For the true die-hard heavy metal fans, Ozzfest, the annual all day and all night (roughly 14 hours) event in the hot (near 100 degrees) Texas sun, is an event not to be missed. This year was unique in that the only show in the continental United States was at our very own Pizza Hut Park. This yielded at least four times the number of professional rock 'n roll photographers jammed into the media pit as would typically be encountered, making the photo pit like rush hour in Istanbul. With the possible exception of a busload of Japanese tourists in San Francisco, I'm fairly certain I've never seen this many cameras being feverishly fired in one place at the same time.
Monster did a great job with their hospitality pavilion on the grounds in line-of-sight to the 2nd and 3rd stages. Their giant fan with attached misters combined with complimentary Monster energy drinks made the otherwise unbearable heat manageable. It was easily 10-20 degrees cooler inside. Monster was also hosting a BMX / rollerblade jump exhibition close by, which proved to be an interesting distraction (see photos).
Not surprisingly,the age range at Ozzfest is predominantly the Gen-X and Gen-Y crowd and piercings, tattoos and black t-shirts featuring metal bands and offensive (to some) slogans are de rigeur. As opposed to Ozzfest 3 years ago at Smirnoff, the secondary stage were on dirt this year instead of asphalt. This was a big improvement from a temperature standpoint, as the 2005 experience was like being an egg on a skillet. causing Rob Zombie to remark at one point during his set "Congratulations, Dallas. You win the prize for the hottest f__king venue on the tour." as his shoes were melting on the metal stage decking. This year the temperature was a little more civilized (just under 100) and the surface less heat-reflective.
Not for the faint of heart, Ozzfest is a spectacle of metal energy and a showcase for some of the heaviest of metal bands. For the uninitiated (and disapproving in most cases.) all metal is the same. To Ozzfest's attendees there is a vast difference and this event brings together many high-powered monster metal bands from around the world. Most are similar in their style and substance, characterized by blistering distorted guitars, bass that generates Richter Scale energy, and vocals comprised largely of growling, roaring and not a little screaming. Did I mention swearing? There's plenty of that included as well.
You would have a more thorough review with appropriate details for both Ozzy and Metallica if the Media had not been sequestered during both sets. For reasons never explained, all media photographers were escorted down to the media pit to shoot Ozzy's first song, then back upstairs to a hallway in the Administration building, where we were not allowed to leave with our equipment unless we wanted to take it out, lock it in our cars and return to the stadium. Ask any professional photographer what they think about that. Rinse and repeat for Metallica, except that we were there for three songs. The hallway where we were locked away like second-class citizens had no food other than 100-calorie snacks and water, very few chairs and no view of the interior of the stadium -- or closed-circuit coverage. Basically, those of us who were reviewing the show had our hands were tied, preventing us from doing our jobs. To say nothing of the fact most of us would not be doing what we do if we didn't enjoy the music. The fans, many of whom are 15 feet from the stage, and equipped with point-and-shoot digital cameras with equivalent quality to the pros, were allowed to attend the entire show and photograph every song.
If anyone at Pizza Hut Park, AEGLive, the Osbournes or Metallica care to comment, they will be quoted here. I, for one, do not appreciate being treated like this and it will be a long time before I shoot for any of the people responsible for this Cluster F__k.
Very heavy growling angry expletive laced metal is what The Destro is all about. Not one of your most sophisticated performances, they tore through a 30 minute set of some very angry material. Sabbath-like but angrier, their charging, relentless, punishing metal would set the tone for the day.
These Swedish rockers are very reminiscent of a Sabbath-like 70s metal band. Heavy yet with an air of innocence compared to the rest of the lineup. Missing is the snarling, growling and pitch-shifted vocals of many other Ozzfest performers. Colors other than black in their clothing was in stark contrast to the other acts. A very nice bunch of rockers, Witchcraft were headed back home to Sweden the next day, wrapping up a week and a half away from home to entertain us Americans.
Driving, testosterone-fueled angry thrash metal pretty much sums up Within Chaos. Dimebag Darrell would prove to be the theme of the day, as he was a cult favorite, made more popular by his untimely death at the hands of a gunman a few years ago. The guitarist for Within Chaos was playing a DBD signature guitar, with which he tore off some wild guitar solos.
Raging, angry, speed metal was my impression of Soilent Green. Overall, the effect was that of a smear of distortion combined with a driving beat, making for a powerful impression.
Not as flashy as some of their contemporaries Rigor Mortis tear off one driving yet melodic riff after another in a frenzy of semi speed metal nearly as angry as The Destro, they shift down to a Sabbath-like beat at the end of their 3rd song. Rigor Mortis' Dime Bag Darrell salute was Continuous Contamination.
Standard-issue angry Sludgecore metal, coupled with droning bass and staccato guitar from Kingdom of Sorrow produced driving metal with roaring vocals. No shortage of energy here, but nothing particularly original either, the crowd enjoyed them regardless.
I had expected a dynamic departure from the general theme of Ozzfest by local celebs Drowning Pool but was surprised by the intensity of their set that started at 3pm. Much edgier and with a definite metal flavor, their current material is very different from their 2001 hit Tear Away.
Great guitarist. Very heavy material with melodic solos. The drummer made an immediate impression (literally) by bouncing a drumstick off my jaw before the first song.
Arriving on stage in a pinstriped suit. Johnathan Davis sits in an ornate velvet-upholstered chair suitable for royalty, from which he will perform much of the set. Surprising in contrast to the speed metal offerings of prior performers Jonathan Davis, previously of KORN gave us a very sophisticated performance, coupling excellent range of material with a theatrical flair unmatched by his contemporaries. Tearing into one song with a guitar break reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen, this band gave us both talent and diversity, weaving from slow, ambling passages to edgy crunching breaks, that while dramatic in contrast to one another blended seamlessly.
Searing, angry, driving, shredding metal is a perfect description for HellYeah. Their image, however, is a bit more sophisticated than some of the other metal bands of the day. A powerful set with great energy, these guys really tore up the main stage. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.
For me, the most unusual and theatrical performance of the day was by Serj Tankian, the Lebanese-born multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with System of a Down. Entering the stage in Top Hats (all black except for Serj) and with the drummer wearing green pixie(?) wings, Tankian's new band proceeded to blister the crowd with some exceptional, melodic arrangements. Great energy, performance and stage presence from these guys.
What can you say about Ozzy? Ozzy is Ozzy and the symbiotic relationship he has with his fans is a unique phenomenon. Off stage Ozzy is anything but eloquent, but the moment he steps into the lights and connects with his audience a remarkable change takes place. An electric charge exchanges energy between the headbangers on the far side of the security fence and The Ozzman. Zakk Wylde, clearly one of the top 5 guitarists in the world, has been at Ozzy's side for years and is an imposing presence, prowling the stage and tearing through riffs mere mortals can only dream of attempting. It would have been nice if Ozzy had ended his set anywhere near the scheduled time, but at Ozzfest we are all on Ozzy Time and as a result, Metallica's set started an hour late.
These monsters of the metal scene have polished their craft over more than 2 decades and it shows. They consistently have the best stage performance I have seen in this genre. While many metal purists pooh-pooh Metallica's more recent material, favoring their earlier, less-sophisticated work, I really like their new (since about 1996) material, finding it well thought-out, beautifully arranged and more melodic than the typical Ozzfest band. I like their arrangements and professionalism. Not that I don't like the old material, mind you, I just feel like Metallica has "grown up" along with me and is maturing (not necessarily like me) very nicely. Great set, really solid and Kirk Hammett seems much more comfortable on stage than he has in the past. This was my first time to see them with Robert Trujillo, replacement for Jason Newstead, who parted ways with the band a few years ago. Robert is a perfect fit for the band.
Review by Warren Paul Harris, staff writer
Click on the photo for the abbreviated gallery.