There Was No Better Way To Ring In The New Year For Metal Heads Than At OZZFEST Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson Topped a 10 hour Line Up Of Metal At OZZFEST
[With contributions by Simon Diaz]
LOS ANGELES, CA- Metal was the monster that ruled the musical landscape in the late 90s; Rob Zombie reminisced to the crowd about his first show at the Forum in ’98, when the mosh pit was a very dangerous place for anyone caught in the destructive human tornado of bodies colliding. Although the musical landscape has changed drastically in the past 20 years, OZZFEST can still party like its 1999 bringing in the New Years with a slew of some of the best acts in metal, past and present.
Where OZZFEST in 2017 was a two day collaborative festival with KNOTFEST, Ozzy Osbourne decided to scale it back to close out 2018 with an expertly curated one day festival with no overlapping performances. With that being the case, if you got there early enough, there was no reason to miss any of the killer acts performing
For ten straight hours, metal lovers young and old were treated to barrage of relentless shredding a howling. For music that’s so sonically aggressive, it’s always a joy to see families come out and enjoy the festivities. Mad props to those parents who adequately kept their children’s hearing safe with proper ear protection.
While a great many fans were there to ring in the new year with the Prince of Darkness, fans of every act performing repped with fans wearing favorite vintage t-shirts with their logos emblazoned thereon, while others wore colorful and unique outfits that celebrated the festivities while also screaming metal. The music started on an outdoor stage set up in venue’s expansive parking lot, then moved to within the confines of The Forum as the sun set in the west.
Wednesday 13 was the first band to step onto the outdoor stage at OZZFEST, and they started the party off right. Joseph Poole is one hell of a showman. With a long and prolific career fronting bands like Maniac Spider Trash, Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13 and Murderdolls, he embarked on another venture in 2004 when he started recording as Wednesday 13 (though they did play a handful of FDQP13 covers at OZZFEST).
While the performance could have benefitted with a darker venue (i.e. an indoor stage or an evening set-time), Wednesday 13 was still able to gloriously infect the early festival goers with their charismatic brand of horror shock metal. With their faces painted a ghoulish white, and clad in black, the band, they shred their dark and aggressive enough and got the adrenaline pumping in the crowd’ veins. But it was Joseph’s showmanship that really keep you on your toes and entertained. Whether he was donning Lucifer’s face, simulating fellatio or hobnobbing with someone I can only assume was death, while swinging around an intimidating axe, he performance oozed a force of personality that couldn’t be denied.
The second band to perform at OZZFEST was the Santa Barbara based, death metal group DevilDriver (formerly Deathride). While the group’s lineup has changed over the years, the voice of the group, Dez Fafara, remains and they punish audiences with their relentless riffs and pummeling death metal blastbeats.
In 2018, they released “Outlaw ’till the end, Vol. 1” which was their 8th studio album and a compilation of metal covers of country staples. I was hoping that they’d include a song or two from that album as I was particularly intrigued with their renditions of songs like “Whiskey River” (I’m a pretty big Willie Nelson fan). They didn’t include any cuts from Outlaw into their OZZFEST setlist, but rather focused on treating fans to a selection of their greatest hits (“Clouds Over California”, “I Could Care Less”, “Hold Back The Day”, etc). They included a cover, but it was of Awolnation’s “Sail” (another recording that DevilDriver had noticeable success with).
What made DevilDriver’s performance stand out in my mind was the connection they had with a large majority of the crowd. They had plenty of their own fans in the audience (as was noted by all of the DevilDriver t-shirts I saw worn by fans), but as soon as Dez instructed the crowd to open up the mosh pit, telling them to “go” when he said so, and then belting one of his signature howls as we he watched the moshers go nuts, I found myself wishing that I didn’t have my photo gear draped around my shoulders. Checking bodies in the pit was looking real fun, and I could tell Dez was getting a kick out of watching everyone lose it as well.
Generally speaking, in my humble opinion, cover bands are only good for two things: weddings and county fairs. Notwithstanding the foregoing, I’ll make an exception for Zakk Sabbath.
If you didn’t already know, Zakk Sabbath is a Black Sabbath cover band led by Black Label Society vocalist and virtuoso electric guitarist Zakk Wylde. Let’s not forget that former Osbourne and Rob Zombie bassist Rob ‘Blasko’ Nicholson, and former Queens Of The Stone Age drummer Joey Castillo play in the group as well. That’s one hell of a cover band.
Zakk is Ozzy’s concert guitarist, so having Zakk Sabbath perform at OZZFEST would seem to be an appropriate no-brainer. But at the end of the day, if you’re at a metal festival and Zakk is playing, you’d come to see him shred, whether performing as Zakk Sabbath or his other band Black Label Society. Hell … I’d even let Zakk just perform a 25 minute guitar solo for a set because the dude just shreds.
The band performed a setlist of songs that I anticipated wouldn’t overlap with Ozzy’s performance later in the evening, so I kind of guessed that Ozzy would be performing “War Pigs” later in the day because Zakk didn’t perform it during his set (which was a correct prediction). The trio rocked hard and heavy, even extending their allotted set time, to bang out the deep cuts, extended solos and all.
Kids these day may only know Ice-T as “Fin” Tutuola from the long standing, television series Law & Order: SVU, but what they should really know is that Tracy Lauren Marrow (Ice-T’s given name) is not only an “Original Gangster” of west coast gangsta rap, but the frontman of the heavy metal band Body Count, a pioneer in the rap-metal genre (“Original Gangster is the name of Ice-T’s fourth rap studio album which featured a debut performance by Body Count on a track of the same name)
With six studio albums under their belt, their last album, “Bloodlust”, was released in 2017. Body Count and Ice-T have been raging against the system and social inequality since the start of the 90s, and “Bloodlust” hits all of those themes in their latest effort. Their performance at OZZFEST did the same.
From “Body Count’s In the House” to “No Live Matter” to “There Goes The Neighborhood” to “This is Why We Ride” … sure … fans were head-banging and raging to heavy riffs and pulverizing rhythms, but to me, Body Count’s performance felt like a call to arms. In today’s sociopolitical climate, it’s hard to deny that Body Count’s messaging embodies a majority of our countries frustrations and dissatisfaction and is all too relevant for the current times. Ice-T was powerful and forceful, and just as bad ass as I remembered him back in his New Jack City days. The dude and is still O.G. and Body Count is as relevant now as they were two decades ago.
Having followed the news about Jonathan Davis and his recently deceased estranged wife, I was inspired to see him give such a powerful performance at OZZFEST. Not many people can withstand the pangs of losing a loved one, but music is obviously Jonathan’s sanctuary, and his “solo” performance had him digging deep into his music.
His latest solo album, Black Labyinth, was released in 2018 (May 25th), and he brought the album to life with assists from Miles Mosely (upright bass), Shenkar (violin/vocals), and Korn drummer Ray Luzier. While his solo material doesn’t feel as as dark and frenetic as the music he’s recorded with Korn, its artistic flourishes, coupled with Davis’ distinct vocal stylings, reveal another side of the artist that we’ve only had small glimpses of in the past. It feels more contemplative and sounds more artistic. Drenched in a thick red light throughout his set, it was a moody setting for a what felt like an emotive performance.
With plans to start recording new Korn material, it will be interesting to see how much of his solo endeavors will permeate into his next project.
A raucous roar arose from the crowd as Marilyn Mason stepped onto the stage. Deafening guitar licks and a barrage of pulsing drums erupted the scene that looked like it could have come out of a post Apocalyptic thunderdome; Mad Max looking dudes covered in tattoos and Slayer t-shirts, head banging mutants and luscious rocker babes started going wild as the Pale Emperor stepped to the alter of immorality
During a moment of idle stage banger, Manson mentioned he had broken his ankle at the forum recently. That reminded me that he had a serious stage incident in New York last year which made some fans suggesting that his live shows may have dipped in intensity as of late from so many years of getting injured while touring. That was not the case at all at OZZFEST.
Marilyn definitely awoke the demons with a production heavy (there were several massive set changes) and an amazingly rowdy performance. Demonic visuals streamed through the screens behind Manson as he sang his diary of depravity. Over 30 years of his best Satanic lullaby’s were crammed into a 50-minute set, and it was glorious.
Props from many of his music videos enhanced the performance of classics tracks from Anti-Christ Super Star and the Dope Show, while ending his set with the song that rose him to MTV fame, “Sweet Dreams.”
Rob Zombie followed with a party of his own. He joked with the audience that he had a rough time the night before at a hotel party in Reno, so he told the front row to watch out for projectile vomit. Nonetheless, the Astro Creep woke from the dead, boogying in his bell bottoms to his disco thrash metal.
Like a freakishly scary carnival, we were along for the fun and the frights as movie clips from horror films that he directed, creepy cartoon clowns and anal probing aliens were just a few of the bizarre visuals projected behind the wild mad hatter.
His performance was a mix of song throughout his career. Songs from his first band White Zombie were played along with many of his popular tracks from his solo albums. 20 foot puppet demons and a huge gorilla with a tiny space helmet danced around the stage as “Never Gonna Stop”, “Thunder Kiss 65” and “Living Dead Girl” were played back to back to back.
Shortly thereafter he invited Nikki Sixx of Motely Crew and Marilyn Manson to join him to cover the Beatles “Helter Skelter” as Charles Manson doing weird shit was projected on the back screens. This collaboration had the audience losing its shit. His covers of “Blitzkreig Bop” by the Ramones and Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out” also tore the house down as his versions were were drenched in metal adaptations. With fans ravenous for more, Rob and company were called back for an encore and they raised the roof with the legendary “Dragula.”…”
As the final breath of the year died down, Ozzy Osbourne crept onto the stage to murder 2018. The ruler of the Underworld, the Prince of Darkness, had arrived, and he shouted “Ahhhh Yaaah Ready?” with a heavy British slurred accent. He said a few other things, but it was inaudible over the cheers from the crowd, but whatever he said sure it certainly elevated the energy in the room especially after opening with hits “Mr. Crowley” and “No More Tears.”
Shortly thereafter, the clock that had been on the jumbo screens all night reached its 20 second mark, Ozzy silenced the crowd and led the count-down “Tehn… Nighn… Aiyt…” down to 3, 2, 1… Happy New Year!
Lasers shot towards the most humongous disco ball which looked like the Death Star as confetti blasted the throughout the venue and Ozzy covered the front row floor seats with his foam canon. As Ozzy performed a few more songs introducing the 2019 madness, he closed with Crazy Train which ended with the crowd chanting for an encore. “Mama I’m Coming Home,” was played, but I knew he would not go out with a whimper, Ozzy brought out his young rebel style and put a stake through the heart of 2018 with “Paranoid.”
It was a very special night to celebrate with this legend and here’s hoping we all get the privilege to bring in more new years with the prince of darkness.