Review: Sonisphere Festival.

With Download considered to be one of the best festivals in the world, there’s a sense of rivalry between that and Sonisphere, which follows just weeks later. This is not necessarily between the festivals themselves, but for fans who can only afford one there’s a definite sense of competition to pick the right one and – dare we say it – we think Sonisphere had quite the edge this year.

There are three words that completely sold the festival to metal lovers – “The Big Four”. After the mammoth response to their European date together last year, the announcement that Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica would be playing back to back in the UK for the first time sent music fans through the roof.

It was DIAMOND HEAD who had the honour of opening main stage of Sonisphere this year. With a strong link to the big four, the band went down with a great response from avid fans. Unsurprisingly, ‘Am I Evil?’ was the crowd’s vocal triumph through the set.

Then came the Big 4. ANTHRAX kicked things off with a fantastic set before handing the reigns over to MEGADETH, who entertained the masses with the likes of ‘Wake Up Dead’ and ‘Symphony of Destruction’. The crowds just grew and grew throughout the sets as more joined to witness the metal spectacle for themselves. SLAYER stepped in for the second year running at Sonisphere to cause raucous in the crowds, smashing their tracks such as ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ and ‘Raining Blood’, which, last year, was the song to ironically bring on the rain.

With some questioning the order in which the previous three bands played, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind as to who should headline. With a stunning two hour set of metal delectation, METALLICA took to the stage to headline for the second time in the Festival name-sake’s three year history.

With their riffs resounding over to the furthest end of the campsites, the legends of rock treated fans to classics including ‘Master of Puppets’, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and ‘Enter Sandman’, which wrapped up the main bulk of their set.

For those who witnessed the Big Four’s show in the cinema last year, you’ll know that they all performed Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’ on stage together. Naturally, this begged the question of whether this magnificence would be repeated for Knebworth. As the entirety of the stage’s line-up packed onto the stage, the question was answered. Probably the highlight of the day was witnessing these bands and more perform ‘Am I Evil?’ in the flesh after watching it countless times on Youtube since last year. Seeing a line of some of metal’s greatest guitarists standing side by side is something pretty spectacular to witness.

Sonisphere’s Friday main stage line-up was one to rival most festivals and, with a high bar set since the announcement, proved to be a metal feast of epic proportions. For those who hadn’t seen the Big Four over their years of show-going, this was the opportunity to see some of the finest there is.

The mid-point of the festival kicked off with a spell of dick cheese. No, seriously, much to the confusion of those who hadn’t previously heard of him. RICHARD CHEESE (&Lounge Against the Machine) opened the Apollo stage with an air of lounge music. ‘Suited to Sonisphere?’ you ask… Well, when you realise he’s covering the likes of Disturbed’s ‘Down With The Sickness’ and Slipknot’s ‘People=Shit’, then yes – yes he is. Luring the crowd who were just discovering him out of their sense of confusion, Richard Cheese managed to gain quite the response, major laughs and even a successful whistling solo.

Next up on Apollo was GALLOWS. This turned out to be a big show for a number of reasons, the main one being that mere hours before, it had been announced that frontman Frank Carter was leaving to pursue his own solo project. With an air of gratitude and humbleness, Frank spoke about this and asked for the crowd to make his last few shows – starting now – to be a celebration and great send off. Sonisphere couldn’t help but oblige. Tearing through tracks including ‘Abandon Ship’ and ‘Orchestra of Wolves’, Gallows managed to gain – assumedly – the largest circle pit/wall of death of the festival. For those of you who have seen the band before, you’ll know that they are one of the best live bands you’ll see. With such a change ahead for Gallows, they delivered a stellar set and managed to rile the crowd into giving just as much aggressive energy in return. Had you missed their set, you definitely missed a highlight of the entire weekend.

Have you ever watched The Sound of Music and questioned if there was a metal family similar? Step up the CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, metal’s very own Von Trapp family. Nailing their own tracks like ‘Sanctuary’  and ‘Black Ark’, the band also treated Sepultura fans to some tracks including ‘Territory’ and the set’s closing number ‘Roots Bloody Roots’. With a fantastic set beneath their belt track-wise, the main flaunt was that Max Cavalera’s family joined him and – bloody hell – does his family ooze talent. Richie, for one, is a fantastic screamer to the point it begs belief. It was like witnessing the next 30 years of the Cavalera family’s musical legacy; one that is brimming with talent and will undoubtedly go on to be an unimaginable success story.

Following a more pop-punk influenced string of bands, WEEZER took to main stage to entertain with their string of hits. Rivers, for those who don’t know, seems an explorative front man – running as far around and from the stage as he can before being pulled back. Covering Wheatus’s ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’, Weezer treated fans to a big variety. Naturally, their own songs ‘Beverly Hills’, ‘My Name Is Jonas’  and ‘Hash Pipe’, amongst many others, went down a complete storm. The quality of Weezer – aside from their great energy and bounce – is that they have so many hits that you are guaranteed a great set from them, regardless of how they shake up their set song-wise.

Taking to the main stage last on Saturday was the Scottish trio BIFFY CLYRO. Now, it’s no secret that the announcement of their headline slot gained a mixed reaction, especially following on from Metallica, but the Scottish rockers knew they had to prove themselves worthy of their first major headline slot and, by all accounts, they came out with all guns blazing.

Storming onto the stage to ‘The Captain’, Biffy kicked things off with a bang and grabbed the crowd’s attention from the beginning. Playing through an array of songs like ‘57’, ‘Saturday Superhouse’ and ‘Who’s Got A Match?’, the trio pulled out all the stops – streamers, pyro, elaborate lights – just to flaunt how much of a show they sought to put on. As much as ‘Moutains’ and ‘Many of Horror’ went down exceedingly well, a lot of fans did hope for a lot more older tracks. This is, however, something most bands will face as there will always be at least one song someone goes “I wish they played this…”

With this in mind, the Scottish threesome proved that they were absolutely more than worthy of the headline spot and gave everything they had in the process. To those doubters, you’ll now realise that Biffy Clyro are a fantastic band – both live and tracked – and that they’re one of Scotland’s finest musical exports of the last few years. Sonisphere got some flack when they were announced but the ‘risk’ (if it could ever really be considered that) was worth it and has given time to one of the future’s big headlining rock bands.


As the final day of Sonisphere’s three days of musical entertainment opened, the line-up continued to be of high calibre. Kicking off on second stage with HOUSE OF PAIN, there was an element of Europe’s set last year. As much as House of Pain were good, much like Europe last year, ‘Jump Around’ was their ‘Final Countdown’. People were watching the band, people were enjoying the band but many just sat waiting for that one track and, when they did finally play it, the response to the band was explosive.

Flitting over to main stage after this, ARCH ENEMY delivered a fantastic set. Performing tracks such as ‘We Will Rise’ and ‘Revolution Begins’, the Swedish sixsome delivered a very aggressive and demanding set. Angela Gossow’s vocals are simply overwhelming and, by any standards, blows many male metal vocalists out of the water. One of the best female vocalists in the scene, by all accounts.

IN FLAMES, albeit a little late, took to Apollo with an aggressive kick through ‘Cloud Connected’. Delivering an anarchic performance of ‘Deliver Us’, ‘Take This Life’ and ‘Where The Dead Ships Dwell’, they played a stellar set in the scorching sunshine. MASTODON followed with another fantastic set featuring ‘Blood and Thunder’, ‘Circle of Cysquatch’ and ‘Sleeping Giant’, amongst many others.

Another highly anticipated act, MOTORHEAD, took to main stage with a more sombre opening. Lemmy told of how the band’s old guitarist Wurzel had died the previous morning and said that the upcoming set – and the rest of their musical careers – would be in dedication to him. The rock classics tackled an array of tracks including the obvious ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Killed By Death’ and ‘Get Back In Line’. Lemmy, the over-intoxicated legend, would tell jokes and make cracks that were funnier just because of the drunken slur. “This one’s for William Shakespeare… you know, that bastard” and a personal favourite, “You can sing along, I won’t hear you though… I made an old guy joke.”

LIMP BIZKIT took to the stage a little later with their array of their own classics to entertain with… ‘My Generation’, ‘Break Stuff’, ‘My Way’… The band played their cover of ‘Faith’ towards the end of their set on the promise that as many girls got on shoulders and – naturally, as festivals go – lifted their shirts. As much as it’s almost festival etiquette, it was a little weird watching Fred Durst request some tits for inspiration. With this cover going down a storm, the crowd erupted into their structured dance routine as ‘Rollin’’ ended their spell on main stage. With this, the crowd turned and walked to Apollo for the most interesting act on the stage’s bill.

When a comedian is announced on a line-up, by default it’s assumed they’ll play in a tent. After seeing the cramming to see the likes of Tim Minchin last year, it was unfathomable that BILL BAILEY could play in a tent without causing more carnage than that. The organisers obviously agreed and not only put him on a stage, but allowed him to close Apollo and be direct support to Slipknot. So where does a musical comedian go from here?

With songs about Asda, rants about Cameron and Clegg and some classic songs from his repertoire, Bill Bailey mixed it up by humour relevant to the festival. Playing ‘Scarborough Fair’ delicately, he bluntly said “I prefer the Rammstein version” before playing it a few more times with the German metal twist. He played Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ on clown horns, sang Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ in a Yorkshire accent and – an assumable presumption – was the first person at a festival to cause a circle pit to the ‘Hokey Kokey’. It’s with this great diversity and humour that Bill Bailey absolutely nailed the mix of comedy and music in such a huge slot. Not many people would have pitched him as Slipknot’s direct support, but in a weird, twisted way, it worked really well.

There had been a lot of bands over the weekend whose set was met with high anticipation, but none more than the return of SLIPKNOT to the UK. With a 2 minute silence earlier in honour of Paul Gray, Slipknot had already been in people’s minds throughout the day. As they walked on stage, early may we add, they spent the best part of five minutes just staring out at the crowd, visually terrorising everyone with malevolent stares. Not many could spend so long essentially doing nothing, but it’s the great factor of Slipknot; the fear, the terror, the aggression – even if silent.

Streamed live online, the set was met with as much positivity online as in person. Absolutely dominating the stage through tracks including ‘Pulse of the Maggots’, ‘The Heretic Anthem’ and ‘Spit It Out’, Slipknot pulled out all the stops with little effects to steal the entire weekend. Sid crowdsurfed to the back of the first crowd section to then jump off the large structure, many members kept jumping from the stage down to the barrier, being grabbed at from all angles. It’s a testament to how much they put into a live show that they trust the crowd to let them do their thing and are willing to leave the stage countless times.

As a backdrop change brought a prominent “2” before the crowd, everyone erupted into life in honour of Paul, whose outfit stood onstage with the band the entire time. Corey took a moment to talk about the emotion of their current tour and how humbling it was to hear the two minute silence earlier in the day. It’s this great split in Slipknot that makes them downright amazing people. Their stage presence is a complete act; they put on the aggression and they give it their all, but when it boils down to it they are all humble, nice and down to earth guys and it really shines through.

Slipknot are performers through and through and, without inhibitions, put on one of the best live shows you may ever witness. Thrashing the likes of ‘Duality’, ‘People=Shit’ and ‘Wait and Bleed’, the band stole the title of “band of the weekend” amongst stiff competition. When Slipknot surrounded Paul’s outfit at the end of the set, Knebworth simply erupted. This has undoubtedly been a tough time for Slipknot, but they’ve come through it all and are simply fantastic. They walked onto main stage and in a mere hour and a quarter dominated Sonisphere to the end.

1 Comment on Review: Sonisphere Festival.

  1. An excellent review for a festival I wish I could have been at. The review was to the point and edgy! I read the lot rather than just picking out the bits that were of particular interest. Seriously, a smashing review. Grammar and punctuation: spot on!

5 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Photos: Saturday at Sonisphere. [9th July] « Indulge Sound.
  2. Photos: Saturday at Sonisphere: BIFFY CLYRO. [9th July] « Indulge Sound.
  3. Photos: Sunday at Sonisphere. [July 10th] « Indulge Sound.
  4. Photos: Sunday at Sonisphere: Slipknot. [July 10th] « Indulge Sound.
  5. 2011 round-up: Best albums and shows of the year. «

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