Last night the long awaited Sonisphere Festival ran through Helsinki, Finland on a cold, rainy, windy, (typical Finnish) summer day. This year’s fest features Metallica, Slayer, Mastodon, Ghost & Gojira. The festival was set up on the beach next to an inlet off the Finnish Ocean so you can imagine the feeling of being soaked to the bone, drunk (but not drunk enough for the weather), and headbanging like a motherfucker… if only to keep yourself warm!
I arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before Gojira‘s set so I didn’t have a lot of time to take in the scenery of the place at first, but the most obvious first impression was the shear size of the stage and the space for the audience. Imagine the Tuska fest, but three times the size, then combine all the stages into one and that’s basically what they had set up at Sonisphere. Just think: massive.
So after entering the grounds I walked up to the entrance of the photo pit where I stood for a few minutes before a woman escorted us in… then around this massive catwalk… to where we were placed about half a football field away from the stage. I immediately asked to go closer so I could take some pictures that didn’t look like shit but, alas, no dice. Here’s a cell phone picture of where we were in relation to the bands:
The distance was incredibly lame but I got over it pretty quickly because, well, I’m a metalhead. I just don’t give a shit about much so i got as close as I could, snapped a few pictures and you can see the ‘best’ of those scattered throughout this post. That, and once Gojira started playing, the metal-adrenaline took over and the festival really began for me.
Gojira started late due to technical difficulties and only got to play four songs as a result. You would take this for a bad thing except the guys took all their energy and delivered it non-stop into the short performance. Besides James Hetfield, Joe Duplantier was the only person I saw use the catwalk all night. This worked in my favor because I was actually able to get a decent photo of him when he ran by me.
The guys performed a flawless set and it was obvious that even as the opening act, Gojira had some real fans show up just for them. I’ll honestly say that Gojira was one of the highlights of the whole event for me. I’ve seen them before and this particular performance seemed as real and raw (and brutal) as you would hope an aggressive band would be, and you match that with the band’s unique creativity and it becomes a really amazing performance. The other difference from the last time I saw them; they’re excellent on the larger stage. When the set ended there was definitely a moment of disappointment since it was a short one, but everyone there knew there was a night of hard hitting metal to come. We weren’t still for long…
After Gojira I spent some time in the beer area with… well, basically everyone who was at the festival because no one wanted to see the next band on. I described it in a text to Metal Mark as a “mass exodus” to the beer area. I have to say that the time in the beer area last night rivaled the fun of watching the bands… mostly because if you’re in the rain with wind whipping off the ocean, you really should have a beer in your hands and some good people around you to drink it with.
As always we made some new friends and got pretty lit. Metal! Up next was the mighty Mastodon!
These guys must have had a bad show the last time I saw them because despite having a set riddled with technical difficulties, Mastodon fucking slayed. That was a really great performance from who Metal Mark refers to as “Atlanta Heroes.” Either they just got a lot better in the last couple of years, or I was just not experiencing the band the right way back then.
I think if you asked the guys in the band they might tell you the show wasn’t good because the mic kept cutting in and out, the monitors were clearly not working, the band couldn’t hear the song introductions, and so on. There was even a point where frontman Troy Sanders said into the microphone to about 30k people watching him that he couldn’t hear anything. It was really odd that several bands were having issues like that at a six band festival of this magnitude, and the issues didn’t end with Mastodon.
Regardless of the issues, the band carried on and kicked major ass. The audience was clearly in love with Mastodon, and after pulling out of what could have been a train wreck to deliver such a powerful performance, they really deserved it.
After Mastodon turned the place into a pile of rubble I decided it was time for more beers, some food and seeing what was actually going on in the area where all the booths were set up. I hadn’t had a chance to check that out when I came in so it was cool to get to walk around and see what the place had to offer. Danzig took the stage and because he didn’t want photographers, he didn’t get any pictures. I also didn’t watch the set cuz ain’t nobody got time fo dat!
So with “Mother” as the background music I munched on some potatoes & sausages, dranks some beers and looked at some weird shit going on around the booths… like climbing a rope ladder to win 100e… Yeah. We slammed the beers and went back outside for the mighty SLAAAAAAYEEEEER!!!
So by this time I was getting pretty drunk, the weather was getting colder, the rain was coming down even harder and the whole event started to get lame… and one thing saved the mood. Slayer took the stage and they kicked the show off with “World Painted Blood” which, for some reason, got me more excited than I expected I would be. It got the adrenaline pumping and they kept that energy going the whole time! They were blasting through songs at lightning speed and I think honestly they were the tightest band of the evening.
We set up post at a swing set where our friends decided it would be better to stand on the swings and watch Slayer than try to look over people. I thought it was hilarious. From that spot you could see pretty much all of the area where the audience stands to watch the bands. I got a good panoramic shot of it.
Slayer‘s set was great as always but I think it was overcast a little bit (not only by the rain) by the fact that Lombardo was not behind the set and the mighty Jeff Hanneman was gone. It was bitter-sweet to think about and so there was more thinking than headbanging going on for this metalhead even though I was excited as hell to see them. I can say that Tom‘s voice sounded great last night and the whole band played really well together. It’s obvious the metal titans are pros and they delivered a performance that was definitely awesome.
After Slayer‘s set it was time for shots and beers… not because we wanted to get wasted for Metallica, but because now it was basically an all out downpour and the only way to warm our souls was with the nectar of the gods! Jack Daniel’s and some shit called ‘Valhalla’ which tastes like cheap whiskey mixed with cough syrup is what we went with and it did the trick. (Yeah, yeah, I know… but they were completely out of Jagermeister and I needed to drink SOMETHING so I picked a flavor of home!) And then it was headliner time….
So as you may or may not know, Metallica is doing this thing called, ‘Metallica By Request‘ where fans were voting on what songs the group should play. The set list is decided by the fans and the band delivers. Naturally this failed on several levels because fans are fucking stupid sometimes. For example, one of the encore songs was still up for vote via text message throughout the performance and the songs that were competing against each other were “Whiskey in the Jar” and “Creeping Death.” Guess which song won… Even James was surprised.
I have zero pictures of Metallica‘s set because I didn’t have the special pass needed for it and plus I wasn’t pulling out my camera in that rain, but luckily there’s plenty of video from people who don’t care about their smart phones. Thanks insurance!
Anyway, we did get some cool songs out of the whole request thing, including the live debut of “The Frayed Ends Of Sanity” which we posted the video for earlier today. It was exciting on some level because you knew Metallica would have to play some songs they might not otherwise have the desire to perform so that was a good time.
In the middle of Metallica‘s set, 7 or 8 dudes, despite the weather, decided to strip down to their pubes (Finns don’t really grow a lot of hair, so you can imagine what that was like) and took a swim. There were lot of boat police there to make sure no one drowned so that was entertaining. There were two topless chicks on some dudes’ shoulders before the set started which garnered some cheers as well, but the naked dudes outnumbered the women and plus they went full-nude. The award for naked drunk retardation definitely went to the guys!
The band’s performance itself was sub-par in my opinion. James was clearly off his game saying the wrong things at the wrong time, and even saying to the audience at one point, “I don’t know what’s going on up here.” It was a theme throughout the night of disorganization which included a headlining band that plans for everything. Anyway, the guys didn’t play all that well (Trujillo aside, he fucking killed it) and I think they knew it the whole time. Maybe it was the rain or the cold but they weren’t performing at the high energy I’ve seen them at in recent years.
I think Metallica‘s performance was what everyone expected it to be; not flawless, but fun to watch. The stage is massive, the lighting is fantastic, there were LED screens as far as the eye can see and so the show was cool as hell. I think I’m more disappointed about the crowd picking “Whiskey in the Jar” over “Creeping Death” than I am with any issues with their performance. What the fuck is wrong with you Finnish people?!?!
Overall I think Sonisphere Finland was a good time because of the people. My thoughts on the performances themselves are that I can’t believe a show of this magnitude could have so many problems from technical issues to disorganization. Based on that alone I would say it was not a success. But then due to these issues, the situation was created to allow bands like Gojira and Mastodon to look like heroes overcoming the situation and bringing the house down anyway. The beer area was awesome too, with so many cool people that made the party spectacular, which is the hope you really have about any festival.
All-in, I am hopeful that next time around Sonisphere doesn’t feel so disorganized, because I feel like they’ve got a good thing going. Fix the photo pit issue, get the gear working right and let’s have a party!