Live: Loud Park 2010, Day Two


As day two dawns, I realize that I have now used up most of my heavy metal clichés. But metal, if anything, is the willful embrace, wallowing in, and celebration of cliché and ritual. The litany of the music and its strong adherence to a set of musical conventions may even be what drives its intensity. With the same points being hit again and again, there is a need for them to be constantly hit harder. So I'm not going to worry about overusing my own clichés; just use them harder!

It's around 3pm when I arrive the second time and the stage is empty, but then Kuni emerge. The band is an ever-changing cast of musicians loosely assembled around sole permanent member, left-handed Japanese guitarist Kuni. Looking resplendent in a sequined phantom-of-the-opera mask and Sideshow Bob hairdo, he turns out to be even more Americanized than Rob Halford, addressing his home audience in American English rather than Japanese. Fronted by a singer who looks like a beefy Apache Indian, the band delivers a well-drilled but essentially monolithic slab of high-octane metal from the guitarist's '80s heyday, including the riff-lathered chug-a-long Looking for Action, much marred by an unsuccessful attempt to get everyone to sing along.

Much more to the crowd’s liking is the dense aural textures and propulsive groove of Swedish stoner metal band Spiritual Beggars. Scandinavian metal is something of a brand name for quality now, and the five-piece from Halmstad do nothing to sully this great reputation.

With lumbering, monster riffs, wailing guitars, and a looming sense that Sweden is about to turn its back on 200 years of pacifism and possibly invade Poland, Beneath the Skin growls and rumbles, as Michael Amott's guitar sears the head-banging hordes. This is followed up by the slightly folk-metalish Coming Home creating a more wistful vibe, before the band launch into the throbbing metalcore of One Man Army.

With one great song after another, a heartfelt performance, and a vibe that grabs the audience's attention, the Beggars strengthen their claim to being the most underrated band in metal. And just when you think they're getting a bit soppy with a slice of strung-out, crying blues guitar, Star Born launches the sweat-drenched metal masses back into more crunching, bleeding guitars, pummeling drums and monster riffs.

Another highlight is the Zeppelin-tinged Euphoria, which excellently showcases the heavy bass, low-tuned guitar and retro vibe of stoner metal. This builds up enough credit with the audience for the band to even attempt a wordless "woah-wow" sing-along before exiting, leaving the fans wanting more.

From Sweden we go next to Brazil, via what is probably the lengthiest between-sets sound check at Loud Park (even though there are two side-by-side stages to speed up the changeovers). Eventually Angra sidle on to stage to what sound like monkish chants and the sound of a giant mosquito trapped in a bottle.

The complex time-signatures, over-busy drumming, operatic vocals, virtuoso riffing and a free-ranging violin all signal that we are in the realm of Prog Metal. While no one doubts their technical proficiency, Angra don’t really click tonight, running through their gamut of intricately different but overall similar songs without drawing blood.

After a lengthy sojourn to the toilet and the fast food concessions in the corridors, I come back to what sounds from the distance like a bossa nova fiddle derby. More disturbingly, as I resume my seat, it still sounds like a bossa nova fiddle derby.

"We will, we will rock you," Eduardo Falaschi sings, prompting thoughts of "No, you f**kin' well won't—at least not like that." Perhaps Eduardo and the boys have the same idea, as the next couple of numbers are a lot rockier, which leaves the violin sounding a little superfluous. With the next band on the bill being Motorhead, there's a palpable sigh of relief when Angra finally finish.

There is a timeless quality about the legendary speed metal merchant and godfather of thrash, Lemmy Kilmister. His no-nonsense, down-to-earth attitude to music and life has stood him in good stead. In contrast to Angra, he hardly leaves a gap between his set and that of his predecessors, driving home the message that he is not about to faff around when there’s some serious headbanging to be done.

A growled "Konnichi wa. We're Motorhead. We play rock n' roll," prefaces a blistering version of Overkill (or possibly some other song that follows exactly the same well-worn musical groove). Motorhead are less about unique individual songs with discernable lyrics and more about unleashing a great, big, dirty, black oil spill of metal on the audience. Nattily dressed in his black cowboy gear, Lemmy seems like some great broken-backed oil tanker spilling wave after wave of toxic metal pollution onto the beach of the audience, who clearly love every minute of it.

Rock Out from last-but-one album Motorizer sticks with the winning formula of a claustrophobic wall of grinding guitars and relentless drumming smeared with the veneer of Lemmy's unintelligible, guttural growl. I suddenly realize that Lemmy is like Mr. Bean. People don't have to understand a word he's saying to appreciate him, and this is no doubt a factor in his popularity here and elsewhere around the non-English-speaking world.

As the song ends, the chants of "Motorhead! Motorhead!" ring out round the cavernous hall. All the people who went over to the Ultimate Stage to take in Angra's performance instead of getting in front of the Big Rock Stage to get a better view are probably kicking themselves.

Japan's number one English magazine gets a name check with the next song, Metropolis, which Lemmy introduces as a song from a long time ago and dedicates to all the old people in the audience. Crunching riff? Check. General air of malice and evil? Check. Growled indecipherable vocal? Check. Searing guitar breaks? Check. Vintage Motorhead, but then Motorhead only do vintage.

With able support form his cohort on lead guitar, beanie-hatted Welsh guitar wizard Phil Campbell, and energetic Swedish drummer Mikkey Dee, Motorhead fill out a set list that includes a drum-solo-sandwiching version of Orgasmatron and the speed rockabilly of Going to Brazil, before climaxing in a blistering version of fan favorite Ace of Spades. The moshpit responds by vomiting up crowd surfers at a rate that is clearly uncomfortable for the stewards, who get a bit rough.

Although Motorhead are rock legends of almost biblical proportions, they are trumped on the bill by wet-behind-the-ears screamo-emo outfit Avenged Sevenfold. I am so pissed off by this that I decide to go on strike and not write about them. Instead, fast forward to Ozzy.

It could be argued that Ozzy Osbourne too shouldn’t be higher on the billing than Motorhead, but at least it’s not offensive that he is. Like Lemmy, Ozzy is a true metal legend. Despite the occasional ill-advised flirtation with schmaltz-rock–possibly driven by the populist sensibilities and scheming of wife/manager Sharon–and an image that often seems like a cuddly cartoon character, Ozzy nevertheless manages to retain the dark charisma of a genuine metal god.

There is something disturbing and vaguely werewolfish about him–the large, self-tattooed hands of a natural born killer, the moon-reflecting glint in his eye, the Igor-like way he shuffles around the stage, etc. etc. This strange mismatch of characteristics–lovable in a fluffy dog sort of way, but without losing any of his eerie edge–may also explain his vast, exaggerated appeal with metal fans.

"Are you ready to go f**king crazy?" he asks before launching into a rollicking version of Bark at the Moon. Flanked by his two sidemen, Greek guitarist Gus G on guitar and Rob Nicholson on bass, both flailing their waist-length hair while their fingers work overtime, Ozzy prowls the stage belting out the vocals.

As soon as the song ends, he goes to the drum kit and grabs a bucket of water, soaking himself as well as some electrical equipment. For a few seconds it looks like there might be a real moment of madness, but a roadie comes on and makes sure there is no danger of the Prince of Darkness being lit up by a sudden electric shock.

Let me Hear You Scream and a brooding version of Mr. Crowley, introduced by Adam Wakeman's synth, maintain the Hammer Horror mood so beloved of Ozzy and his fans. The latter song is also graced by particularly powerful soloing from Gus G, taking the song to a higher level. The crowd goes mad, roaring its appreciation. Ozzy responds by orchestrating a kind of football chant. Then the band jumps into the bundled riffs and clattering rhythms of I Don’t Know.

"I can’t bloody hear you," he tells the audience as they roar their approval.

Next we get an old Black Sabbath standard, Fairies Wear Boots, essentially a thrashing, disjointed blues-rock song given a modern heavy metal veneer by Gus G's searing guitar. Other Sabbath classics are also updated–War Pigs and the stomping, growling menace of Iron Man. These seem to go down with the audience a lot better than the breezy metal-lite of A Shot in the Dark and I Don't Want to Change the World.

After the Van Halen-ish Crazy Train and Mama I’m Coming Home—a ballad, oddly enough, co-written with fellow grizzled metal legend Lemmy—Ozzy gives the audience what they really want: Paranoid, the ultimate Ozzy, Black Sabbath, and heavy metal song, and an ideal way to bring Loud Park 2010 to close. The simple, insistent riff that has chugged its way through four decades and filled cavernous halls like this all around the world seems to sum up "the timeless popular appeal of metal": There! That's my last cliché. I’m all out.

22nd October, 2010
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