All good things must come to an end and sadly Sonisphere must come to an end. As with all festivals, the weekend went too quickly and I had seen some amazing bands. But there was still much more to see.
When I went to the Apollo Stage early to get a good spot for Gojira I found the barriers were still up. Confused and worried I’d miss one of my favourite bands, I questioned a security guard what was the delay. He told me it was because Metallica were unhappy with the stage layout and therefore the whole thing had to be changed. I don’t know to what extent they changed the stage apart from adding an extra level on the stage and a platform into the crowd area, but whatever the reason, it was unfair on Gojira. I also couldn’t help but feel I was a bad luck charm for Gojira, when I saw them at Bloodstock (read my review here) they had lost their gear but still played a blinder of a set. Luckily Gojira were allowed to play their full setlist and it was incredible, the best start to the day possible. Being my fourth time seeing them since 2012, they still haven’t bored me and I would happily come back for more. The ‘hits’ the band played were as fresh and unstoppable as the first time I saw them, ‘Heaviest Matter’, ‘Explosia’ and ‘Flying Whales’ were all epic (even though the lack of inflatable whales was disappointing). What really made the set stand out for me was the ending of ‘Toxic Garbage Island,’ having a whole crowd yelling “Plastic Bag in the Sea!” But just when I thought the set was over, the band launched into ‘Vacuity.’ A song I had not heard them play since 2012. It was a nice surprise that made my day. Gojira once again have confirmed they are the most consisted live band touring.
Even though I was sad to miss Protest the Hero, it didn’t ruin my excitement for The Devin Townsend Project. The Devin Townsend Project were simply epic, Devin himself was a hilarious but humble ringmaster. He was great at motivating the crowd and bringing laughter all around. Opening with ‘Seventh Wave’, he then announced it was ‘War’ as pandemonium broke out across the barrier. Devin was clearly loving every minute and was all smiles, he stated he was grateful to his fans for giving him the opportunity to do this for a living. He played a set that ranged from Devin Townsend material to Devin Townsend Project recent releases. While many were sad that there was no Strapping Young Lad material, I was not disappointed by this. At the end of the set, Devin urged everyone to hug people next to them as he launched into epic set closer ‘Grace’. Devin announced he would do a puppet show at London’s Albert Hall with Ziltoid. The announcement promised to be an epic event if it was to be on par with the recent Retinal Circus, but knowing Devin, it will be full of surprises.
Karnivool were a band I was very excited to see. I had been a fan of theirs for a few years so the prospect of seeing them live was extremely tantalizing. Opening with a monumental ‘Shutterspeed’ and ‘Goliath’, Karnivool were on fine form. Their progressive metal won a lot of people over and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were to soon go from cult heroes to serious players in the music scene. An epic ending of ‘Themata’ and ‘New Day’ had people thrusting their horns in the air and singing along with the Australians on stage. The crowd certainly made it worth the travel for them and their music made it worth it for the fans.
Airbourne did what they did best. Perform kick ass music and guarantee everyone the price of their ticket. They were an insane amount of fun, even though a lot of their material sounded similar, it was too enjoyable to be a bother. ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ was a lot of fun and Joel O’Keefe did what he did 3 years ago and climb up the staging and not manage to kill himself. He earned his title ‘The Human Spider-Man’ (watch the footage here). Airbourne were so entertaining and made the crowds forget about the heatwave currently engulfing the arena. ‘Runnin’ Wild’ was a ridiculously fun set closer by a ridiculously fun band.
Reel Big Fish had a reputation for being fun. But I did not expect them to be that amount of fun. Opener ‘Everything Sucks’ got the crowd jumping and they did not stop until the band walked off stage. They were just a lot of fun and the large mosh pits and circle pits were proof that metalheads can boogie to ska music. Songs like ‘Everyone Body’s Drunk’, ‘Beer’ and ‘Sell Out’ had even the black metal fans moving to their infectious rhythms. The band even did covers of The Offspring’s ‘Self-Esteem’ and ‘The Imperial March’ from Star Wars. When the band played ‘S.R.’ they played the song in many different styles including country and death metal, getting the audience yell out ‘we’re gonna play the same song’ in between. Their death metal vocals were seriously impressive, a career change perhaps was on the cards? Unfortunately the sound cut out during ‘Where Have You Been’ and the sound didn’t travel well beyond the first few rows. But once it came back, the party continued. Ending with a monumental cover of A-ha‘s ‘Take On Me’, the entire campsite sang to the pop anthem and walked off happy and smiling.
I had a huge grin on my face though because it was time for Mastodon! I had been looking forward to them for ages and could not wait to see some new material live. With Once More ‘Round The Sun (reviewed here) hitting number 10 in the UK album charts and the backdrop to the album blowing in the wind, it was time for Mastodon to grace the UK once more. After introducing themselves, the cavemen opened with ‘Oblivion’, which had scores of their fans singing along with Brann Dailor. The band were one of the bands of the festival and were simply mesmerizing. Older material such as ‘Crystal Skull’ and ‘Megalodon’ were incredible to hear for the first time in three years, while newer material such as ‘The Motherload’ and ‘High Road’ got the same response as their timeless classics. My only beef with the set was their choice of the finishing song, ‘Aqua Dementia’. There was no problem with the song itself or the musicianship, I just felt the set should have ended with a more famous song like ‘March of the Fire Ants’, ‘Colony of Birchmen’ or ‘Blood and Thunder’, it could have given the set a more spectacular finale. But then again, Mastodon have always done what they wanted and I was just too happy to see them. When I saw them last in 2011 the band didn’t speak to the crowd apart from before and after the end. The band did the same this year (aside from the band signalling for pits and encouraging the hordes to get clapping), but it did not bother me as much as it did three years ago. Brann thanked the crowd and was grateful for the fans for making the album number 10 in the UK charts. He told the crowd he hoped to see them at the end of the year tour (info here) as he departed grinning. Mastodon once again proved that they should be headlining festivals.
Dropkick Murphys had a tough act to follow but they rose to the challenge. Opener ‘The Boys Are Back’ had the crowd singing and dancing as the band took their place on stage. Even though a lot of the crowd only knew set closer ‘Shipping Off To Boston’, many attendees found themselves singing a lot to the band’s other songs. They have a long and impressive back catalogue and they intended to play it. It was a delight to see them perform on stage and to interact with the crowd, playing tracks such as ‘Going Out in Style’, ‘Rose Tattoo’ and a dead good cover of AC/DC‘s ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’. The band came back on for the epic finale of ‘Shipping Off to Boston’, which had the whole crowd going ‘Woah!’ Dropkick Murphys are without a doubt a brilliant live act, one which will hopefully come back soon.
Alice in Chains are a legendary band. The band have an amazing reputation as musicians and as a live act, one I had to see for myself. Opening with ‘Them Bones’, the band started off extremely well and maintained throughout the set. The classics from the Layne Staley era sat in comfortably next to modern greats such as ‘Hollow’ and ‘Check my Brain’. William DuVall is clearly the right man for the job, making playing the guitar look effortless and emulating the spirit of Staley. Jerry Cantrell proved he was still up there with the best of them with his guitar work being some of the finest over the weekend. When DuVall saw a low flying plane he joked “looks like Bruce Dickinson is still flying about up there”. DuVall united the arena in singing ‘Would?’ and a titantic rendition of ‘Rooster’, being a highlight of the weekend. An incredible set by an incredible band.
Dream Theater are skilled musicians, there’s no denying it. Their set was a marvelous display of skill and riffing. Opener ‘The Enemy Inside’ was a good start while ‘Pull Me Under’ was an outstanding finale. But I wasn’t in the mood really, I just wanted to sing some anthems, and hearing Metallica’s soundcheck in the background didn’t help. Dream Theater was a great band and proved they could play at festivals, but I just wasn’t feeling it at the time.
Metallica had been in the news a lot lately. Their performance headlining at Glastonbury (watch the whole set here) received rave reviews from all areas of the UK media and press. Despite their booking causing controversy and many calls for the band to not play, they silenced all the haters and won over many new fans, The Black Album even re-entered the album charts! Metallica’s performance was dubbed by some as a turning point for metal music in the UK and could have started metal’s comeback, whatever that means! So all eyes were on Metallica, could they perform two killer sets at UK festivals? Well of course they could, they’re Metallica! The band were playing a ‘Metallica By Request’ setlist, where fans who bought the tickets could vote for songs that could go towards the final setlist. There was also a Vote of the Day where fans could text in for a choice of three songs, ‘The Four Horsemen’, ‘Wherever I May Roam’ and ‘…And Justice For All’. ‘Justice’ won (much to the annoyance of James Hetfield who wanted to play ‘Roam’). Two fans even got the chance to introduce ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Blackened’, lucky shits.
Opening with the one two punch of ‘Battery’ and ‘Master of Puppets’, the band took no prisoners. Metallica were incredible, there was no denying that. They once again deserve their play on the festival circuit as headliners, they still have the power 30 years later. The anthems in their set and the reception caused by them once again ignited the argument there was never going to be another Metallica. At one point Hetfield said “I’m sorry but I have to announce GIMME FUEL GIMME FIRE GIMME THAT WHICH I DESIRE!” There were so many positives to take from Metallica’s set. ‘Fuel’ and ‘Creeping Death’ are still two of the best songs Metallica have written and judging by the fan reaction they are as amazing as ever. New song ‘Lords of Summer’ fitted in nicely with ‘the hits’, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ unified the entire camp in voice as all the lighters raised knocked out another glacier in the South Pole and Kirk Hammett played like there was no tomorrow. ‘Enter Sandman’ may be an ‘overplayed’ song, but it is undeniably one of the best anthems of the 90s. The set closed with one of James Hetfield’s favourite songs to play live, ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, ‘…And Justice for All’ and the powerful ‘Seek and Destroy’. Thus ended the mainstage at Sonisphere for another year but the night was still young and there was one more band to see.
After the thrash metal titans finished, an influx of people crammed into the tent to watch The Defiled play a Nirvana cover set under the name Nirvana Defiled.
Coming on stage dressed as Nirvana (frontman Stitch as Kurt Cobain was pushed on stage in a wheelchair by keyboardist The AvD, who himself was dressed as Courtney Love, exposing his genitalia to the crowd) and opening with a fantastic ‘Breed’ the tent erupted into pandemonium. From the people who grew up to Nirvana in the 90s, the people who saw them live and the younger members who never will, it was a crowd pleasing set. Touching all areas of Nirvana’s discography, the band were faithful to Nirvana, a fitting tribute. ‘Heart Shaped Box’, ‘In Bloom’, ‘Lithium’ and ‘Rape Me’ were personal highlights. Ending with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Stitch joked “when we booked the rehearsal space we hated the fact we were covering THAT SONG but it’s a great song and changed the world”. With that the band launched into one of the best songs ever written, causing huge mosh pits to erupt in the Bohemia Tent. Stitch ended the set by smashing his guitar and throwing it on the ground as he left, ending one of the best surprises of the weekend. And that was it, no more music. The smashed guitar itself was a representation of Sonisphere, a fantastic weekend of music which ultimately left many things broken.
The Defiled are touring the UK in November and December, more info here.
What made the weekend even more surreal was on the train home on the Monday I ended up sitting next to and speaking to the British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. We ended up shaking hands and talking about the festival, our families and the state of the country. It was a weird situation but one I’m glad to have experienced.
Was Sonisphere 2014 worth the wait? Of course it was, here’s hoping for an amazing return in 2015!