LIVE: Sonisphere Festival @ Knebworth Park (Friday – 04/07/2014)

Date: July 4th, 2014
Venue: Knebworth Park, Knebworth


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.


It’s easy to criticise The Defiled for being too dramatic and over the top, but they’ve got every excuse to be today as they open the Apollo stage. No longer is it just The AvD throwing his keyboard in the air and catching it, the band pull out all the stops for the big occasion by smashing guitars and staging a crucifixion mid-set. Big single, ‘As I Drown’, is the band’s shining moment as the red-haired Stitch D leads the first outside sing-a-long of the weekend, but ‘No Place Like Home’ and ‘Call To Arms’ sound better than normal, and The Defiled proved they can step it up for the big occasions. [MH]

ANTI-FLAG – 8/10
Politically charged punks Anti-Flag show up to prove why they’re one of the most reliable live bands out there. As soon as they kick into opener ‘The Press Corpse’, the main stage turns into a huge punk party. Bangers like ‘Fuck Police Brutality’, ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ and ‘Die For Your Goverment’ sound so much more punchy and aggressive live whilst bassist Chris #2 loses his mind onstage. The Pittsburgh punks don’t only prove to us why they’re one of the most reliable live bands, but also one of the most fun. [JK]

Gary Numan is one of the many curveball acts booked for this ‘rock and metal’ festival, or so it would seem. Turns out for anyone not in the know that the 70s British pop culture hero, his newer material is really, really heavy. His sonic textures are hard hitting and sound like a dreamy Nine Inch Nails, with Numan‘s signature voice painted over them. Whilst some of his songs sound a bit too similar, the heavy drops always hit hard. He throws in the huge ‘Cars’ midset, and then ends with a piano introed and huge sounding ‘Are Friends Electric’. The cult hero stands victorious as Knebworth sings back to him. Good old Gary! [JK]

Humble and huge Southampton rockers Band Of Skulls bring a lighter shade of rock to the party. Whilst they’re not exactly Slayer, their tame yet fun brand of rock ‘n’ roll tunes, such as ‘Asleep At The Wheel’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie’ from new album ‘Himalayan’, are perfect for the sunny weather. Band Of Skulls aren’t a band you’re going to get into the pit and smash things to, they’re a band to grab a beer or a bite to eat and enjoy their good vibes. Luckily, the band know this and play up to their strengths, which is their brilliant musicianship and deliver a great show, proving that you don’t need to be heavy to be brilliant at Sonisphere. [JK]

HIM – 7/10
Fan or not, HIM are great at what they do but have been around for long enough now that they’re completely comfortable with their live show and play to the devout followers. The cult band run through hit after hit from their love metal back catalogue with opener ‘Buried Alive By Love’, ‘Right Here In My Arms’ and ‘Your Sweet 666’ sound massive on the Apollo stage speakers. Lead singer and pin-up heartthrob Ville Valo acts as cool as possible to impress the heartagram-clad ladies as he belts out huge ballad ‘The Funeral Of Hearts’ to close their routinely enjoyable set. Job done as normal for the Finnish stars, and a great late addition to the bill. [MH]

Limp Bizkit are the ultimate festival band. They know exactly what the crowd want to hear to get the party started, with almost every track being a massive single from when Bizkit were dominating the charts. Getting straight into ‘Rollin’, it’s an explosive start as everyone in the arena stands back to give themselves enough space to follow along with Fred Durst‘s dance moves. The king of nu-metal leads the Jacksonville band through monster hits; ‘My Way’, ‘Hot Dog’ and even a cover of Rage Against The Machine‘s ‘Killing In The Name’ are the perfect way to spend a festival evening. Every single intro creates a huge reaction from the Friday night crowd, but the real frenzy starts when Wes Borland starts the ‘Break Stuff’ riff. LB could play every year, and this crowd would welcome them with open arms every time. [MH]

Perhaps it’s the lack of heavy metal in tonight’s headliner or the fact that a certain Black Sabbath are playing just down the road, but the main stage isn’t quite as busy as you might expect for the return of Sonisphere after a couple of years off. It’s difficult to fathom how The Prodigy have found themselves as a headliner for rock/metal festivals, especially for what was claimed to be a special 40th anniversary celebration of the music heritage of Knebworth house, and that the dance band are still touring the ‘Invaders Must Die’ album that’s now approaching 5 and a half years old. Yet, the crowd are hugely responsive and the light show is one to behold as mastermind Liam Howlett once again takes the reins for a big festival performance.

‘Breathe’ and ‘Voodoo People’ throw Sonisphere straight into the deep cuts. Still, the crowd feedback isn’t a patch on any of the newer material, with the biggest reactions held back for ‘Run With The Wolves’, ‘Omen’ and ‘Invaders Must Die’, but it’s hard to argue with it as these are the songs that pushed them to their bill-topping status and they clearly throw more energy into them. Hype men Maxim and Keith Flint do their best to work the crowd, but both bizarrely leave the stage regularly, sometimes even for several songs at a time leaving Howlett to control the set from behind his panel of programming equipment. Big singles ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ rate highly amongst the main set, but once again the newer ‘Take Me To The Hospital’ makes a for a crazy few minutes during the encore before ‘Their Law’ closes the day of music. The Prodigy have successfully built their dance career through energetic live shows and chart singles, but despite some fun highlights their set seems tacky in places and truthfully dragged for large periods. [MH]


HOUNDS – 6/10
Electro-punk newcomers Hounds have the task of opening the Bohemia tent at the returning Sonisphere, and impressively claw in an enthusiastic crowd to witness their drum-fuelled lunchtime party. Dressed from head to toe in white, the band fails to get as animated as the audience while they play through tracks from their ‘Begin Transmission’ EPs as well as new single ‘Monster’, which proves to be a big hit already. A cover of Ministry‘s ‘Stigmata’ is a well placed nod to their industrial influences, before fan favourite ‘The Wicked Witch’ closes their set to a sea of clapping hands. [MH]

LostAlone have had a lot of media attention this year surrounding recent album, ‘Shapes Of Screams’, and are slowly creeping up festival line-ups across the country. The heavy metal crowd aren’t too hyped as you might expect, but lead singer Steven Battelle playfully calls out specific naysayers watching to discuss why are they aren’t enjoying themselves. Songs like ‘G.U.I.L.T.Y.’ and ‘Do You Get What You Pray For?’ prove that the Derby rockers have the riffs to rival the best of them, and they seem to be having a blast while they’re doing it. With the right target audience, LostAlone will surely rise to higher places in the rock world. [MH]

Canterbury are a great little band; they’ve consistently produced fun catchy pop-rock music for 3 albums now and match it with a tight live show, but the sound is letting them down in the Bohemia tent today. The excitement of faster tracks ‘Drive.Ride.Drive’ and ‘Something Better’ start to turn some heads, yet a polite applause is the best reaction they receive from the half-curious crowd, and sure enough a slip of the tongue “Thank you, Glastonbury” doesn’t go down overly well. ‘Saviour’ and ‘Satellite’ are real belters that don’t sound as impressive as they should, but the music is crisper at the end of the set, and ‘Think It Over’ ensures that Canterbury finish on a high. [MH]

YASHIN – 2/10
Scottish post-hardcore boys Yashin look like they’ve just walked out of 2006 to deliver their limp and dull Kerrang!-core performance. Whilst the music is irritating to say the least, their attitudes are more cringey and obnoxious. These guys seem to be putting on more of a tough guy act, just because they’re playing a metal festival and it doesn’t blend all too well. There’s not much point in calling your audience “pussies” when your choruses are more flaccid than the peckers in an old folks home. [JK]

Canadian hardcore legends Comeback Kid always bring the carnage wherever they are, and the Bohemia tent is ready for it as soon they hit the stage. Smashing through songs from their whole back catalogue, vocalist Andrew Neufield entices the front of the crowd into huge pits with ‘Do Yourself A Favor’ and ‘Broadcasting’ doing the damage early on, and new single ‘Wasted Arrows’ confirming that the band still have it with most recent album, ‘Die Knowing’. Sure enough, the ‘Wake The Dead’ material is still the most popular, with the wildest reactions arriving for ‘Talk Is Cheap’ and ‘False Idols Fall’, but the delight and excitement rushing through the Bohemia tent for these songs is testament to the longevity of the way CBK have approached hardcore punk music all these years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. [MH]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

ANTHRAX – 9/10
As the day begins to wind down, thrash metal legends and one fourth of ‘The Big Four’ Anthrax come to play one of their most seminal albums in full, but how does the now nearly 30 years old ‘Among The Living’ translate into a live performance? Fucking brilliantly, apparently. With the tent filling so much, staff are having to block the entrances, people are huddling around the tent and climbing just to see this. Straight from the opening slow chords of the title opener, it all feels like an exciting and once in a lifetime event. Then comes one of the biggest hits of Anthrax‘s career only one song in, the aptly titled ‘Caught In A Mosh’. By the time it gets to side two of the album, frontman Joey Belladonna accurately addresses “Now we get to the deep cuts, to see who really knows the album and who just downloaded ‘Caught In A Mosh’ from iTunes”, and you’d think this is the point where the excitement and energy would stop, but it’s actually where things pick up. Rarities like ‘One World’, ‘A.D.I.’ and the fantastically frantic ‘Imitation Of Life’ are brilliant to hear and, from the looks on the band’s faces, a joy to perform. A quite frankly essential album performed in full by one of metal’s most important bands. [JK]

Dorset stoner rockers Electric Wizard take to the stage to with their riff-o-riffic set. Despite the long set allocation, you can actually only fit about four Electric Wizard songs into it, and that alone has probably told you whether or not your would love or hate this set. For those wanting instant accessible tunes, you’d probably have to head elsewhere, but for those who are in the mood for a sonic wall of constant riffs and really long jams, then stick around because Electric Wizard do it better than most. Fair enough, the tolerance for thirteen minute songs of the same riff is enriched for most by a magical leaf, but Electric Wizard still bring a ballsy performance of dragon chasing soundtracks. [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


SHRINE – 7/10
Brighton fresh faces Shrine make their festival debut and kick start the Jagermeister stage with their blend of mathy and proggy rock. Frontman Will Gardner has a powerful yet friendly presence, and the band are able to put on quite a show to start off the day. [JK]

If you feel like it’s too early to head bang, then Northern scamps Black Dogs will soon change that. Their heavy and huge riffage with spat hardcore vocals are enough to either make those who just arrived get straight into the pit or help those who are trying to shake off their first night hangover. A set featuring ripping tunes from their debut album ‘Grief’, including the furrocious ‘She Bites’, sounds amazing. The whole band goes mental and get involved in the pit action too, showing that they’re just as excited to be here as anyone else. [JK]

Members of long-standing British rockers InMe have united to form Centiment, and today deliver a fine set of their weird ‘boundary bothering’ metal. Their show is decent, with a large mix of both electronic and rock genres blended together, but with this mix comes a feeling of directionless and the accessibility of songs is almost completely lost. Although, we do appreciate the sentiment. [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Having toured with Combichrist, Killing Joke and Sonisphere favourite Gary Numan over the last couple of years and built a solid reputation for himself, Jayce Lewis has changed his onstage name to Protafield, yet seemingly forgotten to tell anybody. The Jagermeister stage is disappointingly empty for what could have been a great festival show by an exciting performer, yet Lewis‘ electronic rock just seems tacky in this tent. The people who have remained look uninterested and bored, and it’s difficult to disagree with them. Hopefully this isn’t the way forward for the reinvented singer. [MH]

Hyped hardcore heroes Brutality Will Prevail leave many wondering just what the hype is actually all about. Whilst they have the odd good riff, most of their instrumentals seem very standard and safe. If one had a checklist of hardcore cliches, this band would probably tick them all. Obvious two step sections, check. Ridiculous stage moves, check. Slightly irritating frontman, check. [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


It’s undeniable that Brighton alt rockers Glass City Vice give the Satellite stage their all. However, a bit of a bland sound and a lack of catchy or griping tunes make them struggle to stand out sonically. Visually, however, they’re a decent bit of fun before the day ahead. [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

EMP!RE – 8/10
New and hot British rockers Emp!re deliver a successful and ridiculously fun set, despite the power going out during the later halfway through. Even so, the problem is fixed quickly and the band continue to rule. Singer Joe Green, who genuinely has some of the best pipes in the rock scene says, “I’ll be Nick Fury, and you guys are The Hulk” as he calls upon Sonisphere to go mental, when really Emp!re are the ones smashing it. EMP!RE SMASH! [JK]

Wearing a crazy heart covered dress which looks like it has fallen straight out of Alice In Wonderland, Californian singer Hollis J leads a band of London punk rockers creating the fresh upbeat glam pop sound that is Love Zombies. The brand new band has incredibly played with Alkaline Trio, The Wildhearts and Me First & The Gimme Gimmes already since they formed last year, and it’s easy to see why as the crowd dances along to ‘International Bug’ and ‘Gasoline’. The catchy guitars and keytar mix to form a fun light-hearted way to spend half an hour as an alternative to the heavy metal elsewhere. Love Zombies will go home with plenty of new fans now, eagerly awaiting their debut release. [MH]

FORT HOPE – 9/10
Fort Hope could be on the brink of making a huge surge to the top and shows like this are exactly why. No strangers to Sonisphere, with most members playing here in former band My Passion in 2011, the young band confidently hold the full attention of the Satellite stage with their own brand of emotional rock. Big singles ‘The Rapture’ and ‘Control’ sound just as moving as they do on their excellent debut, ‘Courage’, and Jon Gaskin executes the vocals with perfection. The extra acoustic guitar and harmonies on ‘New Life’ are also something to behold. There really is something special about this band, and they’re only on the way up. [MH]

MAX RAPTOR – 10/10
Possibly the most underrated punk rock band in Britain, Max Raptor are rightfully playing to a full Satellite stage and are making a real statement. It seems that the quality of 2013’s ‘Mother’s Ruin’ has finally sunk its teeth into the world as the scream of the gang vocals of the crowd during the anthemic ‘England Breathes’ and the rowdiness during ‘Evangeline’ is almost enough to bring the tent down. Wil Ray keeps the energy levels at full throttle for the whole set, dictating the increasingly larger and hectic mosh pit with ‘Portraits’ favourite ‘Obey The Whips’, before the ever-present ‘The King Is Dead’ is at hand to round off a triumphant set in serious style. [MH]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Little Matador deliver a heavy rocky set in order to break any of the connotations of them being an indie band. Their sound is a mix of Queens Of The Stone Age and The White Stripes, and they shake the Satellite stage with hard hitting tunes such as ‘Shatter’ and ‘Boom Boom’. Their three string-men standing in a strong line delivering riffs upon riffs. No one is going to think they’re an indie band after that performance. [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

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