Festival Reviews

Festival review: Sonisphere 2011

By | Published on Thursday 14 July 2011


Last weekend saw the third year of Sonisphere in the UK, and it’s first outing as a three-day event. It also boasted the ‘Big Four’ of thrash metal, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth (insert metal roar here).

After arriving on site and having a 20 minute walk to the guest campsite (no shuttle bus this year), I rushed on over to watch grunge revivalists Japanese Voyeurs. I bloody love grunge and having already watched this band at my first metal festival of the year a month ago, I couldn’t wait to see these guys again. Playing in a similar sized tent, this time around it was even more packed out. No one was disappointed with the band’s 90s-grunge-style set, filled with some amazing riffs. And I’d be surprised if anyone there didn’t fall head over heels for frontwoman Romily.

Having spent the afternoon mainly getting familiar with the site, things kicked off properly for me when Slayer hit the main stage. Although slightly missing the mark – to be honest, they’d have maybe been better in a tent where they could have created a bigger atmosphere – it was certainly worth seeing these thrash metal legends at work, and definitely a good way to get in the mood for Metallica. Headlining the first night, Metallica hit the stage with everything they had, including the compulsory pyrotechnics. Living up to their 2009 headline performance, they even included by favourite ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, which seemed to be a high point for the rest of the crowd too.

On Saturday, I found out that the best way to wake up and nurse a hangover is to go and watch Gallows perform. At first I was hesitant to see them playing on an outdoor stage, compared to watching them in the Bohemia Tent last year, but I was quickly proven wrong. Frank was completely on form and pretty much spot on with his vocals (despite rumours of problems last year) and managed to whip the crowd up into a frenzy, getting them to form a circle pit around the sound booth, which even I was tempted to join. Declaring it as one of the band’s last performances with Frank, it definitely did the band justice, with all of them as thirsty as ever throughout the performance and ending with friends and manager joining them on stage for a singalong, aw.

Next up was a trip to the smaller Jagermeister Stage to see The Virginmarys. Having already heard great things about these guys and having been gutted to miss them at Download, they totally won me over with their set. There was amazing playing, particularly from the drummer, and lead singer Ally’s vocals reminded me of a mix of Robert Plant and Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale.

Another highlight of the day, and probably one of my favourites of the weekend, were Weezer. The band kicked off with ‘Sweater Song’ and pretty much played a set full of their greatest numbers. They even threw in a cover of Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, sounding better than the original and performed with dry humour from geekily cool Rivers, and the pinnacle of delight was another cover, of Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’.

A surprising highlight of the weekend for me were Biffy Clyro on Saturday, who had the crowd sucked in from the start and definitely lived-up to their headline-status. They even had me singing along to ‘Mountains’ with true conviction.

So, final day at Sonisphere and very much partied out, I dragged myself out of my tent for Motorhead – who would want to miss out on some Lemmy action! Again, like Slayer, it was slightly flat on atmosphere, but still one not to miss. Next up were nu-metal titans Limp Bizkit. Having not being a fan until spending a lot of the weekend dancing to a friend’s boombox which was blaring out the new album and shouting “douche bag” at every opportunity (yeah that was me/us), this set totally ruled for me. They are now my favourite band that I don’t particularly like, which is probably a good thing seeing as I appeared to know a lot of the lyrics to most of their songs. But then everyone knows the words to ‘Rollin’, don’t they?!

Bill Bailey proved to be a good in-between point before Sunday’s headliners, throwing in some well-needed funniness to detract from the rain. I very much enjoyed singing along and chanting “Hey Asda, I ain’t gonna be your bitch!” Good fun.

The final act of the weekend were mask-wearing heroes Slipknot. I didn’t get to see them at Reading a few years back after they pulled out, so this was one band in particular I couldn’t wait for – and even with the heavy rain nearly tipping me over the edge and sending me home, they were definitely my favourite of the weekend (or possibly joint with Weezer). The set was full of energy with a setlist covering all four albums, and ended on a rather emotional note with the band paying tribute to the late Paul Gray with an added orange jumpsuit placed on stage at the end of the set.

All in all, a definite four metal stars out of five (minus-ing one for the rain). GS