Ozzfest – Columbus, Germain Amphitheater 8/8/07

For the record, this is my 10th Ozzfest and with the state of outdoor amphitheater’s in Columbus, this may be the last I see at this venue – possibly even this city. That being said, I thought that this was perhaps one of the strongest line-ups for any Ozzfest and well worth attending.

As is highly advertised, this was ‘Freefest’ – i.e. the tickets were obtained online for free. Not entirely true as I had to buy Ozzy’s new CD to get ‘preferred’ seating and parking was $20 (!?!), overall I didn’t get as raped as I thought I would by the merch or food vendors. Most t-shirts were $25 and cd’s were around $15 – still a bit high but all things considered I didn’t find any of this to be too objectionable. Beer was still ridiculous (most were $8) but I can’t hold Ozzy responsible for that one.

Anyhow, 15 bands performed and I saw at least part of all acts (hey, I’m just one guy – I had to pee eventually). Also, I’d like to note here that I’m only including the songs that were memorable to me in my reviews but if you’d like complete set lists I recommend sites like ‘Http://www.metalsetlists.com’ for more details. Ok, here is how it broke down to me;

Egypt Central – tough spot being first, but these guys played like pro’s. Very melodic, radio friendly without seeming like profit whores, I was impressed enough to see them again. “You Make Me Sick” stuck out as potential powerhouse hit, in the vein of Papa Roach or Breaking Benjamin. Not an opening act for Nile (which is what I thought when I saw their name) but still very good.

3 Inches of Blood – If Mercyful Fate and Judas Priest merged their sounds, it would be 3 Inches of Blood. Decently rockin’ sextet out of East Vancouver features dual vocalists, dual guitarists and one hum-dinger of a rhythm section. Old School stylings guaranteed to snap your neck! Was an excellent warm-up for the crowd leading into my boys. . .

NILE – Like a sonic bulldozer running amok, Nile stormed the second stage and took no prisoners. Probably the heaviest band at Ozzfest and a great bunch of guys in person, this is death metal at it’s finest. I was overjoyed to hear ‘Sarcophagus’ and ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’ played live again. Great addition to the lineup.

Ankla – Former Puya guitarist Ramon Ortiz’s new project, spanish for ‘Anchor’, is an excellent mixture of metal groove, latin rhythm and powerhouse vocals. Similar in sound as Ill Nino, even down to having a drummer and a percussionist, these guys played a pummelling set with intricate signature changes and driving beats. ‘Sinking’ is a killer tune that it is impossible to sit still through. I dare ya’!

ChthoniC – Much anticipated Taiwainese Black Metal outfit ChthoniC were fairly impressive in their American debut, with a unique version of symphonic metal a la Cradle of Filth (who they will later be touring with) overlayed with more traditional instruments such as the oriental violin. And yeah, sexy Doris on Bass was a plus, although her backing vocals were off key (sound guy?). Their set was tight and featured ‘UNlimited Taiwain’ and the haunting ‘Quasi Putrefaction’ – I’m hoping to catch their full set when they come to Cleveland.

In This Moment – Hollywood’s own In This Moment were a pleasant surprise to me, as I enjoyed their melodic set much more than I originally thought I would. They’ve oft been labeled metalcore but songs ‘Beautiful Tragedy’ and ‘Prayers’ are more radio friendly than one might think for that category. Still, vocalist Maria Brink and company offered up crunchy riffs, catchy beats and throat ripping vocals that easily won me over (and the crowd) as they channeled Kittie, and perhaps a tad of Evanescence, on the second stage.

Daath – Meaning ‘Knowledge’ as represented by the lower half of the Kabalistic Tree of Life, these guys rival later act Behemoth in playing brutal yet purposeful metal that offers thought-provoking lyrics while pulverizing your spinal column! Great guitar wizardry backed by carefully orchestrated keyboards, stabbing vocals and an intense rhythm section made these guys a notch above your typical death/thrash metal outfit.

Devildriver – A last minute replacement for Nick Oliveri and the Mondo Generator, Devildriver is no stranger to Ozzfest stages. Frontman Dez Fafara and company are known for their full-on, heavy as hell assault, and today was no different. Fast paced and relentless, DD can wear an audience out faster than anyone – but not themselves as they tirelessly provoked the crowd into a mosh with excellent fretwork, doberman vocals and an overall amazingly tight performance. I especially enjoyed “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” off the new album.

Behemoth – Long running Polish Black Metallers Behemoth ferociously attacked their set like emissaries of the underworld. Nergal & the boys sounded great, played tight and excepted no excuses for a lame crowd. “Pussies, you think we’re sweating up here for nothing?” he jibbed. Ok, well – it was hot, right? But the foursome seemed undaunted by their environment and like the dark wizards they are, blasted through renditions of ‘As Above, So Below’ & ‘Chant for Eschaton 2000’ which were note-for-note from the recorded versions.

Hatebreed – Clearly one of the crowd favorites for the day, and rightfully so. Hatebreed play infectious, hardcore inspired metal with molten heavy guitar riffs and emotionally charged lyrics. Headbanger’s Ball host/frontman Jamey Jasta is gutteral, tough yet appreciative of his audience – which is rewarded by a huge pit and electricity in the crowd. This is a band that consistently puts on a tremendous show and I’m always glad when I can see them live.

Lordi – Finland’s Monstermen (and woman) arrived in full regalia, with an explosive stage show and an interesting use of props that was entertaining and fun to rock along with. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Lordi and cohorts suffered from a bad sound mix as several songs lacked the heaviness that is evident on the album. They opened with ‘Bringing Back the Balls to Rock’ and also played (among others) ‘The Devil is a Loser’, ‘Would You Love a Monsterman’ & ‘Who’s Your Daddy”, eventually closing (after keyboardist Awa played hard to get with the crowd’s applause) with the Eurovision winning “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. Sadly, no “It Snows in Hell” but all in all still a good set.

Static X – Wayne Static and the boys played heavy and played loud – just like we like it! All the favorites were covered including ‘Push it’, ‘I’m With Stupid’ & ‘Bled for Days’ plus new songs ‘Cannibal’ and ‘Destroyer’. It was good to see these guys haven’t mellowed any and the crowd really got into them. And they still did shots on stage – respectfully brought out to them by scantily clad hotties!

Lamb of God – Strongest crowd reaction (besides Hatebreed) went to the guys from Richmond, VA who played an excellently brutal and heavy set including favorites “Walk With Me in Hell” and “Redneck”. Vocalist Randy Blythe nearly triggered a riot by prodding the lawn into full participation, which translated into what my wife called “Ballet of the Bottles” – widespread lobbing of plastic water bottles such as I’ve never seen. And of course, I had to run out to the lawn to investigate first hand! Meanwhile, Lamb was tight, tirelessly pummelling the crowd until most just of us fell limp and watched them finish out their set through our sweat stained eyes.

And finally, Ozzy! As with many Ozzfest’s before, a short film served as intro featuring Ozzy juxtaposed into familiar scenes from shows like the Sopranos (Ozzy as the psychiatrist Dr. Melfi), Lost (as Locke’s Father) and Dancing with the Stars (with partner Heather Mills) as well as the infamous nude wrestling scene from the movie ‘Borat’. Hope Ozzy had a stunt double for that one! The Prince of Darkness then opened to ‘Bark at the Moon’, looking spry and energetic – oh good, no riot this year!

I had to leave midway through his set but did get to hear ‘Mr. Crowley’ (with live keyboardist Adam Wakeman playing the intro!), “War Pigs”, “Not Going Away” & “Road to Nowhere”. Zakk Wylde was firing off a blistering solo to ‘Suicide Solution’ when I unfortunately had to head for home.

As for the day as a whole, in my opinion, – I absolutely got more than my money’s worth. A good mix of different bands and different musical styles, all played with fire and the enthusiasm you hope to see in a show. Well done, Ozzy & Sharon!