"Real" metal reappears at Ozzfest 2004

A gathering of the tribes, a celebration of all things abrasive and aggressive, sweaty pits and asphalt. This was the day, two weekends ago, known as Ozzfest 2004. Gone was the amorphous line-up, bottom-heavy with no-name, major-label ?heavy? bands. Out with the Linkin Park, in with the lamb of god. Adema? Funk that, give me Lacuna Coil, give me Black Label Society, and throw in a little Black Sabbath too, why don?t you? Cause let?s face it, if you like metal, nu-metal sucks.

In fact, bring out the heavy-hitters; let?s see Rob Halford wail through ?Painkiller? with his mates in Priest. Why not have Slayer open for them ? imagine Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman with their dual attack before K.K. and Tipton? And have Dimmu Borgir open for them. Maybe bring out some of the New Wave of American Metal bands that are stealing the thunder back from the Europeans? Dude, it happened that day.

As I walked through the gates to the House of Ozz, I got the feeling that I get at any other conference ? too many things to see, not enough time. Although I missed Bleeding Through and Atreyu (both of whom have stellar albums out right now), I did catch a bit of Throwdown with their brutal SoCal metal-core breakdowns. Even caught a bit of Dez (previously Coal Chamber)?s new gig in Devildriver ? definitely a rock-star in every good sense of the word. No matter how good anyone on the second stage was, the day belonged to lamb of god.

Considering the buzz and expectation that comes with being the first of the New Breed of American Metal bands to sign with a major label (Epic), you might expect that lamb would implode under the pressure. But with a volatile, charming front-man in Randy Blythe, all that pressure is released as fury that is recycled back from the crowd. Imagine a ten-megaton bomb dropped on your head and you get the idea of As the Palaces Burn, their last album.

With pits swirling in front of them, horns thrown in the air, the air was electric. Closing with ?Black Label? from their classic album New American Gospel (Metal Blade), lamb of god have laid to rest any fears of weakening under label expectations.

As I left behind the fan in me to talk with Andy from second-stagers Every Time I Die, I found possibly the biggest fan in me of all. We chatted about everything from the legendary Death to touring with Tony Iommi. From a small but loyal fan base, ETID have catapulted themselves into the limelight by touring the continent many times over and by playing kick-ass tight sets like the one they did that Saturday. Showing off their sense of humor by playing under a banner out of Stalin?s closet, they won me over as a listener that day. Check them out this Halloween when they come back to town with the Dillinger Escape Plan.

Another band that has moved itself by leaps and bounds above its peers is Dimmu Borgir. From playing in the tightly knit Black Metal community to opening for Slayer, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, Dimmu has gotten the attention of metal fans who hadn?t thought of checking out this sub-genre. I had the chance to ask Silenoz (guitarist) about opening for the big three, which he says is an honor. And as far as playing to conventional metal fans, he said that although Dimmu ?live a certain lifestyle,? they ?have always been about the music, the whole package ... [T]he life we lived 10 years ago wouldn?t make sense on a tour? of this magnitude.

As far as conveying the darker elements of their music during the daylight (as opposed to in the dark confines of a club), they feel that it does diminish ?... the intensity, but it is also because we are more unknown here in the States as opposed to Europe where we?ve played festivals to lots of people at say 1 pm, but we were more known there.?

As far as the lineup as a whole, the band says, ?[We] feel like we?re underdogs, no matter where we play, especially here where we play with the big name bands, but no matter what, it is a good feeling and we are grateful because afterwards we see lots of people walking around with our T-shirts!?

After Dimmu brought their black wrath to an unsuspecting audience, the big three of Slayer, Priest, and Sabbath took the stage. Slayer was, well ... Slayer. Nothing ground-breaking, just crowd pleasing as always. From the classics of ?Reign in Blood? and ?South of Heaven? to ?Bloodline? off their last album, Slayer played a full hour-ish set with no fat left on the bone.

Priest, on the other hand, stole my heart. Seeing the one and only Rob Halford reunited with the co-godfathers of metal was too much joy to bear. With twin ramps jutting out into the crowd, smoke billowed out as the opening strains of ?Electric Eye? screamed out of Glenn and K.K.?s guitars. Racing through a set of classics, it felt like 1983 all over again. Sigh. That voice! Mr. Halford even graced us with an appearance of the famous Harley during ?Hell Bent for Leather.?

Ending the evening was a cackling, yet audibly tired and under-the-weather Ozzy as he fronted the originators of metal, the mighty Black Sabbath. With a closet of classics like ?NIB,? ?Fairies Wear Boots,? and ?Children of the Brave? to cover, they left all satisfied, even if they did only play an hour. Fittingly, as ?Paranoid? rolled around, the skies opened up and drenched us lucky souls on the green. Thankfully, Black Sabbath treated us to a thunder and lightning show instead of the usual fireworks. No one would have expected any less.