When flying to Barcelona for the Sonisphere Festival there’s only one benefit immediately perceptible about rising at the crack of dawn after an hours sleep due to the previous day being spent at another festival in Lisbon - the transitional period from wasted to hangover is substantially reduced when you wake up still drunk. The added advantage of this is that you pass out on the plane, successfully avoiding the banality of an hour and a half spent at 30,000 feet. Kipling once wrote “Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne, he travels fastest who travels alone” and even though Kipling’s theory on the speed with which one’s soul makes its final journey to either heaven or hell is greatly increased sans company, I’d suggest any journey’s duration is erased altogether regardless of the number of travel partners when done unconscious.

Now, even your Nan will more then likely tell you the best way to avoid a hangover is to keep drinking, so upon arriving at the Parc del Forum train station just after midday my trusty festival buddy and I, having no idea which direction to head, make an executive decision to follow the black-clad masses swarming out of the subway like metal-starved locusts and true to form, they lead us towards a row of bars which turn out to be conveniently located opposite the festival site.

By the time the gates open at 2:30pm we’ve already managed to down a few frosty brews (at less than two euro a pop who can blame us really?) and under a cloud-clad sky we say hello to Sonisphere Barcelona-style. First stop - Beer Ticket Tent. Fuck. 45 minutes later and we’ve missed Gojira. Double fuck. Though - and this is nothing against those charming Frenchmen - at festivals like these it’s all about prioritising and time management, and getting beer tickets straight off the bat so I don’t have to queue up later when I’m half-cut, busting for the toilet and missing Slipknot in the process is definitely my idea of good time management.

After successfully purchasing all the drinking tokens we’ll need to get us through this long and grueling day of metal, and after another 30 minutes spent queuing for the toilets (see, prioritising), we finally get to the bar and, drinks in hand, make our way ocean-side for the second stage in time for Mastodon.
Live, Mastodon are a band that always manage to reduce me to tears - tears of utopian joy mind - and they seriously deserve to be playing further up the bill, but when you have a line-up of the calibre presented today what can you do? Kicking off with ‘Oblivion’, their acute brand of heavy and soulful prog metal reverberates through the crowd like an osmotic wave of gargantuan proportions, gradually raising the collective energy levels so that midway through a set which sees the band delve deep into their impressive archive, when the opening riff of ‘The Czar’ commences the vocal approval from the audience defies what one normally attributes to a band this far down the slot from the headliners.

With Mastodon’s set sadly becoming past tense we leave behind the second stage amphitheatre and make the extremely short walk to the main stage via the bar for Lamb of God. The temperature and humidity seem to increase the closer we get to the mostly male masses waiting for the Virginian power-groovers to take to the stage and when they do they’re greeted with an approving sea of raised sweaty arms, devil horns held aloft.
There’s really only one word to describe Lamb of God live - unrelenting. Okay, there’s also no bullshit and heavy as fuck, but whatever else they are relentless is at the fore, and in spite of this being the bands first time in Spain the crowd welcome them like long-lost family and go absolutely apeshit. In fact, half way through the set I actually begin to wonder how these crazy Spaniards expect to maintain their energy and enthusiasm because it’s only 7pm and still to come are Down, Machine Head, Slipknot and Metallica. But as I along with them stumble away from the main stage after the sonic equivalent of electro-shock therapy that was Lamb of God, my musings over endurance and how it is to be maintained are cut short by the realisation that they, like me, will be doing it through the steady imbuing of alcohol. Aaah yes, and for the first time the short wait at the bar makes me appreciate the beer ticket system, although guaranteed the next time I’m at a festival and faced with queuing for beer tickets I will forget the efficiency of said system, shake my fist and curse the sadistic individual who thought it up.

In spite of the overcast nature of the afternoon temperatures remain humid and warm as we descend back down into the bowels of the second stage amphitheatre for some abrasive sludged-up riffage done the southern states of America way, this time a little crew from New Orleans called Down fronted by the ever affable Phil Anselmo. A man apparently not short on fans in this neck of the woods, whether chemically-induced or not Phil seems in good spirits (no pun intended, honest) and the crowd responds affectionately, singing along and punching their fists as directed, particularly when treated to the cheeky bonus of Mastodon returning to the stage to jam on the last song of the set, ‘Bury Me In Smoke’.

As the remaining three bands are all playing the main stage we bid farewell to the second stage for the last time and I take a moment to ponder the well planned and immaculately executed schedule of the day’s proceedings, deciding to dedicate my next drink to the Sonisphere organisers for not only minimising the distance I have to drag my semi-inebriated ass between stages but conveniently allowing enough time between sets to grab another drink and get down the front in time for the next band. In the immortal words of Sir Robert of Flynn, “Cheers Fuckers!”

Speaking of, it’s nice to see Robb has adapted his toast for the Spanish crowd, and during Machine Head’s typically thrashing set we’re greeted with “Salud Fuckers!” on at least seven occasions. Bless. It’s actually just nice to see Robb & Co. at all considering they’ve pulled out of Sonisphere at Knebworth due to the promoters dishonouring their agreement and bumping them down to fourth slot on the bill after the recent addition of Limp Bizkit (?!) to the line-up and giving them MH’s third slot. Bastards.

After waving so long to four of the Bay Area’s finest a hush descends upon the crowd like the calm before the proverbial storm, tension building in the fading light as more humans silently trickle toward the front anticipating the next band. Slipknot are at that stage in their career where they seem to invoke awe and wonder wherever they go, their reputation preceding them to the point that even non-fans are curious to check them out. That’s a sign of making it right there - first come the chicks, then the non-fans. Nearly half the set is made up of tracks off the first album - not a criticism, the first record’s a classic - with the other three album’s getting a pretty equal look-in, and despite percussionist Chris Fehn’s absence the remaining eight members deliver their twisted brand of sonic brutality with typical venom and militaristic precision.

And then it is time…time for Metallica. Arguably more an institution than just a band these days, the Metallica beast that wandered semi-lost in the wilderness from the mid-90s for the better part of a decade seems to have finally navigated its way into some relevant and fresh musical territory, and as much as their live shows never truly suffered during the wilderness years, they’ve emerged a little beaten and scarred yes, but hungrier, wiser and reinvigorated. As soon as the band appear on stage the roar that bursts forth from the crowd makes it pretty damn clear who they all came to see, and though the entire setlist seems to go down a treat, as confirmed by the football-crowd style chants between every song invoking smiles of delight from James and the boys, not surprisingly it’s the old stuff like ‘Fight Fire With Fire’, ‘One’ and ‘Master of Puppets’ that reminds everyone why Metallica are so fucking brilliant.

By the time the metaphorical curtain drops its 3am, and as my friend and I teeter towards the festival gates twelve hours after entering, one look at the exquisitely exhausted faces of the thousands around us confirms that they, like ourselves, are very happy customers indeed.
To all of the bands, organisers and those involved behind the scenes: job fucking done.