By Eric Stuckart
So I while I was doing my daily scouring of music and gaming news sites, I happened upon the new single from Korn, “Oildale”. You can listen to it here if you like; I’m not embedding it. Their new, ‘heavier’ sound sounds the same as their last few albums. It’s hard to believe that their latest release, the confusingly-titled Korn III: Remember Who You Are, is their ninth album.
Listening to this, it got me thinking about the Ozzfest 2010 announcement that came out at the end of last month. It’s been kicking around in my head for the last week, and it still rings with disappointment. On the surface, the festival sounds like they’re changing their game from “Look how much we can scare mom and dad” attempts with the lineup to “Let’s try and get mom and dad to come to the show, they have the monies.” But that thought ends after the headliners—from there on it’s pretty uninspiring.
Halford, Ozzy, and Mötley Crüe's Nikki Sixx. Photo taken from ozzfest.com
Headlining the main stage is Ozzy, Mötley Crüe and Judas Priest’s Rob Halford on a solo run, which makes sense. Priest is still pretty big with the older rockers, and despite not successfully releasing an album that would even register as ‘interesting’ since the 90s, Mötley Crüe still draws in a lot of people. For some reason, I will never understand, but bands like the Crüe, Poison, etc. are all a huge hit, even in 2010. I think it’s because people from my generation go because “LOL IRONY IS COOL” and the people from the next couple generations behind me grew up with this type of stuff, back when the only ‘metal’ music that was accepted by the mainstream had to involve spandex and hairspray.
Rounding out the main stage is DevilDriver and Nonpoint, and that’s where I kind of got confused. Now, I can understand DevilDriver to a point, but every time I listen to them, even when I can honestly say that I own one of their four albums on cd, I will never get over the fact that their lead singer, Bradley ‘Dez’ Fafara, used to handle vocal duties for Coal Chamber.
Coal Chamber. Photo from last.fm
We’ll pause for a minute there.
Coal Chamber was one of the bands that I listened to a ton—when I was 16. Now i’ll be the first to admit that I listened to a lot of crap when I was that age. Growing up, I started really listening to ‘metal’ when I was probably in eighth grade. I heard some Metallica and White Zombie and Pantera and thought that was all really cool stuff. However, that somehow that led me to listening to a lot of nü metal.
What’s nü metal, you ask? Oh boy, I’m glad you asked! Nü metal was a movement that started in the mid-90s, when kids that couldn’t pull off playing the thrash metal that they grew up on, and were far too angsty to try playing death metal, started just drop-tuning their guitars and railed against such trials and tribulations as their parents making them cut the grass and complaining because they were all unique snowflakes. Much of it featured rapped vocals, stupid haircuts, oversized clothing and probably the most simplistic guitar riffs ever written, but it was so that the kids could bounce to it.
Also known as ‘bounce metal’ (because of the aforementioned reason), it was a huge hit amongst suburban white teens, usually the ones who nobody liked in school, and bands capitalized on this. The kids already felt unliked, so they merely wrote songs that called out to them, sucking in many elephant-leg pant wearing kids like black hole in Hot Topic.
Rage Against the Machine. Photo from rockandmetal.com
Nü metal had its roots in bands like Faith No More, Helmet and Rage Against the Machine (and I suppose Korn, but they allowed themselves to be assimilated into the mediocrity shitwave), but unlike those three visionary bands, at the end of the day, these bands had nothing to say. Except maybe “Fuck you, dad!” But we were all teenagers, we all said that once. And then we realized we were immature douchebags.
However, this marketability had struck chords with the music business, who saw this, and it looked like a big fucking dollar sign waiting to explode all over them. So they snatched up any band that either a) featured a rapper and a singer, or b) looked ‘gothic industrial’ but sang about their shitty adolescent lives, and waited for the profit. This resulted in a glut of mediocre bands that all pretty much sounded like one of two sounds, and we all know what happens when a trend hits the saturation point—no one likes it anymore because it’s not ‘unique’, and it dies. Bands like Primer 55, Darwin’s Waiting Room, and From Zero flooded the market, and were all ignored like the turds that they were.
So anyways, around the turn of the millennia, nü metal died a slow and painful death, only to be replaced by a new trend that was a lot like the old trend, emo, screamo, and metalcore. I lump them all together, because at the time, these three types of bands could be seen playing shows together without the tough guy posturing that would end up happening by the middle of the decade, causing the major splintering and infighting. But the drawing factor was that all three of these genres also complained about something that really drew in the youngsters: romance.
So it was out with the old, and in with the new. Nü metal was officially dead, but we’re still stuck with Limp Bizkit, who thinks that they still have something relevant to say.
But all ranting aside, my point about DevilDriver was this. Coal Chamber broke up at what appeared to many as the death knell of nü metal, in 2003. Fafara met the DevilDriver guys in 2002, and jumped right into their band as vocalist in late 2003. Coincidence? I certainly don’t think so. And DevilDriver’s sound, you ask? Thrash metal, which because of the metalcore boom, was picking up a lot of momentum itstelf, in America at least. Metal never died in the rest of the world.
DevilDriver. Photo from atlmetal.com
So whenever I think of DevilDriver, it just makes me shake my head in disgust, because I know, I used to be one of those kids with the Powerman 5000 cds and the Coal Chamber shirts and thought I was the shit. And I’ve learned from my mistakes. And it sucks, because DevilDriver isn’t even that bad of a band. They’re not the most original, but they could certainly do much worse in terms of writing interesting songs, and they put on an energetic show, but that’s the one thing that comes to mind.
Back to Ozzfest 2010; I was shocked to hear that Nonpoint was even around still. When I was a senior in high school, they had released their debut album, Statement, and even at the height of my nü metal obsession I found it to be underwhelming. To find that they’re still underwhelming crowds, and playing on the main stage with Ozzy himself is just one in a long line of disappointments with the whole festival. I suppose at this point it’s moot.
As for the second stage, it’s Black Label Society (AKA Zakk Wylde’s Pinch Harmonic Extravaganza), along with Drowning Pool (still waiting for bodies to hit the floor), Kingdom of Sorrow, Goatwhore, Skeletonwitch, Saviours and Kataklysm. This is perhaps the first Ozzfest lineup that doesn’t even seem remotely interesting to me, and perhaps that’s commentary on the big business side of the metal scene.
I had heard a rumor a couple of times that in order to play on Ozzfest there’s an entrance fee in the tens of thousands of dollars range. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know. But if it is, I have a feeling that these bands will be regretting it at the end of this tour. If it is successful, I’d like to hear how many of the attendees skipped the first seven or eight bands and showed up late. Which is a shame, because a few of those opening bands are decent in their own right (Skeletonwitch, Saviors, Goatwhore), but you couldn’t pay me to sit through another one of Black Label wankfests, let alone be anywhere near Drowning Pool.