Words & Photos by James Alvarez
2016’s Ozzfest meets Knotfest was a rousing, headbanging success. The two metal camps decided to join forces again in 2017, for another mosh filled weekend in the Southern California desert. Day 1 belonged to metal icon, Ozzy Osbourne and his namesake festival, the mighty Ozzfest. Four stages, a zillion bands and 12 hours of heavy friggin metal on a delightfully brisk Fall day.
The festivities started early on Saturday, with the underground, extreme metal bands setting the side stages ablaze beginning at 11:00am. The cooler temperature in the usually grueling Southern California heat meant attendees had more energy for moshing…and mosh they did. By the time we arrived in the midst of Suffocation and 1349’s equally pummeling sets, the friendly violent fun/tradition of Ozzfest dust storms was already well underway.
New York’s heaviest sons, Suffocation brought their A-game for Ozzfest; along with their original singer, Frank Mullen! Mullen’s death metal roar is nothing short of iconic. Their touring growler, Mr. Kevin Muller, is a beast of a vocalist, but there’s something special about watching Frank back in action with the gang.
Iron Reagan’s infectious crossover thrash anthems got the afternoon crowd nice and frenzied. Bodies began flying over the second stage barricade right away, as if Iron Reagan’s fist pumping punk/metal jams were tailor made for such hi-jinks. This author had been waiting to hear “Fuck The Neighbors” live since the beginning of the year and was thoroughly pleased with the results.
High On Fire bought their monster riffs, and apparently everyone from Ozzfest’s backstage area; to the heart of the second stage. Matt Pike’s dizzying riff prowess, coupled with Des Kensel’s pummeling drums and Jeff Matz’ monstrous bass makes High On Fire one of the most mind boggling power trio’s in metal. It’s no wonder that half of the Ozzfest lineup stood watching in awe during their set.
Baroness’ set was as close to a rock ‘n’ roll sing-along as you’re gonna get a raucous metal fest. Listening to the audience lose their minds/voices during “March To The Sea” was one of the highlights of the entire day. John Baizley and new guitarist Gina Gleason’s vocals mesh so well, they’re about as haunting as their song’s insane guitar harmonies.
Kreator closed out the second stage shenanigans in grand fashion. Germany’s wildest thrash legends got the absolute craziest crowd response. At times it was difficult hearing Kreator ringleader Millie Petrozza over the chanting crowd. The band’s crushing thrash metal bangers kicked up more dust and sent more bodies flying through the air than any other act of the day.
Children of Bodom had hijacked the mainstage by the time we hiked across the Ozzfest grounds. Their high octane and ridiculously precise shred attack helped unite the massive crowd gathering in front of the big stage. It takes a certain prowess to maintain the energy established by the wild ass extreme metal bands down in the second stage field on the gargantuan setting that is the Glen Helen Amphitheater; and Bodom definitely were that band.
Deftones kept the day’s frenzied pace going. The crowd stayed on their feet throughout the duration of their set, trying their best to match Chino Moreno’s exhausting energy. The dude can scream/croon/leap around like a madman; like no other. It’s no secret that Deftones’ songs have a certain primal, buoyant energy to them. Throw thousands of hyped up people into the mix and you’ve got a mini earthquake on your hands when that many feet leave the ground during “Rocket Skates” or “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).”
Prophets of Rage, the ‘is this real life?’ supergroup featuring members of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, established themselves as the holy shit band of the night. Given the, uh…volatile, political climate of America 2017, watching Prophets of Rage do their thing onstage was cathartic, inspiring, and surreal all at once. A band fronted by two legendary rappers still wound up being one of the heaviest, lose your goddamn mind while stomping the pavement, bands of the entire festival. “Take The Power Back” and “Bulls On Parade” FOREVER.
Ozzy Osbourne closed the night. Back with his solo band — featuring the mighty Zakk Wylde — Ozzy played his heart out on what may well be one of his final Southern California dates, ever. It’s fitting that Ozzy ending things, it’s friggen OZZFEST after all. From the opening notes of “Bark At The Moon” it was apparent that despite all the rad side dishes that had been served up since 11am, Ozzy was in fact the main course that the rabid, Ozzfest crowd came to see.
Can Ozzfest survive without Ozzy or Black Sabbath leading the charge next year? Well, Knotfest went on without Slipknot the very next day and was killer; so yeah probably. But how amazing is it to watch Zakk Wylde shred the hell out of “Mr. Crowley” before passing out from a full day’s worth of metal stimulus? That sort of thing/festival experience is priceless.
Ozzfest 2017 Fans