Big Al's Metal Shop

Rock fans have waited years, decades actually, for two singular events to happen. Both have been hinted at by band members and their agents, only to collapse at the last minute. And while hope springs eternal, the arrival of Chinese Democracy on these shores has yet to happen. Oh sure, there have been leaks of various songs off that album, teasing us with the genius of one W. Axl Rose, but still we wait. The press has been eager to point out that it has been a decade and a half in the making, and that even Brian Wilson has been able to finish his mythical opus SMiLE by now. But, Guns isn’t the only band who has yet to finish what it started years ago. This spring, 11 years after the band appeared on the MTV Awards as a group, the original Van Halen has yet to complete its much, much longed-for reunion. At one point, Eddie V. began talking up David Lee Roth in interviews, telling him to come on down to the studio. Of course Diamond Dave jumped at the chance, and before you could say “Jump,” tour dates started leaking out, and rumors of a performance of the original four at their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame flew. Oh sure, we’d heard whispers in 2004 that they were trying again with Dave, but nothing came of it. This time, there was even a new pic of the band, with Eddie Van Halen’s son handling the bass. Could it be? Alas, no, now is still not the time. So, with no new GNR, no David Lee, what’s a rock fan to do this summer?

Crawl back into the underground, of course. While the two aforementioned bands get things sorted out, and I hope (and think) they will — they really have to, we miss them dearly — we have the Dio-era Black Sabbath touring the country with Megadeth and Machine Head in tow. It’s a metal fan’s wet dream, really, with the level of musicianship of Megadeth and Head, and of course it’s been 14 years since Dio stood on a stage with Iommi and the other godfathers of heavy. If the tour opener was any indication, this should not be missed. Especially since there has been no indication that it will continue past this year-long tour cycle. Like any other cosmic event, once it’s gone... it’s gone. Your best chance to catch Sabbath somewhat locally is next month, May 11 at the Tower Amphitheater in Cleveland.

This year also marks the return of the Sounds of the Underground tour, with Gwar, Chimaira, and Darkest Hour leading the charge for American Metal. Also, check out the viking metal of Amon Amarth, but hey — let’s face it — you’re gonna go for Gwar, you’re gonna wear a white T-shirt, and you’re gonna get bloody on purpose. Again, Cleveland is the closest this festival comes to the ’Burgh, and that happens July 21, also at the Tower Amphitheater. Now, if you make the drive out, please make it a point to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That itself is worth the drive, and this year, with Van Halen finally getting in, all we have to wait for is Kiss.

Of course, the granddaddy of them all (and I mean that in the literal sense) is Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest — free for the first time in its history. This year, Ozzfest will come to Pittsburgh on August 24 at the Post-Gazette Pavilion. The concert’s sponsors are picking up the cost of the show, meaning you can go to Ozzfest.com and print out free tickets. Or, if you pre-order Ozzy’s new album, you get a “pre-sale” password that gets you and a buddy in as well. The details aren’t concrete yet, so please check out Ozzfest.com for all the solids. In the meantime, know that this year’s line-up features the most uber-metal yet: Ozzy, Lamb of God, and Hatebreed on the mainstage with Nile and Behemoth on the second. If you’re a fan of Egyptology and death metal, Nile is your band. Lyrics that are researched with an academic bent are the band’s forte, and musically, Nile is among the elite in the death metal realm, as is Behemoth, one of Europe’s “Blackened Death”—metal bands, who, along with Vader, sealed Poland’s reputation as an important metal scene.

Finally, if you can’t make any of these drives, or are leaving town, Machine Head plays an off-date on May 13 at the Rex Theater on the South Side, two days after God Forbid should leave it in shambles (on May 11). Whatever you do, keep it heavy.

Until next time, have a wonderful summer, and Up The Irons!