Sonisphere 2011 Review Day 3
Photos: Antony Roberts
Day 3 for us started with Black Tide on the Saturn stage. I wasn’t familiar with them prior to this and they started with a competent cover of Hit The Lights which was enough to make me stick around to check out their own material. However after listening to a few more tracks there was nothing to stay for, they sounded like all of the thousands of bands currently doing modern generic metal. Worse still they didn’t look that enthusiastic to even be playing it.
Arch Enemy came on to “Yesterday is Dead and Gone” from new album “Khaos Reigns” and although the audience looks very much alive throwing themselves into a large pit, the band themselves lacked their normal fire. It soon became clear why, when Angela announced they had travelled to Knebworth straight from a european festival the day before, and had not yet slept travelling through the night to be there. Despite this they put in way more effort than Black Tide had during their set, but this was not the usual energetic Arch Enemy show. Technically they were great, even on a bad day watching masters of guitar shred is awesome.
House Of Pain had gathered an absolutely HUGE crowd but i think this was more due to the lack of anything else good on the schedule. The bulk of the crowd sat down filling stomachs with lunchtime food as we wandered past to (hopefully) get in to catch Kylesa.
Getting into the tent was suprisingly easy for Kylesa, maybe it was getting there early, maybe it was the fact it was just so damn hot in the tent as the sun was out in full force, or maybe the fact Parkway Drive were about to play the main stage. I didn’t care as it meant I got a decent spot for Georgia’s finest. Drawing mainly on material from last 2 albums Spiral Shadow and Static Tensions this was a stellar performance only marred by the fact everything needed turning up and Laura’s vocals were obviously way too high in the mix. “Tired Climb” and “Said and Done” were brilliant but it was the galloping “Scapegoat” that managed to get the crowd moving about. Seeing them last year on the Redbull tent as well as numerous smaller venues around the UK I think Kylesa are definitely a band that work better in your face on a smaller stage.
Coming out from the tent it was time for the 2 minute silence in memory of deceased Slipknot bass player Paul Gray. Despite the slight murmur of food being ordered bit by bit an eerie silence fell over the whole of Knebworth. It was quite remarkable to see the metal community put musical tastes to one side about Slipknot, love them or hate them practically the entire site came to a stand still and paid respect to a fallen musician.
Following the silence In Flames took to the Saturn stage and the sound was awful. I waited a few songs but it didn’t get any better so I left in disgust at the sound engineer and went to grab some food and drink to fill up before Mastodon.
Day 3 had not been going well for me, bad bands, tired good bands, and good bands with bad sound. Mastodon were due up next and people were getting bored waiting for them to come on. Soon the air was full with empty bottles being flung in all directions. Things started to turn slightly nasty as half and full bottles started reigning down on unprepared heads. A smoke bomb got released and flung skywards. The crowd toyed with security flinging it back and forth between crowd stage right and stage left. It was barely surprising someone had managed to bring it into the main arena as security bag checks were non existent on the entrances from the campsites, this really needs to be addressed for future years. Eventually security managed to get hold of the offending object and took it off backstage.
Mastodon came on and made everything else prior in the day irrelevant. Their sound was slightly quiet to begin with on opener Iron Tusk but soon got cranked up. With little talking between songs they managed to fit in everything you could possibly have asked for into their hour long set. March of the Fire Ants, Crack The Skye, Crystal Skull, Megalodon and loads more were played to a huge and very rammed crowd. The sound was as full and large as anything you’d hear at one of their venue/club performances something that I haven’t seen achieved at any of Mastodon’s previous festival outings.
Airbourne were up next and this band are just made for festivals, catchy sing along rock riffs and with the entertainer/stuntman that is Joel O’Keeffe as their front man, they can’t go wrong. It’s been said a million times how much they sound like AC/DC but I can think of worst bands to sound like, and Airbourne also have the songs to back it up. Airbourne were only into their fourth song “Black Jack” when Joel started heading off to the far side of the stage. Anyone that has seen them before at a festival, or the videos online knew exactly what was coming next. Joel proceeded to climb the side rigging of the stage to the very top then play the solo from the top. Standing perched way above our heads, there were a few hair raising moments, particularly when he was swinging his guitar around his head, and again when he decided to swing one handed on his way back down. No Way But The Hard Way had the absolutely huge crowd singing along at the tops of their voices and for once it seemed the slew of crowd surfers had stopped as the crowd just wanted to sing along and watch the antics happening on stage.
Opeth only had 50 minutes to play, and with the length of their songs, just how many were they going to be able to play? 5 was the answer and this still gave time in between for Mikael to crack jokes with the audience. One genius moment was brought forth when Mikael asked if the audience were up for a bit of silent headbanging “On the count of 3 i want you to headbang as hard as you can”. He then counted to 3 and the whole audience went mental as nothing was coming from the stage. One of the jokes that I guess you had to be there for, but one of the funniest things i’ve seen in a long time. ï»¿The sound was epic and their prog-blackened-metal was another highlight of the entire weekend for me. Opening with The Grand Conjuration set the tone for a heavy festival set, but then next they played the very chilled Face Of Melinda. Finishing with Hex Omega the heavens had opened during their set but I didn’t see anyone leaving as they captured the audience. With a band so on form as Opeth are right now (when have they ever not been), a newly announced UK tour coming our way in November, and a new album on the horizon it’s exciting times for fans of Opeth in the UK.
Alestorm, what can i say, like Airbourne these guys are made for festivals. Forget the technicality and grace of Opeth that had just graced the second stage, Alestorm are about sing along party songs, pirates and the high seas. The irony of what they are doing has not passed them by as singer Bowes introduces songs, “This next song is about wenches and mead, it’s called wenches and mead”. They manage to turn the Bohemia stage into party central as the crowd (and I mean literally the entire crowd) sings along to every single word. The pits had gone from circles and pushing to people do-si-do-ing each other in the spirit of fun.
Bill Bailey was up next on the Saturn tent and unfortunately it was a lot of material that had been used before. The rain decided to start pouring down again, and at this point my coat decided to stop being waterproof, so with Bill doing more old material that I’d heard before, I headed back to the guest bar to get in the dry.
Slipknot have never captured my heart and with the rain showing no sign of let up I went to catch the bluesy rock tones of The Answer in the Bohemia Tent. From their early beginnings The Answer were praised with accolades from magazines and the industry for best newcomer, best british new act, most promising etc. Now 11 years after their formation how right those magazines got it as they are still going and they put on an amazing live show. Whilst they still don’t seem to have made it in their own right to stadium status, they’ve managed on their journey to support behemoths of the rock scene like Aerosmith, Paul Rodgers and AC/DC. All this touring has turned them into a seriously tight unit and they look at ease on stage.
With the rain still chucking it down outside we stuck around in the Bohemia Tent sadly missing Orange Goblin to catch Bat Sabbath, the Cancer Bats doing Black Sabbath covers. It was a fun set to finish the festival off with and the band looked to be really enjoying themselves on stage. No revelations just the usual covers you expect from any Sabbath covers band, Iron Man, Supernaut, Sweet Leaf, N.I.B, Paranoid, and War Pigs. My only complaint was most of the songs were played too fast compared to the originals, but hey they’re a covers band so it’s their choice how they played them.
This bought Sonisphere 2011 to a close for us, it had it’s up and it’s downs, there’s a few issues still need addressing at this relatively new festival, but overall a massively fun time was had by everyone that went and when they got it right, oh how right they got it. Watain, Mastodon, Opeth, Metallica and Slayer’s performance’s are memories that will stick for life.