By Dave Pehling
SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Now in it’s sixth year, the annual Aftershock Festival brings two days of heavy metal and hard rock favorites to three stages in Sacramento’s Discovery Park including iconic singer Ozzy Osbourne, alternative giants Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle, prog metal outfits Mastodon and Gojira, newer metal crews Five Finger Death Punch and Halestorm and hip-hop acts Run the Jewels and Tech N9ne and much more.
This year’s festival follows the same template of past editions, with the more alt-rock dominated bands dominating one days and the more traditional metal groups filling out the schedule on the other, though truth be told there is plenty of metal on both days. Saturday headliners Nine Inch Nails — the brainchild of bandleader and songwriter Trent Reznor — brought industrial music into the mainstream with its breakthrough 1989 debut album Pretty Hate Machine for TVT Records.
Powered by heavy radio and MTV play of the hits “Down in It” and “Head Like A Hole,” the record became one of the first platinum records produced by an independent label and established Reznor as an angst-ridden industrial/pop auteur. A feud with TVT over how his music was being handled led to a contentious relationship. While NIN grew in popularity with it’s galvanizing performances on the first Lollapalooza Tour, the band wouldn’t issue a new recording until the Broken EP in 1992.
Reznor would go on to record the ambitious and wildly successful concept album The Downward Spiral, a dark exploration of self loathing, self destruction and madness that made Reznor a global superstar on the strength of the transgressive hit “Closer.” A struggle with writer’s block and addiction would delay the next NIN album The Fragile until 1999, but the effort proved to be another critical and commercial hit.
Reznor would put the band on an extended hiatus to continue his battle against substance abuse and legal struggles with his former manager, but NIN returned in 2005, releasing With Teeth to wide acclaim. Since then, a sober and recharged Reznor has been far more prolific, releasing three more albums over the next three years before taking another break from NIN to focus on soundtrack work, something he started during the 1990s, producing the soundtracks to “Natural Born Killers” and David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.”
With collaborator Atticus Ross (who since last year has become an official member of Nine Inch Nails), Reznor has produced a string of celebrated soundtracks for films by director David Fincher including “The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Gone Girl” as well as other movies (most recently the Ken Burns documentary “The Vietnam War”). NIN returned to action with another celebrated album in 2013 entitled Hesitation Marks and has more recently started putting out a series of EPs including last year’s Not the Actual Events and the recent Add Violence. Always a kinetic live performer bringing intensity and spectacular visuals to the stage, Reznor and company top a solid top-to-bottom bill on Saturday.
In addition to reunited alt-rock supergroup A Perfect Circle with Tool singer Maynard James Keenan and guitarists Billy Howardell and James Iha (formerly with Smashing Pumpkins) playing songs from their forthcoming first new album in 13 years, on Saturday Aftershock presents an explosive live appearance by current hip-hop favorites Run the Jewels featuring politically charged MC Killer Mike working with noted producer/rapper El-P (one of the founders of legendary NYC underground group Company Flow), celebrated progressive-metal juggernauts Mastodon and Gojira, Slipknot singer Corey Taylor’s more straight-ahead hard rock group Stone Sour, party rocking Palm Desert outfit and Queens of the Stone Age side project Eagles of Death Metal, hardcore punk bands Code Orange and Anti-Flag and rising heavy blues-rock crews Greta Van Fleet and Joyous Wolf.
On Sunday, Aftershock welcomes one of the most iconic singers in the history of metal with Ozzy Osbourne topping the bill. As the vocalist for Birmingham, UK-based pioneers Black Sabbath, Ozzy broke the mold for British singers with his dark delivery, energetic stage presence and every man appeal. As part of the quartet that still stands as one of the cornerstones of metal with an unassailable initial run of recordings, Ozzy could have retired from music after Sabbath released Sabotage and still been a legend.
While the band stuck with Ozzy as things began to fall apart in the latter part of the ’70s — and even those last two records Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die have their moments — Ozzy would have to hit rock bottom before finding rebirth as a solo artist. He emerged from a depressed, drunken and drugged out stupor under the guidance of Sharon Arden, daughter of Black Sabbath’s thuggish longtime manager, Don Arden.
Teamed with guitar wunderkind Randy Rhodes in 1980, the singer and his new band the Blizzard of Ozz recorded two classic albums — Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman — and toured to great success before a tragic plane accident killed Rhodes when he was only 25. Refusing to allow her main client and by then husband to slide back into depression, Sharon would prod Ozzy to soldier onward.
While the notorious antics and drunken/drugged-out mayhem that continued with his solo career did not stiop, the crowd-pleasing singer only became a more beloved, more successful figure from the ’80s into the ’90s and beyond with latter-era guitar foil Zakk Wylde (who recently returned to Ozzy’s band). Between the advent of Ozzfest, multiple reunions with Black Sabbath and the hit early 2000s reality television show “The Osbornes,” Ozzy has remained for many the face of metal. With Sabbath completing it’s final, fittingly titled The End Tour last year, fans should not miss an increasingly rare chance to see the singer.
The balance of the Sunday schedule boasts a wide range of heavy sounds, from the more melodic styles of Vegas metal band Five Finger Death Punch and singer/guitarist Lzzy Hale’s hard-rock group Halestorm to the more extreme end of the spectrum represented by metalcore crew Of Mice & Men and visceral crossover thrash revivalists Power Trip. Some purists might wonder about the inclusion of wrestler Chris Jericho’s band Fozzy and the comedic hair-metal antics of Steel Panther, but both groups unquestionably deliver good times onstage. Fans should aim to arrive early to catch sets by Sacramento’s own Black Map (featuring former members of Dredg, Far and The Trophy Fire) and SoCal punk legends Suicidal Tendencies.
Like all modern-day music festivals, Aftershock offers up plenty beyond just the music line-up. A Perfect Circle’s Maynard James Keenan will curate the Caduceus Wine Garden featuring selections from his own Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards, while the Monster Energy Experience will have free drink samples served at the Monster Energy viewing deck, arguably the best seat to watch the festival acts from. An array of popular local food trucks will serve up top-notch fare and the Music Experience will give attendees a chance to try out some instruments and meet some of the artists performing at the fest.
Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 21-22, $94.50-$329.50
Discovery Park in Sacramento