Sonisphere 2010

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Sonisphere 2010

SONISPHERE 2010 – Knebworth Park, UK, 29th July – 1st August 2010

FRIDAY 29th July

Ah, the joys of motoring on the wide and empty roads of the UK! We set out on the two hundred mile trip to Knebworth quite early to give ourselves a good six hours to get there, and apart from the occasional roadworks and heavy traffic,were making good time, so when we got a phone call from a friend asking if we were anywhere near Milton Keynes (we were 10 miles away!) we still had plenty of time to make a mercy dash to the Marshall factory to pick up a piece of equipment for Skindred/Madina Lake. We got there within minutes of the place closing for the weekend, picked up the head (technical term for the bit that goes on top of the speaker with the little red lights and dials that go up to 11), and headed off towards Knebworth with an hour before the main entertainment kicked off. Unfortunately someone decided to close the junction we needed so we had to go to the next one, then double back to the one before the one we should be using, and after a half-hour drive down country lanes we finally arrive at the campsite. As we don’t fancy trying to put up a tent in the dark at the end of the day, we find the patch reserved for us by our Powerplay buddies Mark and Red. We erect the tent, (which is dwarfed by their gargantuan Star Wars-type X-tent) making sure to break vital parts in the process, to the background noise of Europe playing on the Saturn stage. Bugger! Meanwhile, a little earlier on that stage (the second largest but the largest used today) our own Andy B. had seen Delain and Turisas. (PA)

Dutch band Delain are relatively new to these shores, although they have played over here before. They had the honour, (or unenviable task, depending on which way you look at it), of opening the whole weekend, and vocalist Charlotte Wessels said before the set that she was very nervous. She needn’t have worried as they received a very enthusiastic welcome from the surprisingly sizeable crowd for first number ‘Invidia’, and you could tell half way through this that any worries had evaporated. It was only a short set, which also included ‘April Rain’ and latest single ‘The Gathering,’ but they did enough to secure themselves a wider audience for those that like After Forever/ Within Temptation (who keys man Martijn Westerholt originally played for), and Nightwish etc. (AB)


I first saw Turisas at Download two years ago and they have gained a very healthy following in that time. The crowd were very vocal in the ‘Battle- Metal’ battle cry which has now become a tradition before each of their shows. And it would appear that they have a new female accordion player in their midst since last I saw them, who is a little easier on the eye than all the blokes covered in blood and fur. Warlord Nygard, (Matt to his mates), would have stirred the masses into a frenzy with a set including ‘To Holmgard and Beyond,’ a truncated version of ‘Rasputin’ and the much shouted for ‘Battle Metal,’ but it was before tea time and all Vikings prefer to go to war on a full stomach. (AB)


I always try to catch a couple of smaller stage bands at festivals, as I feel that these things are not just about the big outfits. First one of these, The Black Spiders on the Bohemia stage, reminded me of Thunder, except that the songs aren’t as good, (all quite similar), and therefore less commercial, meaning that the Spiders maybe won’t be doing large tours for a while yet. A good time rock and roll band that you don’t have to think too hard about to understand. (AB)

After a tour of the impressive facilities (funfair, plenty of stalls, bars and a superb press area, as well as four other stages besides the main two) the first band we see are also one of the most pleasant surprises. Gary Numan and his friends were indeed electric, and actually quite guitar driven and powerful too. Songs like ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ are given a new lease of life and songs like ‘Zulu’, ‘Bleed’ and ‘Halo’, that I wasn’t previously familiar with, are a revelation as the enigmatic Numan prowls around the stage like he owns it. It’s testament to the quality of the songs and the performance that there’s a healthy number of hardened metalheads among the huge crowd that are cheering each song wildly. Not only does he impress but he also manages to make us forget how much hassle it was to get there. (PA)

I genuinely can’t remember seeing Alice Cooper play to a crowd of this size before. Far bigger than Sweden Rock and the last unsuccessful Monsters Of Rock a few years ago, so it was great that Alice put on the best performance I’ve seen from him in many a year. Sure, it was the usual greatest hits set, what else would you expect at a show like this? With crystal clear sound and his well-oiled band on fire (now including ex-Y&T/White Lion/Ozzy/Megadeth member Jimmy DeGrasso on the drumstool), they started and finished with ‘School’s Out’ and covered the usual stuff inbetween, but with an amazing crowd and huge screens to convey the visual effects right to the back, the songs somehow seemed more vibrant than on recent tours. The huge letters of his name that were suspended from above the stage shimmered in the breeze making a weird effect, and he was certainly in fine voice as he spat out the lyrics to oldies like ‘Under My Wheels’ and ‘Elected’, the mid-period pop-metal of ‘Poison’ and ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ or the relatively recent ‘Wicked Young Man’ and ‘Dirty Diamonds’. Guitarists Damon Johnson and Kerri Kelli took it in turns to play dazzling solos and bassist Chuck Garric rumbled away in the background, but it’s especially good to see DeGrasso hammering away like his life depended on it. All in all one of the best Alice Cooper performances I’ve seen in recent years and a cool end to activities on the Saturn stage. If we’d wanted it there was other entertainment into the early hours, like Terrorvision on the Bohemia stage, or the silent disco, a novel idea where people can headbang to their hearts content with headphones on, but a final quiet drink in the VIP area and a relatively early night seemed like the best idea. (PA)



After a poor nights sleep due to being able to hear every sound in a two mile radius, followed by an absolute downpour first thing in the morning, we awoke to find water inside the tent, but apparently nowhere near as much as some people had. Hurrah for our excellent tent erecting skills! No queues for the toilets and only a short wait for a workable warm shower, and we had breakfasted and reconvened in the press area in good time to see the early birds on both the Saturn and Bohemia stages. A brief sighting of Enforcer didn’t impress me much so the first band of any substance were Sabaton on the Saturn Stage.
It’s been quite heartening to see the Swedes rise to popularity in their home country, and especially so to see the power metallers on a big stage in the UK. The short six-song set had excellent sound from the start of ‘Ghost Division’ to the end of ‘Metal Machine’ with the ever present melodic keyboard sound giving them a classy sheen that doesn’t detract from the direct and powerful music the band play. Singer Joachim Broden has developed quite a distinctive image in his armoured battle-dress so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see two lookalikes next to me, hopefully the new album will see them climb to the next level here as well. Meanwhile, the huge Apollo stage is being used for the first time…. (PA)

Lacuna Coil have now become regular players at festivals in this country, having done around three Downloads and now appearing at Knebworth, prior to their small tour of this country in Autumn. It’s probably fair to say that it can be hard for a band to make an impression in only half an hour, and Lacuna Coil have been doing it long enough now to know what to do, but today they did 6 songs including ‘Stronger,’ ‘I Won’t Tell You’ and ‘Our Truth’, which was the closing number, and I felt there was something missing. Not quite sure what, and they were still impressive, but I have seen them better and I would like to see them further up the list. (AB)


Having been stupidly busy at both Sweden Rock and High Voltage recently, Sonisphere’s bias towards heavier bands at the edge (or beyond) of the Fireworks and Rocktopia readership gave me the opportunity to not only take in bands that I usually wouldn’t think twice about, but also adopt a more casual level of attention without feeling like there’s something I really should be reporting on. So, I hung around long enough to form an opinion of both Soulfly and Fear Factory, but also had the luxury of just walking away when the barrage of riffs and double bass drums got old pretty fast. Soulfly’s ex-Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera has a truly horrible voice and looked like he’d crawled out from under a rock, and even though Fear Factory are a much better and tighter band, their ferocious onslaught is mightily impressive but also pretty one dimensional. (PA)

During the changeover came Anthrax, the member of the thrash elite who were on surprisingly early on the main stage for a band of their stature. It was perhaps surprising that the band would ask singer Joey Belladonna back, so apart from guitarist Dan Spitz this was most of the classic line-up as they ran through a truncated greatest hits set that started with ‘Caught In A Mosh’ and included ‘Madhouse’, ‘Indians’, Metal Thrashing Mad’ and ‘I Am The Law’, the latter of which was merged with Sabbath’s ‘Heaven & Hell’ as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio. They’re still a great band and as much fun as ever. (PA)

In the Bohemia tent I also got a bit of Heaven’s Basement for the first time since the departure of singer Richie Hevanz, and despite the stories about a huge change of direction, it’s pretty much business as usual. They’re still using stand-in singer Johnny Fallen until a permanent frontman is found and they appeared here as a four-piece due to the broken finger sustained by rhythm guitarist Johnny Rocker, but it was a high-energy set of traditional hard rock with Fallen putting in a reasonable performance and guitarist Sid Glover adequately filling out the sound. Until they have a full line-up and a proper album recorded it’s too early to predict what kind of future they have, I just hope they haven’t missed the boat. (PA)

I’m afraid I don’t share seemingly every else’s opinion of modern day Papa Roach. The rap-metal debut album ‘Infest’ didn’t float my boat either, but despite the fact that they’re much better players these days and Jacoby Shaddix has learned to carry a tune, I still find the songs do nothing for me. Taking advantage of the fact that from their mid-afternoon slot onwards the sets are a little longer, they did the kind of set you would expect them to, but if I said that my preferred member to watch was new-ish drummer Tony Palermo then that just about sums it up. (PA)

Who would have thought 5 or 6 years ago that thousands of people in ripped jeans, leather jackets and long hair would be happy to sit, (or stand), in a field in the middle of the countryside and listen to three guys, (and a drummer), playing cellos? Not me for one. But here we all were, sat/stood in the sunshine doing just that. Mind you, it’s not every bunch of cello players that get on a stage and rip out Metallica and stuff never heard on cellos before. Apocalyptica then, to the uninitiated, could be mistaken for a novelty band, but the thousands listening to ‘Master of Puppets,’ ‘Grace,’ ‘Fight Fire With Fire,’ ‘End Of Me,’ ‘Last Hope,’ ‘I'm Not Jesus,’ ‘Seek & Destroy’ and ‘Inquisition Symphony’ wouldn’t agree. (AB)


Not being a fan of Good Charlotte we took advantage of a lull in proceedings to just wander around and take a few things in, including the novel idea that the organisers had of having comedians in the Bohemia tent, of which Tim Minchin was particularly amusing. One noteworthy event though was the appearance of Skunk Anansie. Of course the band have actually been back together for the best part of eighteen months and are no longer hot news, but the band were great and strutted the stage like they owned it. The musicianship was top notch and singer Skin, in a rather bizarre costume that got smaller as more things were removed from it, was as charismatic as anyone who graced this festival. The band simply tore through the likes of ‘Selling Jesus’, ‘Because Of You’ and Weak’, whilst the furore of ‘Tear The Place Up’ was my personal favourite. (PA)

The next couple of hours was spent between the up-their-own-arses but admittedly listenable Placebo (they played well enough but it’s all a little mechanical for me) and Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor (who has more strings to his bow than I expected), but I wasn’t really interested in either and was just killing time until Motley Crue on the Saturn stage. The Crue are probably my favourite band of all todays acts but I’ll be the first to admit that they’ve done some pretty dodgy shows in the last few years, so when Vince Neil hit virtually none of the notes of opener ‘Kickstart My Heart’ I feared the worst. However, the audience reaction seemed to spur him into action and this 11 song greatest hits set (which leaned heavily on the ‘Dr. Feelgood’ album) soon hit it’s stride with impressive versions of ‘Dr. Feelgood’ itself, a surprising ‘Too Fast For Love’ and the song that started it all, ‘Live Wire’. Mick Mars looked no worse than of late, although watching the crew carry him up the steps to the stage was painful, and Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx held it all together like they always have. With a skyscraper background and plenty of pyro the band play the obvious hits alongside the superb ‘Ten Seconds To Love’, and you can’t really argue with a set that ends with ‘Wild Side’, ‘Shout At The Devil’ and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’. This band were made for festivals like this. (PA)

Whilst I can certainly understand the appeal of headliners Rammstein, the German industrial metallists lack of personal appeal goes much deeper than not being able to understand the lyrics. The show is powerful, bombastic and spectacular, with more pyro than a new years eve party at the London Eye, but still fails to have anything but the simple mechanical rhythm of a steel factory and fist in the air chants. Visually it’s stunning and the band, led by the charismatic Till Lindemann, obviously have fun doing what they do, but it was only the innovative special effects that kept me from crawling away and into my tent. (PA)


A very early start on the last day saw a very packed Bohemia tent well before noon for one of Henry Rollins’ entertaining, thought provoking and often funny rants about the state of the world and his personal observations on it. With many stories about racism, travelling, the USA, Obama and Iron Maiden’s heavy metal gerbil (you just had to be there!) Rollins has a gift as a public speaker and is a man of high intelligence and equally high morals. The reception he received was moving and I’m so glad I made the effort when an extra hour in bed seemed more appealing. (PA)

I also decided to check out some newer bands while here, the first of which was Firebug, who cite Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd among others as influences, which is an intriguing combination. To my mind they were a straight forward rock band who lightly dipped into different areas throughout their set. There was a bit of Jazz thrown in, which did nothing for me, although it has to be said that the bass player got into a decent groove on numerous occasions. Front woman Juliette Tworsey was OK, but this was one of those occasions where, in my opinion, the music could have done with a more raucous male voice. (AB)

Bypassing CKY on the Saturn Stage I was curious to see how Madina Lake would acquit themselves on the main Apollo Stage after the recent hospitalisation and possible brain damage sustained by bassist Matthew Leone after bravely intervening in a domestic involving a man who was beating his wife. Remaining members Mateo Camargo (guitars), Dan Torelli (drums) and Matthew’s brother Nathan (vocals) performed a lively set as a three piece with the bass on tape. They’re perhaps a little too poppy for me but songs like ‘Never Take Us Alive’, ‘House Of Cards’ and ‘True Love’ have undeniably big hooks and the short set was pleasant enough. (PA)

Hearts On Fire are a British all girl group and are not the Spice Girls or Girls Aloud. This is both a good thing and a bad thing as, despite the fact that they obviously enjoyed what they were doing, and they played OK, there is no magic ingredient to it. Maybe it’s down to the fact that they all looked like the girls next door, (big family), doing the Saturday shopping; totally devoid of the rock band look and would probably be more impressive down the local on Friday or Saturday night. (AB)


Bumping into the recently arrived Classic Rock journalist Dave Ling and his mate Andy, we head off to catch some of Rise To Remain in the Bohemia tent where the young heavy metal band were already going through their paces. The band show promise with their sinewy riffs and metalcore sound and attitude, but it’s singer Austin Dickinson that gives them their edge with his versatile voice and energetic stage presence, so it’s should come as no surprise that his dads name is Bruce and he’ll be playing later tonight. Songs like ‘Purify’, ‘The Serpent’ and ‘Bridges Will Burn’ augur well for a successful future. (PA)

The Fab Beatles were mentioned to me as being a very good Beatles copy band. And these guys were good, very good, at sounding just like the Beatles. While the guys doing Starr and Harrison looked nothing like them, Lennon and McCartney did bear some resemblance, although on closer inspection McCartney looked suspiciously like Gary Moore. (Maybe this is what he does on his days off?). But shut your eyes and ‘All My Loving,’ ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Hey Jude’ (which the whole crowd sang along with), sounded just like they should. And they also finished their set off with a rendition of Maiden’s ‘Run To The Hills’, which produced wide grins from everyone. (AB)

Meanwhile, on the main stage the entertaining Skindred were giving us a dose of their self-styled ‘Ragga-metal’. The bands sound is a schizophrenic marriage of metal and reggae which works in the same way as funk, soul and metal worked for Living Colour, and in dreadlocked frontman Benji Webbe they have a genuinely funny and engaging frontman (in a shiny gold suit, no less!) and feature powerful and slightly ludicrous songs like ‘Roots Rock Riot’, ‘Destroy The Dancefloor’ and ‘Pirates’, while ‘Pressure’ morphs into ‘Back In Black’ somewhere along the way. Skindred are not something I would go out and buy but for forty minutes they did a good job of keeping me entertained. Did I mention that they were from Wales? (PA)

Dir En Grey I will admit was a mistake. I had read some stuff about them which made them sound really good. What I got though was that thing that I really don’t understand, (apart from the words); competent musicians fronted by a banshee. It makes no sense to me, it’s not as if you could sing along to it, (or even try without feeling like you have had your throat ripped out), and what really ticks me off is that fact that, when he does sing properly, (which is rarely), crouching on his centre stage, small metal table, (or Kyo in English), has a decent voice. (AB)

I’ve already mentioned in my review of the bands set at High Voltage that Luke Morley’s new band The Union’s album is mostly too laid back and bluesy for me. However, rather than on a big stage in bright sunshine, their music works better in a small club, or in this case the Bohemia tent. Playing basically the same set again they kicked off with the great ‘Step Up To The Plate’ and finished with the equally strong ‘Watch The River Flow’, but also ‘Black Monday’, ‘Easy Street’ and ‘Holy Roller’ worked much better this time, and although I’m not a fan of cover versions, especially during a mere half hour set, at least CCR’s ‘Proud Mary’ gave some people something they actually know. Pete Shoulder was in fine voice again and they all looked like they were enjoying it. (PA)


Over on the main Apollo stage thrash leviathans Slayer at least had a far better sound than at Sweden Rock the previous month, it still wasn’t great but at least you could hear Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman in the mix and Dave Lombardo’s incredible drums were quite powerful, even from half a mile away. ‘South Of Heaven’ kicks things off and the band rumble through a mixture of the well known (‘Raining Blood’, ‘Mandatory Suicide’, ‘Angel Of Death’) and the slightly more obscure (‘Hate Worldwide’ for instance). It’s weird that as heavy as Slayer were at the time I can’t help thinking that Tom Araya’s vocals sound surprisingly melodic these days compared to a lot of the extreme metal out there. Times change but Slayer can still match anyone for power and intensity. (PA)

There were no pressing must-see bands for a while so food and a bit of comedy in the Bohemia tent was the order of the day (Brian Posehn was funny, Sean Hughes wasn’t) and a look at the newly erected Iron Maiden hospitality area backstage to catch up with Doogie White and other friends, although the highlight was probably Charlie Slater from ‘Eastenders’ being refused entry despite having the correct wristband. He got in eventually but not before the elderly fictional taxi driver had embarrassed himself with a “Do you know who I am?” rant. Over on the main stage I was curious to see Alice In Chains. The Seattle rockers proved to be one of the best bands at the festival and new singer William DuVall has a great voice and a cool understated stage manner, but when he plays rhythm guitar and harmonises with Jerry Cantrell the effect is just stunning. Classics like ‘Man In The Box’, ‘Them Bones’ and ‘Rain When I Die’ were mixed seamlessly with new songs ‘Check My Brain’, ‘Your Decision’ and ‘Acid Bubble’, and by the time they reached the end of the set the huge crowd were all singing along to ‘Rooster’. A rich and organic sound and perfect backing from drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez cemented the set of the day for me. (PA)

I really didn’t expect to like The Cult but I came away thinking I’d probably misjudged them all these years. I’m still not sold on Ian Astbury’s voice but the rest of the band were good players and Astbury was a lively and enjoyable frontman as they belted out the likes of ‘Li’l Devil’, ‘Sweet Soul Sister’, ‘Phoenix’, ‘Fire Woman’, She Sells Sanctuary’ and ‘Love Removal Machine’. Throwing an obscene number of tambourines into the crowd the frontman won me over with his easy stage manner and surprisingly friendly banter as Billy Duffy churned out catchy riff after catchy riff. With new song ‘Every Man And Woman Is A Star’ also impressing they were certainly one of the biggest surprises of the festival. (PA)


Pendulum have grown in stature over the past 18 months, and were a band that I had intended to check out but never got round to, so today would solve that problem. I’m never quite sure whether to class them as Techno/Pop, Techno/Rock or whatever, but they seem to attract a wide ranging audience. Performing numbers such as ‘Showdown,’ ‘Witchcraft,’ the Prodigy’s ‘Voodoo People,’ two new songs ‘Crush’ and ‘Self vs Self’ (with an appearance from In Flames’ Anders Fridén) and ‘Propane Nightmares,’ they kept the crowds happy, and in doing so Ben Mount probably didn’t stand still for more than 2 seconds throughout the whole set. It tired me out watching him. (AB)

What can you say about Iggy & The Stooges that hasn’t been said before? The classic tunes have been incredibly influential to generations of musicians and over forty years in the business has done nothing to dampen Iggy’s energy and enthusiasm, although it’s interesting to see how everyone around him ages while he stays the same. As the band rip through the opening salvo of ‘Raw Power’ and ‘Search And Destroy’ it only takes the beginning of the latter before Iggy is off into the crowd and bringing back people to dance onstage. Thankfully the utter chaos of his Glastonbury appearance didn’t happen here and everyone was ushered off without leaving half the mud of the Hertfordshire countryside behind. The set continued with other iconic songs like ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, ‘Fun House’, and ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ and you had to feel that The Stooges stage manager was the hardest working guy at the festival, trying to keep equipment working, people off the stage, Iggy from getting his wires tangled and bassist Mike Watt (playing with his leg in a splint) from falling over. It didn’t seem to matter that saxophonist Steve Mackay appeared to be playing different songs to everyone else or that Scott Asheton was knocking chunks out of his drums and cymbals, it was just a gloriously raucous noise that continued to cement their place in history for another generation of fans. ‘Death Trip’ and ‘No Fun’ brought everything to a chaotic close. (PA)

It’s been ten years since I last saw Iron Maiden and on that occasion Mr. Dargan and I walked out because the sound was so bad. Thankfully the sound at Sonisphere was much better and the band seemed to be up for it, although I’m sure that a set almost completely made up of songs from the last decade wasn’t to everyones taste. Despite the rumours, Bruce Dickinson was in great voice and threw himself around the walkways of the futuristic stage set like it was still 1983, and apart from the setlist my only other complaint is that due to the design of the stage set you can only see the band clearly from the centre as the side corridors were in the way of the drumkit and all the other players when they weren’t coming forward to take a solo. ‘El Dorado’ was the only song from the new album with the likes of ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘Dance Of Death’ and ‘These Colours Don’t Run’ and others from the previous two records making up a good three quarters of the set. Bruce dedicated ‘Blood Brothers’ to Ronnie James Dio and the set ended strongly with ‘Brave New World’, ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and the classic ‘Iron Maiden’, but I felt that the huge crowd only really made itself heard during the encore of ‘The Number Of The Beast’, ‘Hallowed Be Thay Name’ and ‘Running Free’. Visually it was very strong with Eddie coming on to play guitar at the end, and even though the site stayed open for another couple of hours most people left after Maiden finished. This year has seen a huge leap forward in the standard of UK rock festivals with good facilities and comfort being taken into account, and with good attendances and an excellent cross-section of bands, Sonisphere was one of the best and should be around for years to come. Even camping wasn’t too bad. (PA)


Phil Ashcroft & Andy B.

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