So 2014 is the year in which Sonisphere makes it's highly anticipated return. After so much success from 2009-2011, it felt only right that it would be able to bounce back to give Knebworth Park its much needed dose of chaos. We hope you heeded our advice in the preview feature, but from just being on site there truly was an excellent selection of bands to check out with most on blazing form. The sun was out, the music was loud, the war planes were erm... flying, this was Sonisphere 2014.


The music starts rough and early at Sonisphere, and as Hang The Bastard (9/13) tore through their set in the Bohemia tent, it was not even midday yet and heads were banging from front to back. The band showed no signs of letting up, despite the early start, delivering the kind of menacingly heavy attitude which has allowed them to build such a good reputation as a solid live outfit. On a glance throughout the tent, it looked like the band had attracted quite a few people in who may not have been aware of their music before, so this set will almost certainly have won over some new fans.

Over to the Apollo stage now, and onto one of the most talked about acts on the whole line up. The speculation on what to expect was widespread across the festival weekend and it is fair to say that Babymetal (8/13) perhaps exceeded how crazy everyone expected it to be. It really is quite difficult to describe, you've got an absolutely storming and brutally heavy backing band laying down some eye watering riffs, and then you've got three Japanese schoolgirls effectively dancing and singing pop tunes over the top. It's all a bit mental, and likely to be something which will disappear in time, but there were genuinely some people singing along with real fanaticism which was almost as confusing as the music itself. They drew a big crowd and everyone more or less left with a smile on the face but wow completely insane.

Up next you couldn't have had a more polar opposite band perform. Chas & Dave (8/13) took to the Saturn Stage just as the heavens began to open which unfortunately did impair the atmosphere somewhat. Once they'd kicked into gear though, their huge crowd were singing along and dancing despite the weather. Believe it or not, the band even triggered their very own wall of death - not completely sure, but might be a Chas & Dave first. Moving swiftly back to the Apollo, this short burst of mad bands continued as Ghost (9/13) brought their maniacal showcase to the festival. Many criticised their positioning on the bill, arguing that their set would work far better either at night or in one of the tents - but they did well to prove that they can bring it live whatever the environment. The bass lines drive this band's music, so it was good to hear from the off that it was absolutely booming. The vocals were a bit off on occasions, but the band flew through tracks from there two studio albums as well as a few treats, including the very well received cover of If You Have Ghost. Solid performance and equally strong crowd response.

Moving onto one of the smaller stages, The Hell (10/13) drew a huge crowd on the eve of the release of new album Groovehammer. Despite the Jagermeister Stage being impaired by a huge pillar right in front of the middle of the stage, The Hell were able to bring all kinds of chaos. There were props galore, as inflatable hammers and penises were launched into the crowd emphasising that The Hell don't take themselves as seriously as so many in Hardcore, just in case you weren't aware by now. The new tracks sounded great, full of groove and aggression, with tunes like Everybody Dies and Bangers & Mosh hitting so hard it felt like a concrete slab slapping you in the face. The Hell have well and truly become a force to be reckoned with. They also took crowd surfing to another level, as one of the two front men literally got carried out the back of the tent, superb fun.

Back on the main stage, the Thrash Metal titans Anthrax (10/13) were hitting the stage and in forty odd minutes they proved to everyone why they've earned their legendary status. Whilst R13 were not there the night before to see the performance of Among The Living in full, there were glowing reports leading up to their Main Stage slot on the Saturday afternoon - and judging from the crowd reaction afterwards they brought it just as big as they had the day before. It doesn't matter who is on the line up, over the years it is always difficult to find someone who perform at the kind of pace Anthrax do - they epitomise Thrash Metal. Tracks like Got The Time and Anti-Social had the crowd whipped up into an absolute frenzy, but it was also great to see tracks from the latest record Worship Music sit alongside these classics and get as big a reaction. Anthrax are flying at the moment, and on the evidence of this weekend they will be for a while yet.

Next up on the Apollo were the mighty Deftones (12/13), a band whose form in the past few years has absolutely exploded. After a minor interlude with Bruce Dickinson's WW1 dogfight, and a slight delay to that ending, the band burst into their set frothing at the mouth. As ever they were absolutely stunning, blending crushing brutality with beauty in a way no other band could ever come close to achieving. Chino in particular gave a stunning performance, ferociously driving through each song and giving his roadie the run-around throughout - let's just say a guitar and many microphones met an untimely demise. Throughout the weekend the sound on the main stage was absolutely on point, something Deftones benefitted from hugely. They've got the kind of discography now where there is so much to choose from, you'd be there all day rueing the stuff they didn't play but the set list was excellent. Newer tracks like Poltergeist and Swerve City sounded great, but the real highlight came at the end with Root going into 7 Words. The crowd seemed to absolutely lose their minds, with a quick glance up at the screen showing pits opening up in different pockets across the whole crowd. Deftones turned up and did what they do best, leaving us counting down the days to new material.

If you missed out on your Thrash fix earlier in the day with Anthrax, then Slayer (10/13) were the perfect remedy. The sound on the Saturn Stage wasn't as good as on the Apollo, so unless you got up quite close it was a bit muddy. As far as the set was concerned, well it was Slayer! For many this was the first opportunity to see them in their new form, with Paul Bostaph taking over drumming duties from Dave Lombardo. His performance was solid, but they did lack the kind of tightness live which Lombardo always instigated. The big hitters were all here from Angel Of Death to Raining Blood spurring the kind of crowd reaction you'd expect, but it was a bit of a shame we didn't hear any new material.

So onto the night's headliners and the highly anticipated Iron Maiden (10/13) bringing the Maiden England chapter to a close. They were met with as much fanaticism as you might expect, and tore through classic after classic. If you did however have the opportunity to already see them on this particular touring cycle, there wasn't too much different about tonight's show. Of course it was excellent, and felt like a real moment to be part of the last show on the Maiden England tour but there was an element of 'seen it already'. Despite this, the show was of course excellent, with the band as ever still showing more energy than most. Steve Harris' bass was pounding, and Bruce was on excellent form even using a pyro mess up as an opportunity to orchestrate some banter. Fear Of The Dark as always brought on the biggest crowd sing along you'll hear all year. A storming set then, which brought a close to proceedings on Saturday nicely.


Another early start on Sunday, and although there was quite a long, unexplained, delay, once Gojira (11/13) stormed onto the stage no one seemed to care. Set list wise it is very similar to recent years due to the fact that their most recent release is still 2012's L'Enfaunt Sauvage, but what an absolutely crushing live show this band bring. It is so heavy it feels like the earth is literally shaking. Straight away they showed no fear in utilising Metallica's snake pit ramp as well which really added to their performance. Another band who delivered a crushingly heavy set were Truckfighters (10/13) in the Bohemia tent. The Swedish trio showcased tunes from their latest release Universe and had a really impressive showing. After closing their set with a storming Desert Cruiser Truckfighters had people talking about them all day.

The Jagermeister Stage hosted lots of special bands ready to break through into bigger things over the whole weekend, and Krokodil (9/13) are no different. The band of course gain immediate interest due to the fact that Daniel P. Carter is on guitar, but if you look past that and approach this band on the face of it, they are a very impressive and tight unit. The band is effectively a super group, comprised of members from Gallows and Sikth among others, which shows with the level of musicianship amongst them. The riffs are heavy, vocals punishing - definitely a band to keep an eye on in the near future. Speaking of Gallows (7/13) about ten minutes after Krokodil finished the band hit the stage across the way in the Bohemia tent. Wade MacNeil has already smashed the views of critics out of the park, but today was actually a bit hit and miss. Comparing them to both Krokodil and The Hell, the energy just wasn't as good.

Heading back over to the Apollo Stage and Mastodon (12/13) truly put on a master class. Opening with Oblivion, immediately the whole crowd was entranced by how superbly tight they are live. Any qualms over vocal performances have been quashed, as the whole band were on point. It was excellent to see such a big reaction for The Motherload off of the new album along with High Road and Chimes At Midnight, all spurring huge sing alongs. Just as their discography is phenomenally varied, as are their set lists live as they're able to switch from these huge anthemic tracks to some of the heavier and more brutal numbers including Crystal Skull and Megalodon each triggering a massive roar from the crowd. Much like Gojira did earlier in the day, Mastodon utilised Metallica's stage ramps which again added to the performance. With Once More 'Round The Sun breaking the top 10 in the UK album charts as well it feels like Mastodon are about to break into territory they've never been before. With the winter tour likely to be just as successful, who knows what is next.

In quite a welcome change of pace, Dropkick Murphys (10/13) brought the party atmosphere to the site and spurred on a wave of dancing and sing-alongs to tracks like Citizen C.I.A., Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya and a cover of AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. The band were energetic and clearly relished the chance to play for such an energetic crowd in the sun. Shipping Up To Boston caused the kind of reaction you'd expect, complete bedlam.

Alice In Chains (10/13) followed and brought a crushingly heavy and moody feel to the Apollo stage. The opening duo of Them Bones and Dam That River still smacks hard and immediately achieved the focus of everybody across the arena. Alice In Chains have played shows in the UK quite a lot in the last twelve months, so it was a bit of a shame to not see them shake up the set list a bit. The band sounded great though, really tight and genuinely looked like they really enjoyed the occasion. Whenever it felt like they'd lost the crowd a little bit, they'd unleash a classic. Much like on a lot of their tour in the past year or so, it was great to look across the crowd and see a mixture of people awestruck and mesmerised.

So then onto Sunday's main event, Metallica By Request. There was no way of forgetting this to be the new Metallica (12/13) tour gimmick as constant reminders flashed across the screen all day asking for people to text in and vote for the song choice on the day. As much as people had been moaning about the result of the Knebworth Metallica By Request vote, there was no doubting that this ended up being a phenomenal set list which was well received by everyone. Opening with Battery into Master Of Puppets was mind blowing, and although getting people on stage to introduce songs and having a group of competition winners to take to the mic for the famous chant in Creeping Death did seem a bit cheesy, it was ultimately a nice touch in what was truly a 'feel good' show. The new track Lords Of Summer whilst starting slow, gained a huge reaction from the crowd, which bodes well for further new material in the near future. The band were on flying form, with Hetfield leading the line at his roaring best, their seemed to be a more relaxed and confident edge compared to the Glastonbury coverage. It's always great to see the many critics of this band completely eat their words after Metallica play a live show. They are without doubt the biggest Metal band of all time and still deliver a live show which just screams "That's how it's done". Masters.