Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Festival Review: Sonisphere 2011: Day 1 - The Big Four and More

Sonisphere 8-10th July 2011

Sonisphere is fast becoming one of, if not the, best UK festival for rock/metal. Since its inception in 2009 it has had consistently awesome headliners, including Rammstein, Iron Maiden and Metallica (to name but a few). But this year’s line up has sealed the deal, with Sonisphere being the only UK rock/metal festival to feature The Big 4. Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica: thrash’s iconic instigators, all of whom have brought something different and unique to the metal scene. Not only has this festival attracted these metal behemoths, it has procured the only UK performance of 2011 (so far) of extreme metal giants Slipknot. Fresh from the tragedy of losing their much loved bassist Paul Gray, Slipknot promised a show to remember. So, did they deliver? Did they fuck!

But, of course, Sonisphere isn’t just about two or three bands; it features over 80 bands across three days of metal madness. From thrash, to death, to black and beyond, Sonisphere really is the most diverse metal festival. I mean, who else would have Watain playing the same stage as Protest The Hero? So, how did the weekend turn out? Well, let the Vulgar Displays of Metal admin take you on a journey...

Day 1:

The Big Four. Those are the words on everyone’s lips this morning. Heck, it’s why most people are here! You can almost smell the anticipation in the air (and no, that isn’t the smell of the portaloos) as 80,000 people prepare for a legendary day of metal. After nursing hangovers with greasy fry ups and dodgy looking burritos and as 3pm draws near we head to the Apollo Stage for the first band of the day.

Diamond Head have often been overlooked and undervalued in the metal world, but it’s a testimony to their longevity that they are introducing The Big Four and opening the Sonisphere festival. They are the perfect act to kick start the weekend, opening with ‘It’s Electric’ Diamond Head prove they are a force to be reckoned with and show just why they deserve to be on this stage. Brian Tatler’s influence on the Diamond Head sound has made them a band that so many others admire and use in their own sound. Closing with the delightful ‘Am I Evil?’, Diamond Head have done themselves proud! 

The surprise of the day has to go to Anthrax. With Joey Belladonna back in the fold, these guys put on a stellar performance which, i must admit, i wasn't expecting. It was clear the band were having the time of their lives on stage, and this definitely transferred to the crowd. Compared to the last time i saw them (Sonisphere 2009) this was much more energetic, passionate and raw performance!

Then it’s the turn of Dave Mustaine and Co, and i have to shamefully admit this is my first Megadeth experience. My expectations were high, and i was not disappointed. Epic! Slayer are a bit hit and miss with me, having seen them totally miss the mark at Wacken last year, i was keen to see if Slayer could get back in my good books. And boy, did they do it! Tom Araya seems more at ease, and you wouldn’t know that he’s been in and out of hospital for the past year with back problems. Kerry King is still formidable sight, even thought his arm looks like he’s had a fight with a nail gun. During Slayer's set, Protest The Hero were due to play the Bedroom Jam tent. And, as it's name suggests, it's a tiny stage in a tent. Now, this would not be the first time in the weekend that organisers had got it completely wrong. Many fans missed out on seeing these guys as the tent was rammed, and security were stopped people from getting in. Fail.

Then, it’s onto the legends themselves: Metallica. This would be my third time seeing these guys and they honestly get better every time. The crowd is ecstatic with joy when Metallica are joined on stage by members of Diamond Head, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer to form The Big Four Band. No one had ever expected this to happen, mainly because the in-fighting between the bands made it seem like a distant dream. But no, it’s happening and is one of those experiences which reminds you why you’re a metal fan in the first place. Unforgettable.

Then, because Jaz Coleman is my hero, i toddle over to the Bohemia stage to catch a bit of Killing Joke. The tent is stifling, with hundreds of metallers crushed in to try and get their fix. With their intro music being the freaky Masked Ball music from Eyes Wide Shut, they create an ambience even before they’re on stage. Never one to be understated, Jaz Coleman looks like a cross between a black metal clown and a puppet. But still, him and the rest of Killing Joke put on an enjoyable set with closes an amazing and exhausting first day at Knebworth. Now, where’s that beer...

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