Sonisphere Festival: Big Four Friday (2011)

Having been fortunate enough to make it to and from Soni this year, we shall be posting a three‐part series on the most excellent metal affair over the course of the next week, starting today!

We hope you enjoy!

There really is nothing quite like waking up the first morning of a festival, though the term ‘waking up’ is used here the loosest possible sense, as if writhing around in various forms of painon a badly inflated mattress for several hours, firstly in freezing darkness and then burning hot lightness, ever truly ends in the act of ‘waking up’.

Nevertheless, after enough demons were released from my aching head through an appropriate number of heartfelt groans, I found the coordination required to reach out and unzip the my section entrance of the tent, allowing the cooler air in the middle to wash in and further freshen my mind. Restored but slightly off balance I exited my den and greeted my fellow festival goers with appropriate monikers based on the results of last years mass word association.

Despite the hour not yet reaching double figures, across the camp site there is already a buzz in the air. A wander up to the facilities at the top of the camp reveals a group of lads, conveniently pitched close to the path at around the 2.5 hour queue point for the showers, sitting around, tinnies in hand, heckling shower goers in good humour through a large plastic cone. Being only the first morning, the memories of last night are quick to resurface, but still blurred. Clearing out St. pancreas station of peroni on the way up, an early arrival and entry to the site, more beers, festival group reunion, more beers, rock karaoke… Oops…

Returning to the camp with renewed focus on the day ahead, the first morning was spent in camping chairs with tins in hand, discussing the importance and likely quality of the forthcoming events. The general consensus among our group was that Megadeth would be the highlight, closely followed by Slayer and then Metallica and Anthrax at some indeterminable distance, though it was clear from the number of t-shirts on display across the camp that Metallica were firm festival-wide favourites, as was to be expected.

Unfortunately, a heated discussion and possibly a few too many cans meant Diamond Head played and went before we realised what the time was. Unconcerned, we hid as much alcohol as we could about our persons and clinked off towards the main arena to catch the start of Anthrax, the first of the Big Four to be playing that evening.

First up from the big four was Anthrax, who picked a solid set of hits that to many displayed a startling return to form, though for me it was rendered somewhat underwhelming by periods of gushing pleasure from Belladonna at merely being there getting in the way of the music. Still, highlights including opener ‘Caught in a Mosh’, closer ‘I am the Law’ and a brief cover of the Sepultura classic ‘Refuse/Resist’. There can be no doubt that the band truly deserved to be there, the bar was set and the metallers in good spirits (perhaps in part due to the nearby setting of the bar). With the second stage closed in honour of the big four, we took the opportunity to make a quick trip to the nearby bar and returned to our spot to await Megadeth.

Out of the four, the one I was most excited about was Megadeth, a band I’d seen only once before unlike Slayer, and a band who certainly did not disappoint. Mustaine was in fine voice, and a truly awesome display of technical shredding skill from Broderick on classic tracks such as ‘Sweating Bullets’ and ‘Head Crusher’ ensured lots of headbanging and only a brief period of headscratching after Mustaine’s singular nonsensical attempt at banter with the crowd: ‘Hey… You guys in the back.. Did you buy your tickets later or something?’. Hmm. Luckily, Mustaine’s style is to let the music speak for itself, and that it did.

A slight overrun from Megadeth meant a quick sprint to the Bohemia tent, inhaling a burger on the way like a marathon runner at a water stop, where The Black Dahlia Murder were in full flow thrashing out some seriously heavy sounds. Strong chords, relentless double bass and incisive vocals made for an energetic and brutal, if all too brief, affair. A band I had not listened to much before, but shall certainly do so in the future.

After another sprint, this time to the camp site and back to restock the secret spirit stashes, we managed to breathlessly fight our way to the front of the sound tent. Being possibly a greater fan of Slayer pits than Slayer tunes, this turned out to be the first time I would just stand and watch from midway back, sipping whiskey from a hip flask with Strongbows and Rennies on the side. With lead guitarist Jeff Hanneman still recovering from a flesh-eating virus that had made attacks on his arm, Gary Holt from Exodus filled in and the set was solid with a strong build in momentum towards the end. Despite his ailment, and with no pomp or ceremony, Hanneman came running on stage to thrash out the last two songs of the set, ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Angel of Death’, wrapping up a characteristically intense and skilful set from the Californian foursome.

Being reasonably fond of many of Metallica’s albums, but by no means a found of Lars Ulrich’s stage abilities, we headed quickly to the bar to fill the 30minutes or so before the final act of the four. The set was pleasantly surprising, post-‘…And Justice For All’ material was largely ignored and Lars’ drumming was deserving of the adjective ‘tight’. Consisting of all the old favourites you’d expect, such as ‘Master of Puppets’ or ‘Enter Sandman’, alongside a few you wouldn’t, such as ‘The Call of Ktulu’ or ‘Ride the Lightning’, the set and indeed the whole evening so far fully embodied the spirit of the occasion, proving to all that thrash is in no way dead, and its spirit lives on in the hearts of the young.

The peak of this spirit occurred toward the end of Metallica set, where the members of Diamond Head, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer were all called on stage to form a massive rowdy rabble of metal legends, thrashed out Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’ to thunderous applause and startling pyrotechnics, before Metallica alone blasted through ‘Battery’ and ‘Creeping Death’ to close. An awesome end to an awesome show, entertaining as hell and steeped in history and meaning for those that way inclined.

The metal mayhem of the day over, we set off towards the bright lights and spinning things of the fairground area, hoping to find last year’s ‘Supamachiine’ which was an absolute adrenaline treat. Unfortunately, the rides on offer this year we a great deal tamer than last, and it seemed that since last year the rides operators had finally got bored of the sounds made by pushing the buttons in the cash desks, content to allow the riders to draw the crowds with their noise. The ‘MegaSwing’ was unanimously considered the best ride after little debate, and after a quick trip to the Codfather we returned to the camp to sit in our chairs and giggle and drink till we fell out of them.


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