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Note: As only three members of the site were able to attend the festival weekend, we were sadly unable to cover every band performing throughout the day.
Extended to a full three-day weekend with just the Saturn stage not used on the Friday, the first day of musical entertainment at this year’s Sonisphere brings a bloody big attraction: The Big 4. With their first ever appearance over in the UK, the festival sure has a pretty impressive exclusive amongst the rest of the country’s festivals, and for all thrash metal fans this surely the makings of a wet dream come true.
DIAMOND HEAD – 7/10
Any band supporting The Big 4 certainly have their work cut out for them, but Midland rockers Diamond Head step up to plate unphased. They are the perfect choice, seeing as they were the pioneers of British heavy metal as well as a major influence for Metallica. The die-hard fans at the barrier love every minute of their set, but the rest of the crowd seem uninterested for the majority of it. However, once Nick Tart‘s outstanding voice rings out to the almighty anthem of ‘Am I Evil?’, everyone is quick to pay attention and the first major pits of the festival get under way, getting the warming up in order nice and early.
ANTHRAX – 8/10
As the sound of a war siren blares out, Anthrax, part one of The Big 4, come to emerge on stage. They waste no time in beginning proceedings, and jump straight into their 45-minute set. As well as their best songs, they squeeze in their famous covers of Joe Jackson‘s ‘Got The Time’ and ‘Antisocial’ by Trust, as well as new single ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t’. A very memorable moment arose during ‘Indians’, Joey Belladonna leads in the crowd in doing a bizarre war dance, which gets the ground shaking and the crowd up in a frenzy. And, of course, all hell breaks loose as they end on ‘I Am The Law’.
MEGADETH – 6/10
Donning an epic duel guitar, Dave Mustaine looks out with a sour look on his face, which stays there for majority of the time Megadeth are onstage. Though, with the inevitable die-hard Metallica fans shouting abuse his way, you can kind of understand why. The band play a decent hour long set, not missing a beat or a note, and filling it full of great songs like ‘Public Enemy No.1’ and ‘Wake Up Dead’. Although the non-Metallica hardheads love them, there’s the sense that the band are just going through the motions and that they just don’t enjoy it anymore. Bar the last two songs of the set (‘Peace Sells’ and ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’), this was a rather mediocre performance by a band that ultimately has a lot to offer.
SLAYER – 9/10
This show pretty much had it all. As well as an epic set, there were insane pits, inflatable guitars waving about, lots of drunken old men falling down, and aided by the stage cameramen, a countless amount of boobs on display across the big screens. Frontman Tom Araya spends the majority of the set looking out and smiling, admiring the love from the crowd and the amount of enjoyment (and mosh pits) he and the rest of Slayer have caused. It should be noted that Gary Holt of Exodus replaced guitarist Jeff Hanneman on this show, and did a superb job filling his shoes. Having a set list tailored to perfection over the many years of touring, they know exactly what the crowd wants: opening and ending with the classic ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel Of Death’ respectively, while peppering the middle of the set with songs that sound flawless live.
METALLICA – 9/10
With three down and just one more to go, the final piece of The Big 4 close off the night with a huge kaboom. Metallica have been, and still are, one of the most successful metal bands for the past few decades, and even in 2011 they still hold that title firmly with a strong live performance to back it up. They bring out pretty much all of their hits (yet steer firmly away from 2003’s hit-or-miss ‘St. Anger’ at all costs); chugging out ‘Fade To Black’, ‘Seek And Destroy’, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, ‘The Memory Remains’, ‘One’, ‘Enter Sandman’. The list goes on and on. Though many may think the thrashing quintet are far from their prime years, Metallica still hold the gauntlet as one of the strongest long survived live acts, and their swagger and dominance as the final act on the main stage supported that firmly. Well, almost final act, with a short intermission of the entirety of The Big 4 strolling onstage to smash out ‘Am I Evil?’, backed with several guitars with amps and more, before Hetfield and his gang come out for one final encore. A huge bang to the start of the Sonisphere festival weekend.
This stage was closed and didn’t feature any acts during the Friday of the festival.
JAPANESE VOYEURS – 6/10
With their debut album ‘Yolk’ on the verge of release, Sonisphere is the last big push for Japanese Voyeurs to garner as many fans as possible to get those first week sales as high as they can. Sadly luck isn’t on the band’s side, with the sound standing weak and frail throughout their set, and for the most part meshing all together making for a sloppy and slack deliverance. Romily Alice‘s usually piercing and unique voice fails to penetrate as it normally does, with a drive from the rest of the band’s gritty and sludgy grunge, and unfortunately doesn’t bring forward the potential Japanese Voyeurs knowingly hold.
LOWER THAN ATLANTIS – 8/10
Despite a undeniably slow start to the day in the Bohemia tent, Lower Than Atlantis‘ huge alternative rock tunes really get the tent moving and singing along to huge songs like ‘(Motor) Way Of Life’ and ‘High At Five’. They even employ the old Slipknot tactic of getting everyone to crouch down and jump during ‘Beech Like A Tree’ to really set things in motion. Older songs like ‘I’m Not Bulimic…’ also get an airing, but with more emphasis on their newer and more accessible material, it’s clear that these boys have got their eyes on the big time, and based on this accomplished performance, it won’t be long before they make it.
GLAMOUR OF THE KILL – 5/10
York’s Glamour Of The Kill draw a decent sized crowd of the more youthful spectrum of attendees of the festival it would seem. The mainly pre-teen crowd love every minute, jumping along the 80’s hair metal pop fusion style that GOTK have got going on. But a crowd’s reaction doesn’t necessarily determine the quality of the band’s performance. Those not shrouded by the youthful essence and imprint the band’s style provides would very well have found the very formulaic and generic aura of the whole performance very tedious and sickening, with Davey Richmond‘s nasally vocals only driving the annoyance factor steeply higher.
THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER – 9/10
Entering to the swell of violins and the howls of the crowd, The Black Dahlia Murder waste no time in tearing up the Bohemia tent like very few at their stage of their career know how. During their short but brutally sweet five-song set, there’s masses of fists pumping, crowds stomping and huge circle pits erupting, as well as one or two injuries. Mixed with some incredible stage presence and a terrific sound, TBDM led to be one of the best performances of the day.
MY PASSION – 7/10
Though in the eyes of many “true metal heads” that would be around for The Big 4 would find My Passion to be an “uncool” band, those who open their minds from fickleness will find that in a live setting, the Hitchin quintet are a formidable act considering their time in the scene thus far. Keeping the pace fast and energy levels high with their more lively numbers ‘Thanks For Nothing’ and ‘Asleep In The Asylum’, the band show themselves strong and in their element, undoubtedly reeling in a selection of fresh fans or newly converted nay sayers who may have popped into the tent out of curiosity.
BLOOD RED SHOES – 7/10
It’s true that great things come in pairs; Death From Above 1979, Idiot Pilot, breasts, bangers and mash, weekends, and adding onto the music-related references already made are Blood Red Shoes. The boy-girl duo may not have a huge work force behind their sound, but heir hard indie façade packs quite a punch. Hits like ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’ bring melodicy and attitude to the forefront, and shows that Laura-Mary Carter‘s voice is as strong live as it is on record.
KILLING JOKE – 7/10
Now, this is a band that has been well known for many years, a post-punk band that has crossed many distinct genres, including a few notable delves into the areas of industrial, goth and many other different hybridisations and forms of metal. Playing their odd but well renowned mix filled the Bohemia tent. With a good stage presence, the crowd loved the set and was a great way to end today’s bands.
MAKETHISRELATE – 7/10
The first Friday band, and first band of the entire weekend opening up the Red Bull Stage, Scotland’s MakethisRelate play some emo-y tinged alternative rock, with some great vocals driving their playing it made for a musically brilliant set.
ACODA – 8/10
Continuing the antics held in the Red Bull tent, but this time with a more progressive style of post-hardcore, Red Bull Bedroom Jam finalists ACODA put some great talent into their music. Mixing both clean and distorted sounds in both instrumentation and vocals, they give for what was ultimately some very interesting music and a brilliantly entertaining set.
YOUNG LEGIONNAIRE – 7/10
The almost super group trio, comprising of past members of Bloc Party and YourCodeNameIs:Milo, Young Legionnaire continue forward much like the stage’s predecessors to some proggy/math influenced rock, with some very good playing and talking to the crowd to keep them entertained. Keeping up with current events in the world, the band perform a brand new track to much delight with the audience, which is all about the recent scandal regarding the UK newspaper The News Of The World.
CEREBRAL BALLZY – 6/10
Skate punk from New York? That’s more or less Cerebral Ballzy down to a tee, sloppy playing but with plenty of the charm. With a great stage presence and plenty of banter with the crowd between songs led for a great set, and who doesn’t enjoy watching a frontman climbing high all over the stage rigs?
PROTEST THE HERO – 9/10
A band that can make an effective mix comedy and musical technicality has got themselves a nice winning formula. This just happens to be the case with Protest The Hero, bringing a great live presence, their set went down a storm. The comedy factor of the equation came from the boys making fun of bands that jump around during their set (whilst, obviously, jumping around themselves) as well as other jokes and general chit chat made for an amazing set.
ROLO TOMASSI – 8/10
If you’re one of the reluctant and unfortunate ones to have never heard Rolo Tomassi before, try to imagine The Dillinger Escape Plan with Zelda and Pokémon sound effects from the Gameboy era. They may look clean-cut and cuddly on the outside, but Rolo Tomassi are heavy-as-fuck, with their technical and downright chaotic sounds induces some serious damage in the pit. With Eva Spence‘s soft voices ring out during the happy, floaty bits of songs such as ‘I Love Turbulence’, she then instils terror with her phenomenal screams (which are just as immense live). Not to mention James Spence‘s amazing keyboard skills too, in fact the whole band give an outstanding performance. Whilst there were a few problems with their sound, overall their set went down a storm with the crowd, especially the sheer viciousness of ‘French Motel’ and ‘Party Wounds’.
DECADE – 6/10
The first popcore band of the festival, and nowhere near the last, lots of bands play it competently and with plenty of flair, and it’s starting to feel insincere with so many bands playing in a similar and all acting in similar ways. Still, tracks like ‘It’s Good To Be A Vampire’ show light of a somewhat bright future ahead for these boys.
HOUNDS – 7/10
Imagine the variety of The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster mixed with The Prodigy, and you have Hounds. They draw a decent sized crowd who seem thoroughly entertained by these Essex boys, even frontman Olly Burden looks and sounds an awful lot like The Prodigy‘s own Keith Flint. They’re energetic and charismatic performance deserved a better response than what they got, and given the opportunity they would kill at a headline show. Ending on their latest single ‘In My Eye’, you can tell the crowd wish they knew it better and get stuck in.
BLACK BREATH – 8/10
Fast-paced and heavy hardcore metal… thing. A clash with Slayer was probably not the best place to be, but still 300-400 people preferred their fast and heavy metal stuff over Slayer‘s renowned thrash metal anthems which is of course a good sign for Black Breath. The band played a ridiculously good set, despite a slight delay mid-set with sound problems through the bass, but they soon pick things back up again with some great presence and jumping into the crowd to really get everything going.
THE DEFILED – 7/10
The eagerly awaited The Defiled march onstage, all dressed in desert combat gear, associated with the new Djent style that has recently been appearing recently. Instantly jumping into their set, they are full of energy, with The AvD tossing his keyboard around like it’s a rubber ball. Even though the sound from the speakers is greatly over-distorted and, well, basically crap, the crowd doesn’t care and love every minute of their set. Lead singer, and Tim Minchin look-a-like, Stitch D has an outstanding live voice, and combined with some fantastic playing ability their set went down a storm with the crowd. Probably helped their music is good too.
FLATS – 3/10
Any band shoved on at the same time as Metallica is bound to get a smaller crowd. Though, this doesn’t mean that a band are allowed to be sloppy and, for lack of a better word, rubbish. Sounding like the less talented and more pissed off brother of Gallows, they give a full throttle performance, accompanying himself with the very punk attitude of not caring. It’s kind of difficult to pinpoint what they’re aiming at exactly, but they only managed to get it all together for finishing each song at nearly the same time. It’s probably supposed to be angsty punk, but it’s hard to tell through it being such a horrible mess.
WITCHSORROW – 6/10
To close things off on the Jagermeister stage, we’re brought a heavy slice of doom metal from WtichSorrow, even if that genre is really more of a Bloodstock kind of thing. Never the less, WitchSorrow create a fitting and unique atmosphere, decorating the stage with candles and a somewhat overuse of dry-ice smoke which added great some atmosphere to their set. They sadly suffer with sound and technical difficulties at the start of their set, and coupled with a fleeting crowd, they struggle to keep the audience’s attention. Once everything is fixed, Necroskull‘s dark voice rings out into the night, and with the moon high in the night sky, it adds great ambience to what WitchSorrow are trying to create.
Written by Zach Redrup, Andy Roberts, Jon Andrews and Oliver Thompson
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.