One thing that puzzles me is the fact that people pay $100 US for an Ozzfest ticket and then spend an hour or more getting spur-of-the-moment tattooes done arther than watching the show. Maybe it is because I have more than my share of ink already but is a converted trailer at an outdoor metal show really the place to get a tattoo done, especially with zero thought put into what will forever adorn one’s flesh? Not to mention the airbrushing booth where perverts lurk outside with cameras hoping to get a quick flash of the underage girls getting their ta-tas painted? The usual vendors populated the “Village of The Damned” shilling everything from over-priced t-shirts and CDs to musical instruments and video games. The food…well, a $5 “big dog” doesn’t exactly live up to its name although it is better than the $8 I spent on a handful of fries and two chicken fingers last year, I suppose. The older metalheads could be found looking repeatedly at their watches in anticipation of the beer garden opening at 4:30PM, which again puzzles me as to why someone would get so obliterated that they remember nothing of the show and end up getting removed by security after blowing chunks all over themselves and hanging against the barricade for balance.
Half-time rant complete…now on to the Main Stage!
Unfortunately, press got shuttled away after the third song of Rob Zombie’s set because of the long hike over to the Main Stage area. The way Ozzfest works is that as soon as the last band on the Second Stage finishes, the first band on the Main Stage begins IMMEDIATELY so anyone who stuck it out for Zombie’s entire set probably missed most—if not all—of In Flames ill-conceived Main Stage debut. The band chose to open the Main Stage for whatever reason and while it may have exposed them to a different audience that the Second Stage, the ten or so people who actually paid attention to In Flames’ five-song set got a 20-minute taste of the band’s music. The now-familiar setlist heavy with REROUTE TO REMAIN and SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR ESCAPE material certainly would have turned off many of the band’s older fans but with such a short amount of time on stage, the chances of the band dusting off “Artifacts of The Black Rain” was slim. What can be said about a 20-minute set other than the fact that In Flames seemed to make the best of their time on stage. It was obvious that the band members were not happy looking out over a cavernous, nearly empty amphitheatre filled with people staring blankly while shovelling nachos and beer into their gullets but they had to know what they were getting into beforehand. A non-rotating Second Stage slot like As I Lay Dying or Killswitch Engage had would have been the more prudent move. Oh well, COME CLARITY is due out in early 2006 and will surely earn them more attention.
A Touch of Red
My Sweet Shadow
When a musician begins a forty-minute set with what feels like an eternal guitar wank/shredfest, one must question how much of a band effort said “band” actually is. Since Black Label Society’s wrap-up on Ozzfest, bassist James Lomenzo has jumped ship and after witnessing Zakk Wylde’s gratuitous soloing to kick off the band’s set, I can’t say I blame him. Halfway through the set, Wylde unleashed another extended solo causing me to wonder how many songs could have been played in their place. Even after catching a 2+ hour BLS show earlier this year (read review here) that was made even more sluggish by a TWENTY MINUTE Wylde solo midway through, I should have known what to expect but this guy is just out of control. Wylde is a hell of a musician but I think that the over-indulgent “look at how good I am” soloing leaves more people looking for the exit than picking up their bottom jaw from the floor. “13 Years of Grief” was a nice addition to the set and the staples “Stoned & Drunk” and “Stillborn” mixed well with new ones “Suicide Messiah” and “Fire It Up.” Reeling Wylde in would definitely make for a less tedious show but I’m sure many fans came out just to hear him throttle away at his six-string and they surely left satisfied.
Stoned & Drunk
Been A Long Time
13 Years of Grief
Fire It Up
Once again, Shadows Fall got showed up by vocalist Brian Fair’s five-foot long dreadlocks. It’s not that the band doesn’t have talent—Jason Bittner is a highly skilled drummer and Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand are one of the best of the new breed of guitar tandems—but when competing against hair that is as long as an adult female’s entire body, one must give credit where due. Forsaking what is arguably the band’s strongest (and heaviest) release, 2000’s OF ONE BLOOD, in favour of the more accessible material from THE ART OF BALANCE and THE WAR WITHIN, Shadows Fall put on a highly-energized 45-minute set starring Fair’s hair. The rest of the band seemed content with letting Fair take centre stage but that may have been in fear of being decapitated by an errant lock as the singer repeatedly windmilled. The band seemed surprisingly comfortable on the sprawling stage, as well, which surprised me since Shadows Fall always struck me as more a club band. “The Power of I and I” got the crowd going as did “Stepping Outside The Circle” and there seemed to be quite a few converts but I think more older fans left asking the younger ones who that band was with “the guy with the hair” than left seeking out their latest CD.
Destroyer of Senses
Enlightened By The Cold
The Power of I And I
Thoughts Without Words
Stepping Outside The Circle
Inspiration On Demand
Ahhh, Mudvayne. Still carrying the torch of nu-metal five years after its death. This must be serving them well since they somehow ended up third on the Ozzfest bill but besides dropping the ridiculous pseudonyms and makeup/outfits, new album LOST AND FOUND is pretty much the same rehash of LD50 and THE END OF ALL THINGS TO COME. Now before the Mudvayne fan-boys start hammering me with angry e-mails, I will admit to enjoying a few songs (“Happy” and “Not Falling” are damn catchy and the quirkiness of “Dig” still gets me) and Ryan Martinie is a phenomenal bass player. The thing is, Mudvayne have not really evolved over three albums in five years and truth be told, Martinie is wasting his time playing this music. He is miles ahead of the rest of the band talent-wise and pandering to kids with dog collars, spiked hair and wallet-chains is like feeding prime rib to your cat. The whole circus theme that decorated the stage seemed to have no direct correlation with the music and vocalist Chad Grey’s puffy clown costume looked beyond silly. I suppose the bat and bloody makeup he wore was supposed to be scary but the Bozo suit pretty much negated any sinister image he was trying to convey. We photographers were not even allowed up front until the second song because the band wanted the crowd to see the big “reveal,” which amounted to a big red curtain dropping and the band standing there?! Even Martinie’s skin tight body suit made him look more like a downhill skier than a musician! A big, flashy light show that I’m guessing was supposed to enhance the Mudvayne “experience” was a moot point because at 7:00PM in August, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that it’s still light outside! These obvious criticisms seemed lost on the crowd who sucked up Mudvayne’s corny antics and down-tuned nu-metal clichés like a college girl at a kegger. Maybe I was just getting tired by this point but I focused my attention on Martinie’s playing and was suitably amazed.
Nothing To Gein
World So Cold
Forget To Remember
After Mudvayne’s never-ending 50-minute set, the big-top stage was dismantled and in its place began to form a giant maze of ramps and stairs that would pave the way for the real stars of the evening, Iron Maiden. A huge silk-screened backdrop emblazoned with Eddie’s mug was unveiled as “The Ides of March” began echoing through the venue and the crowd erupted. Launching directly into “Murders In The Rue Morgue,” the band emerged and were clearly there to do some damage. Bruce Dickinson never stopped running and leaping throughout the band’s 60-minute set of pre-POWERSLAVE tunes and the guitar tridem of Jannick Gers, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray simply sizzled. Of course, bassist Steve Harris was an integral part of the galloping “Run To The Hills” and “Running Free.” Before “The Trooper,” Dickinson donned a red military jacket and ran back and forth waving the British Union Jack flag. As each song was played, the backdrop changed with “Revelations” featuring Eddie on a starry background among others. For “The Number of The Beast,” a fifteen-foot tall Eddie came marching out and attacked Harris and Gers much to the delight of the cheering crowd, many who had never seen Iron Maiden live. Dickinson seemed genuinely appreciative of the eager and responsive crowd and after making his feelings well-known about various others along the way, I tend to believe him. Unfortunately, things turned continuously sour after this stop with Dickinson becoming increasingly vocal and critical of the Ozzfest juggernaut. Three days later, a well-documented, ugly incident involving eggs being tossed at the band by an allegedly vindictive Sharon Osbourne occurred that not only left a black mark on Ozzfest but also left fans that paid upwards of $100 US to see the show rightfully angry. Whether or not this will affect ticket sales for 2006 remains to be seen but Iron Maiden clearly took the high road afterwards and left Osbourne & Co. looking like buffoons. Iron Maiden stole the show in Auburn and made every other act—including the headliners—pale in comparison.
The Ides of March
Murders In The Rue Morgue
Phantom of The Opera
Run To The Hills
The Number of The Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Is it just me or has Black Sabbath become the KISS of heavy metal touring? They trot out the same tired setlist year after year without producing anything new and people continue to show up in droves and pay top dollar to hear the same songs. Granted, I would take hearing “Paranoid” for the ten-thousandth time over some of the rubbish that was on the Second Stage but this is now my fourth time seeing Sabbath in seven years and there really isn’t much different to say over last year’s report. The same video screen played a similar video and music montage to kick off Sabbath’s set. It was great to see “Sweet Leaf” back in the set and “After Forever,” “Electric Funeral” and “Dirty Women” were nice additions, too, but this was essentially the “same old same old.” Ozzy’s continually weakening voice blew out part way through the latter song, however. Osbourne threw his microphone to the ground in disgust and stormed off stage leaving Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward to fend for themselves and despite appearing visibly rattled and confused, they still managed to dish out a fabulous impromptu jam session complete with drawn-out Iommi solo. I figured the show would be over since several previous ones had to be cancelled due to the singer’s vocal troubles but Osbourne returned to the stage and announced that “I blew my voice out again tonight, but I’ll try and croak ‘em out anyway if you’ll let me?” Naturally, the place erupted and the show carried on with only minor issues. Osbourne’s vocals were more akin to speaking than singing on “Symptom of The Universe” and “Sweet Leaf” and by the time they hit “Paranoid,” it was clear that they just wanted the show to end for Ozzy’s sake. Iommi, looking devilishly snappy in his tinted glasses, black leather jacket and pointy moustache, flew the horns several times and his playing is as remarkable as ever, especially on “Black Sabbath” and “Children of The Grave.” Butler’s flying fingers never missed a note during the speedy mid-section of “Electric Funeral” and the always-sinister “N.I.B.,” either. Even Bill Ward, who looks every one of his 57 years, remains a tight, heavy-hitting drummer on the intro to “Iron Man.” Osbourne had his usual shtick down including the tossing of water buckets, numerous “I love you all” and “Let me see your fucking lighters” quotes the evil chuckle during “Black Sabbath” and his now trademark shuffling gait. This was rumoured to be the last tour with Ozzy Osbourne/Black Sabbath headlining Ozzfest and I am happy that I got to see them one more time but truth be told, I think it is time to pack it in. As it is, Black Sabbath has been shown up two years in a row—first by Judas Priest and then Iron Maiden—and many people even left after Maiden’s set citing the same reasons I mentioned above. Osbourne’s health is noticeably deteriorating (photographers were not allowed to shoot the band) and with escalating vocal troubles, it may be better to quit sooner rather than later. Osbourne sent out a press release the following day stating that he will not be headlining any further incarnations of his namesake tour, so it seems that the end is indeed near.
Fairies Wear Boots
Symptom of The Universe/Sweet Leaf/Electric Funeral
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Paranoid
Sleeping Village/Children of The Grave
And so ends yet another year at Ozzfest. Thirteen hours, nineteen bands, an incredibly sore back and feet and enough sweat (mine and others) and sunscreen on me to take three showers to fully remove. We lowly journalists were given more freedom this year than last, which was nice not having to huddle under an umbrella behind the stage during sets and check one’s camera to watch the actual bands. The weather was much more cooperative this year and I would have to say that the bands were better, as well. The metalcore contingent was a bit thick but finally getting to see Mastodon and The Haunted were definite highlights and how can you go wrong with Iron Maiden on the bill? With what was rumoured to be Black Sabbath’s last headlining gig on the tour, Ozzfest 2005 should go down in history for that alone but I’m sure the egg-tossing will be what most people remember, unfortunately. Hopefully Ozzfest organizers will keep the momentum going built by booking more REAL metal bands over the past two years and make Ozzfest 2006 the best run yet—with or without Ozzy! And I will be getting there EARLY next year, to!!!
***Thanks to Loana at Nuclear Blast Records, George at Century Media Records, Kelli at Metal Blade Records, CeCe and Shazila at MSO PR for the ticket and press pass and Ginger and the rest of the White River Amphitheater staff for their help at the show.