The all too familiar air raid siren of “War Pigs” signaled the beginning of the end. The beginning of Black Sabbath’s set at this year’s Ozzfest—the end of one of the most amazing days of music I’ve been privileged to witness. A cloud of fog surrounded the amphitheater for the entire day giving it an otherworldly feel . . .Perfect (trapped on Metal Island). To dismiss this as an empty-headed day of testosterone would be erroneous. This is the future of recorded music.
Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward, the original Black Sabbath, rocked a solid, if not safe, hour-long set consisting of “Into the Void,” “Faeries Wear Boots,” “Iron Man,” “Black Sabbath,” and “N.I.B.” Guitar monolith Tony Iommi teased the intro to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” before tearing into a fiery version of the set closer “Paranoid.”
Judas Priest’s set, celebrating the return of front man Rob Halford, was slightly awkwar but completely triumphant. Guitarists Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing, bassist Ian Hill (metal’s original frontline) and painkiller-era drummer Scott Travis wasted no time kicking into “The Hellion.” The opening intro was from the Screaming for Vengeance album, which led right into “Electric Eye,” where Rob Halford appeared at the back of the stage in the cornea of the electric eye back-drop, where he remained for the duration of the song. In fact, for the majority of their set, Halford was at the back of the stage. But whatever they lacked in cohesive stage choreography, they more than made up for with their set list, which was nothing but classic Priest. The only downer was Glen Tipton’s atrocious (luckily abbreviated) four-note guitar solo during “Victim of Changes.”
Twenty plus years into the Slatanic Wehrmacht, Slayer shows no signs of letting up, effortlessly unleashing a blitzkrieg of timeless, sinister thrash metal. Slayer is the model for many of the second stage bands (if not, they should be), proving that you don’t have to compromise your vision to succeed.
The corpse-painted, Norwegian black metal of Dimmu Borgir may have been lost on many, but to this fan, it was a genuine thrill to see these Nordic heroes (they’re huge in Europe) on a stage fitting for the grandiose, symphonic devastation they unleash.
Phil Anselmo’s (Pantera), Superjoint Ritual, seriously tear it up in the vein of their old school idols, Black Flag, but they lose an insane amount of momentum with Phil’s between-song rants and pats on the back. The biker bombast of Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society is truly lost on me, although I was definitely in the minority as everywhere you turned you saw their shirts.
The nine-piece masked insanity that is Slipknot continues to blow me away every time I see them. Lead singer Corey Taylor knows how to work a crowd with constant references to his “second home” (he did actually live here for some time). Italy’s goth-metal superheroes Lacuna Coil’s four-song set was short, sweet, yet utterly satisfying.
Those who showed up early for the second stage bands were duly rewarded. All of the second stage bands and most of the main stage bands made themselves available for signings at two separate tents, making this a day truly for the fans. The amazing performances were almost a blur with 14 bands, mostly with 20-minute sets and 5-minute changeovers. Some other highlights include the melodic death metal of God Forbid, the uncompromising metal core of Unearth, the keyboard tinged hardcore of Bleeding Through, the cathartic scream therapy that is Otep, the psychosault of Lamb of God, and the beefed up East Coast hardcore of Hatebreed.
Spinal Tap Moment of the Day—belongs to Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, who needed a kindly push from a roadie to get his motorcycle on the stage for the intro to “Hell Bent for Leather.”