SONISPHERE – Iron Maiden, Slayer, Alice In Chains, The Cult, Anthrax, Alice Cooper

August 27th, 2010
by Marko Syrjala

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SONISPHERE 

REVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ

Sonisphere festival landed for the second time in Finland. Even though Sonisphere was once again the biggest metal event here with over 60 000 visitors, it made more headlines for other reasons other than it’s brilliant artists. A huge storm hit the festival area and winds ripped apart one of the main stage’s support scaffolding and sent it flying into the crowd. Altogether around 40 people were injured, with three requiring hospitalization. The accident delayed the concert for a few hours and all scheduled performances on the second stage were cancelled. Iggy Pop managed to play a short acoustic set on the main stage but Motley Crue was forced to cancel its entirely show because bands instruments were completely destroyed by the storm.

 

THE CULT

The first interesting act on Saturday was legendary the Cult. It’s been a while since band last time performed in front of a demanding Finnish audience. That must have in 1992 when the band was supporting the mighty Metallica in Oulunkyla stadium in Helsinki. The band had just released its s/t album which later on turned out to be their most unsuccessful and abortive release in their whole career. Gone also was the bands old image, long hair etc and for sure 99% of the audience was more than displeased when the band played only new songs in the set. So it wasn’t too surprising that at one point the band got booed off from stage.

But now, eighteen years later, the band finally returned to Finland. Since “the disaster” album the band has released two excellent albums: BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL in 2001 and BORN INTO THIS in 2007. With those albums the band has gone back where they belong; to playing good straight head rock without any needless tricks there.  In Sonisphere, right off from the first chords of classic “Lil’ Devil”, it was clear that the band was in really tight shape. Ian Astbury sounded excellent there and he seemed to have great time on stage. It was funny to notice how Ian does now have a look very close to late Jim Morrison. He used to sing several years with current version of THE DOORS so that’s kind of understandable …. “Sweet Soul Sister” and “The Phoenix” worked out great as well and so did another LOVE track “Rain”. It was a truly pleasure to follow guitarist Billy Duffy’s extremely accurate and emotional playing on those classic songs. Also it must be mentioned that bassist Christ Wyse and drummer John Tempesta are probably the tightest rhythm section what band has ever had. Especially Tempesta, whose background includes such names as Exodus, Testament, White Zombie and Slayer, did bring so much a kind of extra charge for each song that it was almost stunning. The set list included all classic and needed hits from bands early days as well as a few tracks from bands latest release as well. “Firewoman” was a true highlight for many but personally “Rise” from BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL was the culmination for me. All in all, the Cult proved that nowadays band is really good and sharp strike. Hopefully it won’t take another eighteen years to return…  

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ALICE IN CHAINS

Alice in Chains, or should we say Jerry Cantrell’s Alice in Chains, was one of the most expected performers on Saturday evening.  Alice in Chains was the definitive heavy metal band of the early ’90s. The band developed its very own bleak and nihilistic sound that balanced well with grinding hard rock along with some acoustic numbers. Alice in Chains was a band metal enough for metal fans but they were widely accepted by grunge fans at that time as well. Albums like ALICE IN CHAINS and DIRT are true classics from that era and with the help of successful hit singles as “Man In A Box”, “Would?” and “Them Bones” the band soared to multi-platinum status. The band always has its ups and downs which eventually reached its peak when original singer Layne Stanley sadly passed away in 2002 after losing a long struggle with drugs and drinking.

After a few years break the the band decided to return in lime lights with its renewed line up. William DuWall, who used to sing before with COMES TO THE FALL, replaced Stanley while the rest of the band; Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney remained the same as before. The band first did a few years of touring before they finally hit back in studio. Excellent BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE was released in 2009 and it proved that Alice in Chains has still plenty to say in today’s music world. Two DIRT classics “Rain When I Die” and “Them Bones” opened the show with a storm. At first, it was a little confusing how much the new singer did sound the same as the late Layne used to do, but it wasn’t a bad thing at all. “Dam That River” continued the DIRT album recap before it was time to jump into never material with outstanding “Check My Brain”. Although there’s fourteen years between BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE and its’ predecessor ALICE IN CHAINS it’s great to observe that newer material doesn’t lose an inch to older material. New songs do sound similar enough to early material without being too close anything what has already been made. The middle part of the concert turned out to be a little tedium when band played a string of heavy mid tempo songs but everything was soon forgotten when band next did classic threesome “Angry Chair”, “Man in the Box” and “Would?” In brief, this was a good and entertaining show. DuWall turned out to be a great front man and he’s definitely a right man for the demanding job. Cantrell did convincing work with his guitar but he also turned did really strong work with backing vocals which actually had a lot to do with that overall vocal sound of Alice In Chains. In addition to that he did a great work on lead vocals on “Nutshell” which was dedicated to Stanley. Welcome back!

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ANTHRAX

If there’s one there band which has gone through changes lately, it’s definitely U.S trashers Anthrax.  In the 80’s Anthrax were responsible for the emergence of speed and thrash metal along with such names as Metallica and Megadeth. Albums like SPREADING THE DISEASE and AMONG THE LIVING are highly recommended metal classics. The classic line up: Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Dan Spitz, Frankie Bello and Joey Belladonna broke up in 1992 when the latter was replaced by John Bush. In 1993 the band released its most sold album to date called SOUND OF WHITE NOISE. Since then there’s been numerous changes in the band. Spitz has left band twice, Paul Crook was there for a while, Belladonna returned and left again, Rob Caggiano was there for a couple of years, Bush was there on and off for several times, there was short lived vocalist Dan Nelson, Bello has left several times and the list goes on… but after all that mess it seems that band has finally got its problems solved and the current (and hopefully permanent line up) is: Ian, Benante, Bello, Caggiano and Belladonna.

After a brief intro Scott first appeared on stage and started to play all famous, and ultra heavy, opening riff of classic “Caught in a Mosh”.  The rest of the band ran on stage and the madness literally began when the song reached its full speed. “Got The Time”, “Madhouse” and “Antisocial” followed. Bello was jumping and running across the stage like a maniac while Scott jumped around and did his famous “N.O.T” -walking around the stage. Belladonna’s voice was in fine form and he was visibly very happy to be back on stage with Anthrax but Caggiano was kind of absent for the whole time. The band got a really good response from the crowd and things even got better while the show went on. “Indians”, “Metal Trashing Mad” and “N.F.L (Efilnikufesin)” did sank to audience like a hot knife through butter but unfortunately the next song “I Am the Law” was the very last piece on the set list and “the party” was then suddenly passed. Anthrax was really energetic, compelling and they had really great attitude on stage. They should definitely have had longer playing time. The set list was a typical “best of” –set but it would have been great to hear some material from Bush –era Anthrax as well, like they have done earlier on this tour. It’s been seven years since the last Anthrax studio album WE’VE COME FOR YOU ALL so hopefully we can soon hear some new stuff from these guys.

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SLAYER

Slayer is one of the most distinctive, brutal and extreme thrash metal bands of the 1980’s. Their influence for today’s heavier music scene is indisputable and without them the music world would be very different today. Although Slayer hasn’t always chosen the easiest way in the music business they have still managed to sell respectable amount of albums and play sold out tours across the world. On recent years Slayer has suffered many personal health problems and many shows have been forced to cancel for various reasons. There have been issues with Tom Araya’s neck, back and throat, Kerry King had recently food poisoning and the list goes on but fortunately everything seems to be fine at the moment.

Slayer took the stage with vengeance with new album title track “World Painted Blood” followed by another newbie “Hate Worldwide”. Band sounded as aggressive and vicious as ever and classics “War Ensemble” and “Spirit in Black” turned things even better. Slayer has always been known about their furious stage presence and they didn’t disappoint their fans this time either. Although Araya can no longer headband or windmill due to recent injuries, messrs King and Jeff Hanneman were still raging on both stage sides while Dave Lombardo was beating his drum kit like a demon himself. The set list was a typical Slayer set with no big surprises. Immortal classics like: “Chemical Warfare”, “South of Heaven”, “Angel of Death” and especially “Raining Blood” made sure that majority of the crowd were pleased.  But all in all, this was more or less just a routine gig for Slayer. Band wasn’t their very finest form but they were still a way better than majority of the bands in Sonisphere.

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ALICE COOPER

The original king of shock rock doesn’t need much introduction here. Alice Cooper, whose career started already in the late 60’s, is one of the most iconic characters in rock’s history. After twenty five studio albums and millions of albums sold Cooper is still here entertaining people with his “traveling rock ’n roll circus” and there’s no end in sight.  His latest album ALONG CAME THE SPIDER was released in 2008 and since its release Alice and his band have been touring across the world under the title “Theatre Of Death” tour. Because of various reasons, the show was delayed for over two and half hours from the original time. Some of Alice Cooper’s equipment’s were also destroyed by a storm so band was forced to use partly borrowed backline. It was announced that Slayer was kind enough to borrow their guitar amps.

Finally the band took the stage and headed into “School’s Out”. The sound wasn’t the best possible at the beginning but it got better while the show went on further. At first it was kind of strange to see Alice perform in such stripped circumstances, no light show, no “dark corners” but just blue sky and woods behind the stage. Cooper and his band: guitarists Keri Kelli and Damon Johnson, bassist Chuck Garrick and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso did their very best to make this work and they managed to succeed well. Songs like “I’m Eighteen”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and of course “Poison” made people sing a long and atmosphere turned to be really good. Of course there is no Alice Cooper show without some special tricks and effects there. Alice actually got killed three times during the show. First he was put on the guillotine, later on he was punched to death with giant poison needle and finally he got perforated in a kind of torture cage. There were dancers and different creatures appearing on the stage and there was even a giant Cyclops wandering there at one point. It was great to see Cyclops used again because it’s been something like over 35 years when it was originally used on “Welcome to My Nightmare” tour in 1974. Alice is currently working on new album titled WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE 2 so perhaps Cyclops will be a part of the new story as well? In the very end of the show Alice did wear local Ice Hockey –team Porin Assat shirt during the performance of “Elected” and got a big “cheers” from the audience. No matter what the circumstances are but Alice will always put out a hell of a show.

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IRON MAIDEN

During the last few years Ion Maiden has become one of the biggest and most in demand artists, especially here in Europe. The band can nowadays easily sell out huge stadiums and their albums are topping the charts across the continent and other areas as well. Although band was having their major “heydays” already in the 80’s, when they released such classic albums as NUMBER OF THE BEAST, POWERSLAVE and SEVENTH SON OF SEVENTH SON, they now seem to be even more popular than ever. Like every band in business, Maiden has also lived through weaker times. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson left the band in 1993 and he was then replaced by Blaze Bayley. Although band was still able to release the strong albums X FACTOR and VIRTUAL XI it soon became clear that the band needed some changes. Dickinson and returning guitarist Adrian Smith re-joined the band in 1999 and the rest is now history. The new Iron Maiden stage looked really cool with all that “space station” scenery and a huge starry backdrop behind.  "The Wicker Man" ignited the evening’s festivities flawlessly. “The Wicker Man” burned with a vitality few of Maiden’s modern progeny could conjure and another BRAVE NEW WORLD track “Ghost of Navigator” continued the same path right after.  It’s been several years since band has performed these “re-union” album tracks live so it was a pleasant surprise to hear these gems again. Hyper energetic vocalist Bruce Dickinson can still reach all the unforgettable screams and hooks on his singing. He has an undeniable charisma and for sure he’s is one of the greatest front men in history. One slight accident did happen during the “Wicker Man”. Because of earlier rain the stage floor was still very slippery and wet and Dickinson fell over during the first chords of the song. Fortunately he survived without any injuries and was able to carry on without any problems.  The classic “Wratchild” followed and, as expected, it got a noisy reception from the crowd. Next the band headed into "El Dorado"—the world’s first taste of new album THE FINAL FRONTIER. Harris’s strong bass riff started the song and regarding the public reactions it might turn out to be another Iron Maiden classic.

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A string of tracks from the bands re-union era followed: “Dance of Death”, “Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg”, “These Colors Don’t Run” and “Blood Brothers” got kind of ambivalent response. Maybe it wasn’t the best possible choice to play such a long set of these mostly long and complicated but also lesser known songs at this point of set? On the other hand, the bands diehard fans got what they came for. Renewed version of bands legendary mascot Eddie visited on stage during “Iron Maiden” and he seems to be on good shape at every level. The final part of the set included songs what the generality of the audience was waiting for. “Fear of The Dark”, “Number of the Beast” and the excellent “Hallowed Be Thy Name” caused such a sing-along which has never heard of before in Finland, except on some earlier Iron Maiden concerts. The classic “Running Free” closed the concert and the band got a huge round of applause in the end.

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In brief, the band was once again in top form. Show was looking great and like said before, Dickinson was still on the top of his game. Nicko McBrain pounded out the beat which was the driving force for the whole thing while Steve Harris presented some mind blowing and energetic virtuosity with his bass playing and guitarist trio Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Adrian Smith were simply convincing everyone in their one way. The set list was really surprisingly when the band concentrated mainly on their last three albums instead of doing just the obvious choices. Actually it was more that refreshing to attend an Iron Maiden show without hearing “The Trooper” or “Run to The Hills” which have always been there… Iron Maiden and their fanatic fans are kind of unique combination. At times the atmosphere was almost religious. Iron Maiden commands and the audience obeys whatever the “gods” command. That’s something that hardly any other band can do these days. UP THE IRONS!!!!

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