Sonisphere Festival 2011 live review and gallery

Knebworth Park,
8th-10th July 2011

Words by Alex Gosman
Photos by Slack

heavymetal_beard_Johnny Chow_cavalera_conspiracyFRIDAY

We arrived at the festival sweating as we lurched past the usual Sonisphere sniffer dogs and managed to get there just in time for the opening track of CEREBRAL BALLZY who didn’t let us down. Hardcore made by skaters has always had an edge. The likes of JFA, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Suicidal Tendencies have paved the way for this new breed and they are taking their version on 80’s skate core to the hilt. Look out for their album this month as it’s a short, sharp shock of excitement that you need in your life.

Photo right: Johnny Chow of Cavalera Conspiracy – thanks for the beers Texan!

ANTHRAX’s sense of humour and penchant for experimentation have always set them apart from the rest of the gang, but unfortunately Joey Belladonna’s Noo Yoik bonhomie struggles to compensate for the cold winds that play havoc with their sound. Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser does a fine job of filling in for an absent Scott Ian, but ultimately the crowd seem more interested in keeping warm. Dark clouds gathering overhead herald the arrival of MEGADETH, who open with a suitably brooding ‘Trust’. Dave Mustaine (a.k.a. The Sulking Lion) doesn’t have much to say for himself today (as usual – Z-Ed) , but dispenses new song ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ in fine style, and the appearance of Vic Rattlehead for ‘Peace Sells…’ is a welcome surprise. (If the Big Four of metal was compared to British football, then this band are Tottenham Hotspur! Z-Ed)

You can rely on SLAYER to grab a festival by the scruff of its neck and kick the shit out of it, and today they don’t disappoint, They rip through the likes of ‘Disciple’, ‘Hate Worldwide’ and – of course- ‘Raining Blood’ with their trademark brutal speed and precision, although the most disturbing aspect of their set is the grin that Tom Araya sports as he roars through ‘Dead Skin Mask’.

Whilst Slayer’s happiness filled the main stage field, many other people who have good taste in music were witnessing the raging musical assault of BLACK BREATH. Their brash, thrash and hardcore hybrid steamrolled the tent and left everyone open mouthed. Heavy Breathing is the name of their album, do it.

METALLICA, of course, have been headlining festivals for the best part of two decades, but these old dogs can still create a sense of occasion; kicking off with a furious ‘Hit The Lights’. Most of the old favourite are present and correct, as is – unfortunately – a tedious mid-set instrumental, but the highlight is saved for the encore; with members of their Big Four brethren joining them for a stage-swamping romp through Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’. Lars Ulrich looks like he’s about to explode with joy, and we leave feeling pretty damn satisfied too.

We manage to sneak into the Bohemia tent for a quick blast of KILLING JOKE, and although it’s really our feet that are killing us, the band still get us dancing and hollering with a suitably visceral ‘Wardance’. Jaz Coleman is as much a demonic preacher as a vocalist, and long may he remain so.


For those feeling a bit sore from the night before (including us), RICHARD CHEESE & LOUNGE AGAINST THE MACHINE are a welcome proposition, inducing a wide sea of grins in the crowd as they reinterpret various rock and metal classics in a smooth lounge style. ARCHITECTS are on rabid form, inciting a tsunami of crowd surfers within minutes of hitting the stage, but it is GALLOWS that prove the pick of the early bunch. No longer the underdogs of old, they’ve mutated into a raucous rock n’ roll behemoth that eats stages of this size for breakfast; and although thew news of Frank Carter’s imminent departure from the ranks is sad indeed, you can’t deny that he’s bowing out on top.

BAD RELIGION fare less well; the rain ensuring that the SoCal veterens play to a somewhat depleted crowd on the Apollo stage. The handful of recent tracks suggest that Greg Graffin’s crew aren’t content to rest on their laurels just yet, but in a festival setting, the likes of ‘Suffer’ and ‘Generator’ would have been more welcome. (Shame they also ended the set with Graffin forgetting the words! Z-Ed)

Over now to the smaller stages for some impressive new blood. REVOKER offer up some fierce but streamlined thrash/groove anthems that prove more substantial than most of the fare coming from their South Wales musical brethren. Leeds’ PULLED APART BY HORSES, meanwhile, are gloriously unhinged; vocalist Tom Hudson almost screeching himself hoarse over a cauldron of thunderous riffs and scattergun rhythms. Watch out for these two.

WEEZER prove to be one of the highlights of the weekend; unleashing a wonderfully melodic set that does not feature a single bad song. Rivers Cuomo is in a playful mood, hopping down onto the barrier for a bizarre but entertaining cover of Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, and by the time they close with ‘Buddy Holly’, they have the crowd in the palm of their collective hand. Oh, and bonus points for banishing the rain as well.

BIFFY CLYRO don’t need the underdog sympathy vote any more; they’ve got more than enough quality songs to fill a headline slot. Urged on by a crowd much smaller than Metallica’s, but just as loyal, they conjure up one of the weekend’s loudest sing-alongs; and the bizarre chess-set stage set-up just adds to the sense of occasion.


11am on a Sunday is a tall order for most festival goers, but VOLBEAT’s mix of heavy riff action and Social Distortion-esque rock n’ roll swagger are well worth an early start. PARKWAY DRIVE whip up an impressively-sized pit for this time of day, with their frenzied metalcore attack, and guitarist Luke Kilpatrick deserves kudos for soldiering on despite having recently broken his leg. The rubber dinghy crowd-surfing competition during ‘Deliver Me’ makes for a quite a spectacle.

Never was a band more appropriately named than MASTODON – the rumble of Troy Sanders’ bass can be heard a mile off. Their monolithic riffs crash and surge around us, and whether it’s the more progressive ‘Crack The Skye’ material or a bludgeoning ‘I Am Ahab’, they’re never less than mesmerising.

MOTORHEAD are low on surprises, but high on thrills. The couple of recent songs played tonight sound just like the old stuff, but that matters little when every song is the very essence of outlaw music – no wonder bikers love them so. Oh, and the fire-breathing girls that join the band onstage for ‘Killed By Death’ are a nice bonus.

We nip into the Bohemia tent just in time to see CANCER BATS damn near blow the roof off. The Canadian quartet are getting leaner, meaner and more enthusiastic with time, and with seemingly no end of riffs or energy in the tank, their forthcoming album should be a corker. The tent is rammed, and rightly so. Back on the Apollo stage, LIMP BIZKIT are pretty entertaining despite being musically shit. Fred Durst’s clunky rapping and clichéd posturing is almost painful to witness, but it has to be said that ‘Rollin’ is something of a guilty pleasure.

And so to SLIPKNOT, on the closing night of their first major tour since the death of bassist Paul Grey. Vocalist Corey Taylor is clearly overwhelmed by the crowd’s support, declaring tonight “a celebration”, and although this is pretty much the same show that we witnessed at the Download Festival in 2009, the likes of ‘The Heretic Anthem’ and a vicious ‘People = Shit’ sound as feral as ever.

Same time next year? Yeah, go on then!