“What is the name of this place?” demands Nergal, frontman of Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth, as he walks onstage. “St. Louis,” Rolling Stone informs him. “What’s up, St. Louis?” Nergal asks the crowd. We’re curious what would have happened had we said “Baltimore.”
Behemoth was but one of many bands on the second incarnation of the Rockstar Mayhem Fest, the tour that has stepped in to fill the void of a touring metal festival in the absence of Ozzfest. Featuring Marilyn Manson and Slayer as co-headliners, the tour rolled through America’s heartland on Wednesday to rattle teeth and pierce eardrums. The side stages focused more on sheer brutality, with death metal bands like Job For a Cowboy, the aforementioned Behemoth and the Black Dahlia Murder delivering sets that resembled 30 minutes inside a woodchipper. Extreme metal legends Cannibal Corpse closed out the daytime stages with a pair of tracks from their latest album, Evisceration Plague, and some of their classic toe-tappers, including “Hammer Smashed Face” and “Stripped, Raped and Strangled.”
Over at the main stage, Killswitch Engage closed their set with a jubilant, pyrotechnics-enhanced cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” all decked out in matching tuxedo t-shirts. But when Slayer’s massive emblem was hoisted to the rafters, a different tone took over: “OK, you kids have had your shot, now here comes Slayer to show you how it’s done.” Opening with the thunderous “Disciple,” the band tore through an hour-long set that covered all areas of its catalog, from pioneering early thrash (“Chemical Warfare,” “Hell Awaits”) to the present (“Psychopathy Red,” from the forthcoming World Painted Blood). But as always, the band saved the best for last with the closing trilogy of “Angel of Death,” “South of Heaven,” and the unstoppable “Raining Blood,” which made even the most worn-out in attendance get on their feet and bang their heads.
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Marilyn Manson took the stage to the screamfest “We’re From America” off his latest album, then dipped into the catalogue for ragers like “Irresponsible Hate Anthem,” “Disposable Teens” and the rarely-played “Little Horn.” Prodigal son Twiggy Ramirez looked happy in his new role as guitarist (switching from bass), and dug into the riffing on mid-tempo tunes such as “The Dope Show” and “Four Rusted Horses.” Closing with their cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and “The Beautiful People,” Manson proved that even when you set aside the theater and only the songs remain, there’s more to him than a novelty.