Posted Aug 4th, 2015 (3:10 pm) by Jess Marsh
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Spotify says metal fans are the most loyal music listeners. So why are the fans letting this 300k-attendee metal fest die?

After eight years of shredding with some of the finest bands that metal has to offer, Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival has met its demise. Was it a reduced line up, controversial statements made by its co-founder, or a revolving set of headliners that brought this once great festival to its knees?

Mayhem Fest came to fruition in 2008, filling the summer touring festival void left by Ozzfest in 2007. Making its way across the US in the later part of the summer, Mayhem featured at least three stages and twelve to fourteen metal bands. This year however, the number of stages was scaled back to two, a decision festival organizers blamed on venue issues and rising costs.

A common complaint from members of the metal community was the tendency to recycle the same handful of headliners. Slayer, Five Finger Death Punch, and Machine Head appeared three times over the course of eight years, an all too common occurrence for a festival of its renown. Slipknot was offered the 2015 headlining spot, which would have marked the band's third appearance. Instead, they opted for their own summer headlining tour with Lamb of God, Bullet For My Valentine, and Motionless and White, all of whom have previously appeared at Mayhem Fest. While Mayhem struggles to sell tickets with recycled lineups, Slipknot and their own "Summer's Last Stand" tour thrive off the exact same bands.

Over the years, the festival has garnered the reputation of being too mainstream for true metal heads. The lineup usually boasts 2-3 radio friendly, hard rock bands such as Disturbed or Korn, who are given priority over heavier, more underground acts like Veil of Maya, Code Orange, and Jungle Rot. Lesser known bands are often confined to small side stages, with early time slots and shorter sets, despite the fact that a handful of them have previous headlining credentials at Summer Slaughter. Like Mayhem, Summer Slaughter is guilty of repeating acts, but the bands that were opening acts four years ago have been rotated in favor of new headliners.

The final nail in the coffin likely came from the unexpected comments of festival co-founder, Kevin Lyman. In an interview with The Detroit Free Press, Lyman bashed his own festival and the bands who make it possible: "What happened was metal chased girls away because what happened was metal aged...Metal got gray, bald and fat. And metal was about danger. When you went to a metal show, it was dudes onstage; there was some danger in it." Implying that the lack of success was due to an aging community and fat, old rock stars chasing away female fans did not go over well. CJ of Australian deathcore band, Thy Art Is Murder, spoke to Metal Injection about the festival: "Attendance has been piss poor, man. I’m just trying to spit the facts out. There’s a lot of people walking out towards the end of the night. There’s shit tons of a people for my band but for these massive bands, there are not enough people here for them. And, it’s sad to see."

Perhaps, like with Ozzfest, it is simply time to pass the metal festival torch on to a younger generation. The Summer Slaughter Tour, which begins right around the time Mayhem Fest ends, has the potential to become the next big thing on the touring circuit. Advertised as “The Most Extreme Tour Of The Year,” it features one well known headliner and a handful of progressive and death metal artists. You won't see Megadeth or Slayer on the bill, but like Slipknot proved, it may be time to let more established acts do their own thing and leave the festival circuit to the newcomers.

While the exact reason for the failure of Mayhem remains unclear, metal fans are going elsewhere to fill their festival needs. Those who did attend, showed up to see newer bands and left before the headliners even made it to the stage. Former Mayhem artists are going out on their own tours, competing for the same demographic, and getting better overall results. There is a lot of finger pointing going on, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact reason as to why it crumbled in such a furious fashion. Whatever the reason, Mayhem Fest has been laid to rest, forcing metal fans to get their kicks elsewhere until something new inevitably rises from the ashes.

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