Bjorn Again whip up a disco-powered moshpit on day one of Sonisphere

Sonisphere 2009 review

published: Wed 5th Aug 2009

Bjorn Again

Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£132.50 for both days, £157.50 with camping; parking £10, day tix £67.50
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Thu 30th Jul 2009

Download gained one mammoth upper hand in this year's festival face-off with a stunning weekend of sunshine and rock 'n' roll frolics back in June, and with the likes of Fear Factory, Thin Lizzy and Machine Head (*ahem*) pulling out in quick succession, Sonisphere's UK debut had a lot going against it as August came hurtling into view. Which, truth be told, makes it all the more surprising just how un-Downloady the festival itself is. A quick scour around the site on Friday evening unveils an arena startlingly smaller than its estranged Donington cousin, but the initial hesitance hanging in the air is soon replaced by inevitable drunken heavy metal mayhem and bodes well for a weekend of final shows, 'Special Guest' appearances (*ahem* *ahem*) and Metalli-fucking-ca.

around the festival site (3)
Shame that Saturday gets off to such a subdued start then, really. Once heralded by some as The Nu Metal Generation's answer to Pantera, Soil have continued to plough their way through forgettable albums in earnest, and even a jolt of guilty pleasure for set-closer 'Halo' can't save their slot from going down a similarly unmemorable route. And speaking of which, where on God's green earth did Sonisphere dig up Alien Ant Farm from? Their performance is little more than a reminder of just how cack the commercial metal scene became by 2002 and proof that nostalgia isn't always a good thing.

Bjorn Again
Skindred on the other hand are a band in their prime, although their usually impeccable live show is hampered by a muddy sound that plagues many second stage sets over the weekend. Not that that stops the crowd from busting a move or two, warming them up for Taking Back Sunday, who put in a decent enough slog even if their stage banter can't match the 'Dred's Professional Crowd-Pleaser in Benji Webbe. And speaking of crowd-pleasers, who could have predicted that an Abba covers band doing 'Enter Sandman' could go down so well? Watching Bjorn Again whip up a disco-powered moshpit is truly something to behold, and may well be remembered as one of the moments of the summer.

Anthrax
There was originally a wholly different reason to get excited about the return of Anthrax, but with Dan Nelson bizarrely abandoning ship before an album has even emerged, Knebworth is treated to a John Bush-fronted set that goes down a storm. 'I Am The Law', 'Caught In A Mosh' and 'Bring The Noise' have been as sorely missed as Bush himself, leaving many happy thrashers hoping that this current reunion won't be a temporary event. The Used fail to gather quite as much excitement soon after on the second stage, but McCracken and co. still put in a decent effort with 'Pretty Handsome Awkward' offering just about enough bounce for a teenage buck.

Heaven and Hell
Coheed & Cambria's move to the tented Bohemia stage means that Airbourne are next up outside; smashing their Knebworth audience into a sweaty pulp with a furious set that sees the endlessly energetic Joel O'Keeffe scale the side of the stage while still riffing away like the rocky little imp that he is. Many would suggest that such shenanigans would provide the most rock 'n' roll moment of the afternoon, but they probably weren't counting on Heaven And Hell. For a man rumoured to be fast-approaching 70 (!), Ronnie James Dio is on ungodly form in what proves to be a doomy and glorious rain-drenched set, with Tony Iommi providing some sumptuous shredding that gives classics like 'Die Young' and 'Heaven And Hell' a new lease of live. Lovely stuff.

Bullet For My Valentine aren’t fit to polish Iommi's plectrum, but they offer a crowd-pleasing show that, once you get past Matt Tuck's tedious posturing and the fact that Bullet really are about as Metal as Lady Gaga, isn't too bad. Alternatively, Linkin Park prove a frustrating experience, especially given the inclusion of a three-song set from Chester Bennington's side project in Dead By Sunrise. Such ego boosts are not welcome here, and even Linkin die-hards can be heard baulking at what is essentially a tedious abuse of power. Back in the Bohemia tent, Thunder bring their 20-year career to a far more modest close in what has been pledged as their final-ever show. Such promises are rarely kept these days, but the huge reaction they receive throughout the set suggests that they'll be sorely missed all the same.

around the festival site (3)
review by: Merlin Alderslade

photos by: Sarah Collie

Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£132.50 for both days, £157.50 with camping; parking £10, day tix £67.50
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Thu 30th Jul 2009


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