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Sonisphere 2014 Review (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 17th July 2014 at 5:50 pm
 

From the moment I arrived there was a definite air of nostalgia around the place. Sonisphere is undeniably a festival for a section of the gig-going public, that is too lethargic and stubborn to embrace the pace of change music is making at the moment. They lament the days ska disappeared (if it ever was) from the mainstream music agenda and don the t-shirts of band who are certainly not playing the festival, but they want you to know ‘THEY CARE!’

Underlining the wistful air of sentimentality were ageing veterans of ska Reel Big Fish. They’re a band who knows how to cater for the longingly nostalgic audience, and that’s by playing nothing but the hits. There was only one song from their newest release ‘Candy Coated Fury’, which consequently got the same kind of reaction from the crowd that you would expect if Aaron Barrett came out onstage dressed as Vladimir Putin and started spouting anti-Ukranian propaganda.

The rest of the set was a journey through the nether regions of the California six-piece’s assorted back catalogue, which finished somewhat triumphantly with their rather enjoyable cover of ‘Take On Me’ by a-ha. They received a lukewarm reaction from the crowd for the majority of their set, barring the final cover which provoked slightly more frivolity. (6/10) But, their inclusion on the line-up is one of the things which confuses me about Sonisphere as a festival.

It’s a metal festival, targeted at the black t-shirt wearing population who choose to grow their hair past their neck, swing it around them like a lasso at random times, seemingly to display their dominance as either the smelliest or sweatiest member of any crowd. So what is a ska band like Reel Big Fish doing there? And what have bands like All Time Low and Weezer been doing hanging around the likes of Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth?

Somehow though, when it works, it works beautifully, as the Dropkick Murphys showed later on the Saturn Stage, emerging after a musical prelude that was almost long enough to rival the theatricality of ‘Glastallica’ the previous week. The run-up doesn’t serve to stifle the flow of the show though, as the seven-piece bound onstage like a bag of excitable puppies let loose in the kitchen when you’re chopping the veg for dinner. They aren’t bloody annoying like those puppies though (I’ve got a thing against dogs at the moment as I think I’m allergic, OK?).

Set opener ‘The Boys Are Back’ is flowing with the kind of good cheer you find at your local pub when it’s Irish night and the beer is flowing. Ken Casey has the pride his music enthuses rolling out of him in droves, whilst vocalist Al Barr looks every bit as mean as ever dressed in the kind of polo shirt and cap you see Frodo Baggins wearing in Green Street before he slogs someone right in the gob.

Barr is a marauding presence, as he paces menacingly along the front of the stage, stirring the crowd into a frenzied whirlpool. It’s singalong anthem after singalong anthem from the Massachusetts homeboys. My personal highlight had to be a rip-roaring cover of the traditional folk number ‘Black Velvet Band’, which was furnished with a gloss of punk bite. The audience was joined in unison for the penultimate tune, as they covered AC/DC’s classic ‘Dirty Deeds Done Cheap’, before skipping of the stage to one of their classics, ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’.

This all proved to me that you didn’t need to be a roaring, denim jacket wearing, Satan-worshiping metal band to fit in at Sonisphere. You were welcomed with open arms as long as your music had a bit of an edge to it. Dropkick Murphys had that in spades and left Knebworth Park as champions, after a rabble-rousing set that William Wallace himself would have been proud of. (10/10)

Sandwiched in between Reel Big Fish and Dropkick Murphys are titans of sludge, Mastodon, who troop through a set with just enough of their classics to justify a good outing for songs from their new record ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’. ‘Chimes at Midnight’, ’High Road’ and ‘The Motherload’ sit unobtrusively next to tracks like ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Blasteroid’, as the band take you away to a starry-skied world with their thudding, yet entirely melodic tunes.

At the helm, Troy Sanders conducted the orchestra of majesty behind him, whilst still grasping the 30,000 strong audience within the palm of his hand, from up high on the Saturn Stage. The titanic melodies that Mastodon have made their trademark over the past decade soared out over the fields of Knebworth, drawing in a considerable crowd. They’re the kind of outfit that the smaller bands who graced the weekend’s line-up can watch slam out a set of huge tunes and give them the will to aspire to play higher on the bill. (8/10)

By comparison on the same Stage, Alice in Chains produced an utterly flaccid performance, devoid of any real showmanship. They bumbled through a set which catered for anyone wanting to hear the hits, as ‘Man in the Box’ and ‘Them Bones’ received an airing. For a band gracing the upper echelons of rock royalty, the crowd could most definitely have expected something more than the dour showing they got from the titans of grunge.

Perhaps with all the line-up changes William DuVall and co. have gone and lost what made them so brilliant to watch. Or maybe the four-piece couldn’t handle the almost unbearable rays of the sun beating down from high upon the Saturn Stage. (5/10)

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of John’s review of Sonisphere 2014.

 

Download Festival 2013: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 24th June 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Nekrogoblikon almost felt like light relief after Slipknot the night before during day 1 of Download Festival 2013. Not that they were mellow, far from it; the ‘folk’ aspect of their ‘folk metal’ tag manifested itself only through an untamed baroque synth line and the orc-like vocals of the one-and-only John Goblikon. A hideous green mask perched between hunched shoulders and mangled hands; he shuffled from wing to wing in gothic splendour, warming the souls of the drenched masses lining the perimeter of the Pepsi Max Stage.

Back on the Main Stage, Mastodon unleashed their gargantuan sound on the waiting masses. A stalwart of the metal festival scene, Mastodon have become a new beast since the release of their latest album, ‘The Hunter’, in 2011. Launching into the primeval ‘Black Tongue’, it became apparent that this was a set more for appreciation than involvement. Lashings of rain compounded the situation, beating down through the likes of ‘Oblivion’, ‘Stargasm’ and ‘Blasteroid’. A menacing chorus of “just close your eyes, and pretend that everything’s fine” rose from the crowd during ‘All the Heavy Lifting’, before the band exploded into ‘Curl of the Burl’ and the classic ‘Blood and Thunder’, from their 2004 album ‘Leviathan’.

Alice in Chains silenced a core of naysayers when they took to the stage at Download 2006, just a year after reforming with William DuVall stepping up to take the mic from the late Layne Staley. Now, in 2013, the Seattle grungers seem more at ease with themselves, with a catalogue of new material from their 2009 release ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’, and this year’s ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’. But, where else could they start, other than the bombastic ‘Them Bones’? As the last chords rang out, making way for the angst driven ‘Damn That River’, the arena was back in 1992 at the release of their seminal album ‘Dirt’. Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney’s metronomic rhythm section rolled on through ‘Hollow’, ‘Check My Brain’ and ‘Again’, before lulling into the melancholy majesty of ‘Down in a Hole’. A final foray into old favourites ‘Man in the Box’ and ‘Rooster’ gave a nod to the old faithful, and Alice In Chains left all comers happy, but the set was just too short to include the likes of tracks from their ‘MTV Unplugged’ album – a tactic that Chris Cornell pulled off so effortlessly with Soundgarden at Download 2012.

Surely Motörhead have planning permission pending on some kind of treehouse tavern in the woods behind Main Stage? How else could they be relied upon with such regularity to turn a sodden Leicestershire afternoon into a homage to early three-chord speed metal (and potentially an advert for the health benefits of Jack Daniel’s)? No discerning Downloader would be surprised to hear that the set list included the usual mainstays: ‘Metropolis’, ‘Over the Top’, ‘Rock It’, as well as the slurred verses of ‘Killed by Death’. ‘Ace of Spades’ could do no worse than bronze in most Best Metal Songs of All Time lists, and sent the crowd into a 2-minute frenzy. But, the most poignant and memorable part of the set was the introduction of founding member and ex-drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, who has given his body for the Motörhead slogan: “Everything louder than everything else”.

Josh Homme has something of the Midas touch when it comes to assembling musical ensembles, and the most recent incarnation of Queens of the Stone Age (pictured at top) has proved a satisfyingly complex prospect, despite mixed reactions to their latest album ‘… Like Clockwork’. With all five members framed by a screen that filled a little over half the stage, their set felt more compact – even intimate – than anything that had come before. ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’, a lyrical list of narcotics set to a pugnacious bassline, worked as an opener because it summed up in seven words the ethos behind the old QOTSA, and most likely matched the requirements given to the runner as soon as Homme’s tour bus arrived – such was his amusement at a man-sized Super Mario in the crowd. ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire’ was the first link in a chain of tracks from the 2002 album ‘Songs for the Deaf’ that tied their set together. ‘First it Giveth’, ‘No One Knows’, ‘Hangin’ Tree’, ‘Go With the Flow’ and ‘A Song for the Dead’ were all delivered clinically with Homme’s trademark sneer, but without Nick Oliveri swinging a bass round his head in his birthday suit, it lacked an element of the danger of old. The band’s new visuals added a distinctive dimension that is likely to become a stock feature of future shows, enabling them to enact their visceral sound through hypnotic patterns and bloodied avatars.

Almost all Iron Maiden fans born after 1978 harbour an unspoken desire to re-live the epic journey that was their ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ world tour, and what better time than on the 25th anniversary of their Monsters of Rock stop off? Vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s passion for the aeronautical was indulged before a chord had even been sounded, when a Hawker Hurricane roared over Main Stage, leaving fans to gawp in awe as the plane made its second and third flypast. Maiden kicked off with the debut from their acclaimed 1988 album, ‘Moonchild’, to a rapturous response, before ‘Can I Play with Madness’, ‘Two Minutes to Midnight’ and ‘Afraid to Shoot Strangers’ kept the set on its rocketing trajectory. Dickinson played the conductor in a heavy metal orchestra, emerging for ‘The Trooper’ in Redcoat garb and waving a massive Union Jack.

A Pan-like devil emerged for ‘The Number of the Beast’, and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ lived up to its theatrical roots. ‘Run to the Hills’, ‘Wasted Years’ and the ominous ‘Fear of the Dark’ tested the crowd’s vocal chords to the extreme, before their eponymous track sounded time for an encore. Continuing the military theme, Winston Churchill’s famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech gave way to ‘Aces High’, and on to a tempestuous rendition of ‘The Evil That Men Do’. Maiden had the crowd from the flypast, potentially even from the credit card confirmation on Ticketmaster, and as they dissipated to the tune of Eric Idle’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, it was clear that the gods of metal have gifted Maiden with immortality.

 

Linkin Park & Metallica to Headline Sonisphere

 
By on Tuesday, 10th February 2009 at 10:32 am
 

2009 will see the first edition of the fresh festival Sonisphere. The event will tour Europewhere the UK will host the climax of the event which would have already visited Holland, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland. The UK event will be in Knebworth, England on the 1st and 2nd of August.

It has recently been announced that Nu-metal masters Linkin Park and the one and only Metallica will be headlining the Knebworth show. Other acts include Lamb of God and Mastodon with dozens of others to be announced.  Metallica are hard to impress but Lars Ulrich is already jumping up and down – “We’re stoked to be touring England and Europe with Sonisphere. Summer festivals in Europe are what Metallica do best. We can’t wait to see all of our fans over there.”

Knebworth might ring a few bells to you. Why? There are many possible reasons, but it is famously home to the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword” by Edward Bulwer Lytton. But this is not all, It is also known as the home of rock as the Hertfordshire home has been host to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and Deep Purple.

The festival is expected to be a great success due to its touring  aspect but the only way to really find out is to go. Tickets go on sale this Wednesday 11th Feburary at 9am GMT. If your interested then be quick as tickets will be snapped up quickly. If you want more information then visit the fancy Sonisphere Website.

 
 
 

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