Ozzfest/ Knotfest at Glen Helen Amphitheater, San Bernardino - live review

Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Stone Sour wow the West Coast

Art for Ozzfest/ Knotfest live at Glen Helen Amphitheater, San Bernardino

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The 2017 US festival season comes to a close with the return of Ozzfest/Knotfest to the dusty desert outpost of San Bernadino. Nearly 40 bands from across the globe, representing a charcoal-shaded rainbow of genres, have gathered with the singular purpose of melting our faces. On Saturday afternoon, beneath skin-searing rays of the California sun, we behold a seismic onslaught of tight, headbanging showcases, including a rare West Coast appearance by 1349 [8], whose howling black metal barrage includes Sculptor Of Flesh as a dedication to the recently deceased Martin Ain. Other notable sets include POSSESSED [7], FALLUJAH [8], BARONESS [8] and America’s loudest power-trio, HIGH ON FIRE [8]. Unfortunately, murky festival sound plagues many bands, leaving stalwarts like TOMBS [6], HAVOK [6] and KREATOR [6] fighting an uphill battle against the tinny outdoor mixing boards.

Marking their one and only US appearance this year, ORANGE GOBLIN [9] kick the main stage off with a full-scale assault of roundhouse grooves and riffs big enough to plug a black hole. It’s been 20 years since CHILDREN OF BODOM [8] released their debut, Something Wild, and they follow with a convincing demonstration as to why they remain one of the most popular festival draws in Europe, rocking Red Light In My Eyes, softwareuiphraseguid=“33a3346a-9635-422e-9a63-95790819356a”>SOFTWAREmark” gingersoftwareuiphraseguid=“72344daa-4809-4368-984b-88b12092a644” id=“ac316c16-b898-47e6-a749-89d818070cde”>Pt 2 along with Warheart and Towards Dead End. DEFTONES [7] storm out of the gate with 90s bangers Headup and My Own Summer (Shove It). Their thunderous blend of distorted guitars and climactic refrains exhilarates the crowd but there’s a palpable ebb when they temper their aggression with moodier atmospheric interludes. “I know this is Ozzfest, but can you fuck with some hip hop?” asks PROPHETS OF RAGE [8] frontman Chuck D to a roaring response. Behind the propulsive funk tempos of anthems like Prophets Of Rage, Testify and Take The Power Back, the most unlikely frontman at Ozzfest now owns it. As a tribute to Chris Cornell, their late Audioslave bandmate, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford play an instrumental Like A Stone, with a spotlight pointed where Chris would have stood. Chills.

At 9:30, OZZY OSBOURNE [8] strides out and asks, “Are you ready to go crazy?” to affirmative insanity from the crowd. “Then let the madness begin!”, and the band pile into Bark At The Moon. Early on, Ozzy points out that the cold is affecting his vocals, but by Suicide Solution he sounds hale, even menacing. Backed by the mighty Zakk Wylde on guitar, Blasko on bass and Tommy Clufetos on drums, the band tear through a set that includes War Pigs, Fairies Wear Boots, Mr. Crowley, Shot In The Dark, No More Tears, Crazy Train and Paranoid.


Refreshed with an extra hour of sleep courtesy of daylight savings ending overnight, the early crowds get to see DED [8] toe it through the mark with a blast of riff-powered metalcore that would slay a small club. STITCHED UP HEART [9] deliver the festival’s most pleasant surprise, augmenting their enthralling fusion of metalcore and goth pop with a siege of obscenely heavy riffs. Other highlights include the always-thrilling UPON A BURNING BODY [8], a firestorm of thrash from DEATH ANGEL [9] and bludgeoning performances from GOATWHORE [8] and THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER [8]. On the main stage, Orange County’s EIGHTEEN VISIONS [7] unleash a throat-grabbing assault of technical death metal so goddamned heavy that people are literally coughing from the vibrations in their chest.

While day two of the festival is called ‘Knotfest’, the closest things anyone has to Slipknot are Sid Wilson’s sparsely attended mid-afternoon DJ set and STONE SOUR [7]. Like Ozzy, Corey Taylor appears to suffer some vocal disruption due to the cold, but recovers quickly, flexing his impressive range over an hour-long set that spans Stone Sour’s entire discography, including 3030-150, Song #3 and Fabuless. At one point, someone in the pit hurls a dig at Corey, who replies, “I remember my first beer, too. Tell your mom I said hi!” Lethal. Three weeks previously, MARILYN MANSON [7] broke his leg when a giant stage prop – a gun – fell on him. Consequently, tonight’s set badly lacks momentum because after each song, two orderlies in scrubs change his costumes and strap him in and out of his wheelchair, Segway or gurney. Still, the God Of Fuck is in high spirits and new material like Revelation #12 and SAY10 dovetails perfectly into belters like softwareuiphraseguid=“103bde95-0a41-4f7a-9428-8231988d29fd”>SOFTWAREmark” gingersoftwareuiphraseguid=“160a635c-d5e5-40c8-a680-c75652461b9e” id=“bb2289c8-d6fa-4c07-ad29-ba36a4179cb0”>mOBSCENE and The Dope Show.

If Marilyn Manson seeks to provoke, ROB ZOMBIE [9] just wants to give everybody a good time. His stage has all the wacky b-movie kitsch you’d expect from the venerable horror rocker and he enters atop a lorry-sized boombox, clad in a cowboy hat, bellbottoms and fringe jacket, careening about with the sprightly bounce of a 20- year-old. Opening with Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown, Zombie keeps the foot on the pedal all the way through boogie-down belters Superbeast, More Human Than Human, House Of 1000 Corpses, Thunder Kiss ’65 and Dragula. Necks are sore, ears are ringing and resolutions to not buy any more black concert t-shirts are abandoned. In other words, this weekend has been a massive success.

Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.