Where: Buffalo, NY
Venue: Darien Lake, Performing Arts Center
Bands of Note:
Headliner: System of a Down
Black Label Society
Ahh, the ever enduring
Ozzfest... Now in its 11th iteration, everyone is likely very familiar
with the annual summer festival's "alterna-metal" approach to bringing
metal to the masses. This year would mark the first year that Ozzy was
not playing or even headlining every show.
For me, Ozzfest 2006 was my 3rd Ozzfest and my first one away from my native Ohio. For some reason our local Belkin Productions-run venue Blossom no longer hosts Ozzfest, and as such when I was invited to attend the all day festival in nearby Buffalo after missing on last year's incredible roster, I said "what the hell?" .
As would be expected, Ozzfest supports its typical cadre of more radio-friendly metal acts being features on the main stage, with the foreign and/or more extreme acts fairing lower on the bill or relegated to the second stage. This year we had nu-metal favorites Disturbed and System of a Down headlining in Ozzy's spot. Now radio friendly Avenged "I-wanna-be-Guns-N-Roses" Sevenfold were in the middle of the setlist. Metalcore stalwarts Hatebreed came before them with Italian gothic metal act Lacuna Coil and British power metal shredders Dragonforce rounding out the bill.
Strangely, the second stage would feature some major talent in the forum of metalcore favorites Unearth, up-and-comers Atreyu, and Zakk Wylde's always rockin' Black Label Society. Oh, and don't let me forget the fact that Ozzy Osbourne himself was headlining the second stage for this stop on the tour!
Anyways, on to the concert itself. Let me first start by saying that this year's bill did not particularly jump out at me. Yes, there was actually an incredibly amount of talent and diversity, but there was really no one band that got me going with the exception of BLS and Dragonforce. That being said, the first strike against this year's Ozzfest was the fact that they had some sort of semi-circular barrier that started once you got about 100 feet away from the second stage. Apparently, only the first 3,000 or so attendees were privileged enough to get a wrist band that allowed them entrance into this barriered-off area. What the hell? I didn't pay $80 to not get up close and personal to the second stage bands. I suspect the reason for this barrier was mostly because Ozzy was headlining the second stage and, for "insurance purposes", his management was trying to keep the immediate crowd in more controllable numbers lest things get dicey.
I arrived late, really only regretting that I wouldn't be seeing Strapping Young Lad, during Bleeding Through's set. Beh, more generic metlacore. Unearth, a band that I took a liking to after hearing the In Flames-esque "Zombie Autopilot", followed. It's a shame the sound quality of the second stage wasn't great and I couldn't get closer to the band as it seemed like they had a very good set. Unearth is one of the few talented metalcore bands in the flooded genre right now. Anyways, Atreyu, a now more media-friendly unit, came on after. Luckily, there sound quality seemed a bit clearer, perhaps in no small part that they used cleaner vocals and more melodic leads than Unearth. I used to have a deep resentment for Atreyu's drummer, but after seeing his triple-bass drumkit (ala Mike Portnoy) and his ability to swivel, drum, and sing choruses, he earned my admiration. I also enjoyed the one guitarist's use of flashy, custom-painted explorers. Just about all of Atreyu's set was extremely catchy and well done, even if I am not very familiar with their song catalogue.
Finally, we moved into the "2+ hours of Zakk Wylde" block with Black Label Society (and the Ozzy). Don't get me wrong, I've seen Zakk play with Ozzy once and play with Black Label two times prior to this and have always been a fan of the man. Coming with the territory and money of being Ozzy's guitarist, Black Label Society's sound was rather good for a second stage band. At this point, I had paid off a security guard to let me in through the barrier and was able to get up close to Zakk. The band ripped into fan favorites like "Suicide Messiah" as well as some older tunes like "Bleed For Me". Zakk is truely a guitar hero and didn't disappoint with a solid set with some time out for fret-wankery. Throughout the set, Zakk used not only his usual bullseye Les Paul, but his new signature model Gibson bullseye V and white-on-black Randy Rhoads V.
Next, Zakk would move from the center stage to the right in support for Ozzy. Ozzy came out wearing a very humble outfit of simple blue jeans and black long-sleeve shirt. He didn't look bad, but he's starting to look more and more like a tad. However, I was ecstatic to be able to be within 10 feet of the Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy played a slightly short 45 minute set of such classics as "Mama I'm Coming Home","Road to Nowhere", "Crazy Train" and other Ozzy standbys. Zakk, who seems to be able to emulate vintage Ozzy to a 'T', sung backing vocals on many of the songs which was a nice touch. It was interesting to see drummer Mike Bordin playing a left-handed style with his ride cymbal near the hi-hats, like yours truly. Anyway, Zakk did the customery National Anthem, complete with teeth-playing. While I was relieved to see Ozzy wasn't lip-syncing like I had heard rumored, it seemed like he wasn't quite into it, with half-hearted attempts to get the crowd going for "one more song". Either way, the band seemed to be enjoying themselves and ended with Sabbath favorite "Paranoid".
Now we get into the main stage. One has to bear in mind that although I had pavillion seats, I was still pretty far back and had difficulty seeing detail of the stage. Anyway, I'm pretty sure there is a conspiracy against power metal in America. Dragonforce was easily the most talented band on the entire bill, yet they were relegated to about 20 minutes of playing time as the first band on the main stage. To top it all off, by the time everyone shuffled out of the second stage area after Ozzy, which the management had to know people would stay for, Dragonforce's set was almost done!
Lacuna Coil's set and stage show was sort of lackluster. The sound quality wasn't particularly clear and to me, a lot of the Karmacode material is very generic and not as heavy as Comalies was. It was difficult to understand either of the singers due to both the mics and their foreign dialect. On that note,is it really necessary to have 2 singers? I'm sure one of the guitarists could've easily taken those vocals. Maybe I'm just a sucker for consolidated bands.
I missed Hatebreed's set because I had to wait an hour an a half for food. Not that I was a very big fan of Hatebreed to begin with, although from the ambient noise I heard, their sound fidelity seemed decent.
Avenged Sevenfold, despite their fashion-conscious scene appearance did please. Synester Gates is a very talented guitarist (as was evident by the extended solo) and Zacky Vengeance, despite his ridiculous stage name and fake "too cool for school" attitude, is a charismatic front man with a good vocal range. The band had a cool display of florescent lights all around the stage. I particularly enjoyed the cover of "Walk", even with that punk Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed.
This would mark my third time seeing Disturbed. I used to really like the band a lot before I discovered heavier stuff, but I still respect their show and feel David Draiman is a charismatic and involved frontman. Although he seemed to have put on a bit of weight and looked a bit less metal and a bit more like a soccer dad, Draiman still didn't disappoint with his intermittent monologues every few songs. I particularly enjoyed his rant about heavy music being strong and how kids that wear chick pants and bands that start with the word "the" are ruining rock music. Musically, I realized that the bass plays a much larger roll rhythmically in Disturbed's music and that Draiman does not have the vocal range he used to have.
And finally System of a Down. One's got to keep in mind that I have never really been a System fan. Yes, they do off the wall, borderline prog. stuff, but I largely beleive their wacky song structures are done just for the mere fact of being wacky. I'll give it that they have a few good songs like "Sugar" and "Toxicity", but overall I find their music to be more "joke" music. That being said, I enjoyed their show more than I thought I would. They had these nifty vintage looking floodlights (much like the ones in Dragonforce's new video) behind their set that would flash every now and then. I also enjoyed the occasional keyboards that would be wheeled out for both the frontman and the guitarist. And I will admit, there were even some enjoyable thrash riffs used in System's songs that really harkened back to the 80s. I will admit, this band has a great diversity of influences and styles in their music, albeit sometimes too much for their own good at times.
Overall, Ozzfest was a
hit or miss concert. I've been to worse, but I've also been to better.
But what can you expect from a festival that caters to a more
conservative metal crowd?