LIVE: Sonisphere Festival @ Knebworth Park (06/07/2014)

Date: July 6th, 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:

GOJIRA – 8/10
French death metal giants Gojira bring some of the heaviest riffs in the world with them to kick off the Sunday main stage. Whilst the sound could be better, as is usually the case with early day acts, even through the messy speakers ‘Explosia’, ‘Flying Whales’ and the aptly titled ‘Heaviest Matter In The Universe’ still have the power to blast away the hangovers. It’d be great to see Gojira‘s potential put higher on festival bills sometime soon, so that the songs can really translate into the phenomenal experience they truly are. [JK]

THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT – 9/10
They call him Heavy Devy, why? Because Devin Townsend is insanely fucking heavy, of course! With his all over the place back catalogue, the Canadian metal wizard delivers a full range from symphonic black metal sounding tracks such as ‘Juular’, to tracks with Eurovision level cheesiness like set closer, ‘Grace’. He delivers this with his bonkers and typically Canadian friendly stage banter. Not only does he prove that he’s deserving of his nickname, but why he’s renowned as a living metal legend with a blinding set. [JK]

AIRBOURNE – 7/10
When festivals book a big headliner that appeals to an older generation, they look for an undercard that these day ticket holders can sit in their chair on the main stage all day and enjoy while they wait for the closing performance. Airbourne fit the bill perfectly, and their AC/DC style rock means that rarely a summer goes by where they don’t play in a field in the UK. ‘Runnin’ Wild’, ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ and ‘Live It Up’ are all on show today, as well as the regular solos and Joel O’Keeffe‘s obligatory antics, in which he climbs the stage and continues to shred while hanging from a height. The singer ends by screaming “As long as you’re alive and as long as we’re alive, then rock ‘n’ roll will never die!”, and, as long as Airbourne are around, then he’s probably right. [MH]

MASTODON – 8/10
Sludge prog heroes Mastodon are hot off the heels of their latest triumphant album, ‘Once More ‘Round The Sun’. With another good album comes a harder to make setlist, and whilst Mastodon manage to throw in a good variety throughout their career, it does feel like they’ve missed out some festival essentials. The stage was set perfectly for huge songs such as ‘Curl Of The Burl’, ‘March Of The Fire Ants’ and the huge ‘Blood And Thunder’, none of which they played. Whilst the performance is good, seeing Bill Kelliher make use of Metallica‘s runway was great, it was a joy to watch Brann Dailor juggle his complex patterns with catchy vocal lines, and even Brent Hinds‘ vocals weren’t as cringey as they can be. It just feels as if they’ve missed out on an opportunity to make a good set great with the lack of huge songs. Then again, Mastodon are never ones to play by the book. [JK]

ALICE IN CHAINS – 3/10
If there was any band to start strong and then fizzle out into boredom at this festival, it’s 90s grunge legends Alice In Chains. Whilst opener ‘Them Bones’ is exciting and brilliant to hear, the band soon seem to become nothing more than background noise. It’s a shame to find that a band of such importance deliver such a dud of a live show. Singer William DuVall has a powerful voice, but he’s a boring frontman and the band fail to get anymore excitement going. Even ‘Rooster’ is a limp closer to a snooze-fest of a set. [JK]

METALLICA – 10/10
They’re the biggest metal band in the world and throughout their career they’ve always done things their way, sometimes to receive nothing but criticism from even die-hard fans. Now, Metallica have given fans the power. Allowing them to vote for tonight’s setlist, we could get the rarest of cuts or the greatest of hits. Metallica take to a metal stage once again after recently conquering the hippie and indie fields of Glastonbury. They instantly kick into ‘Battery’, a commoner in the legendary ones setlist, but still a welcomed and immense opener. The band are just as frantic as the riffs they’re playing; as always, Lars can barely stay sitting at his drums, Rob is assaulting his bass, and our papa Hetfield‘s voice has a pure power that people often claim he lacks now days.

Continuing on, we’re blasted with the chilling ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’, thrash masterpiece ‘Ride The Lightning’, but when we meet the likes of ‘The Unforgiven’ it does give off a feeling of “Really? People voted for this? But it’s so obvious”, but it’s what the people want. Tonight’s setlist is basically a mix of Metallica‘s biggest and heaviest tunes, so whilst we do get unsurprising and common tracks like ‘One’ and the unavoidable ‘Enter Sandman’, we do also receive heavier stuff such as ‘Blackened’ and ‘…And Justice For All’. It doesn’t matter what they play, Metallica not only play it brilliantly, but they look like they’re having so much fun doing so. It’s great to see a band have as much love for their back catalogue as their fans. There’s no way to overstate how on form Metallica are. The fans chose, and they brought thunder, lighting and all the rain that comes with it. [JK]


SATURN STAGE:

PROTEST THE HERO – 3/10
Try as they might, Canada’s techy proggers Protest The Hero don’t quite deliver live. Their fierce tunes just seem to lose their edge live due to their complexity. Maybe in a venue their sonic ability is captured more, but here it justs seems to be washed away. They just fail to captivate and entertain despite being phenomenal on record. [JK]

KARNIVOOL – 8/10
More prog now takes to the second stage with Aussie alternative, Karnivool. They deliver their set of slower yet equally as hard hitting tunes. Whilst they’re not heavy in the riff sense, their hooks and choruses will hit you like a ton of bricks. Their humble and friendly attitudes help carry their tunes, especially those off 2013’s brilliant ‘Asymmetry’. [JK]

REEL BIG FISH – 8/10
What’s better than boozing in the afternoon, listening to ska music and swearing a lot? Reel Big Fish always deliver a party atmosphere by running through drinking songs, covers and corny on stage banter, and their set on the Saturn stage today works as a beautiful interlude to the more serious bands playing around them. Top 90s hit ‘Sell Out’ appears early in the set to kick off proceedings, and ‘Another F.U. Song’ allows Aaron Barrett to conduct the crowd in a chorus of f-bombs for some mid afternoon festival fun. An unfortunate power cut during ‘Where Have You Been?’ doesn’t dampen spirits too much before a 1-2 closing knockout of ‘Beer’ and ‘Take On Me’ triggers flying drinks and high elbows to prove that ska is not dead, at Knebworth anyway. [MH]

DROPKICK MURPHYS – 8/10
Dropkick Murphys have been bringing their bagpipe-fuelled Celtic punk anthems to the UK forever now, and the following is still evidently huge as thousands of people await their introduction this afternoon. Now touring 2013’s ‘Signed And Sealed In Blood’, the new material leans more towards their Irish roots than punk, but ‘Rose Tattoo’ and ‘The Boys Are Back’ are instant favourites, even for the elitists. With eight albums, Dropkick are spoiled for set choices, but they’ve arguably chosen their top drinking mantras in ‘Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya’, ‘The Waking Dead’ and the platinum-selling ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’. Ken Casey knows the best way to please a flat-cap wearing, whiskey in hand, festival crowd is to throw in an AC/DC cover, and ‘Dirty Deeds Done Cheap’ only turns up the “oi”s to maximum. [MH]

DREAM THEATER
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


BOHEMIA STAGE:

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

THE CADILLAC THREE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

TRUCKFIGHTERS – 7/10
Swedish power trio Truckfighters are all about the riffs. Their mesmerising intros and ends to songs are chaotic, but the choruses and middle sections can be slow in comparison. The lyrics are simply there to fill the gap between solos, but it’s a wait that the crowd in the Bohemia tent is willing to take. The guitar in ‘Desert Cruiser’ and ‘Prophet’ is a headbanger’s wet dream and enough to leave everyone here with a seriously sore neck at work tomorrow. The charismatic axe-men are clearly into it as much as their fans, as ‘Mind Control’ makes them lose themselves to the sound of their own desert rock groove. [MH]

BO NINGEN
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

GALLOWS – 7/10
Gallows were once considered the saviours of British punk, but now that a lot of the hype about them has died down we can focus on what matters: the songs. The fact of the matter is Gallows still have the best punk songs going, whether it be newer stuff like ‘Mondo Chaos’, ‘Cross Of Lorraine’ and new track ‘Chains’, or it be the songs that got them to the size they are today like ‘Misery’, ‘In The Belly Of A Shark’ and the always mental ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’. Gallows deliver one of their more tame and rounded performances of their eventful career, seemingly because of where the festival setting. But, come see them in a small sweaty venue soon and they’re sure to melt your face off. [JK]

CHIODOS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

KERBDOG – 8/10
The name Kerbdog feels more like an obscure reference than it does a curveball for the bill. They’re a band from the 90s who’ve only released two albums yet seem to of gained a cult following from hindsight. The band seem just as surprised to be playing as people were to read the name on their clashfinders, however, it doesn’t take long to realise why their following has regrown. They have undeniably huge choruses mixed along with punchy alt rock tunage and they’re an insane amount of fun live. It’s a surprize to see these guys on the line-up, but it’s unsurprising why they are. [JK]

THE BRONX – 9/10
Matt Caughthran has a sneaky grin on his face inbetween bopping around to some of the best punk rock riffs you’re ever likely to hear, and it’s probably because he knows how bloody good The Bronx really are. They get through tracks from all four of their eponymous albums, including ‘Too Many Devils’ and ‘Ribcage’ from 2013’s latest offering, and they effortlessly slide into the set with no complaints. Caughthran keeps his distance from the crowd, making wise cracks on stage until ‘Shitty Future’, when he takes his place in the middle of the mosh pit to witness the carnage first hand until he’s carried like a god back to the front to close with the enormous ‘Heart Attack American’. [MH]

THERAPY?
Unfortunately, we couldn’t see Therapy? perform their album ‘Infernal Love’ in full due to Sonisphere‘s strange decision to stop letting people into the tent when it was deemed ‘full’. Whilst we understand the health and safety precautions they’re attempting to take, from this reviewer’s view there was plenty of room in the tent as well as many people leaving (but people still not being allowed in). Whilst it does suck that we couldn’t cover the set, it sucks more that there were many fans who missed the set. There comes times in the modern day when health and safety goes too far, and that’s when people’s good time is not hindered, but stopped altogether. Therapy? sounded good, at least. [JK]

NIRVANA DEFILED
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


JAGERMEISTER STAGE:

BOY JUMPS SHIP
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

DRIPBACK – 7/10
Midday is far too early for Dripback to be playing. There are more coffees in hand than beers at the Jagermeister stage, and these people are simply not ready for the destruction that should be happening. The hardcore kids must be crazy to still be tucked up in their sleeping bags instead of seeing the grindcore band make their way through tracks from their new album, ‘Failed Futures’, which continues the anger and butchery from the first EP, yet the vocals sound far superior for this live show. It’s more croissants and cereal than circle pits today, but surely they’ll be back in a more appropriate slot next time. [MH]

PALM READER
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

KROKODIL – 8/10
We know a lot more about Krokodil than we did a year ago. We know that the line-up features members of Gallows, Hexes and SikTh. We know they’re heavy as fuck thanks to the few songs that they’ve released, and now we know that they’re absolutely furrocious live. Vocalist Simon Wright seems to be evolving into a beast of a frontman and, due to their collective experience, the band clearly know how to bring the thunder on stage. Much like the drug they’re named after, they leave us wanting more (Oh, don’t do drugs). [JK]

BEASTMILK
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

SWEET SAVAGE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

DREGEN
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

RAGING SPEEDHORN – 9/10
Raging Speedhorn are frighteningly angry and vicious on stage, and it’s great to see them back. The Jagermeister stage has seen some brutally heavy bands over the weekend, but the Sunday night headliners are second to none as dual vocalists John Loughlin and Frank Regan captivate fans and neutrals alike with their dominating stage presence and terrifying vocals. The Corby sludgecore mob state their intentions by opening with ‘The Hate Song’ and ensue chaos with the disgustingly heavy ‘Scrapin’ The Resin’ and ‘The Gush’ to maintain the pit throughout the 45 minutes of sweaty bedlam. Who knows what makes Raging Speedhorn so angry? And, who really cares when the music is this intensely high-quality? [MH]


SATELLITE STAGE:

THE ONE HUNDRED – 9/10
Holy shit, who are these guys? The One Hundred are a brand new band mixing grime, metal, electro and more to create a fresh new sound that’s about to blow up. This is the UK’s best response to Crossfaith with some serious attitude. With less than 20 shows under their belt, they’re incredibly confident on stage and singer Jacob Field has an amazing variation in his voice during ‘Kingsmen’, where he dictates the genre every line, from hip-hop to hardcore in an instant. If all of their songs are as good as ‘Downfall’ sounds today, then their first release is going to be very special. [MH]

THE HYPE THEORY
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

THE BOTS – 7/10
Deceivingly timid and modest on stage, LA duo The Bots can make a huge racket with just a guitar and drum kit between them. Brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei are as young as they look, but are performing some blues-infused garage punk that bands twice their age would be envious of. ‘5:17’ is raw, funky and loud, and has everyone in the tent breaking out spontaneous dance moves, yet, the two band members remain static and let their songs speak for themselves. It’s often said that siblings and relatives connect together musically in bands, but The Bots stand out by creating innovative songs rich with personal tradition that rocks hard. [MH]

ITCH
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

SILVERSTEIN
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

ONLY CRIME – 6/10
The bleach blonde Good Riddance singer Russ Rankin and Bane guitarist Aaron Dalbec take time out from their day bands to play some melodic hardcore as side-project Only Crime, and are finally touring after the release of third album, ‘Pursuance’. The guys on stage have CVs that other bands could only drool over, but the tent isn’t full enough to appreciate ‘In Blood’ and ‘Drowning’, which both have a punk sound reminiscent of Descendents and Rise Against. Nonetheless, ‘We Are Divided’ and ‘Life Was Fair’ show what the punk experts can do and Rankin gives it the old college try, but it’s shamefully too empty to gain much of a response. [MH]

TRASH TALK – 8/10
You should always wear a helmet to a Trash Talk show. The Sacramento thrashcore punks have a pinpoint reputation for hectic live performances, and this stage headlining slot is the perfect excuse to get messy before Metallica play. Songs last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes and all seem designed for circle pits which is exactly what occurs throughout, while guitar players are literally bouncing off the walls and vocalist Lee Spielman seems to be everywhere at the same time. One crazy moment sees the singer stand in the middle of the tent with a ring of fans seated around him while he bashes out a full song, a hardcore punk version of disciples listening to Jesus tell stories of his miracles. Trash Talk genuinely seem to love the UK and dub it as a second home after living here for a while, and with the seal of approval from Sonisphere regarding tracks from new album ‘No Peace’ like ‘The Great Escape’, then it’s safe to say that they’ll be back very soon. [MH]


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