Friday 30th July
Playing a brand of female-fronted symphonic metal akin to Within Temptation, Delain's set was a slow beginning to the festival. One of the few moments of energy in the otherwise melodramatic proceedings seemed to be track 'The Gathering'. On the plus side, front-woman Charlotte Wessel had a great voice and the stage presence to match it. Opening a festival is never an easy feat and Delain were hardly a bad act, but not quite the kick-start I was expecting.
Opening with the storming 'To Holmgard and Beyond', Turisas' set was one filled with beer-swilling gang chants and raised fists. Teasing the crowd with the beginning of their now well known 'Rasputin' cover, Turisas instead opted to drop in a well adapted version of Black Sabbath's 'Supernaut' before front-man, Mathias Nygård, went on to continue ranting about how bad Carlsberg is and ending with their mantra song, 'Battle Metal'.
Expecting something more new wave, I was blown away by the sheer heaviness of Gary Numan's set. Focussing mostly on his recent material, each song was a brooding synth elegy that saw Gary stalk the stage with a gothic careen and the occasional cheeky grin. Even upbeat Numan stalwarts, 'Cars' and 'Are 'Friends' Electric?', were given a far more crushing treatment. To the credit of Numan and his band, they really delivered a powerful set that saw the audience enamoured.
Scarcely straying from the content of the Theatre of Death tour, Alice's set spanned his entire career with the crowd being treated to garage rock classics such as 'Be My Lover' alongside modern tracks such as 'Vengeance Is Mine'. Of course, this being Alice Cooper, the audience were here for more than just the music. When Alice impales someone on a cane several songs in, you know you're in for a good night. But Cooper himself was hardly a lone star – the titular character of 'Nurse Rozetta' made a fiery appearance before her eventual strangling and welcome surprise 'Feed My Frankenstein' saw a giant monster take the stage to torment Alice. Furthermore, throughout the set, Alice's band did more than justice to the wealth of strong material, making sure that even without the theatrics, an Alice Cooper show would be hard to beat.
Saturday 31st July
Opening with the storming 'Ghost Division', Sabaton's set was fast and furious. Established classics such as 'Primo Victoria' and 'The Art Of War' were joined by new song 'Coat of Arms', all inter-spliced by Joakim Brodén's hangover focussed crowd banter. As expected, the staccato piano of 'Cliffs of Gallipoli' and its rousing chorus went down a storm. Closing with the heavy metal tribute medley of 'Metal Machine' and 'Metal Crue', Sabaton ended on a high note having energised the morning crowd.
Being a fan of Tim Minchin's musical comedy, I was curious as to how it would come across at a festival. Although playing amusing skits such as 'Prejudice', the environment just wasn't right for enjoying the Australian’s set properly. Whilst the songs are indeed good, when a comedian's humour is derived from witty lyrics, being able to hear the words clearly is pivotal – however, the sound quality simply didn't allow for great enunciation. It wasn't all bad though. 'Rock and Roll Nerd' saw Tim unexpectedly joined by Evile guitarist, Ol Drake, creating quite a surreal pairing.
Despite opening with a variety of sound issues during a shaky 'Kickstart My Heart', the Crüe managed to deliver. Whilst Vince Neil may have taken to skipping select words in the verses of 'Dr. Feelgood' and 'Shout at the Devil', he remains a capable front-man, bounding across the stage in every song and keeping the crowd lively. Furthermore, Mick Mars' guitar playing was mesmerising, despite the show clearly taking its toll on him. Amongst the staples 'Girls, Girls, Girls' and 'Same Ol' Situation', the Crüe also saw it fit to mark the occasion by throwing in a few rarely played tracks; the sleazy 'Ten Seconds To Love' and the infectious 'Rattlesnake Shake'. Coupled with a wealth of pyrotechnics and fireworks, Mötley Crüe put on an all round good show.
Before Therapy? even began to play their acclaimed album Troublegum, the Bohemia tent had met its capacity, with many people being turned away by security. Eventually overcoming the sound issues that led to two false starts, the band stormed through Troublegum with sheer intensity and the crowd clearly loved every moment of it. Filled to the brim, the tent pulsated with fans singing along and rocking out. With Therapy? playing so well and the audience actively participating, not only did Therapy? do their album justice, they also created the most euphoric moment of the festival.
Sunday 1st August
Anyone who has seen Slayer knows exactly what to expect – Slayer is as Slayer does. Playing new tracks off 'World Painted Blood' amongst staples 'South of Heaven' and 'War Ensemble', Slayer capably thrashed their way through a short set. Ending with 'Angel of Death', the crowd erupted towards the front and Slayer reaffirmed their status as a band who don't need to try anything new to please their fans.
Alice In Chains
Whilst Lane Staley is arguably irreplaceable, William DuVall does his legacy justice with Alice In Chains seemingly invigorated. The band played a good mix of old and new, incorporating slower numbers 'Your Decision' and 'Would?' with rockers like 'Them Bones' and 'Man In The Box'. Closing their set with the powerful 'Rooster', it was clear that the new Alice In Chains have a great chemistry and it was a delight seeing Jerry Cantrell take the microphone for a good portion of the set.
Preceded by a melodramatic video of travelling through space and a lunar stage set to match, Iron Maiden opened with 'The Wickerman', thus setting the standard for a set filled with recent material. Whilst occasionally dropping in classics like 'Wrathchild' and 'Fear of the Dark', Bruce Dickinson was adamant to prove that Maiden aren't a “nostalgia band”. The results were a bit of a mixed bag. The epic 'Dance of Death' was a fantastic choice whereas the lacklustre 'Wildest Dreams' was not. The Dio-tributed 'Blood Brothers' fell somewhere in-between whereas new song 'El Dorado' came off much better live than recorded.
I understand what Iron Maiden were going for with this set, but it wasn't without issue. Most of these songs were just too long; frequent instrumental interludes aren't suitable for a festival environment. I applaud the band for giving their more recent material a deserved airing, but the balance became skewed, creating a set that alienated the many casual fans in the audience. Whilst the encore did help save the show (you can't beat 55,000 people singing along to 'Running Free'), Maiden could have been more diplomatic in their choices and not omitted some of their most famous numbers. I probably remain the only person to have seen Maiden twice and not heard flagship songs 'Run To The Hills' or 'The Trooper' performed. Though the set-list was occasionally dubious, the band still put on a great show filled with energy and it's always fun watching Eddie getting beaten with guitars.