Day two of the festival kicked off a little earlier than the previous day at 11am with Tesseract on the main stage. Alestorm, however, were the real treat of the morning opening the Saturn stage with ‘The Quest’ and continued their infectious jitterbug set with the likes of ‘The Drunken Norwegian’, ‘Nancy the Tavern Wench’ and new song ‘Drink’ from their forth coming album Sunset on the Golden Age. A noon slot did not put a damper on the Pirate metallers ale swigging antics, just as long as the crowd joined in of course. Launching cans of beer into the crowd, front man Captain Bowes took a sip of his ‘disgustingly unenjoyable’ beverage of choice before bursting into the remainder of a deadly performance!
Following Alestorm on the bigger of the two main stages was new band Baby Metal. Having recently become a viral success, it was hardly surprising to see that a large majority of the festival had gathered to see this unusual mix of death metal and dancing teenagers. Opening their set with a prolonged Star Wars like intro video, the stage screens unravelled a story of three chosen girls put on earth to fulfil the quest of restoring true metal and peace amongst all. The video continued on about the quest to stop bullying everywhere, and then… wait for it … encouraged a wall of death! Eventually the white robe clad band takes to the stage bursting into the first of a three song set. While the musicians themselves were musically plausible, the vocal choice is a little more questionable. While the three dancing teenagers provided entertainment to a certain level, the actual vocal input lacked with very minimal lyrical accompaniment to the music. Some might describe Baby Metal as chipmunk metal with the lifespan of a forgotten Tamagotchi. However, with age and the introduction of growling death metal vocals, it may be possible that Baby Metal exit novelty level and become a band to stay. Baby Metal are the ultimate marmite of all bands.
In the tented world of Bohemia, London rockers, Voodoo six, brought classic rock and stylish grooves to an impressed crowd. Drawing songs from this year’s “Songs to invade countries to”, they were slicker than an oil spill. Luke Purdie is a fantastic front man in the vein of Coverdale/Plant/Rodgers and he got the crowd involved in the first proper sing-along of the weekend. Maiden’s Steve Harris, watching from side stage, had to be impressed by bassist, Tony Newton’s onstage moves. They were a great start to the day on the largest “indoor” stage.
On the Apollo stage, Sweden’s apocalyptic melodicians, Ghost delivered a 35 minute set of calculated papal precision. Papa Emeritus, speaking like Dracula, “Good Evening Knebworth”, was enigmatic. His gestures seemed to control his nameless ghouls like a puppeteer. They included their wonderful version of Roky Erickson’s ‘If you have ghosts’ (which they did not play at Graspop the week before) alongside firm favourites Ritual, Stand By Him, and Year Zero. At times, Ghost are more formidable indoors at night but today they embraced the daylight and Needless to say, Satan’s work was done.
We caught Watford’s The Hell on the Jagermeister stage. They walked onto stage with a number of inflatable cocks, and one of the vocalists was dressed as a giant penis. Within seconds of starting their first song, he catapulted himself atop the mass of clutching hands leaving us with the image of a crowd surfing phallus in our minds for the rest of the weekend. Their massive blend of groovy riffs was proof that they are more than just a band with gimmick. The Hell proved that they are a band to watch out for.
Finnish glam rock revivalists Reckless Love, took to the Bohemia stage with an air of pomp and sunglassed glamour. Front man Oli Hermann has always been the eye catcher in this band with his fly kicking onstage antics. They opened with ‘Animal Attraction’ and left everyone in the audience with a real cheesy grin on their faces. Reckless Love hit us with a barrage of Def Jovi Crue hits that make their shows so enjoyable. This show was what great music is about – Fun. ‘Beautiful Bomb’, ‘Radio’ and the saccharin soaked ‘Hot’ were highlights in a set that flew by and felt far too short. Today at Sonisphere, Reckless Love were hot… Like California!!
After their triumphant Among The Living set on Bohemia the night before, Thrashmasters Anthrax returned to the arena to play a set on the much larger outdoor Apollo stage. As with the night before, New York’s favourite sons are a band riding on the crest of a wave. Part fuelled by nostalgia, but also by the sheer quality of latest album ‘Worship Music’, Scott Ian and the boys beat the proverbial shit out of the Apollo crowd. Where last night was about a classic album, today’s performance was about a classic legacy. Along with some of the ATL faves, they also pummelled us with ‘Madhouse’, ‘Got The Time’, ‘Anti Social’ and a roaring ‘Deathrider’. Anthrax were quite possibly, one of the best bands of the weekend.
The long awaited return of Carcass on the Saturn stage was easily one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. Playing songs from ‘Surgical Steel’ and from the eviscerated bowels of their earlier material, this afternoon’s set was nothing short of brilliant. Seeing Jeff Walker and Bill steer ripping through ‘Corporeal Jigsore Quandry’, ‘Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System’ and ‘This Mortal Coil’ was a death metal fans wet dream. Jeff Walker has lost none of his dry sarcastic wit, “Do you remember this? This is live music. No fucking computers or triggers here. All the mistakes, all the bullshit coming out of my mouth”. In another moment of dry genius, Walker quipped (not verbatim), “It’s great to be playing at a festival with bands that influenced us like Maiden and Metallica, and with everyone else who WE influenced. “ There was a poignant moment when he invited original drummer Ken Owens on stage. Owens who was unable to return to the fold due to poor health, was genuinely loving the chance to be onstage with his friends. Jeff said, “Ken wrote this song, Bill only wishes he could write a song like this” and they tore into set closer, ‘Heartwork’. It’s great to have these fuckers back. Carcass are the finest UK death metal band bar none.
Before Deftones were about to take to the Apollo stage, Bruce Dickinson took to the skies for a WWI Dogfight display. Festival attendees watched in marvel at the somewhat out of the ordinary, and at times, butt clenching festival entertainment as planes near-missed and circled their carefully choreographed performance over the arena audience.
Crossover pioneers, Dog Eat Dog played their ‘All Boro Kings’ set to a tent filled with fans there for a nostalgia fix. They blasted an energetic set and John Connor looked like he was still fronting the band of twenty years ago, He asked “who saw us the first time around with Biohazard?” Their show was powerful but maybe a little lost on some gathered. For those familiar with DED, songs like ‘Rocky’ and ‘Pull My finger’ were special moments. They finished with a cover of The Offspring’s ‘Genocide’ which got possibly the largest reaction in their set.
Slayer closed the Saturn stage this evening. Tom Araya is now the grinning godfather of metal, as he paced the stage connecting with front row diehards. They opened with a trio of ‘Hell Awaits, The Antichrist and Hate Worldwide’, and it was pretty evident that they were here to beat the living shit out of Sonisphere. It’s great to see Gary Holt, completely settled into his role as he flails about the stage hoisting his blood spattered axe in salute at every opportunity. Paul Bostaph lent his unique style to ‘Mandatory Suicide’, and Kerry King, as always, was the demon bearded, riff reaper commanding the right side of the stage. ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ and ‘’Disciple’ were quite rousing but it was the closing barrage of ‘Black Magic’, ‘South Of Heaven’ and ‘Angel Of Death’ (complete with Jeff’s, Still Reigning banner) that left none in its wake. Slayer always mean business and tonight it was a case of job done, crowd slayed.
The second day of Knebworth shall be remembered as the Iron Maiden day. This was the final performance of the Maiden England set which after three years of practice, Bruce said that they shouldn’t have any fuck ups. The festival arena was rammed to capacity and there was a sizeable amount of Trooper ale flowing. Iron Maiden’s arsenal coupled with their fervent fan base kicked off from the very first strains of ‘Moonchild’. Bruce was a cannonball bounding around the stage (at times checking a wobbly piece of the set). Hearing ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’, sent chills down the spine. ‘The Clairvoyant’ and ‘Can I Play with Madness’ kept the die hards happy. Janick Gers flung his guitar around more than he played it. Eddie made his scheduled appearances to much rapturous cheering. Alongside the rarely played numbers (‘Revelations’ was a highlight) the staple classics were aired and on “Fear of the Dark”, Bruce could easily go for a cup of tea while the 60,000 did his job. Bruce thanked the whole crew, from soundmen, lighting engineers, stage builders, the T-Shirt people and everyone involved with Maiden right down to the beer people and every single fan for their involvement with the machine that is Iron Maiden. They closed with the trilogy of “Aces High”, “The Evil That Men Do” and “Sanctuary”, Iron Maiden are masters of the larger than life shows and tonight was no exception. This was one of the most solid Iron Maiden shows of recent years.
Photos by Steve Dempsey : Down The Barrel Photography