A metal-loving young couple stood enjoying Saturday's Ozzfest. The father clutched an infant to his black shirt, which read, "Only Death Is Real." And from the wings, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne looked upon the 12th annual festival's stop at Devore's Hyundai Pavilion, and saw that it was good.
After Circus Diablo opened the second stage with its generic '80s-style hard rock, the watchword during this groundbreaking free-ticket incarnation of the tour was variety.
Looking crisp in face paint, Chthonic ranted about the U.N.'s fear of its native Taiwan; its shrieking, pummeling, swelling black metal instigated several pit-dance cyclones. Atlanta's Daath flogged an exceptionally fierce, dressed-down version of the same genre.
The tightly wound bikers of 3 Inches of Blood executed a twin-guitar impression of 1990 Judas Priest. Mondo Generator cranked its simple, riffy hard rock with feral energy.
A major fest debut was Ankla, led by Puerto Rican guitarist Ramon Ortiz. Now based in L.A., the two-drummer outfit sweated out monumental island rhythms that had the throngs ricocheting like popcorn.
Bands that sounded better than their records included the Showdown and In This Moment.
The bands that sounded worse relied on relentless double-kick drum drive, leaving them prey to the blur of outdoor amplification.
The hell-belching Nile inspired a forest of devil-horn gestures and built to epic mass in 20 minutes.
Poland's drum-heavy Behemoth likewise triumphed with its grand Euro march-metal, although it fought erratic sound and the day's hottest broil -- vocalist-guitarist Nergal went so far as to curse the sun itself.
Closing the second-stage slate, the veteran Hatebreed polarized the horde. Many stayed for the undifferentiated churn-and-bark; many fled to stake out choice lawn turf at the main stage.
That was the place for Finland's Lordi, whose monster masks, props, pyrotechnics and dated KISS/Twisted Sister sound at first seemed just silly, but eventually revealed strong songwriting and a cracked sense of humor.
Local heroes Static X pumped up a tight, ultra-loud set of rhythm-obsessed "evil disco." A passionate, razor-edged set by the bearded prophets Lamb of God left no doubt that they absolutely rule the American wing of modern metal.
Ozzy was Ozzy, undiminished. He introduced his performance with doctored film clips in which he pleasured the queen, among other things, then he rocked the mountains with the usual "Mr. Crowley," "Mama, I'm Coming Home" and "Crazy Train," plus the dire new self-prediction "Not Going Away." The audience roared special approval for Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," "dedicated to all the poor bastards in Iraq."
The metal nation was united, growing and politically charged, while a banner trailing behind a plane in the sunset sky echoed the world's continued perception of metalheads in general: "Plumbers' Apprentices Wanted."