Sonisphere Festival 2011 Friday Review

Friday was the much heralded Big-4 day at Sonisphere, perhaps the least surprising festival announcement, well, ever. The gods of hype and marketing had been hard at work to make sure that everyone knew that the original titans of Thrash were performing on the same bill in the UK for the first time. Now let’s not go into how big 3/4 of the Big-4 actually are, even I had to admit that this was a historic occasion and not one I was going to miss…

The weather forecast for the weekend didn’t look good for the Friday, although Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be dry. This just proves that weather forecasters are lying bastards though.

Anyway…

The Arena was just starting to fill up when the main “Apollo” stage was opened by a band who were an inspiration to the entire Thrash movement as NWOBHM legends Diamond Head got us off and running. It’s a pity that most of the audience had no idea how important Diamond Head were, in fact most of the crowd only know of them at all because of THAT song. It’s strange hearing Diamond Head playing Am I Evil these days, I can never quite shake off the impression that this was a band doing a cover version of Metallica’s cover version of their own song….

Still, got the crowd singing along.

The next band have played at all three UK Sonisphere festivals so far, and for all the debate about who’s the better singer (I know, I know, it’s John Bush) I don’t really care because, for me, Anthrax without Joey Belladonna wasn’t really Anthrax.

After looking slightly awestruck by the crowd last time out, this time Joey looked completely at home on stage and was clearly having a great time back up where he belonged. The band didn’t have long but managed to squeeze in a fair old selection of classics including Caught In A Mosh and Madhouse along with their new-track-with-a-recycled-riff Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t. Having said that, festivals are all about surprises and one of the best ones of the entire weekend was when Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser (standing in for the soon to be a dad Scott Ian) took the mic to thank Anthrax for inviting him to play with the, before launching into the Sep’s Refuse/Resist. This is the sort of thing you remember long after all the other festival memories have faded. The set finished, obviously, with I Am The Law.

So, that’ll be Anthrax well and truly back then.

The next band on the main stage were Megadeth, but as they’d singularly failed to impress the last couple of times I’ve seen them (Meh-gadeth) I headed off to the Bohemia stage to see Greek guitar god Gus G and his Firewind cohorts. Now often guitar-hero bands can be a bit up themselves, but this certainly isn’t true of this lot as they rocked the a rapidly filling tent, benefiting as people started to drift away from the delights of Mr. Mustaine

Right, well so far, so good. The weather had held off and the sound wasn’t as bad as we feared (although that was soon to change). Not a bad start to proceedings at all.

The next port of call was the Jagermeister stage for a band that had come highly recommended, Slam Cartel. I got hold of their debut album the day before setting off for Soni and it provided the soundtrack for my drive down so I had high hopes….

But first…. time for the first whine at the organisers (there will be more, don’t worry). The Jager stage was located right next to the fairground so during the quiet bits all you could hear was shit music coming from there and a massively annoying “step right up for the next ride” recording on a loop. I mean seriously do the bands a f’kin favour.

Anyway, I digress. Music festivals are all about finding new band’s that you may not have heard before, and I really liked Slam Cartel and judging by the crowd they drew I wasn’t the only one. They’re no-nonsense rock’n’roll but they do it very well and frontman Giles Van Lane certainly looks, and sounds, the part. Mark the Londoners as definitely being one to keep an eye on.

The next band on the Jager stage were the completely different but bloody good Black Breath but after half their set hunger forced a foraging trip back to the campsite, a route which passed a curiously empty Bohemia stage where My Passion played to their hardcore fans, and virtually no one else.

With operation “cook food and don’t burn the campsite down” successfully completed a return route to the Jager stage was plotted, giving Bohemia a wide berth in case My Passion were still on. I know they divide opinion but I count The Defiled as one of CB’s guilty pleasures. Now I always get lost in the maze of hard/metal/whev-core genres but whatever you want to call them it’s impossible to deny that they are mental, energetic and above all fun. Honestly, more keyboard players should throw their gear around like The A.v.D (that’s possibly not his real name) does. You’d have to be a real miserable bugger to not like this….

The Defiled just seem to ooze a party atmosphere that was perfectly suited to the evening festival vibe as the sun went down. I’ve never seen a bad show from this band, and today was no exception. Pity I couldn’t persuade any of the other members of Team CB to forsake Slayer for this as I’m sure I had more fun šŸ™‚

So far on the Big-4 day I had only managed to see Anthrax, but given what was on offer on the other stages that was a state of affairs that I was more than happy with but the time was drawing near for the big one, the band I had a sneaking suspicion may just pull off the set of the day..

But first Metallica were on.

Before tonight’s set there had been rumblings from theĀ  rumour mill that Metallica had biased their setlist more in favour of their classic output rather than the more recent stuff that has polluted their live shows of late, could this really be a return to their roots ???…

Well as a “classic” set opening Hit The Lights is pretty hard to fault, and follow that up with Master Of Puppets and The Shortest Straw and you’re definitely onto a massive winner. This was a just my perfect Metallica set in almost every way, it was as if they had looked into my mind and picked out the songs I wanted them to play.

And All Nightmare Long, no idea where that one came from…

OK, so Kirk is playing that same guitar solo and Lars is still, well, Lars but I really didn’t think that the band still had it in them to be quite this good. They’re always worth watching live, even when their recorded works were less than spectacular, but this was just fantastic. All we need now is a brilliant studio album so da kidz will stop banging on about Death Magnetic being a return to form (it really isn’t). So come on Jamez, give us some more tracks that can hold their own against the likes of Battery, One and Enter Sandman and we’ll forgive you St. Anger.

Maybe.

Anyhoo, still buzzing from the unexpected high of Metallica playing a set even I would have difficulty faulting I headed back to the Bohemia tent and an appointment with the twisted genius of Jaz Coleman.

Killing Joke have always been a law unto themselves. So steadfastly unfashionable they are the least cool, most cool band on the planet. In Leipzig at WGT a few weeks back they were the best I have seen them for years, but as the lights went down and the dry ice machines went into overdrive there was a real buzz spreading through the packed crowd. This was more like a headline set atmosphere than a late night festival slot.

The band opened with Requiem before keeping the folk who only know one track happy by getting Love Like Blood out the way early on before getting down to the band’s more serious politically charged business.

Tonight Killing Joke were just incredible, it’s difficult to pick out one highlight from a set that was just unrelenting but if I had to chose, well for me it was when Jaz looked out into a crowd wrapped in a reverent silence and announced “This is about British Petroleum. This is about the rig that blew in the Caribbean. This is called Depthcharge” and the place just erupted. I mean there were some pretty spirited crowd reactions over the weeekend but this was something special.

Set of the day, oh yes. Anthrax and Metallica were good but this was just something else. What a way to finish…