Kicking off at 11am and closing around 10pm on two consecutive days, Loud Park 2010 offered up a grand total of about 22 hours of heavy metal. Perhaps not everybody’s idea of a relaxing weekend, but for the heavy metal “faithful”–yes, the genre is a kind of substitute religion–this was a perfect opportunity to forget about the workaday world and immerse their souls and eardrums in the expansive sounds and epic emotions of their favorite music with 20,000 of their fellow devotees.
Not everybody could or wanted to attend both days, or even stay for the whole of one of them. Commitments, logistics, preferences, and possibly even the petty schisms of the metal world may have played their part. In my case, I was able to see three bands on the first day–Stone Sour, Halford and Korn–and five bands on the second day–Kuni, Spiritual Beggars, Angra, Motorhead, Avenged Sevenfold and Ozzy Osbourne–a total of about 11 hours of metal. This was more than enough to keep my ears ringing for the next couple of days, although a hardened (and possibly deafened) metalhead of my acquaintance claims that the volume wasn’t nearly what it should have been–no bleeding ears!
When I arrive on Saturday, Stone Sour have just taken the stage with their muscular, competent, but oddly unexciting rock. Hard to believe that frontman Corey Taylor is also the singer for Slipknot, as he comes across all friendly, earnest and full of camaraderie. Maybe Stone Sour is Dr. Jekyll to Slipknot’s Mr. Hyde. After the pulsing, thudding but managed mayhem of “Made of Scars,” Corey breaks it down to tell each and every one of us how special we are to him.
“I’ll tell you what: we almost didn’t make it to this show,” he tells the audience, trying for a bit of emotion. “We were almost unable to come and be a part of this with you. But we found a way to be here with each and every f**kin’ one of you tonight. And to see you having as much f**kin’ fun as we are, thank you so much. You have no idea what that means to me.” (Gush gush gush!)
While straining for intimacy like this probably works well with Stone Sour’s main demographic of lonely teenage boys, it tends to grate on hardened journalists and be lost on Japanese audiences, who like the talky bits between songs to be short and sweet. I also start to suspect his motives when he keeps mentioning that each song is from their most recent album, Audio Secrecy. Corey’s all ‘Triumph of the Will’ as he relentlessly emits waves of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, man-I-love-you-guys camaraderie between songs delivered at full-throttle. The guy’s a real salesman. He even has a few tricks that probably work quite well on the cornball circuit.
Before “Get Inside,” one of their big songs from their eponymous 2002 debut, he tries to inject a little more drama. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am having a problem with my voice tonight,” Corey tells us in an obvious attempt to fish for sympathy (his voice is fine). “Do I sound OK? Do I sound OK out there, my friends? Do I sound alright?” (Yes, Corey, now get on with the f**kin’ song.) “It doesn’t matter. I am going to give you every fucking thing I’ve got and you’re gonna f**kin’ have it right now.” (Erm, OK…)
After promising to “stir things up” and “get a little psycho,” the pummeling, brutal rock of “Get Inside” follows, but it’s all too workmanlike to be psycho. It lacks rough edges and comes across kind of slick.
About halfway through the set, the rest of the band disappears, leaving Corey on stage alone with his gently strumming guitar for “Bother,” a song that starts off all small, meek and lonely, only for the band to return and crank it up. It’s clichéd, but effective in counterpointing the more standardized, pedal-to-the-metal fare that follows, like “Digital,” dedicated to “a generation lost inside their heads,” and the melodic thrash of “Hell and Consequences.” Predictably, they save the best for last, ripping through the numerological angst of “30/30–150” with plenty of verve.
Next up, it’s Halford, the band built round Judas Priest legend Rob Halford in his wilderness years outside Priest (1992 – 2003). The self-described “Metal God” is one of the music’s true greats, with the most famous voice in the business. “Made in Hell” launches a vast section of the audience into a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal comfort zone with crunching guitars and searing solos topped by Rob’s lacerating screech. We have now entered the realm of serious metaldom.
After two more songs in a similar vein, he pauses to address the audience. Apart from looking suntanned and healthy, it’s obvious his prolonged stay in California has been affecting him badly. The wonderfully lachrymose West Midlands-speaking voice of the past has now been replaced by a rather twangy mid-Atlantic accent. Using incomplete sentences, he also sounds strangely robotic–somehow appropriate for a man who claims to be made of metal.