Sonisphere - July 18, 2009 at Folkets Park, Hultsfred

by Andrea Chirulescu

After a 12 hours trip from Oslo to Hultsfred, the last 10 mins of the trip was in a one wagon train from the city (?) center to the festival area. A wagon packed with metalheads and surprised locals, and overwhelmed with good mood. Once at the festival grounds, first sight - encouraging nevertheless - a huge number of toilets. For those of you (girls mainly) who go to public events know what it means to dance in the queue after you waited for the concert to end. At least I didn't have to do that. Others did though…not sure why. But was a nice feeling to pass by them and just find a free cabin right around the corner.

Then a walk around the festival grounds, where there was a surprisingly high number of tents with merchandise and food. I mean, it was a one day festival afterall. But I think it's all because the bigger 3 days festival had just had place a week before so they didn't bother relocating stuff. Which was all to our advantage. The complain would be about the drinks bar right in the middle of the area, right between the two stages where everyone was more or less spending a long time and trying to be friendly with the people in front to get a beer. They only had 4 guys (girls) serving. There was also a little entertainment area, where people could go rock climbing, riding a spinning bull or erm, hard to describe it but something like pulling an elastic wire as far as you could, touch a target then let yourself pulled back.

But the idea of a festival is to enjoy the music or at least to pay attention to it. So enough about non-musical part of the trip. First band we saw was…erm, something with A. Here's the playlist anyway. I have no memories of what they sounded like, but just of a naked guy on the stage taking photos of the crowd and by the time I got my camera out, he went backstage. That's a certain way to make an impression. Then on the main stage there was a band formed of 4 kids who probably won a Guitar Hero contest and they got to play a Metallica song. Nice idea from the organizers I guess, to fill in time (as Anthrax got cancelled). I am not sure if they were really supposed to play or they filled in for Anthrax who had to cancel due the singer being sick.

Time for music, finally. The fiesta started with Lamb of God. Same as Graspop, a stage full of speakers. I think they contain energy supplies for the singer plus voice harshness substance. He's continously moving around, screaming from the bottom of his lugns (and maybe other organs too) and has a fetish for variations of the word fuck for definitions). They didn't play much (actually the bands at the beginning seemed like part of some sort of speed dating since they played less than one hour I think). But as long as they included Walk with me in Hell, Now you've got something to die for and Ruin everyone was happy and cheered along, except those busy with the moshpit in front of the stage. Plus Redneck, Laid to Rest, Black Label - from what I recall. Again, they kept dedicating songs to the crowd, organizers, other bands (Ruin to Meshuggah, Laid to rest to Metallica). I personally consider this to be a very respectful sign and I like them even more for doing it.

Then a concert I was so looking forward for. Meshuggah.And they did rock big times!. And it sucked cause they had a 30 mins performance… But again, the impossible drumming and guitar riffs that you try to find a logic in so you can headbang…and just when you found it they change again to something new. Plus the bass that was almost kicking your stomach. All backing up the insane 'singing' of Jens Kidman and his body banging as I call it. They started with Pravus which is a kickass start for a concert. And there was something I don't remember now, Rational Gaze and The new millenium cyanide christ and then there was silence :(

On the main stage Cradle of Filth started manifesting themselves. As I said, maybe if I started listening to black metal at the time they were on tops, I would have maybe enjoyed it. But by now I have other bands in this genre I love…with much better vocals in my opinion. Not to mention the horrible looks. Brrr…let's move on. I can give him credit for the screams he's having but I prefere to hear them from the queue at the pasta stand.

Next up the best concert of the festival. Mastodon. To me at least. Besides the fact that they know how to play music and how to compose good stuff before they come and play it in front of the crowd, beside the funny faces made by the singer, beside the harsh vocals that drive me mad…there was rain. It had rained earlier as well, during Meshuggah I think. But now it started slowly during the first song, sort of stopped, then during a sea related song it started pouring harder and harder almost on the rhythm of the song. And I kept headbanging in the rain. That's quite a unique sensation and it's absolutely fun. At this point I would go to their concerts every day if possible. They started out with Oblivion which works so cool as an opener. And the lazy rhythm of The Czar…mmm. Now that I have the rest of their albums I am gonna learn the other songs and be able to recognize the rest of the playlist too :p

Back to the main stage to see Machine Head. Wouter told me that their initial albums are some reall good thrash and pointed out when they were playing songs from them. I admit, sounded good and energic - I never heard Machine Head before. So I could only enjoy the sick songs and then be surprised by the change of style to the more melodic stuff that almost felt MTVish. No idea what songs they played, but without making the most powerful impression on me, I enjoyed the drumming on most of the songs in the end. And the voice is not bad, not bad. The guitars they had on stage were actually funny looking, one of them having small circles on it, one was transparent. They also had small sound problems.

Think The Hives followed on the small stage. I really wanted to see them, but my knees had an obession. ' SIT DOWN!'. So had to go to one of the places where they had benches since it rained like hell and sitting on the ground was out of question. Would have been more correct to say sitting in the ground. I heard The Hives combined with some Guitar hero tunes I think, including Ac/DC and Metallica. And with Swedish dialogues between drunk chicks and drunk guys around me. All these while getting some 10 mins of sleep with the head on the table. I got to film the last song of the concert though. So all I saw from Hives was a bunch of people dressed in white who managed to fill the area in front of the stage. And the crowd seemed entertained.

There came The Cult on the main stage. Hardly knew their songs, but they opened with She Sells Sanctuary. Obviously with their 80's look, dressed in black, the singer wearing gloves (missing MJ?) and sunglasses (which made him very uncool for me) and dancing around with the mic or interacting with objects on the stage. But after the first song, it honestly all sounded the same without anything to make my heart beat faster. Eventually we gave up and went to sit down where Primal Scream was due to start afterwards.

Primal Scream started on the secondary stage. I only knew 'The rocks' from them and I was expecting their music to be in the same tune, for some reason. Then I learned they do a lot of movie soundtracks. And I don't deny they make good movie music. It's perfect for that. They just didn't fit in the festival in my opinion. And not at that late hour…they were like a somniphere before Metallica started and after the crazy bands at the beginning of the day. The outfit of the members seemed pretty fancy, at least as much as you can see in the almost neverending red light that was covering the stage. Interrupted by a blue one occasionally. But one guy had a white suit…and maybe he was very proud of it as he kept turning his back to us to show how white it was. Guess due tiredness this annoyed me. And also there was hardly any crowd in front of the stage.

I was sad that we finally came to the final act (!) of the festival, the long awaited Metallica. But I was also happy foreseeing a long time of sitting down. I recall that I saw 23:45 as the starting hour for the concert. They indeed lowered the lights intensity around that time…but didn't start until midnight. So I really hope I saw it wrong, else it's quite embarassing to be treated like that 'I'm a superstar and you wait for me to bother showing on the stage'. They started with a classical piece from the western “The good, the bad and the ugly”. Then with some Battery. Which worked as a battery for the rest of the concert, together with the following tune, Fuel. That couldn't lack the pyro effects - cool impressive ones. They also had fireworks, but I don't remember at which songs. Hetfield seemed like enjoying the evening, even if his voice doesn't seem to support him as much as it used to. He has to lower down or shorten some verse endings. The not-so-new guitarist with his impressive hair made a good impression (and not just because of the hair) and actually they pulled out nice guitar solos along their concert. The speech or the interaction with the crowd was - even if probably well rehearsed by now - pleasant and in a good tune. Except when he started with too much bla bla bla about the Metallica family. Come on…They also lack a bit of spontaneity in my opinion, but I am sure this is what many years of carreer, especially such a famous one, make of you. Other songs they played: Fade to Black, One, Nothing Else Matters (with a great support from the crowd that always gives me the goosbumps when I hear it), a Misfits cover, Enter Sandman (woohooo), Seek and Destroy, Creeping Death, songs from newer albums that I never heard…The public obviously enjoyed the performance, sung a lot along with the band and it was quite cool when ONLY the crowd performed, without any instruments. The show was strictly 2 hours, including the comeback. But by the time it ended, we were almost at the train station, trying to avoid the incoming pile of beer carriers.

All in all, a one day festival is actually easier to handle than a 3 days marathon, though I assume the costs and logistics are maybe about the same so in the end, not feasable. So ready again for another 12 hours in the bus and trains to get back ot Oslo.

A few words about the Swedish landscape, at least in the southern part: there is none. There are only trees. And when you had enough of trees, there's more trees. And train stations. Then back to trees. Sometimes the trees are cut down and stored in piles, yet they're still counted as trees. So I guess that explains Ikea. But the moment you approach the Norwegian border…mmm…mini fjords, hills, trees (but not half a meter away from your window)…you can see around. Oh well, that's all folks. And it rocked!