In 2007 it was decided that instead of charging an incredible amount for tickets that the Ozzfest event would be free of charge and be aptly referred to as "Freefest". If the Metal Legions wanted access to the show they would need to follow advertising and sponsor promotional links or purchase the new Ozzy Osbourne album in order to potentially be allotted a pair of tickets. This might sound pretty straightforward but it was actually a little more confusing that many had expected it to be. There was talk of redeeming issues and continual internet run around which I can attest to being true as I tried to help my friend get his tickets for the area appearance in my vicinity. Since the show was going to be free it would mean that the bands themselves would not be paid and instead get all their operating capital from merchandise sales at each stop on the tour. Resultant of this the now free event would not attract what some people considered to be "top tier bands" and instead drew groups like Lordi, Behemoth, Hatebreed, Lamb Of God and Static X to its stages. I really had a problem with people who were making that statement because while a band like Disturbed and System Of A Down might be good and at times quite heavy, when compared to some of the bands that I just named, come up very short in terms of being in touch with the actual Metal scene of today. These "underground Metal upstarts" for the roster in 2007 would quite possibly go down in history as the MOST relevant lineup based on what is happening in the Metal world right now. This aspect appealed to me as both a journalist and fan of Heavy Metal music overall.
Ken Pierce reports on the full day's festivities!
The festival began with In This Moment, 3 Inches Of Blood, Chthonic & Nile along with a couple of others and thanks to the traffic I encountered on the Garden State Parkway from NYC I would miss all of them. This bothered me quite a bit as I have been loving what ITM and 3IOB have been doing for Metal as relatively new bands on the scene and I was quite curious about the buzz that was being generated by Taiwan's Chthonic. Nile as a Metal band pretty much speaks for themselves as being total devastation in the live sense, so I will leave the rest to your imagination about them and why missing their set as well was no fun. Lucky for many of the Metal fans in the NYC area both Nile and Chthonic would be performing the following week at B.B. King Blues Club and each of them would be doing a full set of material. Since I planned on hitting this show I will discuss that one in a future report but now it was back to Ozzfest for Devildriver was hitting the stage. I did manage to speak to the early attendees who had good things to say about those bands that I missed which in one sense was awesome to hear but on the other hand sucked since I had missed them.
Devildriver: Roadrunner Records' own Devildriver were actually already performing and pretty close to being finished as I made my way into the arena past all the security detail on duty today and that sucked since DD is such a good time live in my past experiences. They were celebrating a new release entitled "The Last Kind Words" and would give us a taste of that mixed in with a couple of songs from their previous album "The Fury Of Our Maker's Hand". The second stage was smaller but this allowed an intimacy to those who congregated in front and believe me lead singer Dez knows how to get people moving when he performs. They are always energetic and each time I see them I find myself enjoying more songs than I did the time before. It seemed as though as soon as they hit the stage they were gone and that only five numbers were performed. This was based on the first group of bands only being allotted a twenty minute set. So just when you found yourself getting into the music it was time for them to go and now it was Behemoth's turn to level everyone around them.
Behemoth: I'm not sure that I even need to describe this band anymore because they have been on so many tours over the past couple of years that I believe that most discerning Metal heads know exactly who they are and what they are in store for if they attend any performance of Behemoth. If you don't then please let me pause for a moment to say that this band is pure and unbridled Death Metal power straight out of Poland and if you are one of those who for some odd reason are only hearing about them now then I suggest you do some catching up on one of the true superpowers that the genre has unleashed in recent memory. The band Behemoth is not a new band and has been touring for over a decade. Originally they were more of a Black Metal band but over time morphed into more of a technical Extreme Death Metal group and it was only over the last few years that they really became known in the USA by touring on the Sounds Of The Underground, and with Suffocation, and even the legendary Morbid Angel. Their appearance on this Ozzfest was a perfect score for them and allowed a whole new legion of fans the chance to enjoy their majestic and overpowering stage show. The rigorous touring schedule that they often handle was only paused for a short time so the group could record their latest smoldering platter – the aural assault entitled "The Apostasy". Lucky for all the acolytes for Behemoth they would be treated to a couple of more songs since the 20 minutes had now been extended to 30. This allowed for music from "Demigod" to be delivered as well as time for a costume change as Nergal, their front man and guitarist, who would don the armor of the being on the cover of their new CD. The sense of power that the band delivers is best witnessed in a larger and darkened concert hall but I feel as though even in the blazing sunlight and on a small stage that those present today knew very well that Behemoth means business. Inferno delivered a brief drum solo which allowed for the others to breathe for a moment and I gave them credit for being in their full corpse paint and body armor in the almost 100 degree heat of this particular day. Behemoth will return for a co-headlining tour with Job For A Cowboy in a couple of months so be sure to check them out. You will never be the same again.
Hatebreed: While I have never followed Hatebreed but still seen them a number of times I have to say that I always manage to enjoy myself when they are on the stage. To me they are more of a live band than something that one would want to sit at home and listen to because their music is so full of aggression that it is best served in front of a Hardcore Metal crowd. Tonight Jaime Jasta and friends would headline the second stage and close it out just in time for the activities on the main stage to begin. As a matter of fact, only seconds after Hatebreed's final song was performed did the first note for the opening band on the main stage begin (a band called Black Tide who I would not see). Hatebreed was really inciting the most pits down by this area today and this is to be expected since their music is such a close mix of old school thrash metal and classic Hardcore. The fist pumping, don't take no shit from anyone mentality was really getting into some people and it was a little weird watching the pit overflow into the security area more than I had ever expected it to. While they touched upon some of their older material, the focus was on their recent release on Century Media Records "Supremacy". It is definitely an album that makes you want to lace up those steel-toed boots and head for the pit. The set they did was good but I honestly felt that sixty minutes was a bit too long and should have been lessened to about forty in order to allow some of the preceding bands an extra song or two. The world knows full well who Hatebreed is and what they do for Metal music -so giving those newer acts a little extra time couldn't have hurt the vibe of the festival. If anything it might have even helped sell a little more of their merchandise at the tables which is how they were all getting paid this time around.
Lordi: The band Lordi are one of those monster hits and its mainly because they are monsters themselves. Their appearance on Ozzfest would be the best way for most of the United States to see them in action and was the second time the band would appear in the USA for a festival. The first go-round was "The Bamboozle", a two day affair run by Bam Margera.. Lordi caused quite a stir by winning the Eurovision song contest a couple of years ago and have been taking the Hard Rock and Metal world by storm with their catchy songs and incredible stage presence. The band looks like something that crawled right out of the pages of a Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine. Their costumes are incredible and they don't break character once during their set which featured many songs from their The End Records debut "The Arockalypse". The band resembles GWAR in some fashion but their stage show is a lot more entertaining as opposed to being over the top vulgar and bloody. It's safe to say that they are a little more acceptable for a younger crowd to enjoy. The group is led by Mr. Lordi whose own armor seemed to be draped with a wolf and from the front lines he is a commanding presence. The zombie lady on keyboards added the much needed dead female vocal while the dragon demon drummer pounded away on the skins. The guitar and bassist are also creatures of the Metal night in some fashion but I don't know what they are supposed to be. I only know that one of them sported a bazooka during the show and shot the arena rafters. The stage was set up like some ominous castle and while I was enjoying this display quite a bit there were far too many empty seats. The people who were still filtering in from the outside were really missing out. There are explosions and fireworks along with smoke bombs and flash pots with all of it making for an excellent visual experience. The afternoon sun was still present which took away a little bit from the Lordi set since they're the kind of band that you also want to see in a darker setting. I'm not sure that they convinced everyone tonight but the fans around me loved them very much. I would enjoy a full show from these dudes and hope they come around sooner rather than later.
Static-X: Static-X recently unleashed "Cannibal" on the world and this album just blew me away with its powerful thrashing mixed in with some strong industrial vibe. I had heard they were tight in concert and I was amazed that this was actually my first time catching them perform live. From my vantage point and knowledge of the band the music seemed focused on their newest album which was fine by me since it's the stuff I am most familiar with. Lead singer/Guitarist was in good form tonight as he belted out the tunes and I had to admit they were sounding pretty damn good. The venue floor is not a general admission area and has seats which left the moshing for the day up on the lawn. After being in the blazing heat of the Summer sun I was ok with no mosher's right next to me as it made it easier to enjoy the bands without the threat of someone bumping into me. I can't say enough about how good "Cannibal" is and think this might be the band's best work to date so fans should go buy it when they can. The Static-X set was a little over forty minutes and towards the end the band was visited by The Hustler Girls, who brought our Jaegermeister shots to them. I wasn't really sure what the Hustler ladies had to do with Metal but none of the male members of the audience seemed to mind so who am I to argue.
Lamb Of God: I'm beginning to think that LoG will forever be considered as one of the most important bands in American Heavy Metal history since they are musically proficient on all counts and nothing less than dominant on the stage. When Lamb Of God hit the boards tonight I couldn't see an empty space anywhere in the arena and many of the fans were trying their best to get right up to the front to get more involved in the action. In the few times that I have seen them over the past couple of years I have been more and more impressed at how well they handle the crowd, deliver the Metal and show very proudly that this music is vital, relevant and not going anywhere for as long as they have something to say about it. Randy Blythe gets the audience geared up something fierce as the Adler Brothers lay it down on guitar and drums. I've been a big fan of Chris' playing since I first heard of him and consider him one of the best that the genre has presented to us based on his unique and somewhat unconventional style. The guitars were shredding tonight and Willie shows why he is viewed as a guitar god by more and more people everyday. If you have not seen LoG in concert yet, well I have to say that you are really cheating yourself as a Metal fan because its such an energy draining experience. It's an aggressive set of material to say the least and if you are somehow caught in the middle of their mosh pit then you best have all your wits about you since you will surely need them. Tonight the LoG would be quite similar to their recent headlining tour when they appeared with Machinehead, Gojira and Trivium and as the right before the main attraction would get about sixty minutes or more. I wasn't looking at the watch when they played so exact numbers are not available. We got a fair amount of tunes from "Sacrament", and this album just keeps getting higher and higher on my ratings scale as an album to listen to when I need the need to vent it all out. It's a commanding band most assuredly and they stick to a take no prisoners attitude when they perform yet when Randy speaks to the crowd you can tell that he is just one of the guys when it comes right down to it. At this stage in their game, they don't need to be on Ozzfest, Unholy Alliances or even Sounds of the Underground but instead should be focusing on doing headlining shows and bringing worthy support acts with them. They are now one of the leaders in the Metal field and have enough fans to stand by them as they continue to pave new and exciting ground for the genre. I had to say that while I was really excited about seeing Ozzy once again that any performer who follows a Lamb Of God set would really have to pull out all the stops since they throttle you so much with their music.
Ozzy Osbourne: And now the moment we have all been waiting for as after almost 10 full hours of Metal excitement it was finally time for the "Prince Of Darkness" himself – the one and only Mr. Ozzy Osbourne!!!! Having been a fan of Ozzy's music and of course Black Sabbath for as long as I can remember, I am always excited to see such a legend perform in concert. I hadn't attended the festival since 2004 and while I was sad to miss the largely Iron Maiden headlined 2005 edition, I didn't actually miss the 2006 System Of A Down headlined one at all. Maiden would have to step up when Ozzy didn't feel well on the 2005 edition, and this led to the war between Sharon and Bruce Dickinson, while SOAD was the main band for the evening with the Ozzman performing as the closer on the second stage on the 2006 go round on select dates only. This year we find the prince back to business and supporting his new album "Black Rain". He would of course have Zakk Wylde on guitar but this festival found no Black Label Society performing before Ozzy would go on, and in one sense I was glad for this since it offered the time to some newer blood in the Ozzfest roster of alumni. Ozzy's set was a mix of his standard numbers from his back catalog along with some new material from "Black Rain". There would be three songs from the album and to be honest they left me wanting a little bit and I expected more from the performer given this was his first new album in about six years. The set also included the pre-requisite Black Sabbath mainstays of "War Pigs" and "Paranoid", the latter being the evening and event closing number. He opened with "Bark At The Moon" and everyone was on their feet when he came out and the level of energy was at an all time high by this time. Sadly I have no shots of Ozzy performing because the photographer people present were not allowed to take any pictures of him. This was new information to me since I had never covered any of his appearances before but according to some other seasoned players in the Metal reporting world this stand had been in place for several years. In one sense I was okay with it, and especially when I saw Ozzy grab a fire hose and shoot water out into the crowd. Clearly a relief from the long and hot Summer day, but definitely not something a person who is taking pictures wants to experience. I felt the singer was doing really good tonight and while many have felt that he is starting to lose some vocal steam I had to disagree for the most part. He is still a bolt of energy when he performs and not the person we see wandering around in reruns of the "Osbournes" television show. I think this is where Ozzy comes to be most alive and I wouldn't have it any other way. Zakk treated us to a ripping guitar solo right after "Suicide Solution" and this solo led the charge into the heavily audience participation number "I Don't Know". It's definitely a tune that had everyone in attendance singing the chorus. While his solo was damned good by most standards I preferred his solos during the actual songs tonight. On drums would be the might of Mike Bordin who is nothing less than a powerhouse on the kit. He continually impresses me, and I have enjoyed his playing since I first heard him in Faith No More. Towards the end of the night we got the ever popular "Crazy Train" and the show-stopping might of "Paranoid" which when completed found the audience drained of every last ounce of the energy they started the day with. Ozzfest 2007 was over and based on some of the fresh artists involved this time around would be one for the record books.
Closing Thoughts: Without sounding too complimentary I have to say that for the most part the sound for the day was rather good or at least this was the case in all the various parts of the arena that I found myself hanging around for the bands that I got to see. I tried to gauge it from different spots to see what the overall feel was like. The production ran smooth with little delay between the bands and outside of the typical horrendous venue prices for food and drink it was a pretty enjoyable day for the most part and yet amidst a good time there is always a problem somewhere. Today would be no different and the event would come with some downsides and issues that made the local area newspapers and television in regards to drinking and drug use. Since this was so heavily documented I will not get into the details here outside of saying there were about 80 arrests for drinking and conduct and 2 deaths from drug use. The amount of alcohol issues encountered by the venue security staff led them to eliminate tail-gating going forward at all events and this is a shame since many don't abuse the privilege and instead use this time as a means to catch up with old friends who are all leading busy lives like their own. While the aspect of the "free" access to the show was a good idea when it was first announced I think that it also failed on a number of factors. With the show being free you had more people who don't normally attend an event like this and are as result unprepared on how to handle the full day of activity. After paying only access to the parking lot there were many who opted to remain in the area drinking all day while they waited for either Ozzy or Lamb Of God to come on. Since they didn't pay a dime for tickets there was no rush for them to get inside and see a majority of the bands performing. This was a shame for those onstage who were giving the people their all - and also a shame for those who could not get a hold of tickets because others had gotten them. For those fans that waited for the final two groups to come on, well you sure missed out on some great music. This was possibly the best musical Ozzfest since the one that featured a reunited Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Slayer along with Dimmu Borgir and many others. I hope these people regret their actions based on the amount of band coverage that was given across the web and in print media for these amazing groups. Not long after the festival ran its course Sharon announced that the Ozzfest in 2008 would be a paid entry affair and that makes me think that the experiment of this being free was not worth repeating a second time.
Ozzy Set List
1. Bark At The Moon
2. Mr. Crowley
3. Not Going Away
4. War Pigs
5. Road To Nowhere
6. Suicide Solution
7. Zakk Wylde Solo
8. I Don't Know
9. Here For You
10. Change The World
11. Mama, I'm Coming Home
12. Crazy Train
Official Web site: www.ozzfest.com
Official Web site: www.behemoth.pl
Official Web site: www.lordi.fi
Official Web site: www.hatebreed.com
Official Web site: www.static-x.com
Official Web site: www.lamb-of-god.com
Official Web site: www.inthismoment.com
Official Web site: www.chthonic.org
Official Web site: www.nile-catacombs.net
Official Web site: www.3inchesofblood.com