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~ Reviewed by Mozzy/Niklas

Sonisphere Festival
Stockholm (Stora Skuggan), Sweden
August 07, 2010

The line-up for Sonisphere in Stockholm initally felt almost too good to be true, with names like Iron Maiden, Heaven And Hell, Mötley Crüe, Anthrax and Slayer on the same bill. We all know what happened then, which undoubtly cast a big shadow on the whole festival. Nevertheless, Sonisphere sold all its tickets until over 47 000 people expected to show up, making this by far the biggest festival in Sweden in 2010.

Travelling festivals of this kind is arguably the most lucrative ones and where the future lies. With Sonisphere this year being held almost in the heart of Stockholm instead in Hultsfred, not only true metal fans were interested but also more common people who were intrigued by the big names for a relatively small price. It all looked like a potential classic in the making. Then came the rain...

~ Niklas

Band: Anthrax
Apollo Stage 13:30 - 14:15

~ By Mozzy
Last year, Anthrax had to cancel their appearance at Sonisphere in Sweden, when then-singer Dan Nelson left the band. It is safe to assume, then, that they are eager to make up for their absence on that occasion. Indeed, their mindset is apparent from the start, as they sprint onto the stage, all smiles, launching into the classic Caught In A Mosh, which is followed by Got The Time. With limited time to play for, the set is comprised of solely well-known crowd-favourites, and it sure does the trick. The quintet get a warm reception, and there is loud singing from the crowd during numbers as Madhouse, Antisocial and Indians. As usual, the latter features a touching, well-received tribute to Ronnie James Dio.

Compared to this writer's last sighting of Anthrax - in Prague in June - this is a clear step up. Having the opportunity to sharpen their game in such a competitive, stimulating setting - playing with their fellow thrash giants of the Big Four - has surely been beneficial, and the performance is now more spirited and self-assured. As for Joey Belladonna, he sounds better and has a more ambitious approach to his vocals. Cheerily interacting with the crowd throughout the set, he salutes all the thrash lovers prior to Metal Thrashing Mad, a timeless thrash pearl which is one the highlights of a very enjoyable display which serves as a most appetising initiation to the star-studded festival.

8 chalices of 10


Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Metal Thrashing Mad
Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)
I Am The Law

Band: Hammerfall
Saturn Stage 14:30 - 15:15

~ By Mozzy
Following the unfortunate, to say the least, cancellation from Heaven And Hell, Sweden's own Hammerfall were added to the Sonisphere bill, prompting moaning from some about their role as a ´replacement'. However, aside from the fact that such legends are, of course, irreplaceable, Hammerfall were not meant as a direct replacement as such, but rather as one more artist for the event. Under all circumstances, Hammerfall is one of Sweden's most popular heavy metal groups, and when seeing the huge gathering at the Saturn Stage, it is all the more obvious that their participation is most natural.

Not caring about the whiners the slightest, the band take to the stage in the most confident of manners, and proceed with a very solid show. The band members are enthusiastic, seemingly revelling at the opportunity. There are heavy metal poses aplenty, especially from guitarist Oscar Dronjak, and a happy, playful mood throughout the show. The stage set-up is sparse yet tasteful, with a clear emphasis on the music. Song-wise, we get mainly the most known HF numbers - including the gem The Dragon Lies Bleeding from the debut - which not surprisingly proves a crowd-pleasing move. The sound is impeccable too, adding much power and weight to the tight musicianship.

Hammerfall have continuously been criticised in some, not too broad-minded, quarters for being watered-down copycats. Sure enough, they are not very original at all, or that a spectacular band to be honest, but they always come up with appealing, heavy metal tunes. Likewise, you can always count on a solid, very competent dose of heavy metal fun when it comes to the live arena. Vocalist Joacim Cans' declaration mid-set is fitting and to the point: "we play good old heavy metal". He sure is right, and as torch-bearers of the beloved music style perfected by for instance the members of Heaven And Hell, Hammerfall made themselves proud at Sonisphere.

7 chalices of 10


Punish And Enslave
The Dragon Lies Bleeding
Hallowed Be My Name
Last Man Standing
Blood Bound
Any Means Necessary
Let The Hammer Fall
Hearts On Fire

Band: Slayer
Apollo Stage 15:30 - 16:30

~ By Mozzy
The health problems of Slayer's Tom Araya have been well-documented. A necessary back operation ruled out any further wild headbanging for the frontman, who's had to adjust to a very different stage demeanour; simply standing there playing and singing while keeping his head still. While this should not really be viewed that dramatic - the band's brilliant music is of course still intact - it cannot be denied that it takes some getting used to. And today, Araya is not the only one adjusting to a calmer approach; having caught a stomach bug which forced the band to cancel a show two days prior, guitarist Kerry King has seemingly not recovered fully, not headbanging once either.
Undeniably, these factors hamper the visual impact as well as some of the attacking force for such a traditionally intense live act as Slayer. Also apparent, which it has been for some years, is that that extra hunger is not really there anymore - which is only natural considering the members' age, but still.

Consequently, today the music is even more the main focus. The first part of the set is solid but not great, with the sound not ideal either, the excessive bass volume to blame. As time goes on, however, it's almost as if the awful weather - heavy rain which results in mud everywhere - plays to the foursome's advantage, as the rough conditions fit Slayer's dark, aggressive and menacing music. With the sound mix improved and perhaps with the great crowd response a factor too, the second half of the show is a mind-blowing, lethal thrash assault - really striking a nerve and reminiscent of the old, dangerous Slayer.

Kerry King, still giving his neck a rest, delivers razor-sharp riffs with much intent and dedication, and Dave Lombardo hammers away on his drum kit. But the key player is Araya, who sings the lyrics of war, murder and horror in Dead Skin Mask and Mandatory Suicide in an expressive and passionate manner which is just awesome to witness, adding an epic, ominous atmosphere. The concluding quartet of songs - Chemical Warfare, Raining Blood, Aggressive Perfector and Angel Of Death - is a breathtaking display of furious thrash projectiles, sending the moshpit into a frenzy. It is safe to say Slayer has lot a bit an edge - which is quite natural considering age and health issues. Nevertheless, at their best they most definitely still compose a marvellous, fearsome live band.

8 chalices of 10


South of Heaven
World Painted Blood
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Spirit in Black
Dead Skin Mask
Beauty Through Order
Mandatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
Raining Blood
Aggressive Perfector
Angel of Death

Band: Alice Cooper
Saturn Stage 18:00 - 19:15

~ By Niklas
Soaked and grumpy fans, masses of people fleeing the perimeters and a strong wind playing tricks with the sound. Alice Cooper certainly didn't have the best conditions to do a memorable gig when entering Saturn Stage, but still a surprisingly large amount of people fought the bad weather and stuck around to watch the ageing shock rocker. Perhaps it was a good idea to open the show with big hits like School's Out and No More Mr. Nice Guy, considering the diminishing patience that a really bad weather was spreading around the festival grounds.

If you're not too familliar with Alice Cooper's repertoire beside the biggest hits (like myself) some of the theatric moments of the show comes off as rather confusing. Dolls are thrown around, Alice abuses a woman and there are a different variety of strange characters running around the stage. The iconic guillotine is certainly very enjoyable to see, but little else makes sense. Also, a lot of the material Alice has to work with is, in my book, rather unmemorable glam rock and certainly nothing that makes you forget about your soaked clothes. And where are all the hits? Besides the aforementioned openers, we have Poison and... not much else. Could you blame me for feeling disappointed when the well-known He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask) isn't played, while School's Out is performed TWICE?

And Alice... while I know your intentions were good, putting on a Djurgården-jersey during the encores perhaps wasn't the most clever idea you've put on. For those not familiar with the situation concerning football and hockey in Stockholm (Alice Cooper being one of them, apparently), the capitol city of Sweden has three major teams, whose supporters doesn't think too highly of each others colours. And while I personally liked what I saw, most of the audience probably did not.

5 chalices of 10


School's Out
No More Mr. Nice Guy
I'm Eighteen
Wicked Young Man
Ballad Of Dwight Fry
Go To Hell
Cold Ethyl
Black Widow Jam
Vengeance Is Mine
Dirty Diamonds
Billion Dollar Babies
I Love The Dead
Feed My Frankenstein
Under My Wheels
School's Out

Band: Mötley Crüe
Saturn Stage 19:30 - 20:30

~ By Mozzy
After the performance by Alice Cooper, my mood - and the general mood of the audience I dare say - was not too joyful, because of the absolutely disastrous weather conditions, with the heavens now having opened to unleash torrents of rain. Thus, Mötley Crue playing next was something which could lift the spirit. The walk over to the other stage was quite a tricky task in itself, because of a thick layer of slippery mud covering the festival area, but once in place anticipation was high.

To be honest, there could be no better remedy than some quality party rock, and things kick off with a bang. A duo of true rock anthems as well as Mötley classics, Kickstart My Heart and Wild Side, effectively sweep away all negative thoughts lingering among the crowd, replacing them with excited singing, pumping fists and grins on everyone's faces. What follows is an irresistible collection of Mötley hits as well as two tracks from the last album, of which Motherfucker Of The Year, accompanied by a somewhat lame rant by Tommy Lee, is the sole downside to an otherwise excellent display.

Overall, all four members are in fine form. Vince Neil's singing is just fine, Tommy Lee provides his trademark beat and Nikki Sixx, still cool as hell, pumps out some thick grooves. Mick Mars, meanwhile, if of course marked by his disease and not very mobile, but he sure still can deliver those sharp riffs that rock everyone's socks off. It is also good to see the Crue in a cheery mood, joking with each other and enjoying simply playing together instead of upholding their former wild boy image.

Similarly, it is nice to witness different generations of fans rocking out side by side in genuine joy; long-time supporters from the eighties as well as younger ones who were not even born during the first era with the original line-up. Apart from Mötley's timeless, party-friendly gems, the appeal doubtless also stems from their attraction as an entertaining live act - something which on this day is most needed. The finale of the show, with a great inclusion of Primal Scream followed by storming versions of Dr Feelgood and Girls, Girls, Girls, works as the final shot of medicine to re-ignite the festival spirit.

8 chalices of 10


Kickstart My Heart
Wild Side
Shout At The Devil '97
Saints Of Los Angeles
Live Wire
Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)
Motherfucker of the Year
Primal Scream
Dr. Feelgood
Girls, Girls, Girls

Band: Iron Maiden
Saturn Stage 20:45 - 22:00

~ By Niklas
There's little doubt that Iron Maiden wants every one of their tours to be something special. Two runs has had a nostalgic premise and revolved around compositions from the iconic 80s-albums. The last time the band was in Stockholm they had just released the album A Matter Of Life And Death and performed it in its entirety. This time, the lads from London want to bring out the best from the latest decade, the albums Brave New World and Dance Of Death in general.

In spite of the pompous Star Wars-beginning and the stage being built like a moon base, the show is not the most expensive I've seen Iron Maiden put on. It's like they want to emphatize that the music itself should be able to stand firmly on its own feet this time around. And the songs have no problem whatsoever making it on their own. The only new track El Dorado fits in nicely with the rest of the material, while an old beast like Dance Of Death gains new life with its revamped arrangement. A weak spot when the show looses momentum is starting to appear around the middle part, with the songs from AMOLAD, but then things pick up again with the sentimental Dio-tribute Blood Brothers and the straight-forward Wildest Dreams. When Fear Of The Dark finally is brought out, the response from the audience is massive.

Since Iron Maiden want to show their progressive side there are a few too many tracks by the formula of atmospheric intro-full speed ahead-looong guitar solo-calm finish. But the band members are born entertainers and as a spectator you're never really allowed to become bored, mostly thanks to Bruce Dickinson (celebrating his 52th birthday this very day) and his seemingly endless energy. Those in the audience who showed up to listen to worn out-classics like Run To The Hills or The Trooper might have left Sonisphere a tad disappointed, but for the fans who appreciate the later years of Iron Maiden, this is a show to remember.

8 chalices of 10


The Wicker Man
Ghost Of The Navigator
El Dorado
Dance Of Death
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
These Colours Don't Run
Blood Brothers
Wildest Dreams
No More Lies
Brave New World
Fear Of The Dark
Iron Maiden
The Number Of The Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Running Free

Did I mention the rain? For hours it poured down, making the festival area into one big swamp that almost threatened to engulf the visitors. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little, but it certainly felt like hell standing there with your rain poncho (sold for 50 sek, around five dollars, or more - what a rip-off!), still not being able to keep dry. Of course you can't blame the arrangers for the weather, but there's a lot more you can blame them for. Why didn't the arrangers attempt to make any precautions to prevent from making the area so muddy, for example? And why did it take so long to get inside for people with accreditations? Plus, everyone with a little sense could figure out that it was insane to let that much people into a relatively small festival area, which resulted in very long lines and little room to breath.

One actually wonders what might have happened if the weather would have been sunny, preventing thousands of people from giving up and levaing the festival already during the day. The crowd in front of for example Iron Maiden would have been dangerously massive and afterwards there would certainly be chaos with everyone trying to leave at the same time. The arrangers behind Sonisphere hopefully focuses on trying to make as many people as possible happy on their next festival, instead of making themselves happy by greedily selling as much tickets as they possibly can.

~ Niklas

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