Two days in hell never sounded so good, thanks to Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Disturbed, Slayer and dozens more.
This year the two most ass-kicking metal festivals in the country, Ozzfest & Knotfest, joined forces to become Ozzfest Meets Knotfest, one bloody massacre of the auditory and visual senses. Tucked away in the typically quiet mountains of San Bernadino, California, the San Manuel Amphitheatre was anything but quiet the weekend of September 24-25. The Gods of metal were smiling down on the venue as they kicked up one helluva a windstorm to accompany the occasion known to us as Ozzfest Meets Knotfest.
The festival started off with Ozzfest on Saturday with Black Sabbath headlining what would be their final show ever in the State of California. The Godfathers of metal wasted no time in melting the faces of their eagerly awaiting congregation starting off the set with “Black Sabbath.” Ozzy Osbourne, despite having a nagging cold, was in pitch perfect throughout the setlist as he anointed the crowd with his brand of dark showmanship. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were legendary in their stoic demeanor as they ripped out the iconic grooves. This was in complete contrast to drummer Tommy Clufetos as he assaulted his set with a with a fervor that can only be matched by a bare knuckles match.
Disturbed took the stage before Sabbath and whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a laundry list of hits. Bassist John Moyer was a sight to see as he jumped around their stage donned with full pyrotechnics, while charismatic frontman David Draiman powered through hits like “Stupify,” “Down With The Sickness” and “Indestructible.” Another crowd favorite is when Draiman slowed it down several notches to perform their version of the Simon & Garfunkle hit “The Sound of Silence.”
Megadeth put on a metal clinic with as legendary frontman growled through hits like “In My Darkest Hour” and “Sweating Bullets.” It was a beautiful thing to watch as the two guitar virtuosos, Mustaine and Kiko Loureiro, trade off on ripping solos. After a funny story about how the song drunkenly came about Mustaine tore into their final song, “Holy Wars,” leaving the fans bellowing for more.
Black Label Society had heads banging as they ripped through favorites like “Bleed For Me” and “Heart Of Darkness.” Frontman Zakk Wylde also led the band into a touching tribute to friend and former Pantera axeman, Dimebag Darrell. Wylde pointed to the sky as he softly said, “we love you, Darrell,” leaving the audience silent with devil horns high in the air.
Another major highlight of the day was Rival Sons. Jay Buchanan was a powerhouse on the vocals while the rest of the crew played behind him with complete soulful precision. Thoroughly enjoyed this set… it was evident to see why they are touring in support of Sabbath in their final “The End” tour.
The second day started with a bang when progressive metal band Oni took the Nuclear Blast Stage with full force. Lead vocalist Jake Oni prowled around the stage, staring down his audience like a caged lion throughout the set. He growled ominously through their first two songs before being joined by Lamb Of God frontman, Randy Blythe during their song “The Only Cure.” Expect to hear lots from this well-oiled, hard driving metal group out of Ontario, Canada.
The electricity continued into the noon hour as Butcher Babies took the Rockstar Energy Drink stage accompanied by a fire breather who stared crazily out at the audience before he torched the sky with flames throughout the song “Monsters Ball.” Both Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey commanded the madness in the crowd like well-oiled pros. Crowd surfing ran amuck throughout the charged set, with Shepherd joining in the debauchery at one point.
Later that evening Motionless In White opened up the Lemmy Stage like crazed lunatics offering their songs “Death March” and their new track “570.” Trivium took the stage next. Fists were pumping high as they offered up such highlights as “Strife” and “In Waves.”
After a long delay during soundcheck, Anthrax finally was able to take the stage. The band wasted no time in ramping up the adrenaline with “Caught In A Mosh” and “Antisocial” in what turned out to be a severely shortened set (due to the delays). Quality was clearly over quantity with their set as the crowd ate up every one of their five songs that they were able to deliver. Vocalist Joey Belladonna asked the crowd for a war dance going into the song “Indians,” and that’s just what he got as the crowd broke out in what was one of the craziest mosh pits of the weekend.
Amon Amarth went to battle next on the Lemmy Stage and put on one of the most memorable performances of the weekend. Complete with a fire-breathing Viking battleship on stage, this death metal band out of Sweden was ready for war with the San Bernadino crowd. Lead vocalist Johan Hegg was a complete enigma as he prowled around the stage, thrusting his fist in the air as he growled his lyrics.
The excitement was palpable as Slayer was getting set to take the stage. Chants of “Slayer, Slayer..” were ringing through the crowd as sound check was going on. And when Kerry King, Tom Araya, Gary Holt, and Paul Bostaph took the stage they didn’t disappoint. Bodies were flying as they blew through new tracks “Repentless” and “You Against You.” Later in the set, they served up a couple of personal favorites, “South Of Heaven” and “Reigning Blood.”
The final act of the night, the one and only, Slipknot. This band has come a long way since their days of playing the local bar scene in the middle of their home state of Iowa. But that’s just what they had in store for the evening. Corey Taylor announced that for the first time they would be playing the whole Iowa album in its entirety live.
The set began with the ethereal sounds of the pre-show song “Dreamweaver” by Gary Wright. The dreamy synth sounds continued for several minutes having an eery lulling effect on the crowd. But when the curtains opened up, all hell broke loose. The masked metallers busted out into the hellish tune “People = S-t.” And the madness continued as they served up more favorites “Disasterpiece” and “The Heretic Anthem.”
Both audibly and visually, Slipknot’s show Slipknot was untouchable. At one point they had the stage, despite the 90+ degree weather in the San Fernando Valley, snowing, creating a visually stunning effect.
Altogether, Ozzfest Meets Knotfest was an unforgettable weekend of metal, circus freaks, monster trucks, and more blistering metal. With mind-blowing performances from Slipknot, Slayer, Amon Amarth, Rival Sons, as well as Black Sabbath’s final performance in the state of California, this was no doubt a festival that fans will talk about for some time to come.
by Matt Stasi / Photos by Matt Stasi