Ozzfest heart and soul for metal scene

There once was a time when metal ruled the MTV airwaves. Bands like Korn, System of a Down, Disturbed and Slipknot climbed their way up the TRL slots. Times have changed.

Pop-punk has taken over, with bands like Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard leading the way. The metal scene is struggling, yet one tour continues to parade into cities every summer and bring all hell with it.

It’s a smoldering Arizona afternoon when Avenged Sevenfold drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan picks up the phone to talk. Exhausted from a long night of drinking and partying, it is 3:30 p.m. and Sullivan was woken up to make the call.

He sounds a little groggy and distant, but is excited to talk about his band’s first stint on Ozzfest, Ozzy Osbourne’s annual touring metal circus.

“It’s been awesome,” says Sullivan. “We didn’t know what to expect. We knew we would be playing for a lot of new people.”

Avenged Sevenfold formed a few streets south from Cal State Long Beach in Huntington Beach. They were all best friends in middle school, but were all scattered among different bands. It was toward the end of high school when they decided to all play together. That’s when things started coming together.

“There are a lot of people who are hungry for good, new music around that area. It helps you out a little bit, gives you a kick start,” says Sullivan. “I used to live in Long Beach right after high school. We would go write there and hang out there. It was really cool.”

Its 2003 album “Waking the Fallen” was released on local independent label Hopeless Records and was very well received. The buzz around that was loud enough to get the band signed to Warner Brothers Records for the follow up “City of Evil.”

The band returned to Cal State Long Beach last summer, not as hopeful youths looking for a place to hang out and write, but as headliners of the 2005 Vans Warped Tour, a summer tour that is very different than Ozzfest.

“The Ozzfest crowd is a harder sell,” says Sullivan. “The Warped Tour crowd, the kids will go there and go crazy for any band who’s playing. This one you got to start up a little faster during the first couple of songs. You gotta have your shit together.”

The band looks like it has it together the next day when it takes the stage at the Glen Helen Pavilion in San Bernardino. However, the venue doesn’t. Right in the middle of the third song the power cuts out, and stays out for almost an hour.

Fires start, trash is thrown through the air, and by the time the power is restored the band only has time for two more tracks before its time is up.

Across the venue, Lacuna Coil singer Andrea Ferro is sitting backstage enjoying a cup of coffee. It’s Lacuna Coil’s second turn on the tour and he is used to these kinds of antics.

In 2004 his band was playing the second stage and was going on bright and early in the morning. This year the band has been bumped up to the main stage and is playing along the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, System of a Down, Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold to packed amphitheatres.

“The second stage is a little more rock ‘n’ roll and we had a little more fun,” says Ferro. “Main stage is more busy and more about promotion, so it’s more a serious stage. You have people in the chairs so it’s a little tougher to have a very energetic show.”

Lacuna Coil comes all the way from Milan, Italy. After becoming friends from hanging out at the same rock pub for years, the band decided to start playing music for themselves. It cut a demo and got picked up by international label Century Media. which houses its U.S. office in Hawthorne, Calif. and started working on an album.

Ferro shares vocal duties with metal bombshell Cristina Scabbia. Scabbia has become the face of the band, appearing on the covers of several metal magazines, but Ferro doesn’t mind.

“Everybody respects her because she is a good singer,” says Ferro. “She fits in good with the music and we get more attention because of it.”

With dueling guitars and bass accompanying them, Ferro and Scabbia feed off each other to put on an entertaining rock show like a metal version of Evanescence.

2002’s “Comalies” proved to be the bands’ breakout album. That was followed up by this year’s “Karmacode.”

Lacuna Coil was the first metal band to get attention in Italy, but Ferro reports the scene is getting bigger. It’s getting easier to have a proper tour, but it’s the festivals that still reign supreme in Europe.

“There is nothing like Ozzfest or Warped Tour,” says Ferro. “They don’t have festivals that tour each country. Every country has its own big event, so you have many different styles of festivals and big size.”

The sun starts to set over the hill and the glow from the flames of the fires illuminates the lawn area. For a struggling metal scene, Ozzfest has become its heart and soul. It will carry it on its back, and never let it die.

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