So, Sonisphere has been pretty mental…again. Yep, it’s always that way. The weather has also been terrifically schizophrenic. Yep, it’s always been like that too. Despite those things (and not because of them), we’ve had a wicked time at Knebworth this year. Here is some of the stuff we managed to catch between us.
My Passion are totally on fire at the Bohemia tent and are getting busy making us (almost) forget that Metallica, Anthrax and company are rockin’ out on the main stage. Their affecting mix of glam bombast, classic guitar riffs and all-out energy is set to make them stadium contenders in years to come. Tracks like ‘Day Of The Bees’ and ‘Asleep In The Asylum’ come off as great pop-rock tunes that stick in the mind and ear for a very long time, and it is because of this that the band has achieved such grand success so far as a band.
Alt-rock two-piece Blood Red Shoes hit hard next with their infectious alternative and 90s-influence sound drawing from anything and everything from The Pixies to The Subways. With such a respectable crowd it’s great to see the act showcase with a confidence that will surely see them on one of the main stages in the very near future. Stand-out single ‘Light It Up’ and the hard-hitting ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’ help to get the crowd moving and keep them motivated throughout the set.
Our final act of the evening sees us checking out the epicness that is Killing Joke. Their intense heavy industrial-tinged onslaught is totally well-received by the crowd who have now finished with their main stage thrash orgy. Killing Joke of course, have their own legend to be proud of, having been active since the late 70s and inspiring the likes of Metallica and the Foo Fighters. Anthemic tracks like ‘The Wait’ and ‘European Super State’ are delivered with all the power and conviction that we have come to expect from Jaz Coleman, and whether they keep going for another year, or ten; Killing Joke will go down in history as one of this country’s best festival performers and without question, one of its hardest working bands.
Gallows clearly take great inspiration from punk legends like Bad Religion who are performing today, and it is an emotional time for the band (more specifically intense vocalist Frank Carter who announced that he was leaving the band to examine other musical options. We don’t think it’s ever going to be the same though boys – Frank’s energy is unparalleled. Seriously. Through tunes like ‘Knebworth Is The Reason’ (nice how they changed it from London, eh?) and ‘In The Belly Of A Shark’ we are reminded of the same venom that Amen once had, and a similar spite and atomic relevance to the Pistols or The Clash. Hopefully the band will be able to attempt to re-create some of that energy with the new vocalist, and of course we wish Frank all the best too – we’re sure that there will be bruises and bloodied smiles wherever he goes. Remember if you’re a fan, the band are embarking on a national tour to celebrate their time together before Frank actually goes, so grab your tickets now.
Bad Religion start off our second day on the Apollo Stage and we are loving the pure punk energy and raw emotion behind this band – no, we’ve never seen them before (and are ashamed…seriously – they’ve been going since ’79 and touring the world for many years now), watching the impact of tracks like ‘American Jesus’ and ’21st Century’ makes us wonder just what we’ve been doing at festivals (instead of chasing these legends) over the years, their drive is admirable and the strength of their material has obviously lasted over the years as the band will always be consider true and proper punk ambassadors – if you don’t consider Bad Religion one of the bands that you should see before you croak, then please do make that change.
Meanwhile, You Me At Six show how they have “graduated” and turned themselves into a totally stadium-ready band. Their well-crafted and intelligent rock tunes like ‘Stay With Me’ are now decade-spanning anthems in the making. This collective has a lot to be proud of after this great performance. Next up, and we are back on the Apollo Stage where Weezer puts on what is our show of the entire weekend. Yeah. That good. Weezer bring everything that you could possibly want to the table here, from classic starter ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’ to ‘Dope Nose’ via ‘Beverley Hills’ and ‘Hash Pipe’; these geek rock kings reign supreme on this day and we can only hope that they choose to come back again soon. Everybody is in a good mood as they finish with some tribal drumming (from all members aside from Rivers Cuomo who throws a big W with a look of intense pride on his cheeky ickle face.
The Mars Volta are a bloody confusing band, but in a good way. It’s just that…well, nobody can quite put a finger on what it is that they do exactly and that makes us very interested going in as first time viewers. It’s pretty intense, and very beautiful stuff though, and despite it perhaps not fitting in with the fast pace of the heavier bands this weekend, the six-piece live up to the hype. There’s definitely a unique power to the Volta’s work, and in a very rare live appearance, they go all frickin’ progressive on our hard rockin’ bottoms. From the sensitive and emotive ‘The Widow’ through to the heavier ‘Teflon’ most of the near-capacity crowd are enjoying the hypnotic and influential sound. Again, the Mars Volta have over time become another one of those bands that you just really need to see before you die.
Our final act of the day is 80s goth pioneers Sisters Of Mercy and their egotistical yet delightfully dark rock anthems. Smoke fills the Bohemia stage (and by gosh there is a lot of smoke filling that darn stage…) and from that point on we can’t really see anything, but then, we suppose that’s the point? ‘coz they is well goff, innit? Still, as this is their first festival show here in the UK for 20 years, we should probably be more grateful, right? Yes. Okay, so ‘Dominion / Mother Russia’ and ‘This Corrosion’ sound just as good as they always have done, and it’s our opinion at least, that this band is easier to appreciate live than on record. The dulcet goth vocals of Eldritch are great and everything…for the goth crowd, but as this band are closing the day off (Apollo headliners Biffy Clyro finish much earlier), and rock fans of all ages and tastes flood the tent, the band seem to take it to a whole other level, where they become alternative music icons and not just founders of a genre. Powerful, brooding stuff.
Phew! We just made it to the final day of Sonisphere! Yeah! So, we start things off with rockabilly masters Volbeat. Their sound is truly different within modern music, as they’ve got just the right balance of good-time spirit associated with the aforementioned genre and the emotive and unpredictable structure of modern hard rock sounds. ‘Still Counting’ stands out for us as the perfect example of what Volbeat are about as a band. It’s utterly addictive stuff, and totally befitting of this great festival setting. We cannot recommend that you go and see these guys on tour quite enough.
Next up comes Black Tide – this young and boy-band-esque foursome (sorry lads) sure know how to rock hard and make the most of the early morning start. Their melodic rock sound is uplifting and while vocalist Gabriel Garcia is around 22 now, he still looks as though he’s just starting the band at 13; that said he can sure pack in a tune. Absolutely brilliant stuff. We can’t wait to see this lot do some headline shows over the coming months. Go and check out the most recent single ‘That Fire’ (with its killer riffage) and then check them out as soon as you bloody well can. This is new music to get excited about.
On a similar note, In Flames rally through their new material with a renewed intensity and vigour. New stuff like ‘Sounds Of A Playground Fading’ and ‘Where The Dead Ships Dwell’ sounds suitably raw and edgy next to old-school tunes like ‘The Quiet Place’ and the band happily whet the appetites of eager fans who will be flocking for tickets to an upcoming tour. Vocalist Anders Fridén further cements his status as one of 2011’s greatest metal vocalists while his band slay Sonisphere and put some previous festival headliners to shame. This is one of the best times that we have seen ’em. Top marks boys.
Opeth fire off next with their heavy doom-inspired progressive metal. Billed as the “last metal of the day” to come on the Saturn Stage (with only Bill Bailey left on the Apollo) their tracks are arguably a bit too sombre to close proceedings on this stage. However, we can’t argue (or deny) the popularity of their influential brand. ‘Harvest’ sounds melodic and chilled before ‘Burden’ breaks the calm with its ferocious and classic riffage and that’s a definite highlight (aside from vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt’s razor sharp wit and sincere and heartfelt approach to performing the most technical of stuff.
Now, we know that people are going to hope that we love Bill Bailey and his “metal” gig, but we don’t. Really. Yeah, he is a very funny guy, and the reason it sucks isn’t anything to do with his “style” of performance, but the quality of sound is abysmal and as such we can’t hear anything, and honestly the fact that it’s freezing cold and raining doesn’t help. On the occasion that we do get to hear good ol’ Bill performing and the sound issues disappear, some of his ideas are frightfully entertaining – namely, ‘Scarborough Fair’ performed in German a la Rammstein. Quality. And, of course his brief Metallica cover mixed in with a rendition of his very own ‘Asda Bitch Song’ and some West Country Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, it’s a case of “big show, small gags” for Bailey whose band (including Pitchshifter drummer Jason Bowld) are on form but not used to their full potential within this environment.
For more information visit the official Sonisphere 2011 website.
Up to sixty thousand rock and metal music fans from across Europe descended upon a sold out Knebworth for its third year of the mighty Sonisphere Festival. Boasting a line up set to outdo all others we have high expectations for a festival which promised the biggest and best in metal rocking a line up of dreams for any self-respecting metalhead.
As Anthrax come out to a blistering rendition of ‘Caught In A Mosh’ the crowd get geared up to the event which has brought many of them here. For the first time in the UK the Big 4 of thrash metal will be playing on the same stage, in the same day.
Many of these bands have played UK festivals in recent years, but never at the same time. You can tell how special this event is by the amount of people who are watching them. Anthrax move into performing ‘Madhouse’ and play hits including, ‘Indians’ and ‘Fight Em’ Till You Can’t.’ Although Anthrax are a great way to start our day, the lack of err…Scott Ian, perhaps takes away a little of the energy from the band. It will be good to see them all back together.
When we first saw the line-up, we were a little surprised that Megadeth were playing third down on this Big 4 day, however it makes a lot of sense while watching them.
Though, it was a little bit of a slow start for the band as they begin playing ‘Trust’ – it feels a little slow for a few songs. However as soon as they start playing ‘Hanger 18′ the band and the crowd are back into it. Then, unfortunately, a lull comes again. It seems up and down like this for the rest of the performance, although the highs eventually outweigh the lows and with hits like ‘Peace Sells’ and ‘Symphony Of Destruction’. Dave Mustaine plays a variety of brilliant guitars including a twin V-neck all decorated with the band’s mascot. Megadeth have some great festival songs and have been awesome when we have seen them before, but when you are performing alongside the other big 4 bands, it needs to be stepped up a notch. This is exactly what Slayer manage to do.
As soon as they break into ‘Disciple’ the crowd ebbs and flows as the circle pits open up. These are without doubt the biggest pits of the weekend and Slayer are on form. Kerry King lashes on his fretboard to the crowd’s delight, and the whole band seems tight, throughout. The lead singer Tom Araya understands how special this day is to the fans who have come down, and he rarely stops smiling. He has good reason to, as the crowd give it there all. The set is truly relentless and, leaving songs like ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’ till the end of the set, means that the crowd has just enough energy to open the pits once again for a big finish. This has certainly been one of Slayer’s best festival sets that they have performed in recent years as they really took it up a gear for the occasion.
Then the (arguably) biggest band of the big 4 takes to the stage and is greeted by an army of fans waiting for them. There is no doubt that Metallica have one of the biggest and most loyal followings in the alternative music scene and they are all here tonight.
After a sing-along to “The Ecstasy of Gold” from ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’, the “four horseman” come out to blow away Sonisphere. For a festival set like this, the band have the dilemma of what songs to play. Metallica have a massive back-catalogue of mainstream hits and fan favourite songs and they have to get the right quantity of each to appease everyone and they manage to do that tonight. They start the show with a brutal ‘Hit The Lights’ to which the audience know immediately that Metallica have “arrived” and are going to destroy Knebworth for the next two-and-a-half hours. The band is great tonight and the addition of a monitor at the back of the stage means that everyone has a great view. Kirk Hammett in particular is stunning tonight with some great solos showing off that they are incredible musicians.
Metallica clearly arrived tonight with the intention of giving the audience a show, with an incredible display of pyro and great lighting, highlighting the musicians at the right time. As they storm through the set including ‘Seek And Destroy’, ‘Ride The Lightning’ and ‘Enter Sandman’, we notice the playfulness between James Hetfield and the other band mates. Our only negative point about the set is that they instrumentals go on a little too long. Not to say, that they are not impressive, but they could have used the time to play something like, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ which is missing from the set tonight or any of their past songs. Then, comes the moment a lot of people have been waiting for. Metallica is joined onstage by members of Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax and Diamond Head to sing ‘Am I Evil’.
It couldn’t sound better with all the members on stage and they look like they are all having a good time. All of these bands are known as the big 4 of thrash metal, yet all the bands are completely different. From Slayer’s relentlessness to Megadeth’s grooves. From Anthrax’s party songs to Metallica’s anthems. They all have something individual to give in the music they create, and live performance.
We open the Saturday to Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine and he has brought his bizarre jazz covers to Knebworth. To be playing first thing in the morning in a suit in the blazing heat, doesn’t effect the band whatsoever. Performing covers of ‘Closer’ (NIN) ‘People = Shit’ (Slipknot) and ‘Down With The Sickness’ (Disturbed) and retaining just enough qualities from the original songs, but making them sound completely different. Each of the songs have been given a make over and they are all clearly sung with a tongue-in-cheek approach.
The highlight of the set comes when Cheese tries to get the barrier security to do a mass showgirl line, with one of them accepting, and ending up on the big screens to a round of applause. The humour works well for the hung-over crowd. Ending with a surreal cover of ‘My Neck, My Back’ (Khia) leaves the audience in a great mood as we see smiles from people at the end of the set. Hopefully, we will see Richard Cheese become a UK festival regular, because it has certainly been one of the highlights of the weekend.
After pulling out of Download last year due to the vocalist Deryck Whibley hurting his back, Sum 41 are here to prove that they still “have it”. And it’s a great comeback. They play a festival set filled with mainly older material, however the new songs that they play from their recently released ‘Screaming Bloody Murder’ album, fit nicely with the old favourites. Also a medley of Metallica covers in their trademark pop-punk sound is a refreshing addition to the set. Towards the end of the show they play ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘In Too Deep’ and the crowd are singing every word to the songs. After a relatively long setlist for this time in the day, they refuse to exit the stage and burst into ‘Still Waiting.’ Halfway through the song, the sound is cut off, however they still play in silence as the audience creates the sound for the band. It’s an impressive sight and comes from a loyal fan base.
Periphery were formed in 2005 and since that time have gone through a lot of members, however today’s line-up sounds like they may have found their best. Starting of with an energetic performance of ‘New Snu’ the band perform to a full tent. Lead singer Spencer Sotelo fits the band perfectly as he whips the audience into a frenzy. Towards the end of the show they perform the new song ‘Face Palm Mute’ and the audience appreciate it as much as their old stuff. We think this is a band to watch in the coming years, as with shows like this they will keep gaining momentum.
After Periphery finish the tent empties quickly as most people head to mainstage to watch Weezer and it never reaches capacity during Ginger Wildheart’s set. It’s a shame, because the people that have come to watch him are in for a bloody good time. As Ginger comes on stage, its clear that he knows his audience and knows what they want to hear. Coming on stage to the fist pumping ‘I Wanna Go Where the People Go’, Ginger and his band are on form. He acknowledges that he was a late addition to the bill, but the crowd make him feel welcome today. When the guitars burst into ‘Suckerpunch’ it’s clear to see that, although he is not the same artist he was 20 years ago, he can still deliver a great upbeat show. At the end of the set his band plays ‘29x The Pain’ with Leila Khan from Sonic Boom Six joining him onstage for backing vocals which sounds great with the female vocals. People exit the tent knowing that Ginger will always do his best to deliver and he certainly did today.
It’s then time to go to one of the smaller stages (Jagermeister) to watch Saint Jude. The lead singer, Lynne Jackaman, has a unique voice sounding like a 70’s southern rock artist and it fits the rest of the bands style perfectly. Unfortunately there isn’t an audience to view them and the ones that are here seem uninterested. It’s a shame because the band sound fantastic and put on a great show, just not one for Sonisphere 2011.
As Black Spiders come on to headline the Jager tent, they have managed to draw a large crowd. For a lot of people it was this or Biffy Clyro. For a band who have only been going since 2008, they have grown a large fanbase. The guys from Sheffield close this stage with a bang as they have a new flame to rival the mainstage headliners. They play through hits including ‘Stay Down’ and play a fantastic ‘Blood Of The Kings.’ In time, we hope to see these on the mainstage as tonight’s performance shows, they are more than ready for it.
At an alternative music festival like Sonisphere, its strange to see hip-hop act, House of Pain playing here today. There are a lot of people who have come to watch them, but you get a sense that they are here to see one song. That’s not a bad thing if they could make the audience not feel like they are waiting! But, it all just seems a little flat. Perhaps if they had not left it until the last song, the crowd would be in the mood for the rest of the set a little more. Even when they do play ‘Jump Around’ it seems too short for the long wait. I think that they would have been better in a tent where they could interact with the audience a little more, but in this setting, it doesn’t work.
It’s great to see Airbourne clawing their way up the festival ranks and getting a higher slot each time. During today’s performance its clear to see why that is. The energy that the lead singer (Joel O’Keeffe) puts into each of the band’s performances is incredible. Climbing to the top of the Saturn stage so he could have a decent spot for his solo (and that was bloody high) shows just some of the spectacle this band is known for. It’s not all theatrics either. With songs like ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ and ‘Diamond In The Rough’ this band has both the style and substance to put on a great show. If that wasn’t enough, the band are tight, never missing a beat. The one thing that’s missing is the newer single ‘Blonde, Bad and Beautiful’ but it’s hard to complain about that when they have so little time on stage and rarely have pauses throughout the set. It is hard not to compare this band to AC/DC and if they keep playing gigs as well as this, then there is no reason why they wont reach that legendary status in their lifetime.
During the opening of Motörhead, Lemmy announces that the band’s former guitarist, Wurzel had passed away very recently. It takes the whole audience by shock, and you can tell the death of their friend is clearly on their mind. The band keep pushing through and although they have an understandably slow start, they start to gain momentum. By the end of the show the set devoted to their former guitarist is in full swing. The band play through their songs and at the end of the performance they do the epic ‘Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Overkill.’ These are great moments, as it is each time they play these songs at a festival and the crowd lap it up. After finishing the set they get a thunderous applause for being able to get through it. It’s great to see that a band that have been playing rock and roll for over 35 years, are still one of the most solid bands of our times.
Who knew that Fred Durst and Wes Borland (of Limp Bizkit) could get along well enough to create some great material and tour again? It’s a shame that this performance leaves a lot to be desired. The band sound great, Wes looks freakish and Fred has his red cap on. The problem is, they declare to not have a setlist and want the audience to decide for them. That means after almost each song we are left with Fred’s mumblings as he tries to determine the next song from the audience. Most of the cheers during these breaks are for the female audience members baring their breast to the cameras. They only play one song off the new album which is refreshing to hear, but the rest comes across as a watered down version of what the band were doing two years ago. Because of the awkward audience ramblings we only get to hear 10 songs and it feels un-finished.
By the time Slipknot take to the stage, it has been raining for some time and everyone looks pretty damp. As soon as they stagger onstage nobody cares about the rain anymore, as its all eyes on Slipknot. All the members come on stage with the old red jumpsuits, with one at the back with Paul Gray’s mask hung up for all to see. As soon as they blast into ‘(sic)’ you know that they mean business. The pyro on stage is nothing compared to the eruption of the audience. They have brought the full force of Slipknot and this is the heaviest we have ever seen them. Corey explains to the audience that this is not a time for being sad about Paul Gray’s death, but a celebration of his life. We were concerned that if they played songs like ‘Sulfur’ or ‘Vermillion’ it would turn the mood into something very sombre and be too much but these songs are not played tonight. Instead we get ‘Left Behind’, ‘Spit it out’, ‘People = Shit’ and new song ‘Only One’. The new song sounds like old Slipknot and fits well into the set. Thankfully it’s all heaviness this evening with the majority of songs being from the first two albums. With so much going on, both onstage and off (as Sid Wilson jumps off the sound tent into the crowd) it’s hard to keep track of all the action, however there is always something to watch. During ‘Spit It Out’, Corey Taylor gets the whole crowd to sit on the floor and all jump up together for the big finale with the drum kit tilting upside down and pyro flying all aver the place.
At the end of the gig, ‘Til We Die’ (by Slipknot) comes over the PA as Paul Gray’s suit and bass is placed at the front of stage. As Joey Jordison comes from behind the drum kit he hugs the outfit in one of the most emotive images from the festival. It’s a sad moment, but as Donnie Steele appears from behind the riser (former band member and temporary bassist) and he is given a welcome to the Slipknot family.
It’s a great to see the festival open with the big 4 of thrash and see the festival close with the best in modern metal.
Words: Lou Kouzapas, Anthony Neylon, Dom Smith