Day #2 (Saturday 11/4): Ozzfest (review by Andrew Bansal)
This year’s Ozzfest lineup was quite possibly the best this festival has ever offered, and compelled a lot of people to buy tickets as soon as it was announced. Gates opened as early as 10 AM, and metalheads flooded into the Glen Helen festival ground to catch the action early on, and wisely so, as the early bands on the smaller stages made this event worth attending more than some of the main stage acts.
Los Angeles metal band Thrown Into Exile opened proceedings at 11 AM on Second Stage B. For these guys, Ozzfest has been no less than a pilgrimage for many years, and it was clearly their dream come true to actually play it. They could barely contain their excitement, but did not get overawed by the occasion and impressed the crowd enough to instigate a sizable dust storm in the mosh pit. A lively set to start up a long day of heavy music.
Thrown Into Exile photos:
Bands were alternating between Second Stage A and B, which were placed right next to each other, and it meant there was no stoppage in live music. As soon as one band was done, the next band was ready to start on the adjoining stage.
First on Second Stage A was Ventura, California traditional metal trio Night Demon. Having toiled hard and non-stop in the old-school metal underground for about four years, this was an opportunity they well and truly deserved, and they made quite a long-lasting impression on every single person who witnessed their high-energy yet rock-solid performance. They put on a nearly flawless exhibition of righteous traditional metal, but for making the mistake of running a 90-second intro sample for their second-to-last song, ‘The Chalice’. Night Demon fans are very familiar with this intro as a precursor to this song, but a large portion of this festival crowd wasn’t, and the band lost half its audience as people started dispersing under the impression that the set was finished, even though it had two more songs left. Aside from that, this was undoubtedly one of the finest performances of this entire weekend, so much so that it was extremely hard to appreciate the next couple of bands that followed Night Demon.
Night Demon photos:
Going from Night Demon to Tombs on Second Stage B was quite a contrasting shift, to say the least. The Brooklyn NY extreme metal group has put out some excellent music and always played great shows in the LA area. This was more of a chance for them to play in front of a whole new audience, and in that endeavor they succeeded, getting a mostly positive response. Outdoors at 12:30 PM in San Bernardino, California might not be the best setting for the dark musical expression of Tombs, but it was a powerful performance nonetheless.
The small-stage action wasn’t just limited to Second Stage A and B, as the most extreme bands were presented on the smallest stage of them all, the Nuclear Blast Extreme Stage, located at a safe distance from the Second Stage A/B area but within the proximity of a 5-minute walk.
First on the NB Extreme Stage on Saturday was Northern California tech death/deathcore group Rings Of Saturn, starting this stage off at 11:45 AM but still playing to a large audience, which only proved the rapid progress they’ve made as a band in recent years, attracting such a crowd so early in the day, even with bands playing on other stages at the same time. The festival crowd had its fair share of modern metal fans and they certainly turned up to support Rings Of Saturn as the band played a fierce set.
Rings Of Saturn photos:
Next on Second Stage A, Los Angeles trio Kyng instigated some heavy early afternoon head-banging with their simple yet masterfully executed style of musicianship, filled to the brim with memorable vocal harmonies, crushing riffs and crafty rhythmic fills. Any amount of praise heaped upon this incredible band is insufficient, and only a firsthand Kyng concert experience can truly give you an idea of Kyng’s greatness. Ozzfest was blessed, enhanced and enriched by the participation and performance of Kyng.
Over on the NB Extreme Stage, San Francisco Bay Area death metal band Fallujah turned things up a notch or two, and was another main attraction for modern metal fans in attendance. They did not let any of their fans down, and made quite a few new ones with their furious 30-minute set.
Over on Second Stage B, Denver thrashers Havok intensified the dust storm and mosh pits in the festival ground with their fast-paced tunes. Havok has been a staple in the modern-day American thrash metal scene for a few years now, and their legion of dedicated fans loved every moment of this set.
One of the most memorable sets of the day and absolutely one of the highlights of the entire weekend was Suffocation on the NB Extreme Stage. The sight of original vocalist Frank Mullen on stage was enough to get the audience excited, because it has been a rare one in recent years. Due to other commitments in his personal life, Mullen has stopped touring with Suffocation and the band has carried on with fill-in vocalists, while Mullen still performs whenever he can. It definitely served the band and its fans best to have him available for this Ozzfest appearance, and as soon as they began their set, it was total carnage, mayhem, chaos and destruction, as mosh pits were at their most intense and crowd surfers charged forth at high speed and frequency. For Frank Mullen, dominating this stage and audience was like riding a bicycle and he seemed to pull it off with effortless ease, dusting off the classic hand-chop which many in the crowd happily imitated. This was by far the greatest death metal performance Southern California has seen since the last time Suffocation played here with Frank Mullen, which, with all due respect to the other vocalists who have stepped in, goes to prove just how indispensable Mullen is to Suffocation. That said, witnessing current touring vocalist Kevin Muller join Frank Mullen on stage for a song was indeed the sweetest moment of this otherwise brutal set. If you attended this fest, we sure hope you caught this Suffocation set which by itself was worth the admission price.
The magnitude and magnificence of the Suffocation set made it impossible to walk away from the NB Extreme Stage, which meant I had to miss 1349 on Second Stage A, as did a lot of other people, but here are some photos of them regardless:
Next on Second Stage B, Richmond, Virginia’s Iron Reagan charged up the crowd with their brand of high-octane crossover thrash, performed at the highest energy levels by the band which includes in its ranks members of Municipal Waste. Vocalist Tony Foresta is the perfect frontman to command a festival crowd, because good banter is hard to find, and Foresta is an expert at it. With his witty banter alone he drew the audience towards the band, and with his vocal performance and that of his band mates on their instruments, Iron Reagan compelled the crowd to stay for the full set, no mean feat at a festival such as this.
Iron Reagan photos:
Closing out the NB Extreme Stage was Possessed, a highly influential band that has been around for more than 3 decades and has been put on the pedestal of legendary status by many in the metal community. At one point during the set, iconic frontman Jeff Becerra remarked how cool it was for an underground band like Possessed to play a mainstream festival like Ozzfest, but the band’s underground fan-base was present in large numbers here and their excitement was palpable throughout the set. Ozzfest certainly surprised many by including a band like Possessed on the lineup, but it was fitting to have them close the smallest, liveliest, most extreme stage.
Whether it be as a headliner, a support act on a touring package, or a festival band, High On Fire always stamps their authority as the most gloriously boring band on the planet, and their Ozzfest appearance was no different in that regard, as one could feel the entire audience collectively falling asleep during their set on Second Stage A. After non-stop action from 11 AM onwards, there was perhaps a need for a boring band to give everyone a chance to take a breather, get some food and drinks, buy some merch, use the restroom, etc. Everything happens for a reason, as they say, we should thank the fest for putting on High On Fire in the absolute perfect time slot to allow us a much-needed break.
High On Fire photos:
Last on Second Stage B was Savannah, Georgia stoner rock group Baroness. While not quite everyone’s cup of tea in this setting, here’s a band that’s not afraid to take risks even at a mainstream metal festival, playing their full assortment of fast-paced rockers, mid-paced jams, the slow burners and the ballads. This band has come a long way since their humble beginnings and is rightly and deservedly performing in front of huge audiences in the year 2017. This set of theirs comprised heavily of tunes from the latest ‘Purple’ album and rightly so. Most people in the audience were captivated by the brilliance of Baroness, who exceeded even their most diehard fans’ expectations.
One could not have picked a better band to close festival ground activities for the day than German thrash titans Kreator, who began their set promptly at 3:45. Frontman Mille Petrozza did his absolute best to get the crowd excited, and succeeded for the most part as the mosh pits gained speed and various objects like shoes, hats, drink cups, beer cans and even rolls of toilet paper were tossed skywards. Very few bands, if any, can match the violence that accompanies a Kreator show, and this set was further proof of that. Even after a whole day of excellent bands that took a lot out of attendees, Kreator extracted whatever was left, and successfully raised the flag of hate in San Bernardino.
Check out Page 3 for review and photo coverage of the Ozzfest main stage …