wasn’t familiar with their newer material, but I definitely thought it packed a punch. However, their set wasn’t as focused on the people towards the back as I hoped that it would be, and it seemed a little lost from where I was standing way up in the lawn. However, I’m glad I finally got a chance to see them live, and I hope next time I can be down in the pit for them.
- Soul Killer
- Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood)
- Demons in the Dirt
- War in Me
- Cross to Bier (Cradle of Bones)
- Say When
- You Wouldn’t Know
By this time the crowd for the mainstage was packed, as most people got into position for one of the main reasons (if not, THE REASON) they were there. It was finally time for King Diamond. After cancelling his 2007 North American Tour due to back pains, in addition to triple bypass surgery in 2010, 2014 saw King’s first full North American tour in 11 years. Tickets for the show at the Wiltern (on Halloween night) sold out quickly. So for many people, including myself, this was my first time witnessing the King. The stage set design was beautiful, as it looked like a cross between a creepy mansion and a religious altar (complete with staircases). The band was extremely tight and even included female backup vocals and performers at times. The set list was the only thing lacking in my opinion. The band played King Diamond classic such as “Welcome Home” and “Tea”, as well Mercyful Fate classics such as “Evil” and “Come to the Sabbath”. However, the remainder of the setlist, even though they are all popular songs of his, all kind of blurred together. I think he really should have diversified his set and covered more ground instead of focusing on his classic albums. His later work is extremely overlooked in my opinion, and has more focus on female vocals, harpsicords, and other things that would have made the setlist that much creepier in a live setting. I wish he would have incorporated those kind of elements than just focusing on the heavy tunes, but I understand that it was a metal festival (and Slayer was the headliner) as opposed to one of his own shows. Overall, it was an incredible experience finally seeing him live. He was very humble and personable, and I hope I get to see him again really soon.
- The Candle
- Sleepless Nights
- Eye of the Witch
- Welcome Home
- Tea / Digging Graves / A Visit from the Dead
- (Mercyful Fate Cover)
- Come to the Sabbath
- (Mercyful Fate Cover)
- The Family Ghost
- The 7th Day of July 1777
- Black Horsemen
After an excellent set by King Diamond, the crowd was ready for the headliners of the night. People rushed and pushed to get to the front (more so than they were already doing). By now, the sky was dark, and it was perfect for what we were about to see. The lights went down, the stage became ominous, and the screens turned on. Slayer came onstage with all of the confidence, grace, and poise that you could expect from such a legendary band. The stage setup was complete with banners from the ceiling, giant flames on each side that shot out in the shape of an inverted cross, a line of flames behind the band, and a giant tv screen that had an assortment of impressive visuals. It was one of the best stage setups I’ve seen in a long time, if not the best. The visuals were hypnotic as it showed depictions of hell, war, death, destruction, and toxins. The set started out with “Repentless”, the first song released off of their upcoming album. From there it went through three of my favorite songs from their last couple of albums. The middle section of the set contained some songs that are not as well known such as “God Send Death”, “War Ensemble”, “When the Stillness Comes”, and “Implode”. You could see this is where the crowd seemed to wear down a bit, especially after giving off so much energy at the beginning. But the band was able to bring them back with a string of classics before finishing off with their three most popular/most famous songs. The band was tight and extremely heavy live. Tom Araya was an impressive force to watch as he frantically screamed the lyrics while playing bass. All the while, he never lost his focus or composure, and made it look incredibly easy. The riffs and drumming were on point, and it was poor joy to hear Gary Holt of Exodus take his interpretations during the trade off guitar solos. While there were still a lot of songs I would have loved to have heard, the ending of the set felt very appropriate, and left it me completely satisfied with what I just witnessed. A Slayer show is definitely an experience to be seen. All in all, I’m glad I went to Mayhem and got to cross two major bands off my bucket list. I made my way to the parking lot extremely happy.
Delusions of Saviour
God Send Death
When the Stillness Comes
Ghosts of War
Dead Skin Mask
South of Heaven
Angel of Death