Nearly twenty years into this twenty first century of ours, and retro is once again the chicest tone in town. Fuzzed, bluesy guitars, seventies licks and threads, and an aching earnestness for a sound of yesteryear is where the coolest of cats are chilling. And down such alleyways we find Belgian quartet Black Mirrors and their impressive full length debut Look Into The Black Mirror (Napalm). Continue reading
A few years back, Reading metallers Malefice were hailed as one of Britain’s greatest hopes to make waves; and with the patronage of some influential metal figures and a penchant for colossal grooves it was unsurprising. Fast forward to the present day and whilst some of their peers such as Sylosis and The Defiled have grown bigger and bigger, Malefice seemed to get left behind despite (or perhaps because of) their refusal to stagnate, their 2011 album Awaken The Tides (Metal Blade) especially being a slight curveball with a change of vocal delivery and a greater focus on melody.
Latest EP Gravitasis their first release since a brief hiatus that followed 2012’s Five (both Transcend) and finds them invigorated and back on full throttle. This is back to writing the same kind of grooves that once saw them spoken in the same breath as the likes of Devildriver, but at the same time is not just a back to basics effort. Throughout there are slight shades of a tech metal tone, reminiscent of Heart Of A Coward’s straight for the throat usage, keeping towards pit fodder rather than prog drifting. Their ace once again proves to be vocalist Dale Butler who sounds as passionate and genuinely pissed off as ever.
This may only be a brief four track EP, but for a returning band this is a great statement of intent, and evidence that they could still have the bright future that perhaps eluded them to this day.
A soaring return to one of Britain’s true juggernauts.
Sunday sees the sun come out again, and the weekend rapidly coming to an end. To ease the pain of Sonisphere being over for another year, ska-punk legends Reel Big Fish run riot on the Bohemia stage with a setlist made up of happy-go-lucky, bouncy ska hits. Disappointingly, the sound cut out for ‘Where Have You Been’, causing the audience to flit between chanting to get the sound back on as soon as possible, to helping the band out singing along word for word when the chorus kicks in. The ever notorious ‘S.R’ (‘Suburban Rhythm’) and the bands penchant for playing parts of the song in varying genres throughout the duration gives fans a chance to skank, mosh and any other form of dance that tickles their fancy.
Boston-Irish punks Dropkick Murphys are next, their whisky soaked bar room anthems in full swing today, kicking off with the well suited ‘The Boys Are Back’ before following it up with raucous renditions of ‘Black Velvet Band’, ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’ and ‘Shipping Up To Boston’. Despite a hefty collection of songs from previous albums, the Celtic boys opt for playing a fair few from their 2013 album Signed & Sealed In Blood, and it’s a credit to the guys that these tracks are as well received as ones that have been around for years, ‘Rose Tattoo’ being a notable favourite of the crowd.
Over at the Apollo stage, grunge legends Alice In Chains are in full swing, singer William DuVall once again proving his worth as he throws himself around the stage, his vocals mixing perfectly with guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s harmonies. ‘Dam That River’, ‘Man in the Box’ and ‘Stone’ all make obvious appearances in the set, sounding as good now as they ever did back in the day. After their comeback five years ago, Alice In Chains certainly set the record straight for any disbelievers whose opinons may have ever swayed towards their comeback being an unsuccessful one.
Finally, Metallica bring the weekend to a blinding close, the songs they perform chosen entirely by Sonisphere attendees and fans who’ve spent the last few months casting their votes in the run up to the festival, some of whom were invited on-stage to announce them to the audience. Obviously, there were the odd grumble here and there as some songs are cut from their usual set list, but in all honesty, it’s hard to argue with the likes of ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘One’, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and all the other hits they cram into their two hour performance. It’s a shame that the screens at each side of the stage were unfortunately hindered by the lack of backdrop due to some issues earlier on in the day, meaning that it wasn’t until dark that those of us vertically challenged and/or stood further to the back were able to watch the performance properly. Striding back on stage for their encore of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, James Hetfield announces ‘…And Justice For All’ as the song that had won the vote from the ongoing polls, before ‘Seek and Destroy’ brings the main stage to a close for another year.
With just enough left in our vocal chords to have a sing along to some classic 90’s grunge, The Defiled top off the weekend with their ‘Nirvana Defiled’ set. Playing Kurt Cobain, singer Stitch pays homage and does justice to the raspy, gravelly vocals that Cobain was notorious for, as well as pulling off a performance whilst seemingly a little bit too tipsy. Playing the part of Courtney Love, The AvD wanders the stage in a skimpy dress as his band members crash their way through ‘Rape Me’, ‘Lithium’, ‘Heart Shaped Box’ before ending with the obvious choice ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
WORDS: EMMA QUINLAN
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF SONISPHERE (WITH PERMISSION)
With the dawn of Saturday morning comes the rain, but if ever there was a band to provide an antidote to the grey skies, it’s British classics Chas & Dave. Though somewhat hard to grasp that the Cockney legends are sharing the stage with the likes of Slayer and Carcass, there’s no doubt that Chas & Dave’s back catalogue of hits such as ‘Gertcha’, ‘Rabbit’ and ‘The Sideboard Song’ is the perfect way to ease those hangovers and build you up for the rest of the days music.
On the opposing Apollo stage, Ghost take to the stage. A band notoriously ridiculed for their ghoulish garb, they’ve still drawn a large crowd to watch their own brand of heavy doom metal. With a set list severely lacking in any major stand out hits, Papa Emeritus and his Nameless Ghouls still manage to keep the attention of the crowd, the grim grey skies providing the perfect backdrop to witness this Swedish six piece at their best.
Over in the Bohemia tent, Finnish glam metallers Reckless Love welcome an eager crowd in out of the rain, singer Olli Herman sending the girls insane with his leather clad hips thrusting and gyrating as he belts out ‘Animal Attraction’, ‘On The Radio’ and ‘Beautiful Bomb’. Akin to an ever so slightly more serious Steel Panther, Reckless Love certainly know how to fill a tent with both a huge audience and blistering, ear splitting hair metal.
Frank Turner makes his Sonisphere debut, and he clearly couldn’t be any happier that he’s got the chance to coincide this with performing on the same stage as his idols Iron Maiden, a fact that he makes no attempt at hiding throughout his set. It’s a shame then, that he plays to a disappointingly uninterested crowd, save for a handful of die hard fans down the front. Thankfully, it turns out that Frank and his Sleeping Souls put on a rip roaring performance regardless; from opening track ‘Photosynthesise’ to the ever poignant ‘Long Live The Queen’, right until set closer ‘Four Simple Words’.
Despite only playing their last ever gig barely a year and a half ago, Hundred Reasons regroup to play their rescheduled Sonisphere show after the last one was cancelled along with the whole festival back in 2012, with none other than ‘Ideas Above Our Station’ in it’s entirety. The album, released back in ’02, is wonderfully nostalgic; ageless songs such as ‘Answers’, ‘Falter’ and climactic closing song ‘Avalanche’ cause widespread sing-alongs across the entire crowd. It’s hard to walk away from the Saturn stage after watching such a performance knowing that there’ll be nothing from the Hundred Reasons camp any time soon, but it does instil hope in the hearts of their fans that this might not necessarily be a one-off show.
It’s Deftones time back over at the Apollo, and despite there being a good few moshpits and circle pits opening up nearer to the front of the stage, I find myself willing the band to end their fourteen song set by the time they’re only just halfway through. Whether it’s a combination of not knowing much of the material they played or a general lull in the afternoons atmosphere, the Californian five piece failed to entertain not only myself, but a good chunk of the audience who were stood further to the back.
Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Saturday night at Sonisphere 2014 plays host to the final date of an epic three year tour by Iron Maiden, and what better way to end it than for it to coincide with Knebworth’s 40th anniversary of hosting live music. Pulling out the big guns with plenty of fire canons, smoke and other pyro, their setlist is a triumph; crammed with all the hits from their forty year repertoire. With his unmistakeable ‘Scream for me Knebworth!’, Bruce Dickinson tells us we’re a ‘rowdy and thirsty bunch’ before launching into classics such as ‘Moonchild’, ‘Can I Play With Madness’, ‘The Trooper’, ‘Run To The Hills’, the list is endless. Even the ever changing backdrops and various versions of mascot Eddie are overshadowed by the blazing performance that Iron Maiden put on. Even for someone who might not be their biggest fan, it’s hard not to get caught up in the show. Welcomed back onstage for their encore by a recording of a Winston Churchill speech, the band hint towards a new album in the near future, before ending the evening on ‘Sanctuary’.
WORDS: EMMA QUINLAN
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF SONISPHERE (WITH PERMISSION)
July has felt somewhat empty since Sonisphere went on a two year hiatus after the disappointing line up of 2012 caused it to be cancelled, and completely left off the festival circuit in 2013. 2014, however, sees its triumphant return to the fields of Knebworth Park July 4th-6th, coincidentally celebrating its 40th anniversary of live music held in its legendary grounds.
To honour such an occasion, Sonisphere really has pulled out the big guns headliner-wise; Friday welcomes The Prodigy to the Apollo stage for the first time, with the likes of Limp Bizkit, Band Of Skulls, Gary Numan, Anti-Flag and The Defiled playing beforehand to get you in the mood. Across other stages on Friday, there’s Electric Wizard, Bam Margera’s Fuckface Unstoppable, Lostalone, Brutality Will Prevail, Black Spiders, Glamour Of The Kill amongst so many more.
Throughout the Saturday, there’s The Sisters Of Mercy, New Model Army, Reckless Love, The Virginmarys, Bleed From Within, Alestorm, Chas & Dave, Ghost, Frank Turner and Deftones to look forward to, before you’re faced with the impossible challenge of having to choose who to watch between Slayer and legends Iron Maiden headlining the Saturn and Apollo stages respectively. But wait; what’s that? There’s no need for tough decisions, you say? Thankfully, no, as Sonisphere UK is sticking with its age old tradition of alternate stage times, so no pesky clashes between the main and second stage!
Bringing the weekend to a close on Sunday evening is none other than Metallica (By Request!). With the exception of their final song, the band have left it entirely up to festival goers to vote and decide what their setlist will be. Is there one song you’ve spent years desperate to hear them play live, and never had the chance? Well, now’s the time. Head over to http://www.metallica.com/ and cast your votes! But before the weekend is over, there’s of course Dream Theatre, Alice in Chains, Mastodon, Reel Big Fish, Dropkick Murphys, Gojira, Therapy? (playing Infernal Love in its entirety), the list just goes on and on.
Sonisphere is renowned for its diverse line ups, bringing many genres across the metal/rock/alt scene to one festival. It’s been sorely missed the last two years, so make sure you don’t miss out on what will surely prove to be one hell of a welcome home party.
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Swedish occult rock/doom formation Ghost is one of the fastest rising stars in the metal firmament. Recently the band released Infestissumam, an album that will undoubtedly cement the reputation of Papa Emeritus II and his Nameless Ghouls even further. On behalf of Ghost Cult Marcus J. West had a little chat with one of the Nameless Ghouls just before the band enters the stage… Continue reading