Power of Metal.dk Live Review

Knebworth, England
5 July, 2012 (Saturday only)

 see below


Of the big UK festivals I have been to, Sonisphere in its short run has the best organisation. Not of the stages – more about that later. No, I mean the essentials like car parking, lavatories, ease of access. It’s no Hellfest, but it pisses all over Donington beyond a doubt. It’s back in the UK after a 2 year absence but I could only choose one day. Saturday was the obvious choice. I just had to see the First World War memorial dogfight in which Bruce was flying a tri-plane. Having seen Maiden two weeks earlier at Hellfest, I might have chosen the Sunday. Yes, might have, if Metallica fans hadn’t wasted a golden opportunity to ask for rare songs with the ‘By Request’ set. They instead have requested every single bloody song that Metallica ALWAYS play. You fucking idiots! What an opportunity MISSED!!

Anyway, the metal market is set up fairly well. I don’t like the line of food stalls running down the middle of the field between the two stages. Can’t remember that being there last time. Maybe it was….no matter. The guy who didn’t have a Testament patch at Hellfest still hasn’t got one at Sonisphere but with Graspop Metal Meeting on the weekend between, he probably hasn’t even been home to re-stock.

The downer is that all official band merch evidently goes on sale the first day. The Maiden tour shirts had already sold out on the Saturday very early. I don’t think festivals should sell headline band merch before the day of that particular bands performance. A lot of people who came specifically for one day and arrived as soon as the gates opened were very pissed off at that – there were niggling passing comments throughout the day. I have no idea who makes that decision or whether they’re even working for Sonisphere but it’s not something fans are happy about.

First up is Ghost. Well, not first up, but do you really want to hear about English novelty fat bastards Chas n Dave? Good. Cos I didn’t watch it. Missed Tesseract though. That I am sorry for.

As with Rob Zombie, it is very different seeing Ghost in the day. It doesn’t give the same vibe because the same atmosphere simply cannot be created when the sun is out (it’s raining) so part of me thinks the main stage performance is a mistake. Strike 1. The Bohemia tent but a bit later on would have been more suited to this band. It’s going down well from where I am standing but the vocalist does appear to be a very good ventriloquist. Words come out when his lips are not moving. I am not sure what to make of it. It something some of the crowd are talking about too.

Next are the Winery Dogs. Everyone turns around and walks a short distance to the other main stage. I have a lot of respect for Richie Kotzen but I cannot help saying that once you’ve seen Paul Gilbert with Billy Sheehan, there really isn’t any going back. He (Richie) kinda looks like Chris Cornell nowadays. Mike Portnoy may have made a career changing fuck up with Dream Theatre (yes that’s right THEATRE – the way you are supposed to spell it :P ) but he’s landed on his feet here. The three of them together put on a solid rock and roll show for, unfortunately, only 40 minutes. We even get ‘Shy Boy’ at the end and I, coincidentally, notice a Mr Big poster advertising a UK date in October. I’m there.

Anthrax are on the main stage. Ugh there’s that Big 4 moniker again. I hate that. This time Joey chooses not to run past the crowd during ‘Indians’. Last UK festival ‘thrax played he got tackled by security. This is their second gig of the festival. They treated their fans to some Among The Living last night too. Joeys stage presence means his struggling vocals can be forgiven. Everyone’s going nuts. It is thrash metal, after all.

Most of the thrashers in the Anthrax pits quickly run over for Carcass and smash in to each other. That I was not expecting. Again, strange to see another band so early in the day and on the main stage. By this time the rain has fucked off for a bit but it’s the wind that makes things difficult to hear in places. Carcass give an average performance but again part of me is probably so used to seeing them as a headliner on a smaller stage and later in the day that my view of this performance is perhaps blemished. I don’t know. It’s by no means a bad performance, but it lacks something and I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly. Darkness? Strike 2.

Into the Bohemia tent now for Sebastian Bach. Glad we got in at the right time 'cos they are not letting anyone else in. It gets rammed very quickly. This appears to catch a lot of people off guard and there are many disgruntled fans outside the tent wanting to get in. Here is where perhaps an outside stage would have been better for this kind of performer. Perhaps not surprisingly the set is Skid Row material. He has 40 minutes which have already been eaten in to due to technical difficulties, which he is more than a little pissed off about. The biggest moments by far are the two ballads ’18 and Life’ and ‘I remember you’. These are songs that just shouldn’t be sung from a tent. Sorry. Strike 3 – time for something new.

Well, luckily we have an aerial mock up dog fight with Bruce flying a tri-plane. No rain, mostly clear skies as the clouds finally fuck off. I don’t think any band member of any band anywhere could pull off anything that would top what Bruce did here. This was a massive treat even if Bruce is flying a German plane. Traitor! Smoke trails for feigning planes getting shot work a little better than the machine gun fire over the P.A but they can’t very well give them real guns now can they? This was awesome, a great way to mark the last date of the Maiden England tour. Last year one plane flew over Donington, this year several planes ‘fought’ over Sonisphere. Brilliant.

After eating it was time for Slayer, who from where I was standing unfortunately sounded awful. No matter where I went someone somewhere just couldn’t get the sound right. It is far too heavy on the bass drums and bass guitar, though Tommy on vocals is fine. He even manages the Angel Of Death opening scream. Some recovery in Seasons In The Abyss but it is fluctuating. War Ensemble wasn’t all bad.

Finally, Iron Maiden. A little slow in places, most notably ‘Prisoner’ but that’s been par for the tour. There was also something particularly unfortunate given it was the last date of the tour – something fucked up on the pyro-technics. The pilot light. Bruce was pointing all over the stage on cue for flames to burst up that never arrived. Finally he’d had enough and said ‘set the whole fucking place on fire’. Well, whatever stopped working started to work after that. It wasn’t the best Maiden performance of the tour (this being the third of this tour I had seen) and Bruce seemed to struggle a little more on vocals in very few places, but this marked the end of a good day that I will make an entire weekend of next year as I did in 2010, when Maiden were on slightly better form.

Even with the sound issues and trouble with merch sales and bands playing at times and on stages that are not necessarily appropriate, this remains the best of the big UK rock festivals.

Attending: Matt Fabi