OZZFEST New crop should take notes from the iron men of metal
The new groups are intense, but there's nothing memorable about them.
By JOHN PATRICK GATTA
CUYAHOGA FALLS -- It seemed totally appropriate that after concertgoers endured four hours of showers to start the ninth annual Ozzfest heavy metal festival Thursday at Blossom Music Center, they would be sent home with more raindrops.
The wet weather as well as the downturn in summer concert attendance saw only a little more than 12,000 fans fill the Blossom grounds. Still, while the Alternative Nation abandoned the Lollapalooza Festival and forced that entire tour's cancellation, there were enough of the faithful around to pledge their allegiance to the new and old guard of heavy metal.
History of metal
I doubt that it was intentional, but over 13 hours, Ozzfest offered a history of the genre -- from the present style of brute force supplanting melody to its earliest song-oriented version geared toward the release of radio singles.
This backward approach displayed the influence of co-headliners Black Sabbath and Judas Priest as well as another Main Stage act, Slayer.
In spite of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inability to give the members of Sabbath its due and induct them, the group created the template for heavy metal. And not only does its music, for better or worse, inspire others to play the critically-reviled heavy music, but Sabbath's influence can also be heard in many of the grunge artists from the early '90s.
Osbourne comes alive
Its 75-minute set not only played the hits ("Iron Man") but also treated the faithful to such epic workouts as "Fairies Wear Boots" and "N.I.B." On a side note, unlike some of his solo performances, frontman Ozzy Osbourne's onstage presence is rejuvenated when he rejoins his bandmates in this legendary band.
The same degree of influence can be heard from Judas Priest, which is celebrating its third decade in existence as well as the return of its original singer, Rob Halford, after a 12-year split. Halford's vocal inflections have become career-making actions by others, while the Wall of Sound produced by guitarists K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton have, through the aid of technology, been replicated to make a gale force of sound.
Slayer took elements from these bands, sped them up and spiced up the proceedings with controversial lyrical content.
No memorable songs
Understandably, today's new crop of metal acts feels compelled to take matters to the next level of intensity. But what many of them forgot on their way to Ozzfest's Second Stage is that their music would be best served in relation to an actual song. Some of the 14 acts displayed a degree of individual personality -- Slipknot, Hatebreed, Atreyu and Lamb of God -- but for much of the time, their material merely filled the soundtrack for the mosh pit rather than anything that could be remotely viewed as a memorable tune.
That's something that Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Slayer showed Thursday evening. It's a reason why they're considered legends in the genre, and why their albums remain vital in this century as much as they did in the last one.
XOzzfest also plays next Saturday at Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa.