I wrote this after I went to Mayhem over the summer. So I recently got back from the pilgrimmage that was the Mayhem Metal Festival in Atlanta, a full day's worth of bands on three stages running the full gamut of the metal spectrum. With my invaluable companions at my side, the ever truant and zen Zach, and of course, the magnanimously judicious as well as extremely well-connected Dr. Jeff, we endured a paraniod security force, the plastic sweat coffins that are portable toilets, a few drunk assholes (including one guy with a kilt and a "Professional Dildo Model" T-shirt), a well-timed thunderstorm, and some particularly shitty bands in order to to see some really good ones, meet some of them, and in the case of Machine Head, hang out with them. Therefore as a public service I have decided to write a comprehensive review of the bands we had the privilege (or misfortune) of seeing. Keep in mind that this is fully my opinion, which is heavily biased towards liking good metal and hating shitty metal (and hating emo's even more). One of the easiest ways to tell if a metal band's going to be shitty is if they take themselves too seriously. While this is not always true, it's a good indicator. If there is no review next to the band, we didn't see them. The Hot Topic stage and the Jägermeister stage were right next to each other, and they alternated bands for most of the afternoon. The main stage started at the tail end of these two's alternations. HOT TOPIC STAGE: Black Tide (We couldn't get in in time for these guys, but we showed up early trying to. Black Tide are a bunch of really young guys with amazing chops for their age and a bright future ahead of them.) The Red Chord 36 CrazyFists: Took themselves way too seriously. With sludgy guitars tuned so far down you couldn't even hear the different notes and a vocal style of quasi-screaming rap, the Alaskan 36CF were pretty difficult to sit through. We spent most of their set making fun of how bad they were. Suicide Silence: Need I say more? We could only take one song from this band before I was afraid my ears were gonna start bleeding. Picture a bunch of angry emo kids venting out their Livejournal frustrations into a PA system set to music almost as shitty. Underoath: Not a fan. Never will be a fan. No one can combine the lugubriousness of an emo mentality with a pious sense of evangelical self-rightiousness quite like these guys. Definitely the low point of the festival, especially because they somehow got a 45 minute set. JÄGERMEISTER STAGE: Airbourne: Imagine AC/DC being born 30 years later. And doing even more cocaine. Airbourne play the typical bluesy straight-up rock n' roll you get every time you put a bunch of Australian dudes in front of a wall of Marshalls and give them guitars. While they were nothing especially creative or technical, Airbourne would be the best band to see/listen to with your friends while getting hammered. Walls of Jericho: I had a lot of the same issues with these guys as 36CF. Sludgy, uninteresting riffs, a way too serious approach, yada yada. But there were some redeeming qualities to their set, I guess. It was refreshing to see a girl front a metal band with confidence and decent ability. And they had once song called "Fuck the American Dream," which I thought was pretty funny. The problem was I was the only one laughing. Five Finger Death Punch: FFDP blew me away. I had never even heard of them before that day and knew nothing about them, but by the end of their set I knew I would soon have their debut album, which is equally impressive. These guys had very respectable chops and a confidence that never bordered on arrogance. Their frontman, ex-Motograter Ivan Moody, is both an amazing screamer and a very good singer, and knew how to tastefully mix the two (think All That Remains singer Phil Labonte, but with chrome-plated balls). We got to briefly talk to him backstage, and he was really cool. I ended up skipping Mastodon altogether to watch FFDP's whole set. Machine Head: Holy. Shit. Where do I start? I had the distinct privilege of not only meeting MH, but hanging out in the back of their tour bus with frontman Robb Flynn. For a band of legendary status within the metal community, critically and fan alike acclaimed albums, and 15 years of decibel-drenched domination under their belt, they were some of the nicest guys I've ever met, responding to my star-struck adulation and blurting out of a million questions with a cool, patient demeanor and genuine humility. And their set? A 35 minute thrashing onslaught of technicality mixed with raw emotion that nearly got me killed from going crazy in the pit with several hundred of my closest sweat-drenched comrades. I can already say with confidence that their latest album, The Blackening, ranks up there with the best magnum opuses in all of metal: Master of Puppets, Cowboys From Hell, Rust in Peace, Reign in Blood. Any metal fan worth his salt needs this record. MAYHEM MAIN STAGE: Mastodon (Missing these guys was my one regret of the tour, but it was worth it for FFDP) DragonForce: Having seen DForce at the Masquerade a couple years back, I didn't feel bad for skipping most of their set to make sure i could see every minute of Machine Head. Either way, they put on of hell of a live show. All of them are amazing on their instruments. Herman Li and co-lead guitarist Sam Totman are some of the fastest guitar player you will ever see. Keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov is ridiculous (with both his skills and his jumping around key-tar in hand). And I'm pretty sure every member of the band is from a different country, so it's really interesting to see the way these guys work with such different backgrounds and still manage to blow you away. The main thing that keeps me liking DragonForce is their laid back attitude and casual presence. While their musicianship is amazing, the way they interact onstage makes you feel like you're hanging out with them, cracking jokes, and in Sam's case, getting drunk. If this band took themselves as seriously as a lot of metal bands do, they would be unbearable. Disturbed: Disturbed reminded me a of a machine: Every note, beat and action was carefully planned, perfectly timed, and masterfully executed. But they were so lacking in emotion and feeling it was, frankly, almost disturbing. Every song sounded exactly like the master track on the album, and I gotta give their lighting and visual guys some props. Singer David Draiman didn't exactly connect well with the audience compared to many of his colleagues, but these relatively minor shortcomings didn't stop their set from being thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. Slipknot (None of us were big fans, and we didn't feel like waiting another 40 minutes of setup time to hear three decent songs. I was very surprised that they got top billing on the main stage to begin with.) So there's my review, for the benefit of you the reader. if you don't agree with me, suck it.