- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

Picture this: Ozzy Osbourne, the "Iron Man" and self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness," is in a hospital wing helping his wife, Sharon, face chemotherapy treatments for a recently diagnosed cancer.

Then, the man known for biting the heads off of small, flying creatures gets so nauseous he nearly passes out and ends up in a recovery room. According to Clear Channel Entertainment, Mrs. Osbourne decided this was a sign that her husband should be back on the road, instead of with her.

Episodes like these and MTV's quasi-reality show "The Osbournes," are helping turn Mr. Osbourne's image from that of a parental scourge into a comical buffoon. It's also the latest twist in an ongoing summer drama that will likely end up on the show's second season.

The tour, set to kick off at Nissan Pavilion in early July, was postponed by Mrs. Osbourne's surgery for colon cancer and was subsequently complicated by her chemotherapy treatments.

It has taken attention away from a traveling freak show that musically recalls all of the dark, heady excesses of heavy metal, the genre Ozzy helped launch back when he was his younger, more menacing self.

Just ask Zakk Wylde, Mr. Osbourne's guitarist and leader of Black Label Society, who has plenty of funny, disgusting and just plain strange tales of the Ozzman. Mr. Wylde first met him in the 1980s, long after Mr. Osbourne had left Black Sabbath and established himself as a successful solo artist.

Mr. Osbourne was so impressed with Mr. Wylde's guitar skills that he added him to his band, sparking a collaboration that would give Mr. Osbourne's career a much-needed boost in the early '90s.

"It was a dream come true, man," Mr. Wylde says over the phone. "He's awesome. His heart's bigger than his body."

Mr. Wylde helped bring the singer back to the top of the charts as Mr. Osbourne's guitarist and co-songwriter for much of 1989's "No Rest for the Wicked," 1991's "No More Tears" and last year's "Down to Earth."

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Wylde left Mr. Osbourne's backing band to form his own group, Black Label Society. His band has flirted with Southern rock, but is more firmly rooted in classic, head-banging metal, as evidenced by its recently released third album, "1919 Eternal."

In what should amount to a busy day for the rocker, he'll lead Black Label Society in the early evening before mounting the stage again with his old mentor.

Not that he's worried about the strain.

"We're Black Label," he laughs. "It's not like we're doing jazz fusion or anything."

For complexity, metal fans would do well to check out the Apex Theory, a young band playing the second stage at Ozzfest this year. Piercings, screamed vocals and tattoos are all the rage in modern rock, but Apex Theory members have something else that makes them a bit more distinctive odd time signatures.

The band's first single "Shhh (Hope Diggy)" is written in 11/8 time, with lyrics that amount to verbal calisthenics. Case in point: "Loony loud lumpy loopholes/with lingo that's loathsome," lead singer Andy Khachaturian shouts during one verse.

"We haven't really decided where we fit yet," says bassist David Hakopyan over the phone from Los Angeles. "We're not going with any type of trend that's happening now."

The band's first full-length album, "Topsy Turvy," was released in April, after a five-song EP released in the fall sold 20,000 copies without any promotion.

"When I listen to it, I'm proud of it," Mr. Hakopyan says. "A lot of songs are their own character."

Because three of its members are of Armenian descent, the band has had comparisons to the band System of a Down (which graces the mainstage at Ozzfest), but insists its brand of arty metal is distinct.

"I don't think we're a cookie-cutter band," Mr. Hakopyan says. "I don't think we sound like anyone else."

So what about the rest of the lineup? Here's a quick rundown on some of the bigger names and best bets:

• Otep is the only female-fronted band (for the second year in a row), but is as heavy, if not heavier, than many of the male-only bands it joins on the second stage.

• Rob Zombie, an Ozzfest veteran, promises a "stripped down" version of his growling, theatrical metal music

• Of course, Mr. Osbourne will wrap up what amounts to more than 13 hours worth of music, touching on songs from his days with Black Sabbath and his solo work.

WHAT: Ozzfest, featuring Ozzy Osbourne, System of a Down, P.O.D., Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, the Apex Theory and more

WHERE: Nissan Pavilion, 7800 Cellar Door Road, off Interstate 66 and Route 29, Bristow, Va. (near Manassas)

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday

TICKETS: $35.25 to $129.50

PHONE: 202/432-SEAT

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