LIVE: Sonisphere Festival @ Knebworth (Saturday – 05/07/2014)

Date: July 5th, 2014
Venue: Knebworth Park, Knebworth
Website: www.sonisphere.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sonispherefestival
Twitter: www.twitter.com/sonisphere

Rating:

Gallery:
None available

After a two year absence following the undoubted success they had back in 2011, Knebworth’s Sonisphere Festival has finally returned, once again hosting a stellar line-up across its three days, including metal giants Iron Maiden and Metallica, and dance/rock hybrid pioneers The Prodigy. We made sure we were a part of it, so we headed down to see if Sonisphere is truly back for good.


APOLLO STAGE:

TESSERACT – 6/10
So much has happened since TesseracT played on the Red Bull stage back in 2011, most notably vocalist Daniel Tompkins‘ departure from the band soon after. Two singers later, and Tompkins has returned to the band and sees his first job back to open the Sonisphere main stage. A sluggish start sees the Milton Keynes progressive metallers fall victim to the early morning slot, but the faster riffs at the end of ‘Concealing Fate, Part 3: The Impossible’ wake Knebworth and the sound system up. Unsurprisingly sticking to the early material that the whole band is familiar with, their set once again closes with the popular ‘Concealing Fate, Part 1: Acceptance’, but to a much bigger reaction, one which is surely enough to keep Tompkins around this time. [MH]

BABYMETAL – 9/10
Su-metal, Moametal and Yuimetal are the new superstars of heavy metal music. The three Japanese teenage girls front the metal/dance fusion band that is Babymetal; a crazy, manga meets Metallica madness that oozes brilliance. A Star Wars-esque running subtitled story introduces their first ever UK set with a fun gibberish history of the band before the insanity is let loose through ‘Megitsune’, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and viral hit, ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’. The choreography of the dance moves combined with the costumes, crowd interaction and musically superb backing band makes for a top performance and one that will stand in Sonisphere history forever. [MH]

GHOST – 4/10
The Apollo stage isn’t getting any less weird today as Sweden’s very own Satan-worshipping Ghost take to the stage with their unbeatably epic on stage persona and costumes. The Nameless Ghouls anonymously control the music while Papa Emeritus II creepily spans the stage in full Priest attire with skull mask and make-up. The creativity and execution of the band’s appearance is thorough and truly interesting, however, the music is terribly dull and tiresome. ‘Prime Mover’ and ‘Year Zero’ are atmospheric background songs at best and don’t create any thrill whatsoever. Granted, ‘Stand By Him’ and ‘Ritual’ are improvements, but if their music rivalled their backstory for inventiveness and imagination then they’d be a real force to reckon with. [MH]

ANTHRAX – 8/10
Following last night’s ‘Among The Living’ set in the Bohemia tent, Anthrax‘s Apollo stage slot now means that they’re the only band to make more appearances at Sonisphere than they’ve had festivals. The regulars are back by popular demand once again to remind us how irreverent thrash metal can be, but energetic frontman Joey Belladonna does take a minute to pay tribute to fallen heroes Dimebag Darrell and Dio, whose faces are postered between the amps. The set is tailored from Friday to allow for ‘Worship Music’‘s ‘In The End’ and ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t’, but no Anthrax show is complete without their self-proclaimed “No Hit Wonders”; a long rendition of ‘Indians’ and ‘Antisocial’ shows why they’re back every year and you wouldn’t bet against them getting a phone call before next summer. [MH]

FRANK TURNER – 8/10
Yet another eyebrow raising name on this year’s bill is England’s acoustic punk hero Frank Turner and his backing band The Sleeping Souls, and whilst you can’t mosh to his happy chappy tunes, you can grab a beer, relax, dance, and watch England’s best acoustic artist (sorry, Ed Sheeran). Songs like ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, ‘Recovery’ and the emotional ‘Long Live The Queen’ are perfect to hear on a lovely sunny day, and Frank‘s enthusiastic and fun stage persona is a joy to watch. [JK]

DEFTONES – 10/10
After an overhead WWI dogfight reenactment in the skies, featuring Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden piloting one of the war planes, Deftones take to the stage and kick into strong opener, ‘Diamond Eyes’. Singer Chino Moreno has clearly been partying all day and is ready to go, moving swiftly on to ‘Be Quiet And Dive’ and ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’, reeling off an amazing setlist like snipers with bangers for ammunition. “Do you wanna hear some old shit? Some early 90s shit?” asks Chino, not that they need to ask as they seem to know exactly what the crowd want. They finish with ‘Root’ and ‘7 Words’ from their first album ‘Adrenaline’, both of which are a treat to hear. It’s clear that Deftones can pick the perfect set list. [JK]

IRON MAIDEN – 10/10
So, here it is, one of the greatest metal bands finishing off one of the most successful and talked about tours in recent years, Iron Maiden putting to rest the Maiden England tour. It’s their last night of homage to their ’88 world domination. Ultimately, this set will always be compared to the last time this show played England at Donington just over a year ago. It’s fantastic, straight after blistering opener ‘Moonchild’ the band kick into ‘Can I Play With Madness’, a strong start if there ever was one. Following classic anthem ‘Two Minutes To Midnight’ comes one of the few changes from the Donington setlist: ‘Revelations’, a tasty treat for anyone who caught them headlining Download. Whilst it’s great to see essentially the same set again, more of a change up would have been great, considering how expansive and pleasing Maiden‘s back catalogue is.

Their performance, however, easily distracts from this setlist niggling. Singer Bruce Dickinson is still the most energetic and captivating frontman to dash across stages, even after taking part in a dogfight a couple of hours ago. The army of varied Eddies coming on stage is still mind boggling, bassist Steve Harris still borderline assaults his strings, and their three guitarists still bring the best riffs in history, whether it be all over their stage wild and fiery show or in their signature line. The crowd is one of the loudest you’ll find on the planet thanks to Bruce and his signature “Scream for me, Knebworth!”. So, despite hardcore fans who will always want to tweak setlists, Iron Maiden still prove why they’re the best at what they do. With the Maiden England tour put behind them, they can now look to the future of Iron Maiden. May it be as bright as they shone tonight. [JK]


SATURN STAGE:

ALESTORM – 8/10
Scottish pirate metallers Alestorm lower their anchors in Knebworth for just long enough to deliver their silly but undeniably fun set. They’re scurvy and cheeky dogs whose stage antics can easily entertain, even though most of the field is still suffering from too much rum the night before, and singer Christopher Bowes delivers the best keytar performance of the weekend. Obviously songs about just pirates and drinking go down well at any festival. [JK]

CHAS & DAVE – 8/10
Their slot might suggest so, but it’s probably unfair to label Chas & Dave as the Saturday afternoon novelty act on the Saturn stage that Sonisphere fans are now accustomed too. Their long industrious career even dates back to the 1979 edition of Knebworth Festival when they were part of Led Zeppelin‘s undercard. 35 years on and their folk rock is still flying strong, with a large crowd enjoying a good ol’ fashioned knees up in the rain to timeless classics ‘Snooker Loopy’, ‘Gertcha’ and ‘Margate’. OAPs, kids and men in Bugs Bunny outfits are forgetting about the weather together as they effortlessly enjoying the rockney music with ‘Rabbit’ taking the crown for the biggest sing-a-long, but closer ‘The Sideboard Song (Got My Beer In The Sideboard Here)’ is as fun as it gets, and tops the performance off a right treat. [MH]

THE WINERY DOGS – 3/10
The Winery Dogs are a ‘super group’, featuring a rip-off Chris Cornell (Richie Kotzen), Mike Portnoy and the other one (Billy Sheehan). They clearly seem to think they’re the dogs bollocks, but the limp and dull tunes they provide suggest otherwise. They drone on for a while with their uninspiring material that basically sounds like a rock-y boring Soundgarden (for an example, see modern day Soundgarden). It takes a lot more than a super group status and a good drummer to impress these days. [JK]

CARCASS – 8/10
Stating that every band playing this weekend except Iron Maiden, Anthrax and Slayer was influenced by Carcass is a very bold statement from lead vocalist and bassist, Jeff Walker, but the grindcore pioneers certainly made their impact on heavy metal in the late 80s. Returning with their first album in over 15 years in 2013, Liverpool’s Carcass take this opportunity to showcase their new material, and it sounds huge. ‘Captive Bolt Pistol’ is an instant classic and the guitars are almost destructive on ‘The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills’, but, of course, there’s time for ‘Heartwork’ at the end, which sends the crowd into vicious head banging and air guitar mode, hopefully still influencing even more bands today. [MH]

HUNDRED REASONS – 8/10
British alt rockers Hundred Reasons gather to play their 2002 album ‘Idea Above Our Station’ to their and the album’s cult following. This gathering was meant to take place on the album’s 10th anniversary two years ago, but back then Sonisphere kind of didn’t happen for two years. Nether the less, both band and cult fans are here and excited, and Hundred Reasons don’t disappoint. The album translates well live without a single dip of energy or passion. The event surpasses expectations and finally gives fans the experience that they’ve been waiting two years for. [JK]

SLAYER – 8/10
Slayer were once considered one of the most evil bands on the planet. However, when it comes to them unleashing this evil on Knebworth, they feel a little tame at the beginning. Even playing brilliant tunes like ‘The Antichrist’ and ‘War Ensamble’ their start feels slow as singer Tom Araya seems to be putting little effort into it, whilst guitarist Kerry King just does his usual thing of playing fast and shaking his silly beard. It’s not until we get mid-set around ‘Dead Skin Mask’ do they really kick it into gear. Araya turns his bored mumbles into his signature screams, and other stringman Gary Holt starts thrashing like a maniac just in time to deliver unto us the seminal ‘Raining Blood’. ‘South Of Heaven’ almost sees their energy and excitement dip again, but they bring all the way up to eleven for raging set closer ‘Angel Of Death’, as Araya lets out the best scream of the set with a Hanneman tribute banner falling behind them. Whilst the first half of their set was slow, the last half reminded us of the speed and fear of Slayer. [JK]


BOHEMIA STAGE:

HANG THE BASTARD – 8/10
Hang The Bastard bring forth their heavy stoner riffs with vicious vocals to kick off the Bohemia stage in a sonically similar vein to the way that Electric Wizard closed it last night. Singer Tomas Hubbard is a formidable force of a frontman, and 2013 single ‘Sweet Mother’ sounds a fully fleshed stoner anthem now. [JK]

CALLING ALL CARS – 7/10
Calling All Cars deliver some heavy and punky rock to the Bohemia stage next. The Aussie three-piece make a fair bit of noise and get hips shaking. Their varied alt rock has a broad appeal, especially single ‘Werewolves’, which just happens to be one of the dirtiest songs all weekend. [JK]

VOODOO SIX – 4/10
London lot Voodoo Six show up to deliver their classic rock ‘n’ roll, but there comes a point where ‘classic’ is done so much and becomes so saturated that it becomes bland. Whilst other bands at this festival have the tunes and innovation to carry a ‘classic’ sound, Voodoo Six just seem to be playing tracks that we’ve heard a thousand times before. Fair play, the songs are played well, but just not written with any sort of hook to reel us in. [JK]

BLITZ KIDS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

RECKLESS LOVE – 2/10
The lazy equation for Finnish glam stars Reckless Love is Steel Panther without the jokes. They rip-off every band from the prime time of glam, from Def Leppard in their song ‘I Love Heavy Metal’ to Bon Jovi in just about every hook they sing. “We’re a pretty cheesey band”, states singer Olli Herman, but cheesey doesn’t cover it. These guys are red lester melting on top of halloumi in between two stacks of cheddar. So, cheesy enough to give you diabetes. The outfits, the dire rip-off songs, the forced yet knowing attitudes, it’s all a bit too much. We all know that over processed cheese is shit cheese. [JK]

THE VIRGINMARYS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

BLACK SPIDERS – 7/10
Gaining popularity every festival they play, Black Spiders are bringing their hard stoner rock to Sonisphere on a very desirable Bohemia slot, and it doesn’t take too long for the security to close the entrances and put up the ‘Tent Is Full’ signs. Just two albums into their career, the Sheffield band have produced songs that happily sit on mainstream rock playlists, as you can tell from the roar during ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’ and ‘Balls’. But, keeping their feet on the ground and not taking themselves seriously, the band encourage a “Fuck you, Black Spiders” chant midway through top single, ‘Stay Down’, before they respond with their own “Fuck you, and this one horse town”. Black Spiders are a good fun British rock band with enthralling riffs and hooks that will only push them higher up these festival line-ups. Certainly a promising future for a band that’s still young. [MH]

SEBASTIAN BACH
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

DOG EAT DOG
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

NEW MODEL ARMY – 7/10
80s alternative rockers New Model Army have now reached a milestone 30 years into their career, with Justin Sullivan standing at the helm all this time. There’s a certain excitement in the air as the band take to the stage for their sub-headline performance in the Bohemia tent, but a couple of new songs slowly ease the band in. Still, it’s the “songs from 30 years ago”, ‘Get Me Out’ and ‘Green And Grey’, that are the kind of classic tracks that put the band in this position and shows the impressive variation Sullivan has injected into NMA, from punk to ballads and classic rock. Live favourite ‘I Love The World’ steals the show as the Bradford rockers conduct the crowd to sing-a-long to the repeating lines that continuously echo in the big tent. [MH]

THE SISTERS OF MERCY
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


JAGERMEISTER STAGE:

COLLIBUS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

THE WILD LIES
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

EMPIRE KILL
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

THE HELL – 5/10
The (Motherfuckin’) Hell (, You Dick) don’t take themselves seriously at all. They hide their identity by wearing bandanas over their faces, although it’s assumed that they’re just regular blokes and there’s no reason for the concealing, but, why not, eh? Their aggressively rude and crude hardcore is amusing for a while but loses its appeal very quickly, hence the novelties along the way such as one singer dressed as a giant penis, inflatable hammers and penises (yep, again) being thrown into the crowd and a band member being crowd surfed out of the tent during the set. New tracks from album ‘Groovehammer’ dwarf the first album, but ‘Shit Just Got Real’ still stands as the hyped song for the Watford band. It’s a gimmick with very little legs left in it, but they really couldn’t care less. [MH]

STORMZONE – 7/10
Northern Ireland’s Stormzone are metal as fuck. Their NWOBHM style mixed with their modern thrash-y riffs make for a killer sound. Whilst their songs and lyrics are a little cliche at times, it’s forgiven for their upbeat and fun performance and decent tunes, such as latest album title-track, ‘Three Kings’. [JK]

GLAMOUR OF THE KILL
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

STAMPIN’ GROUND – 8/10
The UK’s best answer to Sick Of It All, Stampin’ Ground are back to deliver more hardcore/groove metal crossover carnage, and the Jagermesiter stage couldn’t be happier for it. A monstrous pit welcomes the band back after eight years out of the game as the heat really picks up for ‘Dead From The Neck Up’. This clearly means a lot to the band and the fans, of whom many must have assumed they would never get the chance to see the Cheltenham rioters. You’d think it was about as sweaty and brutal as it could possibly get, yet ‘Officer Down’ starts the uprising once again for one last track. Stampin’ Ground are sounding flawlessly tight. This has been a long time coming, and it shows. [MH]

ZICO CHAIN – 7/10
Bruce Dickinson‘s WWI dogfight show unfortunately takes a toll on the amount of people inside watching Zico Chain‘s set of heavy rock ‘n’ roll. Also missing the show is drummer Ollie Middleton, who is currently in hospital as his partner is expecting. Alas, they fire through a confident set without being phased by any distractions, as expected for a band that played to judgemental Iron Maiden fans at the O2 Arena last year. Chris Blithero can really bellow out with some serious force, and when combined with the screaming, it creates an almighty racket for ‘Mercury Gift’ which sounds colossal. It’s just a pity that there aren’t more here to see it. [MH]

BLEED FROM WITHIN
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


SATELLITE STAGE:

THE RAVEN AGE – 6/10
Walking out to a drum solo, The Raven Age are making their live show as professional and impressive as possible, despite having just one EP to their name. Their confidence and ease on stage is evident immediately, as songs like ‘Eye Among The Blind’ and ‘The Death March’ show off their technical ability, with the former boasting heavy riffs to please the early risers. Everyone except Iron Maiden legend Steve Harris that is, who looks unhappy throughout son George‘s set, and speaks to the sound desk countless times. You can’t please everyone. [MH]

RIVAL STATE – 8/10
Exciting New Zealand alt rockers Rival State deliver a decent show. New single, ‘Aces’, is a clear highlight with a huge chorus. It seems like this gig is a stepping stone before this band hit something big. [JK]

BROKEN HANDS – 7/10
Broken Hands tone down on the tin foil of their Silverlandingroom project for this set. They deliver their more experimental Band Of Skulls-esque rock decently. The band feel like they could easily be bigger, especially with the amount of creativity going on, but the songs just need more of a punch to carry them. [JK]

THE SAFETY FIRE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

THE LOUNGE KITTENS – 10/10
There are plenty of great cover bands doing well internationally: Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, The Baseballs and Richard Cheese all have a brand new contender on their hands. The Lounge Kittens are a 3-piece female harmony group from Southampton who caught the attention of the one and only Fred Durst this year, and even joined him on stage briefly with their own rendition of ‘Rollin’ on the Apollo stage last night. This afternoon sees their own set pack out the Satellite stage to serenade the crowd with twisted up hit rock and metal songs with a few surprises. Marilyn Manson‘s ‘The Beautiful People’ and House Of Pain‘s ‘Jump Around’ send cheers from front to back, but the unpredictable medleys spout out segments of tracks by Gallows, Dropkick Murphys, Black Spiders and countless others. Sonisphere throws out curveballs every now and again, and they’ve nailed this one right on the head. Top marks all round. [MH]

EUREKA MACHINES – 7/10
Recent The Sisters Of Mercy guitarist Chris Catalyst slides into the spotlight for his pop-rock band, Eureka Machines, who walk out on stage dressed in their normal matching black shirts and white skinny ties looking like the rock ‘n’ roll mafia. Cheerfully upbeat, they manage to put a smile on every face in the tent with fun riff-filled songs like ‘Affluenza’ and ‘Pop Star’, playing up to their light-hearted attitude to music. The tent isn’t full to the rafters, but most of the people here are true fans, screaming the lyrics to ‘Zero Hero’ at the stage like crazy people and having the time of their lives with the Leeds band. If you’re looking for enjoyable buoyant rock music, then Eureka Machines are the band for you. [MH]

THE YO-YO’S
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


Written by Michael Heath [MH] and Jack King [JK]

Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.

Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.