I remember hearing once that Ozzy Osbourne’s son Jack was a large factor in choosing which bands appeared on Ozzfest. Looking at the lineups of Ozzfests past, you could probably make the argument that it would not be possible to have worst taste in music than Jack Osbourne. Yes, good bands have occasionally graced the Ozzfest stage, but for every Melvins or Voivod, there have been ten Limp Bizkits or Korns. And who wants to put up with that?
However, as much as I hate to do anything that would put money in the pocket of Sharon Osbourne, I was powerless before this year’s offerings. The second stage lineup was kind of average, but the prospect of seeing both Black Sabbath and Judas Priest on the same stage was just too good to pass up. Plus, the possibility looms that one or more members of either band will break a hip and thus not be able to tour, so I figured this might be my last chance to see both bands. It cost me about 70 bucks to get in, but I figured it was worth it, since I’d be seeing about 12 hours worth of bands.
The Ozzfest activities kicked off early in the morning, with the first of the second stage bands going on at around 9:30 in the morning. I got there just in time for Devildriver, which is the new band of the lead singer of Coal Chamber. Coal Chamber sucked, and his new band sucks too. I think he’s trying to play death metal now, but he’s not very good at it. I can’t believe Kataklysm got bumped from the recent Opeth tour for these guys. They’re terrible.
After Devildriver, there was a long string of metalcore bands, none of which struck me as being particularly noteworthy. The people there really seemed to like Otep, who stood out simply because they had a female vocalist, but other than the lead singer’s Slayer T-shirt, they were completely unmemorable. I can’t believe they actually have “buzz” about them. The other bands weren’t too bad, but the metalcore scene seems to suffer from the same problem that death metal did in the mid 90s – way too many bands that sound too much alike.
I’m not a huge fan of Lacuna Coil, but they were a nice break from all the same-y sounding bands. Lead singer Christina Scabbia was probably the only woman in attendance who did not look as if she had been plucked from an episode of Cops, and as far as goth metal goes, they’re one of the better groups around. Nice performance, although they seemed kind of out of place at Ozzfest.
Next up was Lamb of God, who have managed to become one of the hottest metal bands in America in recent years. The band draws its influences from Slayer, Pantera, and the Gothenburg death metal scene, and while lately that’s been a recipe for bland, uninspired music, Lamb of God somehow makes it work. They’re a good band, and they put on a good live show. Things on the second stage were definitely starting to look up.
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I like Hatebreed. I normally don’t go in for the macho metalcore the band specializes in, but I find myself unable to resist to their endless paeans to beatdowns. The band played songs from all their albums, although I think I would have liked to have heard a little more from Satisfaction is the Death of Desire. The band’s performance was quite energetic, and even better than the time I saw them open for Danzig. While I had expected nothing but bad things to come of their major label deal, the band has yet to compromise their sound in any way. They were really good and probably the best band to appear on the second stage.
The second stage headliner was Slipknot, and there was no way I was sticking around for that nonsense. I decided to look around the vendors area of Ozzfest. I considered buying a Judas Priest T-shirt, but the 35-dollar price tag was enough to dissuade me. The rest of the vendors area was essentially a really expensive, even lamer version of Hot Topic. I used to laugh at people who bought T-shirts that say things like “It took me 40 years to look this good” and “I Let the Dogs Out”. But then I see today’s youth pay 20 bucks for shirts that say equally unfunny things such as “I do whatever the voices in my head tell me to do” and “I’m smiling because no one’s found the bodies yet” and I realize there is truly no hope for America. I decided I’d had enough and decided to go find my seat for the headlining bands. Plus, I saw a fat, middle-aged woman wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “It’s not going to lick itself”, and I wanted to go find a place to throw up.
The main stage festivities kicked off with Black Label Society, the band fronted by Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde. I wasn’t very familiar with the band, although I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were. The music is reminiscent of Black Sabbath and Corrosion of Conformity, and while not terribly original, is nevertheless a fun listen. You have to wonder why Zakk Wylde hasn’t been writing all of Ozzy’s material for him, as Black Label Society’s music is much better than anything on Ozzmosis or Down to Earth.
After Black Label Society left, Phil Anselmo came on stage and screamed profanities at the audience for half an hour. Occasionally his band, Superjoint Ritual, played some songs to go with the profanity, but it was mostly just tirades from Phil. I think he was drunk. When not swearing at us, he kept talking about how great Superjoint Ritual was. The band is better than Damageplan, the group formed by his former band mates in Pantera, but that’s not saying much. Phil Anselmo’s had heroin overdoses that were more entertaining than the last Superjoint Ritual album.
I believe Dimmu Borgir is Norway’s most successful black metal export, although I think most of that success has come in Europe. I was shocked to see them on the main stage, as I didn’t think their sales in America were particularly strong. Lacuna Coil’s made it onto the Billboard charts, which is something I don’t think Dimmu has been able to do yet. They sounded pretty good, although they only got to play for about half an hour. Their stage act has gotten better than the first time I saw them (or I should say tried to see them; the fog machine was producing so much fog you could barely tell there was a band on stage), but it would have been nice if they’d had more time to play.
Slayer can be kind of sloppy in a live situation sometimes, but for their Ozzfest appearance, they sounded pretty good. However, the set list was letdown. They didn’t play “Hell Awaits” or “Angel of Death”, but they did play “Stain of Mind”, one of the weakest songs they’ve ever done. I think that Slayer should just drop the song unless there’s a kid from the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the audience who’s requested it. The band did play “Dead Skin Mask”, “Mandatory Suicide”, “War Ensemble”, and “Hallowed Point”, so it wasn’t it a total loss. Still, it would have to rank as the most disappointing Slayer performance I’ve seen. I think their upcoming fall tour will be a lot more impressive; they’re going to be playing all the songs off of Reign in Blood live.
Then Judas Priest showed up and proceeded to wipe the floor with pretty much every other band on the bill. I’d seen Rob Halford before when he was touring for one of his solo albums, but seeing him with the rest of Judas Priest was truly an awesome experience. I don’t think there’s a member of the band that’s under the age of 50, but they play like a band half their age.
The band’s set list was limited to their greatest hits – no surprise renditions of “Island of Domination” or “Bloodstone” here. However, considering I never thought I’d actually see a Judas Priest reunion in my lifetime, I would have been happy if they’d played nothing but songs from Turbo. The band played “Electric Eye”, “Metal Gods”, “The Sentinel”, “Victim of Changes”, “Painkiller”, “A Touch of Evil”, Breaking the Law”, “Heading out to the Highway”, “The Green Manalishi”, and “Beyond the Realms of Death”. The first heavy metal I ever bought was Judas Priest’s Unleashed in the East, and finally being able to see the band live was a dream come true. The band’s encore consisted of “Hell Bent for Leather”, which began with Rob Halford riding a motorcycle on stage, “Living after Midnight”, and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”. The band got the biggest crowd reaction of the night, and I do not exaggerate when I say that Judas Priest is the greatest musical group in human history. It was a religious experience.
About five minutes before Black Sabbath was scheduled to on, Bill Ward and some flunky walked on stage to read a letter from Ozzy Osbourne – it seemed Ozzy had come down with bronchitis and would not be going on. People started booing. The flunky told the crowd that Rob Halford would be doing the vocals instead. More boos. Bill Ward declared that if the crowd felt cheated, the band was going to “play their balls off”. Still more boos. I was really shocked. The crowd had been eating out of Rob Halford’s hand only moments ago, and now they were all booing the prospect of seeing him again. I’ve never seen Ozzy in concert, so I was a little disappointed he wouldn’t be there; but I figured the prospect of seeing Black Sabbath and Rob Halford was hardly worth getting upset about. Rob Halford actually did a couple shows with Sabbath in the early 90s after the acrimonious split with Ronnie James Dio near the end of the Dehumanizer tour, but I never imagined I would actually get to see him sing with the band. There was a steady stream of people leaving the Tweeter Center at this point, but I was expecting a great show.
After a brief wait, Sabbath hit the stage with “War Pigs”. The crowd was booing loudly, although both Halford and the band sounded great. Unfazed, they went right into “N.I.B.”; there were still some boos; although it seemed the crowd was starting to warm up to them. There was a steady stream of people leaving, flipping off the band as they left. I have no idea what their problem was. They had a chance to witness history and decided they would rather go sulk in the parking lot.
The band continued with “Fairies Wear Boots” and by now it seemed the band had won the crowd over. Halford delivered a great vocal performance, and the rest of the band sounded incredible. Bill Ward was right about them playing their balls off; a lot of bands their age would be content to just phone it in, but Black Sabbath sounded as good as they ever have. The played “Into the Void”, “Iron Man”, “Children of the Grave”, and “Black Sabbath”. I was hoping they would play some Dio-era songs, as Halford did sing some of them when he last appeared with Sabbath, but no such luck. Still, I was pretty happy with what I got. The band ended the show with “Paranoid”, and walked off stage to the wild cheers of the crowd. The people who walked out early were idiots, plain and simple. I never thought I’d say it, but I had a really good time at Ozzfest.