At the start of the Ozzfest, things don’t look good for the so-called Godfather of Metal. Everyone I speak to seems to be here to watch other bands, especially the Lostprophets. Everyone has respect for Ozzy, but it seems they aren’t fans of his music. And nobody’s a fan of the huge fucking barrier built 50 yards back from the stage allowing the first 4000 people to have a privilged close view. This ferments dischord which always threatens to, but never does, turn to violence. Things start with Ozzy’s guitarist Zack Wylde, and his Black Label Society who keeps the old metal fans happy, but seems a bit stale now. Next up are the Mad Capsule Markets who live up to their mental reputation. Live, they’re quality, but early afternoon is definitely not the time to be watching them and Japanese sonic noise isn’t for this crowd. Drowning Pool aren’t particularly good, but to the nu-metal kids they’re like a latter-day Nirvana, and receive a corresponding amount of applause. Millencolin are not as good as they can be. On a big stage they seem lost and the metal crowd don’t seem to appreciate the skate-punk sound anyway.
T-shirt factory Cradle of Filth are aware there’s only a minority here to watch them. With this in mind they set out to entertain, swearing profusely between songs, taunting the editors for various ‘live’ broadcasts with a constant barrage of ‘fucks’ and ‘c**ts’. Punishment for this comes from the heavens, as a half hour of ferocious hail rains down, forcing the goths to cower and protect their makeup. Eventually though they finish, and the crowd retreat to do their makeup. They are replaced by an army of nu-metal skater kids to watch the lostprophets, who everyone really should have seen by now. They dissappoint badly on the large stage, and the sound quality is wildly off. Coupled to this, they start ‘thefakesoundofprogress’ wrongly, and only a blinding rendition of ‘shinobivsdragonninja’ saves them. However, their fans couldn’t care less and there’s plenty of pogoing and cheering. The Lostprophets fans that stick around for Slayer are in for a big surprise.
Earsplittingly loud thrash metal from the band that defined the genre, this is the sound of guitars doing air strikes. Tom Araya can’t keep the grin from his face in between songs, and the band are obviously having a riot over here. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman are pretty static, but the music more than makes up for it. ‘Angel of Death’ and the new ‘God Hates Us All’ are predictably well-received, but it’s ‘Stain of Mind’ with its twin guitar assault that takes the crown for best performance. With the crowd already worked up into a frenzy, plenty of the nu-metal kids flock back for System of a Down. The opening ‘Ariels’, their latest single, is about the lightest track here. It’s after ‘Prison Song’ that everything loses control again. Serj Tankian looks and acts like a bizarre hippy, but it’s guitarist Daron Malakian who steals the show, introducing songs, charging around the stage and working up the crowd. ‘Chop Suey’ sends the crowd into the most psychopathic moshpit here today, and is followed by the equally high-energy ‘Bounce’ which is frankly irresponsible. It’s also fucking great.
System are now without peers in the metal world, and there’s only one other band around near them. They’re on next. Tool are as good as System but on a different path. This is slow and heavy music. It calms things down nicely from the energy of Slayer and System. The stage show, excellent as ever, features images ranging from mildly disturbing to very disturbing. It’s also different from the videos, which is a good bonus. However, Maynard Keenan might as well be invisible from this distance. The sound quality is equally fantastic, the bass on ‘Aenima’ causing a ripple of discomfort in the crowd. It’s a shame to see them leave, but it’s acceptable as on comes Ozzy.
He warms everyone up with a short video clip, then leaps into song. He has Zack Wylde with him and Mike Bordin on drums. He’s obviously delighted to be here at Donington, and launches into ‘War Pigs’ early on, and it’s quickly apparent there’s enough people in the crowd to carry it, unlike previous performances. He throws in ‘Iron Man’ as well, from his Sabbath days, but the majority is mid-era solo career. ‘Bark at the moon’ and ‘Suicide Solution’ are highlights, along with ‘Demon Alcohol’. He doesn’t bother with his latest single ‘Dreamer’, though it plays as we leave, after the fantastic closing rendition of ‘Paranoid’. Throughout Ozzy leaps about like a teenager, and berates the crowd for not chanting loud enough. We all shout as loud as we fucking can in response. People may not be here to see him, but they’ll be fucking glad they did. He is truly the Godfather of Metal.