Sonisphere Festival: Sunday (2011)

With High Voltage tomorrow, we bring you the final installment of our Sonisphere breakdown, with loads of great stuff on the final day, we’re gonna leave out introductions for brevity’s sake and launch straight in to the entertainment of the day!

The man, the legend, Mr Nice.

They could not have chosen a better time for Howard Marks to be on stage, the morning of the final day, when any festival goer is at his or her weakest and in need of someone to talk gently to them, preferably in a calming welsh brogue. Opening with a 70’s news report outlining his rather epic endeavors running up to his trial in America, it was pleasing to hear and be a part of the warm hearted cheers as his exploits were summarized by the stuffy newsreader. He then came bounding on stage, a clear twinkle in his eye and proceeded to ramble in an interesting and amusing way for approximately 45minutes. Starting with his surprise at essentially becoming a stand up comic and the entirely accidental path he had taken to get there, he also talked of his psychological crests and troughs in prison. He finished with a genuinely interesting lecture of sorts about tobacco, as he put it, an attempt to make the whole endeavor vaguely cultural. In it, he gave us a brief history of the plant and nicotine itself, and also highlighted several interesting inconsistencies in the way nicotine is consumed in our society, such as that the tobacco first brought to Europe from the Americas contained the lowest percentage of nicotine, yet the plant with the highest will make you trip your nuts off; ‘they only let you smoke enough to get you hooked, not enough to get you high’, something he vehemently opposed. A great way to start any Sunday, we left the tent feeling hazy but ready to take on the day.

Rather than bail straight back to the camp site, a couple of us decided to head off to catch Arch Enemy over on the main stage, if nothing else just to see their serious babe of a lead singer (Angela Gossow) do some serious death growling, a most pleasing sight. And equally, nothing like a bit of melodic death metal to shake out those cobwebs in the morning. The set was short, with highlights including the popular ‘Yesterday Is Dead And Gone’ and the relentless ‘Nemesis’, a good show

Having missed Kylesa last year but been fortunate enough to catch them at the Underworld in Camden earlier this year, for me, these sludge pioneers were not to be missed. Whilst the tent was surprisingly empty the buzz in the air made it clear that those present knew to expect good things, and the existence of a Theremin ( on the stage only added to this feeling. The set list was nicely balanced between Static Tensions (2009) and Spiral Shadow (2010) being a bigger fan of the former, highlights for me were definitely ‘Running Red’ and ‘Scapegoat’. All in all, a solid show much enjoyed, here’s hoping the word gets round by next year and a suitably larger turnout ensues.

And then on to the ever present Mastodon, a band who seem to be constantly touring, and as far as I can work out the only band to be present on every country’s Sonisphere lineup this year thus far, as well as every lineup of Soni 2009. Being pretty fond of Mastodon to say the least, we skipped In Flames to ensure a good spot right at the front, and found ourselves about fifteen meters away from the stage near the middle on the left hand side. The crowd was restless but patient, that is until about ten minutes before their scheduled start time when excitement could no longer be contained and instead expressed itself in the throwing of plastic bottles from one side of the crowd to another, quite a striking sight once the endeavor had gained enough momentum to ensure a dozen or so bottles were in the air at any given time. And then, before we knew it, they took to the stage and blasted straight into a set list that  paid equal attention to all four of their full length releases, starting with ‘Iron Tusk’ and finishing with ‘Blood And Thunder’, both from Leviathan. Unfortunately, the entire set was so good that no particular tracks stood out for special mention, so here’s the full setlist:

Iron Tusk (Leviathan)

March Of The Fire Ants (Remission)

Where Strides The Behemoth (Remission)

Mother Puncher (Remission)

Circle Of Cysquatch (Blood Mountain)

Aqua Dementia (Leviathan)

Crack The Skye (Crack The Skye)

Ghost Of Karelia (Crack The Skye)

Sleeping Giant (Blood Mountain)

Crystal Skull (Blood Mountain)

Bladecatcher (Blood Mountain)

Colony Of Birchmen (Blood Mountain)

Megadolon (Leviathan)

Blood And Thunder (Leviathan)

Though I must admit the third chorus on ‘Blood And Thunder’, (‘split your guts with blood and thunder’ etc.) performed by Neil Fallon on the studio recording, is arguably one of my favourite bits of music ever made and was an absolute joy to bellow back at the stage at the top of our voices.

We had high expectations, and they were solidly met if not exceeded. Well done sirs.

Heavily mourning the surprising and tragic passing of Michael ‘Würzel’ Burston just the night before, Motörhead valiantly plugged through their set, finishing strong with ‘Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Overkill’. It was the first time I’d seen them, and not being a huge fan but knowing and liking their most famous songs, I couldn’t help but feel that the best parts of their idiosyncratic sound were fully summed up in those hits, that is, for me, those few songs are awesome, but enough. Nevertheless, we stood in admiration of a band steeped in history and innovation, and have naught but great respect for the institutions that are Lemmy and Motörhead.

So we moved back over the hill to catch Opeth, a band I’ve seen and enjoyed many times, recently at High Voltage last year and with Dream Theater on the Progressive Nation tour the year before. Unfortunately, this year the set was unfortunately rather lackluster, despite playing solid crowd pleasers such as ‘The Lotus Eater ‘Hex Omega’, as well as ‘Face Of Melinda’, a favourite of mine I’d yet to see live, for some reason it just wasn’t that enthralling.

Perhaps it was the wet weather, which be the end of the set had got so heavy that were forced back to our tent, whereupon we made the fatal error of ‘having a little lie down’ to clear our heads, emerging what seemed like a split second later, feeling much worse and having missed the entirety of Limp Bizkit, though we later found from the general sentiment around the arena this may not have been too great a loss.

Thanks be to the metal gods we didn’t miss Bill Bailey, whose set I was more excited about than probably 85% of the music on show, one of my favourite comedians and a man I often fantasize about hanging out with. Weird I know, but I also know I’m not the only one. Overly personal insight over, the build up to Bailey’s show had been huge, with a videoblog that literally made me fall out of my desk chair at work, which he used to close before his encore.

As with Opeth, it seemed the big man was not on form. The musical pieces and videos were hilarious and well performed, highlights including ‘Tesco Scanner’ and ‘Oi Satan ‘Ave A Word With Yerself’, there was also enough new material in there to make it a fresh set. Unfortunately he just didn’t quite seem to know what to do around them, throwing in the odd joke here and there rather, and it pains me to say it, clumsily. We were at the pinnacle of a massive weekend full of music, and were there to hear his ramblings first and foremost. Quoted as saying that the Sonisphere crowd was his ideal crowd as he always puts some metal jokes into his shows, and can always tell where in the room the metallers are as they’re the only ones who laugh, his set really lacked for dialogue with the crowd. That said, I must repeat that the songs he did were hilarious, and the set really neatly tied up by his closing video, the highlight of which had to be him protecting a large pot plant whilst shouting a pigeons, and my love for him undiminished.

Then it was back over the hill for the last time to catch the festival headliners, Slipknot. A band famous for polarized opinion in the metal world, their set was undeniably awesome, if helped by generous lashings of pyrotechnics. Their tribute to the late Paul Gray was touching and short, a nod of the head and acknowledgement that the best way to honor him was to play an awesome set, nothing more, nothing less. Not being a huge fan, I contented myself with standing at the back, watching two lads pitting the hell out of just each other, highly entertaining in its own right, before they pissed off those around them to the point security was called, and the were carted away. Closing tracks ‘People=Shit’, ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Till We Die’, few more fireworks and for many, the festival was all but done.

But not for us! Orange Goblin, headliners on the Jager stage, headliners of the festival in our eyes, started off the festival season for us at High Voltage last year and brought Sonisphere to an almighty close for us this year. One of my favourite bands, great personality, great music and great shows. Highlights included the awesome ‘Scorpionica’, and the, unsurprisingly, bluesy ‘Time Traveling Blues’ with a bit o’ singalong at the end. It’s certainly not easy following Slipknot headlining on the main stage and absolutely killing it, but Orange Goblin did just that. So after much brolly waving and shouting along the set ended all too quickly, and the festival now truly done for another year.

All in all, a highly successful festival in my opinion, despite the weather and a weaker Saturday lineup, it started and ended strong, with a huge amount of great music intermingled with a great deal of drinking and general carrying on, as we stood, listening to karaoke and headbanging quietly at the back of the Bohemia bar with the other festival scree still able to walk, we wondered where else in the world could a man look up from his pint, and for no fathomable reason shout ‘OCTOPUS’ at the top of his lungs whilst punching his hands in the air before returning to his beverage, without even causing those around him to bat an eyelid? Where else is it entirely acceptable, nay encouraged, to run around with full beer cups taped to both hands? Where else can one shout the word ‘SLAYER’ and actually get an acceptable response? (believe me we have tested that one thoroughly!) Where else you would find people causally downing large bottles of cider through an ingenious funnel and tube contraption before breakfast, or even instead of breakfast?

Gotta love a festival, roll on High Voltage!


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