June 4, 2002
Ozzfest : Castle Donington Park
Rain. Mud. Metal...
Rain. Mud. Metal. This year, Ozzfest returned to the spiritual heartland of rock - Castle Donington Park - and all the constituent parts were firmly in place. It rained. Then it hailed. Then it rained some more, just for good measure. No-one was able to walk anywhere through the sludge, pasty-faced cabaret satanists Cradle Of Filth were drowned out by a thunderstorm and the bar queues were positively diabolical. Yet among all this, NME's writers bruised their ribs on the barriers watching the heaviest, weirdest and most downright thrilling bands in modern metal. Oh, and OTEP.....
American Head Charge
Second Stage, 5.40
There are two schools of thought on Minneapolis' favourite bunch of gun-lovin' satanists, American Head Charge. One says that they are rightful heirs to practically every classic metal band going. We, however, hear uber-goth piano interludes and songs about colostomy bags and decide to pitch them somewhere shitty between Disturbed and Bloodhound Gang. Gruesome stuff.
Main Stage, 1.00
No fucking around here: Dallas foursome Drowning Pool peddle the sort of thuggish minor-chord metal tailor-made for the pit. 'Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!' growls tattooed frontman Dave Williams on furious moshpit anthem 'Bodies' - the group's grimy defining moment.
Hell Is For Heroes
Second Stage, 4.10
Despite the scattering of bottles flung stageward, Hell Is For Heroesare a surprise hit. 'Night Vision' and 'You Drove Me To It' are propulsive, cathartic emo, while frontman Justin Schlosberg is a believably intense presence.
Second Stage, 8.00
With Ozzy Osbournelimbering up outside, you'd think Hundred Reasons would be clear losers in this game of split loyalties. Behold, though, what is surely their most spectacular gig to date. The thunderous 'I'll Find You' sees them creating their own history from the ground up, frontman Colin Doran hurtling across the stage like a squirrel in a catapult as that ascending guitar riff spirals ever-higher. Come the triumphant, transcendent 'Falter', it's clear that Hundred Reasons have succeeded in so many ways. They've squared up against the Ozzy Osbourne and got out alive; they've brought the sound of post-hardcore hurtling into the mainstream. Hell, they're beginning to sound like the best homegrown rock band we've got.
Second Stage, 7.10
As South American metal champs Ill Nino take to the stage, security decide that the second stage is dangerously full, and block the entrance. Twenty minutes later, the crowd outside has swollen to several hundred - and as Nino's Latin-tinged hardcore fusion roars away in the background, people up front are getting crushed against the crash fence. Finally a mighty surge of disgruntled punters break through the barrier. We catch two songs in the melee, which broil and froth like Sepultura thrown to the piranhas. Phew - it was worth it.
Second Stage, 6.25
It's hard to ignore Kittie's gender when they constitute exactly three-quarters of the women on the entire Ozzfest bill. Morgan Lander responds, excellently, by bellowing like Ian Paisley undergoing throat surgery. Possibly the least explored aspect of the Canadian quartet is their covert prog tendencies; aside from the more direct likes of 'Spit' and 'Charlotte' there's some epic tangents into pastures of eerie quietness which succeed as often as they fail.
Main Stage, 3.40
Today they share a stage with Cradle Of Filth and Slayer, while next week they'll be playing with 'Pop Idol' finalists and Atomic Kitten at a charity concert. Hives are playing the dangerous, near-impossible game of keeping their cred while at the same time trying to be popstars. If they're going to pull it off they have a lot of work to do, mind, because while there's no denying their stage presence or energy, singer Ian Watkins' anaemic yelp makes Gareth Gates seem like Luciano Pavarotti. During today's patchy set, a large section of the crowd turn their attentions to a group of scantily-clad girls engaging in a mud fight. It's infinitely more entertaining than watching the band.
Main Stage, 1.45
A peculiar anomaly on today's singularly heavy main stage bill, Swedish punk veterans Millencolin thrash out the sort of tidy SoCal hardcore that soundtracks films of young men falling off skateboards and pushing their femurs out through their kneecaps. They're old enough to be Rammstein' dads, though. That's not very cool.
Second Stage, 3.25
It takes a brave band to accuse Slipknot of ripping you off. Cleveland's Mushroomhead are that band. Mightily heavy, they fuse the camp theatrics of Marilyn Manson to the industrial grind of Ozzy Osbourne. And with those gasmasks, they might just do for fireman what Slipknot did for the circus clown.
Second Stage, 1.55
Cruelly nicknamed 'Nopoint' by the old school metal contingent, this good-looking, big-shorted Miami four-piece are Incubus plus bite and minus songs. Dreadlocked singer Elias Soriano could be a model or a boyband frontman but instead chooses to spend his time barking like a dog and encouraging his fans to fuck society by raising their middle fingers to everything. For that, he must be applauded.
Second Stage, 2.40
With her dungarees and cute blue bandana, Otep's singer Otep looks like Slayer's Suzanne Shaw's little sister but sings more like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Not in a good way, either. As pretentious an act as have ever existed, Otep yelps nonsensical ramblings about earth mothers and pyramids while her band play the trademarked Korn riff for 25 minutes. Truly, truly awful.
System Of A Down
Main Stage, 8.45
Now more famous for being a lovable television personality than an alcoholic drughead who once tried to strangle his wife, [/a]is proof of just how short the general public's memory can be. Sure, all the Black Sabbath stuff was awesome and his first two solos albums ('Blizzard Of Oz' and 'Diary Of A Madman') were pretty good, but everything he's recorded since then has been shit. 'No More Tears'? How is that good? Why are you all clapping it? We love [a]when he runs round the stage like he's had an accident in his pants (he probably has) and throws water on us and tells us all to go 'totally fucken croizy' but tonight his set is full of too much mediocre back catalogue to be a fitting end to today's mayhem.
Second Stage, 12.25
Skindred are an excellent fusion of entities. On 'Set It Off' and 'Babylon' they mine a groove akin to POD, only without the pervading fear that you're about to be instructed to bomb abortion clinics. In short, they're one of the best new rock bands in Britain. Go see.
Main Stage, 4.40
Slayer are Ozzfest's heaviest by about 16 tonnes. Reunited today with original drummer Dave Lombardo, they keep their newer material to a minimum and fill most of their set with classics. 'Angel Of Death', 'Raining Blood', 'South Of Heaven' - the riffs still sound as evil as they day they were
Next to Tool, the rain-hat stall and the tracksuited men standing near the toilets selling pills, [a]are today's most popular attraction. Beloved of metallers, punks, experimental jazz heads and Armenian folk music aficionados alike, rock's strangest band pull out all the stops today and play with 50ft tall banks of strobe lights going off throughout the whole of their set. At one point guitarist Daron Malakian spins round on one foot for a full minute until blood starts to seep out of his left ear. He doesn't even fall over.
Main Stage, 7.15
NME trumpeted Tool for Satanists" recently, but live these crashing soundscapes are more akin to anonymous Canadian post-rock types Godspeed You Black Emperor! There's little to see onstage beyond squat, leather-clad frontman Maynard James Keenan's contortions, so the thrill derives from the whirling, psychedelic videos and the exceptional music these men fashion. 'Aenima''s summoning of apocalyptic visions is just stunning, if blunted thanks to the awful sound, while 'Schism' and 'Ticks & Leeches' brood spectacularly.
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