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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Live & Dangerous 5: Sonisphere 2011 Day 1

The world's first touring festival arrives again in Knebworth House ready to rock everyone for another year. This year’s highlights included the British debut of the Big 4, a performance by Slipknot and a surprise headliner in the shape of Biffy Clyro. So here we go with my review of this hectic weekend

With the Big 4 performing it was left to long term NWOBHM nearly men Diamond Head (and main influence of Metallica et al) to open the proceedings. Performing a tight set of hits and faced with some minor technical issues caused mainly by the wind (which affected much of the sound throughout the weekend.) Despite they're experienced tightness the set seemed lacklustre with much of the crowd not responding to it. 6/10

Anthrax came next and played a similar set to the one they played last year (and have been playing for years), the difference was that this year founding guitarist Scott Ian was noticeable by his absence due to his wife's pregnancy, in both the guitar playing and crowd interaction. Replacement Andreas Kisser of Sepultura tried his best but has neither the stage presence or guitar playing were up to Ian's standards. (Messing up the beginning of Antisocial was just the start). It also meant that frontman Joey Belladonna had to do the announcing which he made a hash of being almost incomprehensible in his speech. New song Fight 'Em Till You Can't provide a variation to the set list but was too similar to Master of Puppets for my taste. The set ended with the evergreen I Am the Law which was preceded by a snippet of Refuse/Resist. An enjoyable if a little boring set. 6/10

Bypassing Megadeth a band that always leaves me cold live (despite seeing the end and them seeming to be on form) I made my way to Bohemia tent to catch Firewind an band that I have not seen live for a few years. They have improved in leaps and bounds since I last saw them with frontman Apollo being the highlight. Gus G's guitar playing was as usual flawless, but he was overshadowed slightly by keyboard/rhythm guitarist Bob Kastanotis who managed to both brilliantly, sometimes even doing the both at once. Brilliant set but it was a little short due to festival time constraints. 8/10

Moving back to the main stage I saw Slayer, always the most evil of the Big 4, they didn't let the crowd down. Featuring Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, substituting for ill Jeff Hanneman and starting with Disciple Slayer started off strong. Following this with War Ensemble which as always got the crowd really moving. The last half of the set consisted of the major Slayer hits with oldie Black Magic thrown in for good measure. Slayer were as always consistent, brutal and very entertaining. 8/10

Next were headliners and world’s biggest metal band Metallica. Starting with the Ennio Morricone track Ecstasy of Gold which gave way to Hit the Lights starting the set in a powerful fashion. Metallica were clearly enjoying themselves while seguing into Master Of Puppets following this was The Shortest Straw which was a surprise. In fact much of the set list was culled from Ride the Lightning and ...And Justice For All. With only All Nightmare Long and The Memory Remains coming from the post Black album era. The set was somewhat killed by the long instrumental The Call Of The Ktulu which seemed to stop Metallica's momentum, they then followed this with an explosive rendition of One. Metallica too were plagued with sound problems with James Hetfield's acoustic guitar cutting out on Fade To Black. Following the closer of Enter Sandman. They reappeared with the other members of the Big 4 and Diamond Head guitarist Brian Tatler for a run-through of the latter's Am I Evil before returning to their own set and closing with the one-two-punch of Battery and Creeping Death. Metallica are always a great band to see live as they're songs are world renowned however one or two set choices made this particular performance slightly patchy. 9/10

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