Sunday, August 10, 2008
Concert Review: Ozzfest, featuring Metallica / Ozzy Osbourne
This year's only Ozzfest was worth every penny.
FRISCO Another day, another massive all-day mega-metal event in triple-digit heat: but for the thousands of die-hard metal fans who came from across the country for this year's Ozzfest, it was all totally worth it. And with just one Ozzfest this summer --in the brutal wastelands of Frisco-- Saturday's concert at Pizza Hut Park was one for the ages.
Let me start this review by stating that 12 hours of sun, $4.50 water and neck-breaking headbanging may have warped my impressions of more than a few bands. That said, there were definitely some strong and weak performances throughout the day, and if I gripe about your favorite band sucking, feel free to go ahead and start listening to one of the bands that actually deserved to be up on the same stage with metal's two biggest names.
Arriving at 1 p.m., I'd already unfortunately missed several of the local Dallas acts like Within Chaos and The Destro, and unfortunately made the terrible choice to forgo seeing local metal legends Rigor Mortis in favor of witnessing Apocalyptica, who were playing on the main stage at the same time. For those unaware of Apocolyptica, it is a Metallica cover band with a catch --they try and rock out with cellos! Isn't that amazing?
Short answer: No. No it is not. The cellos were not miked up to fill up the Pizza Hut bowl, and any traces of the band actually "rocking" were when they piped guitar riffs over the overmatched string instruments. The band tried hard, and between songs did a spot-on impression of Skwisgaar Skwigelf, but ultimately capped out as a 'gimmick' band that didn't fit well with the other acts on the main stage.
The Cavalera Conspiracy, on the other hand, were easily one of the best acts all day not named Metallica or Ozzy. Formerly half of the godlike Brazilian death metal group Sepultura, Max and Igor Cavalera joined forces earlier this year to produce Sepultura-esque music together. While the Cavalera Conspiracy is not anywhere near the level of their former band (or even of Max's other band Soulfly), the band was still able to rock the arena with old Sepultura covers, as well as some new material. Later, their specific tribute to Dimebag Darrell would stand out amongst a sea of mediocrity: more on that later.
The best small-stage band of the day had to be Austin-based metal-rock band The Sword, who after touring with Metallica in Europe this summer headlined the Texas Stage. The Sword plays old school throwback metal --sounding eerily like a young Black Sabbath-- and combine their thunderous riffs with Zeppelin-esque mythological lyrics. The set was criminally short at just 30 minutes, and after witnessing the band live for the first time, it quickly became obvious that The Sword belonged up on the main stage far more than half the bands up there.
With Devildriver and Sevendust closing out the side stages, it was time to migrate to the main arena: unfortunately, this is where Ozzfest seriously started to sag. Jonathan Davis of Korn came out with one of the most pretentious performances ever witnessed, singing mediocre sludge-'rock' while sitting atop a throne. While Ozzy is famous for doing the same thing on one of his albums, Ozzy can get away with it because he is the undisputed face of heavy metal. Davis, meanwhile, seemed content to insult his audience's attention spans by plucking a violin onstage and showing up his guitarist in front of thousands of fans.
While Davis may have been the weakest act as Ozzfest, easily the most disappointing was the next one, Dallas' own HellYeah. Formed by former Pantera drummer and rock god Vinnie Paul, and composed of half of Mudvayne, the band should have been one of the highlights of the day. Unfortunately, the charismatic Paul was hidden behind his massive double-bass drums for the entire set, leaving lead singer Chad Gray to carry the show. Like pretty much every rock supergroup in history (for quick reference, check out Supernova orVelvet Revolver), however, the sum never seems to be the whole of its parts, and the band churned out a sloppy set of same-sounding songs. The biggest crowd reactions during their set were to the breast-baring females on the big screens, rather than anything the band was doing onstage.
Making it worse --at least for this particular die-hard fan of Pantera-- were the uninspired tributes to Dimebag Darrell. Shot on stage during a concert in 2004, Darrell has become a martyr for metal, as the universally-loved and unbelievably-talented guitarist was taken way before his time. His tributes, however, were disappointing. Other than a standout performance by the Cavalera Conspiracy, as well as some great footage of Dimebag scrolled over the big screens, the attempt was not a good one. An acoustic performance of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" that sounded slightly out-of-tune was the topper.
Following the awkward tributes, an even less entertaining set by politico-rocker Serj Tankian left people streaming for the restrooms and concession stands. The former System of a Down singer took the stage in a top hat and proceeded to bark like a leprechaun to watered-down metal for nearly an hour. In general, a rock "band" named after a lead singer is almost never a good sign, as the music is usually secondary to the singer's ego-centric agenda (this also applies to Ozzy, but in a good way). Serj's set was no different: if, by the third or fourth song, nothing has sounded even remotely different --and the lead singer sounds like the aliens from Mars Attacks-- it's a good time to hit the restroom before the two next acts devour the stage.
Thankfully, Serj finished a few minutes early, allowing Ozzy Osbourne to take the stage twenty minutes or so ahead of schedule. After a series of hilariously disgusting clips, Ozzy and his band proceeded to absolutely rock the tens of thousands in attendance. Opening with his pretty-good-but-overplayed radio single "I Don't Wanna Stop", Osbourne fed the crowd a steady diet of his old hits. Behind the ridiculously amazing guitarwork of old friend Zakk Wylde, the band drained my vocal chords dry with classics such as "Crazy Train", "No More Tears", "Iron Man", and others.
Originally only supposed to play for an hour and fifteen minutes, Ozzy seemed to end his show on time... until Wylde performed an epic half-hour full-on guitar solo, capping it off with Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner" before Ozzy came back on stage and performed well into Metallica's time slot. Whether intentional or not, it certainly seemed as if Ozzy was trying to upstage the headliners, reminding Metallica of just who the festival is named for.
After a half-hour of set-up, Metallica took the stage and made everyone forget that any other bands ever existed. Opening with "Creeping Death", and following with about 4-5 old rarely-played songs off their first albums, the band absolutely rocked Pizza Hut Park. After a titanic version of "For Whom the Bell Tolls', they played two songs I never expected them to play: the thunderous "Harvester of Sorrow" and the neck-snapping "Sanitarium."
After 'Sanitarium', Metallica played their only disappointing song of the entire night, a cut off their new album Death Magnetic called 'Cyanide.' For metal fans who hated St. Anger, I've got some bad news: 'Cyanide' suffered from all the same problems as the disappointing last album: poor songwriting, low energy, choppy arrangement, and guitarwork that doesn't quite fit what the rest of the band is doing. While the song had some great riffs, it seemed they were almost immediately snuffed out by some too-complex drum bit or ill-timed tinny guitar solo. While I'm emotionally bound to buy the album anyways --after all, it does say 'Metallica' in big letters across the cover-- after hearing 'Cyanide', I'm a little worried.
The new song seemed to subdue the crowd as well, but Metallica jumped back into the fire with 'And Justice for All' and an old favorite, 'No Remorse.' In fact, the first ten or so songs on the setlist were strictly from And Justice For All or earlier --they even played "Damage, Inc."!-- and it wasn't until Hetfield played the sappy-but-powerful love song 'Nothing Else Matters' that the band played anything from the Black Album (they would later do amazing versions of 'Sad But True' and 'Enter Sandman').
Metallica brought the house down, however, with 'One'. Introduced by a long series of fireworks and impressive pyrotechnics, the band absolutely rocked with their signature ballad to landmine-based tragedy. Although it was difficult to hear Hammet's guitar solo (for some reason, huge banners were hung directly over the speakers, and occasionally large gusts of wind would cover the sound), the sight of tens of thousands of potential James Hetfields destroying their vocal chords was amazing.
After a quick break, the band came out for its encore with none other than legendary metal falsetto King Diamond. Playing Mercyful Fate covers, the band took second banana to King Diamond's soaring vocals and awesomely creepy facepaint. It was actually something of a surprise to find out that King Diamond actually lived just minutes away from Frisco. Concerned Parents Against Satan's Frisco chapter might want to look into that.
The band finished its set with an inspired version of 'Seek and Destroy', before giving props to all the bands, fans, and crew that made the event possible. Despite starting a half-hour late, Metallica played for well over an hour after their planned timeslot, with the band staying onstage and thanking the fans well past 12:30am. Despite the tremendous amount of pain in by neck vertebrae and vocal chords, Ozzy and Metallica (playing their first-ever Ozzfest, surprisingly enough) combined to rock DFW like it hasn't been rocked in a very long time.