Heavy Metal Overload: 2017 edition of ‘Ozzfest Meets Knotfest’ rocks San Bernardino with Eclectic Lineup

As great as Kreator were and always are, I had to leave their set midway through because it was essential to get to the main stage area in time for the start of the first band, Orange Goblin, coming all the way from the UK to make a rare one-off US festival appearance. It is quite amazing to think that this band which has been around since ’94 and has 8 excellent albums to their name, isn’t very well-known in the United States, and going by the general consensus here at Ozzfest, hardly anyone knew who they were. But that’s exactly what made this a fruitful appearance for Orange Goblin. Despite competing with the tried-and-tested Kreator who took away a good chunk of the audience that would have otherwise been in front of the main stage, Orange Goblin still managed to play to a sizable crowd, and riff upon riff, laid down a fantastic set of ultra-heavy stoner/biker rock, led by the booming vocals and towering stage presence of Ben Ward and well supported by his band mates. The Orange Goblin songs ‘Red Tide Rising’ and ‘The Filthy & The Few’ were among the finest musical moments of the entire weekend, and Ozzfest/Knotfest really exceeded all expectations by putting a band like this on the main stage.

Orange Goblin photos:

By now, everyone’s sole focus was on the main stage, and next were Finnish melodic death metal giants Children Of Bodom. The band is currently on their ’20 Years Down & Dirty’ touring run, celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their full-length debut ‘Something Wild’, and in keeping with that theme, played rarities from that album as well as from the second album ‘Hatebreeder’, and sticking to just the first four albums for the entire set. For a lot of longtime Bodom fans it was nostalgia overload, as this old-school set reminded folks of the early years and the first time they started listening to this band. Children Of Bodom has been a highly active touring band in North America, perhaps a bit too active, and one gets the feeling that they needed to bring back the old songs to reignite that spark as a live band, for themselves and for their fans. It seems to have worked at Ozzfest, and their ongoing North American headline tour looks set to be well-received everywhere it goes.

Children Of Bodom photos:

If you’re still reading, you have read about bands that are good in the festival setting, and bands that aren’t. Deftones most certainly fall in the latter category, because unless you’re already a fan who grew up with their music, you would find it hard and next to impossible to appreciate Deftones as a live band and become a fan from it. The lines for merch, food, drinks and restrooms were quite long during the Deftones set, which was an obvious indicator of the fact that many people had bailed on the band’s hour-long set early on or mid-way. With very little in the name of stage production or visual elements, with their music alone the Deftones didn’t quite succeed in holding this audience’s attention.

Deftones photos:

Prophets Of Rage, the supergroup featuring members of Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, was the main support act on the big stage. Now, in contrast to the Deftones, this is a great choice as a festival band, because a lot of attendees here wouldn’t necessarily pay to go see a Prophets Of Rage headline show, but the band plays songs that were once household staples. Their set mainly comprised of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill covers, with a few originals thrown in the mix, and a special tribute to Chris Cornell with the instrumental Audioslave number ‘Like a Stone’. Rap rock/metal used to be huge in America in the ’90s and early 2000s, and Prophets Of Rage is certainly a throwback to that era, as nostalgia once again reigned supreme in this amphitheater and the crowd was bouncing to their favorite childhood jams. It was a treat watching Tom Morello, and for those that don’t go to rap concerts, it was undeniably entertaining to experience the duo of Chuck D and B-Real, who were daring enough to lay into what was a straight-up classic hip hop breakdown, even in front of an Ozzfest crowd. Prophets Of Rage’s politically charged rap rock, while not for everyone, was worthy of the main support slot, and made for an interesting prelude to the headline act.

Prophets Of Rage photos:

Prophets Of Rage set list:
01. Prophets of Rage (Public Enemy cover)
02. Testify (Rage Against the Machine cover)
03. Take the Power Back (Rage Against the Machine cover)
04. Guerrilla Radio (Rage Against the Machine cover)
05. Living on the 110
06. Hail to the Chief
07. Bullet in the Head (Rage Against the Machine cover)
08. Hand on the Pump / Can’t Truss It / Insane in the Brain / Bring the Noise / Jump Around
09. Sleep Now in the Fire (Rage Against the Machine cover)
10. Like a Stone (Audioslave cover)
11. Unfuck The World
12. How I Could Just Kill a Man (Cypress Hill cover)
13. Bulls on Parade (Rage Against the Machine cover)
14. Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine cover)

And lastly at 9:30, Ozzy Osbourne took the stage, wasting no time in delving into the hits and crowd favorites. A lot of people had never seen Ozzy’s solo band live, or hadn’t done so in a long time, and hardly anyone could have complained about a set that started with ‘Bark at the Moon’, ‘Mr. Crowley’, ‘I Don’t Know’ and ‘Fairies Wear Boots’. As a metalhead it is quite impossible to not love those songs, and as expected, the audience was loving every moment of this performance. Ozzy’s voice was holding up rather well through this part of the set, but it started cracking, and he was noticeably struggling through ‘War Pigs’. It was a worrying sign at first, but a long guitar solo and drum solo later, by the time he came back out on stage his voice seemed to be in much better shape, and he finished the show without any problems. It is no secret that Ozzy’s voice is not at its finest at the age of 68, and performs the songs in a lower tuning nowadays. But, the fact is, while most other bands would get crucified for such flaws, these things do not really matter to those going to an Ozzy show, as evident from the reaction of this crowd. Getting to see Ozzy is such a treat in itself, and his show is such a fun concert experience, metalheads in attendance were definitely glad that he is bringing back his solo band after the retirement of Black Sabbath.

Ozzy Osbourne with Zakk Wylde

Besides the mainman’s own efforts, his rhythm section of Blasko on bass and Tommy Clufetos on drums did a mighty fine job as well. But of course, the big news pertaining to the Ozzy band this year was the return of Zakk Wylde on guitar, and for many it was another reason to attend this show, as this was Wylde’s big comeback gig with Ozzy. It was my first time seeing Zakk Wylde as guitarist in Ozzy’s band, and in all honesty, I was indifferent towards the change. On the one hand, his guitar tone does not do justice to that of Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee or Tony Iommi, and his 10-15 solo jack-off sessions are excruciatingly painful to watch and listen to. But on the other hand, this is to be expected from Zakk Wylde, it’s what his fans love, and it came as no surprise. An Ozzy show is all about Ozzy and the guitar player does not make much of a difference, but sure enough, the songs that Zakk Wylde actually recorded with Ozzy sounded the best live in this show, with ‘No More Tears’ standing out as the highlight of the entire set. As expected, the show ended with ‘Crazy Train’ and ‘Paranoid’. All in all, a fun-filled performance by the Ozzman, and the perfect way to end a full day of metal.

Ozzy set list:
01. Bark at the Moon
02. Mr. Crowley
03. I Don’t Know
04. Fairies Wear Boots
05. Suicide Solution
06. War Pigs
07. Drum Solo
08. Iron Man
09. Shot in the Dark
10. No More Tears
11. I Don’t Want to Change the World
12. Crazy Train
13. Paranoid

In conclusion, Ozzfest was a total blast from start to finish, and delivered quite a lot more than what was expected of it.

Check out Page 4 for review and photo coverage of the Knotfest festival stages …