As usual, the lineup for Ozzfest is riddled with ridiculously horrible bands that I cannot fathom spending $40 or more dollars to witness live. What bands you might ask? Well, how about the atrocious Avenged Sevenfold, sell-out System of a Down, whiny Walls of Jericho, and Dragonforce (sorry personally can't stand) among others. That being said, thankfully each year, many of the best underground metal acts (i.e. mostly the second stage) host annual Ozzfest off-date shows and Cincinnati is always on the list. This year is no exception and I have been pumped for this lineup for a while now: Hatebreed, Unearth, Norma Jean, Strapping Young Lad, All That Reamins, The Red Chord, A Life Once Lost, the aforementioned Walls of Jericho, and Full Blown Chaos (Note: SYL was billed for the tour, but cancelled the day of show).
Although Full Blown Chaos does have a few good tracks, they do not have enough to warrant getting down to Bogart's at the 4:30 start time for the show. Then after finding out that Walls of Jericho would be following, I decided to take my time and arrive at the venue at the end of their set just in time for A Life Once Lost. Now I had seen ALOL on Sounds of the Underground last year and they surprised me with their crowd presence and overall knack for the stage. This time around was no different, as they belted out "Rehashed", "Vulture", and "I Give In" with much enthusiasm. ALOL played "The Wicked Will Rot" from The Great Artist among others and closed with "Hunter" sending the crowd into a frenzy. I was very happy with their overall show, as I said before very enthusiastic and entertaining. Next up was Boston's own frantically chaotic minions The Red Chord. If you remember correctly I've done both reviews of The Red Chord's albums and I loved "Fused Together in Revolving Doors" yet thought that their newest output "Clients" was a bit over the top. I knew that The Red Chord had played a few shows around the Cincinnati area yet never felt the "I have to see this band" mentality about them. Thankfully their set consisted of most of the songs that I actually did enjoy on Clients including "Antman" and "Love on the Concrete Floor" not to mention a few tracks from Fused Together in Revolving Doors like "Sixteen Bit Fingerprint" and etc. Yes, there were a song or two that I found too excessive but on the whole, The Red Chord produced a great show and really got the crowd into it even for those who had never heard them before as I soon found out. I, for one, will definitely be checking these guys out again. On a side note, during The Red Chord's set, their lead vocalist Guy Kozowyk says "What kinda shit is Norma Jean into? Holy shit. Get it." Referring to Norma Jean's Christian hardcore/metal, I thought it was pretty amusing but I digress.
All That Remains took the stage next, and actually after listening to The Fall of Ideals, I was overly excited to see their show. I saw them last year at Sounds of the Underground and in the winter with Chimaira and Six Feet Under and they always put on a good show. But to be honest, I really wanted to hear the new stuff more than anything else. The set was pretty good, just not what I had hoped for. They played "For Salvation", "Tattered on My Sleeve", and "This Darkened Heart" among others from This Darkened Heart and only played two songs off the new album ("This Calling" and "Indictment"). All of those songs sounded great but once again, just not what I had hoped for. All That Reamins always puts on a good show though so I couldn't be too upset, but I personally can't wait until their next tour when hopefully The Fall of Ideals really sinks in with their fans. After retreating away from the front of the stage after All That Remains concluded, Norma Jean took the stage with little anticipation from this writer. The hardcore kids went nuts as they belted out a few from "O God, The Aftermath" and a few off their yet to be released album. From the looks of things, if you enjoyed "O God, The Aftermath", you should like their new album entitled "Redeemer". Norma Jean played only two songs that I personally enjoyed, "Liarsenic" and "Bayonetwork". Both songs were well done live and if you like this band, check them out, they put on a pretty exciting show. I'm not sure which song it was but Robert Meadows from A Life Once Lost came out for a duet on their closing song and it sounded pretty good. Once again, I'm not a fan of Norma Jean, so most of the song titles escape me, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.
With all the anticipation (or lack thereof) for Unearth's new album, one thing is for certain Unearth puts on one of the best shows I have ever seen. As usual, they opened with "This Lying World", and the entire crowd went completely crazy. Guitarist Ken Susi's antics were at an all-time high on this night as Unearth stopped midway through the opener long enough for Phil Labonte from All That Remains to come out and give Susi a beer bong hit. He took most of it and spit the rest into the crowd as his solo hit. It didn't stop there with Ken blessing the crowd with numerous bottles of "holy" water then crossing us as it a Catholic mass, many obscene hand gestures that forced me to crack a smile, and generally just insane fun. He still is one of the best guitarists I've seen live as well, nailing every solo, riff, and interlude placed in his path. Unearth proceeded to play "My Heart Bleeds No Longer", "Zombie Autopilot" (my personal highlight), and "The Great Dividers" among others. They also played "Giles" off their upcoming record In The Eyes of Fire which I thought sounded pretty good. I haven't heard the album as of yet, but I'm pretty excited to hear it after that performance. If Unearth ever comes to your town, do what ever you have to do to go to that show, you will have a blast without a doubt.
After Unearth's performance, I honestly almost left. I thought how could the night be topped honestly? I wasn't that big of a Hatebreed fan anyway, so what's the point? I don't know if any of you have seen them live or not, but everyone that I talked to at the show basically said Hatebreed is one of the best concerts you'll ever see. OK, I thought, slow down. I've seen some very, very good shows, and because I'm not that much of a fan, how would I have that great of a time? I was wrong. I don't know if any of you have ever been to a concert that was so good that you instantly became a fan of that band, but that happened to me with Hatebreed. I'm not even a fan of hardcore and they blew me away. I know many hardcore bands sound like Hatebreed but after seeing them live, it appears that their style has just been perverted by these bands which will remain nameless. I saw so much emotion, power, and angst that I didn't expect to see that I couldn't help but look at this band and think immediately that I was witnessing something great. The only two bands I can really compare that feeling of greatness to are Lamb of God and In Flames. And coincidentally, those are my two favorite bands. I'm not saying that Hatebreed are even close to those two, but they gained a fan last night. "Doomsayer", "Perseverance", "Live For This", "This is Now", "Facing What Consumes You", "A Call For Blood", and "Smash Your Enemies" among others were all featured throughout their hour long set. And of course, Hatebreed closed with arguably their most popular track "I Will Be Heard". I was in awe, and found myself stomping and headbanging like the rest of the crowd. This was definitely a Hatebreed crowd as circle pits broke out across the floor, crowd surfers seemingly fell from the ceiling, and everyone else screaming the words and headbanging. Hatebreed did a great job of closing out one hell of a concert (Oh and I almost forgot, "To The Threshold" might have been the best track they played, from the upcoming release "Supremacy").
If you haven't already missed Ozzfest, I guess I'd advise you to check it out. There are some pretty cool bands on the bill even though there are also some that are atrocious as well. However, if you can catch an off-date show with these bands, this is the most bang for your buck. Til next time, stay brutal.