iPhone - making people seem smaller the world over (in this case, Alice in Chains)
I wasn’t sure whether I’d bother going to Sonisphere, it all looked too commercial to me, like V festival. It was also ridiculously expensive. However, since I couldn’t get to Download or Bloodstock I decided to give it a whirl. The line-up on the Sunday was also hard to resist.
The sun had mad an appearance for the first time in weeks and not even the police with sniffer dogs arresting skunk-laden youths and the ridiculously long wait for the festival bus could dampen genial my mood.
Walking past the campsite, was an eerie experience. It was like a ghost town. You usually expect to hoards of youths wallowing in beer cans and piss sodden dirt attempting to dampen their hangover with stale beer. Not here. It even looked fairly tidy!
I turned just in time to catch Lamb of God (7/10). LoG are heavy hitters in the modern metal arena. With over a decade of experience behind them, and some highly acclaimed albums, they should be pretty good at their art by now. The ferocity of their music translates well to the festival environment, and their performance is tight. Randy Blythe has real presence, but his incessant intra-song posturing wears thin after a while. Yes we know you are real metal and your music stimulates circle pits. Yes, the idiots at the front will continue to beat each-other up for your gratification. Shut up and get on with the music!
No sooner had LoG finished than Mastodon (9/10) lumbered onto the other stage. Now, I recently threw my toys in this post about Mastodon’s performance at Islington Academy. I was expecting an abridged version of Crack in the Skye, so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to their set or surprised when they kicked off with album opener Oblivion. I’d also resolved not to be such a cancerous old git this time, so I stuck around. What we were actually treated to was a spirited set that, although was largely derived from Crack in the Skye, also contained some classics from previous albums (although Blood Mountain was entirely absent). Flying through Megalodon and Blood and Thunder, we were then treated to a note perfect performance of this year’s best metal track The Czar: Usurper/Escape/Martyr/Spiral – the whole bloody thing. Crack in the Skye’s title track was an absolute pleasure, followed by the brutal Iron Tusk and March of the Fire Ants from Remission.
Mastodon are on flying form. I saw them a few years ago at Wembley arena supporting Tool and they really seemed like they felt out of place in such a large venue. The band I witnessed on Sunday seemed like they owned the place. Not only are Mastodon recording some of the most original and high quality music in any genre, but they are one of the coolest bands around – these guys a really starting to look like rock stars.
That left me with a smile on my face and wondering if anyone could top such a gargantuan performance.
Metal fans amuse themselves by making themselves dizzy while Machine Head play
The crowd now meandered back to the main stage – the subject of everyone’s conversation: who are the mystery “Special Guests”. The subject of much media speculation since Machine Head acrimoniously pulled out of the festival when (infinitely more successful) Limp Bizkit usurped them out of their original slot in the line-up. Randy Blithe had previously let the cat out of the bag but obviously no-one was listening as they all seemed surprised when Machine Head (5/10) took the stage. Confusing? The word you’re looking for is demeaning. The Brits, never known for their likelihood to forsake a little ironic taunting, were chanting ‘Limp Bizkit’ while MH vocalist gave his speech about “doing it for the fans”. Also, the boasting about the 28 circle pits, or whatever, formed by obviously bored fans during their set, made him sound like a ego bruised 12 year old.
MH’s set was uninspired at best. They never sound good live. Their set was punctuated by long, uncomfortable silences and self-aggrandising rhetoric. Robb Flynn has since been demeaning himself further online by continuing this one-sided war of words, while (somewhat ironically) Limp Bizkit remain commendably reticent. This isn’t David and Goliath, it’s Goliath and some irritating little fly that needs swatting.
Feeder were up next so I wondered off and bought an Alice in Chains t-shirt and got increasingly drunk while I waited for them to finish. The only tracks I saw them play were an ill-advised cover of Nirvana’s Breed, and a rendition of their only good song Just a Day, which was very enjoyable in the sun with a pint of cider.
Next up were the mighty Alice in Chains (9/10). Here’s an occasion that was making many folk nervous. The legendary Layne Staley replaced by some unknown bloke with an afro? You better be sure about this Mr. Cantrell!
Going straight for the nuts with Angry Chair merging into Man in the Box the crowd’s tension dissipates. AIC sound massive – heavy and assured. New guy William Duval gives his own spin to these classics. He’s no Staley, but then who is? He sings the tunes faithful to the originals but doesn’t try and ape his distinctive predecessor. He’s got a strong voice and is very much his own man. He still lacks a little of the stage presence needed to really command a festival stage, but he’s strutting his stuff with the best of them.
4th track in and Duval broaches the subject of the new album before launching into Looking in View. Several folks around me (who clearly hadn’t heard this new track) were audibly nervous about hearing new AIC tracks, but were blown away by the tracks slow, heavy doom genius. AIC are really back!
The band saunter effortlessly through Dirt‘s Them Bones and Dam That River and the crowd are getting really animated. We’re then treated to a second new track, the much jauntier Check My Brain. Like a perkier Again, this track has a really memorable chorus.
The closing salvo of crowd pleaser Would? and the haunting Rooster has the crowd singing at the top of their voices as the sun sets. Perfect.
So, fired up and raring for more top grade metal, the crowd once again makes the merry trek up to the main stage for Nine Inch Nails (3/10). This supposedly NIN’s last ever tour. They’ve had a long and distinguished career, and countless, memorable tracks that the majority of the crowd would surely know. So did they rattle of a greatest hits set for this rapturous audience? No, like the petulant and self indulgent tosser he is, Trent Reznor ‘treated’ us all to a set comprised of mostly ambient and barely audible arty numbers. I can’t even be bothered to track down what was actually played. Every time a track finished (it was kind of difficult to tell one track from the next) you could hear an audible intake of breath from the crowd hoping that the next sound would be the first few notes from Closer.
They closed the set with a note for note version of their (now) best known track Hurt. This seems entirely out of place as the crowd mumble along dispiritedly with the Jonny Cash version in their heads.
I’m a big fan of NIN, but this display was nothing short of offensive. Not appropriate or impressive, just shit.
I’d like to tell you all about Avenged Sevenfold, but they’re shit, so I didn’t watch them. I got through about 3 songs of Metallica’s set before James Hetfield, clearly taking notes from Robb Flynn’s earlier waffle, decided to indulge in some sycophantic crowd wooing. I saw then live, and much closer, a few months back, and I had a long journey home ahead of me. There was no way they would top AIC and Mastodon, so I left Hetfield wittering on and went home.