With the weather continuing to be surprisingly strong, despite some light showers overnight which as it meant waking up to a tent that didn’t feel like a sauna was actually quite welcome, the Saturday at Sonisphere kicked off with Tesseract on the main stage. I only caught about five minutes of them before I headed off to Bohemia, but I felt it was worth throwing in that they sounded awesome. If you are looking for a hangover cure however, Hang the Bastard seems like a good place. Their heavy, almost sludgy hardcore, is unrelenting and the live show follows the same vein. There is no pandering to the crowd here and even if they are a band that really isn’t suited to playing at quarter past eleven in the morning, they make a strong account of themselves. A band maybe slightly better suited to these conditions are Scottish Pirate metal experts (or at least as expert as you can be on such a topic) Alestorm, who are bringing their good time vibes to the Saturn Stage. While I have to admit to having a certain degree of scepticism when it comes to such gimmicky metal, there is no denying that in the sun tracks like “Sunken Norwegian” are good fun.
What isn’t good fun however, is fucking Babymetal. Now I think I was very late to the party with this crap, but god it wound me up. I consider myself quite open-minded musically, I listen to more pop music than is normal for your average attendee of a festival like this, but this broke my patience. Shoving three Japanese girls in front of, an admittedly surprisingly good backing band, and having them pull off a load of synchronised dancing while videos claim they are the leaders of the metal revolution, is gimmick metal taken a step too far. What pisses me off most however, is the amount of great bands given shitty set times or shoved in a tent, while this pile of crap is on the main stage. I get it’s a joke and I get many people will think I’m not getting into the joke but, as Terry Bezer recently said in this video, if you are a young British or American or whatever metal band, these guys are your enemy, because they are getting the attention of festival bookers and promoters, who by rights should be looking at you.
Anyway with that rant over, I headed over to Bohemia to be calmed down by the bluesy rock of Voodoo Six, after the shit I’d just been served up it seemed incredible, but in reality these guys are a solid rock band who will do well, but are unlikely to reinvent the wheel. Following that Ghost bring their doom pop to the main stage. They’ve become a festival staple and to be honest it’s the perfect place for them. In a 35 minute set they are able to hide the fact that for every great song they have written, they have at least one filler track, here however they sound and look great as their poppy overtones calm Knebworth down before the chaos to come.
Another band that the world seems to have a lot to say about is The Hell who strut onto the Jagermeister Stage as if they own the place and then deliver a set that is part shit and part quite good. When they launch into more gimmick tracks like “Bangers ‘N’ Mosh” this is a band that is easy to hate. However, when they are a bit more straight-faced (although only a bit) on the likes of the title track off their new album “Groovehammer,” there is something about them and as one of the lead singers is crowd surfed out of the tent it’s hard not to join in on the fun. This band has a long way to go to convince me, but they took a few baby steps here.
At this stage of the weekend Anthrax had already delivered an apparently very successful set, when they played “Among the Living” in its entirety on the Friday. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they receive a rapturous response. They’ve become a bit of a house band at Sonisphere, having played every single one in the UK, and they are one of those bands that can be relied on to bring festival joy. It’s not an earth-shaking set but they do their job and leave a happy crowd. Carcass are meanwhile very much a plug-in and play kind of band, but they do it damn well. Surgical Steel was one of the best comeback albums of all time and a touching tribute to original drummer Ken Owen, rounds out a fantastic set from the grindcore legends.
Back on the main stage the crowd thins for Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls but it makes no difference as he has enough people down the front who know the words to insure the sing along’s don’t stop. Anyone who’s read anything I’ve written about the man before knows my love for him, so I shan’t gush too much, but needless to say he was great. Hundred Reasons bring the 90s back to Knebworth but never really wow. While the same can be said for the much hyped dog fight, which is interesting, but could really have used a commentator with some actual charisma. Deftones meanwhile have become one of those bands that never fail to smash it out of the park. Cheno sounds fantastic and I swear the screams and yelps he emits during this hour-long set should not be made by a human. Equally as 90s as Hundred Reasons, but one million times more relevant in 2014. Slayer have in many ways become the best Slayer tribute in the world. They are never going to anything amazing again but they will always leave their fans happy. It’s great because they’re Slayer, but if you have seen it once you have seen it a million times. Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph have slipped in seamlessly and only the very picky would be able to point out any mistakes, while their tribute to the late great Jeff Hannemen is a nice touch.
Iron Maiden are closing out their 3 year Maiden England tour and after a slightly disappointing set at Download last year, where the sound just didn’t crackle in that way you would hope, tonight they show why they are still one of the greats. This is as near perfection as you will get in a live show. If you are being picky you could point at set closer “Sanctuary” as not being quite as epic a closer as you might have hoped, but when the rest of the set is this good you would have to be a bit of a dick. Whether it’s the thunderous “2 Minutes to Midnight”, the fist in the air sing along of “Run to the Hills” or ‘as close to a pop song as we get’ (as Bruce introduces it) “Wasted Years”, Maiden sound great and with Eddie’s and pyro popping up all over the place you can tell this production has been perfected over the three-year run. People complain about the lack of new big metal bands at this point in time, but when the greats are this good it’s hard to argue with them.