Late Ozzfest Report from July 24 in Bristow, VA
Band Photo: In Flames (?)
I attended Ozzfest 2005 on Sunday, July 24 in Bristow, Virginia’s Nissan Pavilion (my report is running late, as I’ve found myself overcommitted lately). This fest was the tenth annual Ozzfest, and not to be outdone by last year’s excellent lineup, this year they sported an equally as good lineup spanning more genres of metal than before. This year’s lineup also contained numerous headliner-quality bands on both stages including, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Rob Zombie, Mudvayne, and of course Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.
Had I known that both people I was supposed to go with would bail out, I would have lined up a photo pass for the whole show to give me something more to do. As it turned out, I pretty much just enjoyed the show and met up with As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis for an interview that we missed in Philadelphia, PA.
While this year’s lineup sported mostly bands I knew and had heard, most I was only vaguely familiar with, so pardon the lack of specific details such as song names, etc. in many cases.
Having forgotten to check the set times, I was running a little late and managed to miss several bands I wanted to see that day, including Arch Enemy, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Trivium. I wished that it had been some other bands on the bill, but I had little control over it at that point.
I arrived a little after 10, just in time to hear The Haunted start their set. For this I was happy, as I’d missed The Haunted on their previous two stops and not seen them since before Peter Dolving had left the band when they were supporting Testament. While I like all of the band’s material, I am glad Peter is back with The Haunted because I enjoy his aggressive vocals more than the death-metal vocals of former vocalist Marco Aro. Keeping all of this in mind, The Haunted’s set, which consisted entirely of their more thrashy material including two from their latest album, “RevolveR,” and one from each of their previous two albums, was very enjoyable. The crowd was a decent size – larger that expected even – for so early in the morning, and responded to the thrashing energy The Haunted displayed. Unfortunately, after only four songs (All Against All, 99, D.O.A., and Bury Your Dead), their time was up.
Bury Your Dead were up next and they came out with a strong sound that was more hardcore than metalcore. The crowd was mostly into them, but clearly not 100%. Likely they held little appeal to the older folks there to see Maiden, since they had so little in common with classic melodic metal. But they put on a pretty good show and were enjoyable to watch and listen to. At the end of their set, the band was joined onstage by Wicked Wisdom’s Jada Pinkett Smith and husband/actor/rapper Will Smith screaming “Bury your fucking dead!” several times.
In stark contrast to The Haunted and Bury Your Dead, next up was Wicked Wisdom, featuring frontwoman Jada Pinket-Smith. Booed before they even took the stage - during the announcement by Big Dave that they were up next - Wicked Wisdom were clearly the outcasts of Ozzfest. Surprisingly enough, the crowd responded favorably when they took the stage, yelling and displaying their horns. The band opened up with a decent heavy sound but was a little loud on the vocals and low on the guitars. In addition, they unfortunately opened with two or three songs that featured almost a constant stream of vocals talking/screaming over the music, with few notable guitar riffs or grooves. People began streaming from the front of the crowd to the back to get water, as did I. By the final couple songs, the sound issues had been balanced out and they were playing with a surprisingly metal sound (not the rock-jazz fusion they’re oft described as) with verses that let the music shine through. Overall, they really weren't bad, but sounded like any other younger, less seasoned band might.
Gizmachi took the stage next. At this point the sun was beating down on the crowd hard, and after the first song I decided to get another drink, while still within earshot of the stage. The live performance differed greatly from my perception of their CD, which I thought had more melodic or clean vocals. Gizmachi’s live performance could easily have them classified as screamo, although their music was definitely more diverse than that. The PA was a little too loud and when I returned from getting my drink, the screaming was making my head hurt.
I looked forward to Soilwork taking the stage as there would be no screaming with their style of melodic Swedish metal. While I didn’t know any of their song names, they played an enjoyable set and firmly established themselves as my favorite band whose music I did not know prior to this Ozzfest. Of course I had heard them before, but I wasn’t really familiar with their material and don’t own any of their albums…yet.
Next up were another band I’d heard much about, but was not familiar with musically, It Dies Today. While the crowd responded to them, I cannot even describe their sound well. They played a unique style of modern metal with a hint of metalcore. After hearing their complete set, the only thing I knew is that I’d have to look into It Dies Today some more.
A Dozen Furies, winners of the Battle For Ozzfest reality show and contest, took the stage and played as well as any of the others who had played thus far in the day. Not knowing any of the songs, nothing stood out about the performance of this metalcore band, although they definitely held their own very well for relative newcomers.
Mastodon was again a breath of fresh air from all the screaming styles of singing as well as the metalcore. Their style was much of an extended jam session and seemed almost mellow in comparison to most of the other bands heard that day. I found their live performance more enjoyable than their recordings, in fact, which do not hold my attention. Perhaps it was the welcome change of pace, but they also had a good stage presence and involved the crowd somewhat.
The first real second stage headliner, As I Lay Dying, finally took the stage and like flipping a switch, the level of the performances went up a notch. As I Lay Dying showed a ton of energy and put on a very good performance that the crowd clearly loved. They played some newer material from their recently released album, “Shadows are Security” as well as songs from “Frail Worlds Collapse.” While I find the sound of their new material on “Shadows are Security” to sound like a cross between Unearth and Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying displayed a lot more personality and set themselves apart from the others, even KSE who have a somewhat similar sound and played immediately after them. They played some songs off of their recently released album including “Meaning In Tragedy,” “Through Struggle,” “Empty Hearts” and the rest off of the [then] more well known “Frail Worlds Collapse” album.
Killswitch Engage has got to be the surprise of the day. Having seen them perform several times recently, being utterly sick of their sound (due to my own overplaying of both recent records) and not as big a fan of current singer Howard as Jesse Leech, I planned to take a break and get some more water and wander the booths a bit. However, these guys sounded incredible and engaged the crowd a lot, leaving me planted in the same spot for their entire set.
Their performance was energetic as they played a good variety of favorites from both of their last two albums including “A Bid Farewell,” “Take This Oath,” “Fixation On The Darkness,” “The End Of Heartache,” “Numbered Days,” “My Last Serenade,” “Life To Lifeless,” and “Rose Of Sharyn.” Adam is a trip too. He was dressed in “short shorts and a cape” (in his own words) and running all over the stage. At one point Howard and Adam jokingly ridiculed the crowd – “take the tampons out of your pussies and get up in the air” were Adam’s words - and challenged the audience to do more crowd-surfing. It was a sight to behold when at the start of the next song somewhere between 35 and 50 people simultaneously were lifted up onto the hands and heads of the crowd.
I was definitely looking forward to seeing Rob Zombie play this year as well. He is simply a great performer and always has some smart-ass and sarcastic remarks to make about the latest trends in pop music, and a great delivery to top it off. He definitely pleased the crowd and played some favorites of his own as well as White Zombie era material including “More Human Than Human,” “Super Charger Heaven,” and [reportedly] “Thunderkiss ‘65”. At one point he gave props to the bands on the second stage and said there were no trendy bands or music on Ozzfest this year. While I agree with the overall sentiment that this year’s fest was one of the least trendy (and most diverse) ever, it was a bit ironic coming from a guy standing on a stage flanked by three Hot Topic banners. Unfortunately I could not catch all of Zombie’s performance, as I had to meet up with As I Lay Dying’s Tim Lambesis for an interview at 4pm.
After the interview was over, I headed over to the main stage to catch In Flames before their short twenty minute set was over. What is the point of giving a main stage band such a short set? What I heard sounded good, although I am not familiar with any of their material since “Clayman.” They sounded a little more modern, but certainly not nu-metal as I’ve heard the label applied to their newer sound and material in recent years. Their twenty minute set could really do nothing more than spark the desire to check them out more thoroughly, however.
Having seen Black Label Society every year, I decided now was the best time to get some food, as I had not eaten all day and I'd missed my usual window for food due to the interview with As I Lay Dying at the end of Rob Zombie's set. I didn't stop to think that it was just around dinner time too, and it was probably actually the worst time to get food. I stood in line for a full hour or more to get my overpriced $10 individual pizza and $5 soda, and then scarfed it down at a table full of strangers (since they did not allow pizza boxes on the lawn this year and did not nearly have enough seating to eat).
After returning from an hour long trek to get food, I returned just in time to catch the end of Shadows Fall's first song, “Thoughts Without Words.” I generally like their sound, but I would not call myself a huge Shadows Fall fan. However, they've improved their stage presence significantly and have more material to choose from since I last saw them. Overall, they put on a blistering show of their heaviest and fastest songs that I would have to call my favorite performance of the night.
Mudvayne were in the 3rd headlining spot on the fest, which is typically the slot that chills the crowd out a little by playing some extended mellow jams (the slot filled by bands such as Tool, Primus, and System of a Down to name a few that I can recall in recent years). Because of this, I wondered what Mudvayne would do. They did play a bunch of heavier old material and crowd favorites from the newer albums. But they did interject some drawn out grooves in the latter half of their set as well, which had the usual chilling effect on the crowd. Expected or not, I actually like the change of pace before getting to the final two bands. They then ended their set with Not Falling and Dig, two of their heavier and more popular older songs. Overall, their performance was decent, but I couldn’t help but feel that their nu-metal influenced sound felt out of place among all of the bands I’d heard that day.
Like Judas Priest last year, Iron Maiden is one of the forefathers of metal that have had a huge influence on many bands from their time to the present. And like Judas Priest, I was interested in seeing them play live for the first time more just to say I had seen them than out of genuine enthusiasm for their music. While certainly more technical than Priest, they did not fulfill either the heaviness or aggression that I seek in metal.
They began their set with huge fanfare. They played only songs from their first four albums during their hour-long set. It was amazing how energetic Bruce Dickinson was for his age, constantly running around the stage and leaping from the monitors at the front of the stage. They played many classics (many I actually knew, even not being a Maiden fan) totaling about 10 songs total including “The Trooper,” “Phantom Of The Opera,” “Run To The Hills,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and encore of “Running Free” and “Sanctuary.” The energy and stage show made it a fairly enjoyable experience nonetheless.
Black Sabbath finally took the stage around 9:30 or so. They were the real reason I stayed past Shadows Fall’s performance, as the dehydration set in. Last year’s Black Sabbath performance blew me away and I’ve become a fan of their authentic 70s-era sound even though I am not a fan of much else that has come out of that period. Ozzy looked to be in much better physical health this year than last, which was after his quad bike accident. Sabbath’s show was nearly as good as last year’s, with the band switching up their set ever so slightly. They played many of the classics such as “N.I.B.,” “After Forever,” “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Into the Void,” “Black Sabbath,” and “The Wizard.” They threw in “Dirty Women” early in the set, clearly to show off Tony Iommi’s impressive guitar work in that song, but Ozzy could not handle what sounded like it was supposed to be more melodic singing parts in that song. His voice cracked and gave out a couple of times, but he soldiered on, apologizing for the performance after the song and stating that he was performing against doctors’ orders. He had a near-perfect night after that song, however, making Black Sabbath one of the highlights of the day.
They seemed to end with “Paranoid,” and as I began to walk to my car too exhausted to stick around for a possible encore, I heard them begin “Children of the Grave.” “Oh well” I thought, as I had their “Black Box” set slated for my birthday present a few days later.
Ozzfest 2005 was one of the best Ozzfests I can remember from start to finish (and I missed their undoubtedly incredible first three bands). Overall I thought the second stage was the strongest ever, even though the headliners didn’t quite compare to last year’s second stage headliners of Slipknot and Lamb of God. In the time since seeing the show and writing this review, a lot has happened including Ozzy announcing his retirement as headliner of the show and the feud between the Osbournes and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson brewing (bad timing for those events in combination, if you asked me), and it may very well be the end of Ozzfest as we know it.
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