After two days of enthralling rock, metal and the odd bit of dance courtesy of The Prodigy, not to mention hangovers and bangovers courtesy of the Raging Speedhorn VIP set on Saturday night, Rock Sins arrived somewhat groggily at the final day of the return of Sonisphere Knebworth 2014. If you’ve missed the first two parts of our Sonisphere coverage you can check them out on the following links:
Sunday started off with an almighty bang as Gojira (9) opened up the Apollo stage. Their off-kilter death metal grooves remaining predictably brilliant in the live department, even if the impact is lessened by the early hour and huge arena. They even close with ‘Vacuity’ which hasn’t seen a live airing on these shores for at least three years.
Gojira: typically brilliant
Protest the Hero (6) provide an energised, emotional and tech metal-tastic performance today. They’re a fun band, and in spite of some sound issues they really engage the crowd with unrestrained self-expression. It must be vindicating for Protest The Hero to finally reach the dizzy heights of the second stage at Sonisphere. Lets hope that next time technical issues don’t get in the way.
The sun shone brightly for dark-suited Devin Townsend (8) (-2 for iffy sound!) and his bandmates as they played their biggest ever UK show. Large numbers had made the effort to get up and had their hangovers shaken off by a short but blistering set. Devin strode along what he called the “cock ramp” of Metallica’s stage set, parodying everybody’s stadium rock fantasies. Despite some sound bother, tracks including “Supercrush” and the truly crushing “Kingdom” were clearly made for massive arenas. Townsend took the opportunity to announce a new show at the Royal Albert Hall next April before they closed with the awesome power of “Grace”.
Karnivool (6) had a bit of a lacklustre set until front-man Ian Kenny announced that they would now play some of their most popular songs. The intensity kicked up a gear and really dragged the crowd in turning round their set. We’re unsure why they didn’t just play these songs from the start, but we left being fans of a band we hadn’t heard much of before.
Taking the stage to the strains of “T2: Judgement Day” yes, they were back! Aussies Airbourne (9) became ever-more excitable as the temperature reached scorchio. Beers were swigged, hair flew and Joel did his crazy thing again – scaling the lighting rig and managing to not fall off. Phew. The set was a good mix with newer stuff from last year’s “Black Dog Barking” album to classic closer “Runnin’ Wild”. Extra points for Joel’s sincere tribute to anarchic comedy legend and Bad News bassist Rik Mayall, who died in June. Colin Grigson would love Airbourne. And so should you.
Gallows (8) will always inspire a rabid reaction; even since they became more a band and less the “Frank Carter show.” ‘Misery’ sees a sizeable wall of death open up and the pits are moving throughout their mid-afternoon slot in Bohemia. New single ‘Chains’ atmospheric stomp promising big things for their next album.
Over at the Saturn Stage, ska veterans Reel Big Fish (8.5) are greeted with a heroes welcome and look to be having the time of their lives. They’re having so much fun they don’t even realise when the sound dies for a full five minutes courtesy of something setting on fire at the side of the stage, leaving only those right down the front able to hear anything. One of the loudest cheers of the day came when the sound was restored, leaving the Knebworth masses able to party and skank away to the likes of Beer, Sell Out and the always popular set closing cover of Take On Me. The most “pure fun” band of the day by a mile.
Reel Big Fish: feel good music
Mastodon (5) just feel a little bit… ploddy today. Opening with ‘Oblivion’ and electing to play a set heavily focussed on their new album and the less instant, more introspective moments of their back catalogue doesn’t do them any favours. It is painfully noticeable that the best moments are during the full-on riff assaults of ‘Black Tongue’ and ‘Crystal Skull.’
There was a sort of Emerald Isle takeover of Bohemia from Saturday teatime, the first part of which was a short but sharp set from Kerbdog (9). After a long time away in recent years the band has played sporadic shows around the UK. The tent was rammed as Cormac Battle and co. played catchy anthems including “On The Turn”, “Mexican Wave” and “Sally” to rapturous and increasingly sweaty appreciation.
Feeling a little jaded after a weekend of overindulgence, we take a seat and let affable Celtic punks Dropkick Murphys (7) wake us up. The band give us just the raucous party we need. It’s a beautiful sight to behold as both band and crowd fling themselves around in the sunshine with wild abandon. Today Dropkick Murphys show that you don’t need to be a screaming, leather wearing, Satan-worshiping metal band to be well received at Sonisphere. You just need to be a bloody good band.
Dropkick Murphys: Boston’s finest
Punk piggies in the middle of the Irish sandwich were The Bronx (8). The tent remained packed as the New Yorkers ripped through a frenzied set including “Kill My Friends”, “Too Many Devils” and “Shitty Future”. The energetic crowd screamed along with frontman Matt, who sounded like he had too many devils in his throat! Pass that man a lozenge!
If you want to talk about successful comebacks, there aren’t many bands who have done it as well as Alice in Chains (7). Frontman William DuVall takes on the role effortlessly; with charisma and tonnes of energy as he bounds across the stage. Sean Kinney and Mike Innez practically bludgeon the crowd with sound. However the real star of the show, as ever, is Jerry Cantrell. DuVall and Cantrells harmonies blend seamlessly to create the signature Alice In Chains sound. The band get a rapturous response from the crowd, who are particularly delighted by classics ‘Them Bones’, ‘Man In A Box’ and ‘Grind’.
Headlining the Jagermeister tent on the final day of Sonisphere are a band making their return to the scene – Raging Speedhorn (10)! After last nights broken jaw debacle, we are intending to watch the show from the side, however the irresistible draw of Corby’s finest finds us in the middle of the pit as soon as the opening riff of ‘The Hate Song’ blasts out. Pulverising us with ‘Superscud’, ‘The Gush’, ‘Fuck The Voodoo Man’ and ‘Thumper’, this is a set like no other. No matter how faded your Maiden shirt, regardless of your receding hairline and beergut, Raging Speedhorn take us back to our youth. They are one of the great British metal bands, who should have been bigger. We’re so glad they’re back, and can’t wait to see them at Damnation.
Next up was a special set based around the 1995 album “Infernal Love” by Therapy? (9). The Northern Ireland trio played the entire record in sequence and from the moment Andy Cairns roared “I’ve got a problem!!!!!” the entire crowd went wild. It was strange to see some kids who presumably were brought up with the songs in their parents’ collection shouting along to anthems about broken relationships and dysfunction. But then it’s fair to say such problems are as timeless as the songs. There was a brief encore of early track “Potato Junkie” and chart hit “Screamager”, both of which were huge celebratory sing-a-longs. Fan-fuckin’-tastic
After all that had gone before it was left to Metallica (10) to close the festival in the spectacular style it deserved with their By Request set. Whilst an opportunity for the Metallica hardcore faithful had undoubtedly been lost by the selection of songs by the masses resulted in a fairly standard selection of tunes with the exception of the most welcome Whiskey In The Jar, the opening salvo of Battery into Master Of Puppets into a spine tingling Sanitarium instantly made everyone forget any complaints over the lack of obscure tracks.
Metallica By Request: Just as ordered
Two hours whizzed past in the blink of an eye as hit after hit went down a storm with the amassed Knebworth faithful. New song The Lords Of Summer offered a very promising allude to the next Metallica album with some cracking riffs and it’s overall “And Justice For All” style vibe, whilst the title track of the aforementioned album was a very popular winner of the “vote of the day” song during the encore. As traditional the likes of One, Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman would have blown the roof off Knebworth had Sonisphere had one, before things were brought to a conclusion in the traditional fashion of Seek & Destroy accompanied by a huge amount of Metallica Beach Balls.
Scanning the scene out at Knebworth tonight…
And thus Sonisphere’s return to UK shores was regarded as nothing less than a triumph. The festival wasn’t quite sold out but over 50,000 rock and metal fans bore witness to Metallica and Iron Maiden headlining a festival together for the first time officially (Metallica’s secret appearance at Download 2003 doesn’t count) not to mention the countless other quality performances from bands of all shapes and sizes. Team Rock Sins very much hope that come 2015 Sonisphere Knebworth very much remains on the UK festival calendar – welcome back Sonisphere, we missed you!
Words by Lisa Fox, James Halstead, Nicholas Holmes, Neil Skoglund and Jamie Giberti, photos from Jamie Giberti.