McMahon Stadium, Calgary - July 26, 2008

RICK OVERWATER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

CALGARY -- The uniform of metal is a black T-shirt and jeans.

And while many stuck with the code at Monsters of Rock yesterday, they were in for a sweaty ride at first, not envied by the smarter folks who dressed for the sun that beamed down into McMahon Stadium -- at least until it started raining sporadically.

It was an especially hot time for those who made a point of getting there early enough to catch openers Zimmers Hole.

They don't exactly take themselves seriously. And despite playing tight precise music, it was obvious the majority of ticket-buyers didn't take them seriously enough to try and beat the line that stretched halfway around the stadium when doors opened.

Then again, beating any lineup at Monsters of Rock was a monumental feat.

It was no fault of the organizers. For the most part, things ran smoothly, with plenty of amenities available.

"Lineups are lineups," said Dave Johnston, Marketing Director for The Union, the concert's presenters.

"You get any large event like this and you'll have a lot of people right off the top."

Most would tell you that the misery of queues was a small price to pay for such a filler-free lineup of metal's best, many bands rarely ever hitting Calgary, and they would be 100% correct.

What a show.

The styles represented within the genre ran the gamut. One of the just-plain coolest bands, at No. 2 arguably too early in the lineup, was Montreal's Priestess.

Priestess harkens back to the proto-metal days, with a sound more in keeping with Ozzy Osbourne's seminal outfit Black Sabbath or perhaps Uriah Heep.

If you were looking for a band that rolled in all the styles and some of the rhythm-section intensity of modern metal, the next band, 3 Inches of Blood had plenty of that, complete with a sense of irony you could not help but have after studying some of the '80s' oh-so-epic bands that inform their sound.

If you instead needed a band that helped define a standard, as opposed to representing it, Testament was up next and was the band that truly got the crowd fired up.

Laying down some classic Bay-area thrash topped with some very-schooled lead guitar and Chuck Billy's demonic growl, it was a crushing set.

Vocal styles came in many different varieties. On the rougher side, there was Max Cavalera's guttural bark, a treat for fans who have followed him and brother Igor from their days in Sepultura.

In contrast to a lot of the more throat-rending vocalists, you had System of a Down's Serj Tankian, a singer's singer. His band was also more stylistically nimble and, clad in pink, less scared of being humorous than, oh, say Hatebreed, which preceded them.

Of course, if you're going to talk about truly great singers, you just had to wait for co-headliners Judas Priest.

Clearly in top operatic form on their new album Nostradamus, frontman Rob Halford rose from the stage in a silver cloak and led the band through a cut from the new record. It ain't the best record, though, so thankfully they cut right to the classic material, playing Metal Gods from British Steel and moving on to everything expected, including Halford on his Harley.

Beyond a doubt, Judas Priest is one of the greatest metal bands ever and few could ever follow them.

That's where Ozzy Osbourne comes in. Striding on stage in the white cowboy hat bestowed upon arrival in the city, Ozzy may not have been up to the vocal histrionics of Halford.

But there's only one guy who sings Mr. Crowley and War Pigs.

Zak Wylde, easily the guitar god of the da y (and metal is all about guitars and drums) took up any slack in the show and helped Ozzy end the day on a high point.

Sun Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


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