Sonisphere 2014: Alice In Chains & Mastodon

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Anyone needing an antidote to the chatty, batty stage demeanour of Airbourne and Devin Townsend is well advised to take in some Mastodon and Alice In Chains - before the Metallica requests shindig commences.

First up, a hard-hitting dose of pure, no-fucking-around heaviness from Atlanta, Georgia - courtesy of Mastodon. There’s considerable love for these guys at Knebworth this year, if the queues at their signing tent session are anything to go by. And on the back of latest LP Once More ‘Round The Sun - a stirring, sophisticated creation - they have ample reason to be confident. As they tell us today, the record has hit no.10 in the UK charts; no small feat for such a heavy, technically ‘non-mainstream’ act.

The likes of Chimes At Midnight already seem to resonate like older favourites among many punters gathered. Maybe it’s the vibrant album backdrop, maybe it’s the heat, but there are points where Mastodon - in spite of all their raw power - make an almost psychedelic addition to today’s bill. Heady, propulsive guitar hooks in the likes of High Road pound our sun-baked constitutions, while nifty splashes of more technical fretwork spice up their grounding hard, stoner-infused base.

Audience chit-chat is a no-go, though this is an oddly refreshing contrast to the indulgence we’ve absorbed beforehand - and they do bid a very friendly, gracious farewell. One to catch on their own indoor show (kicking off later this year), when our brains are a little less sunburnt. Grand. [7]

Understandably wanting to reach out to as many people as possible, the career-spanning setlist Alice In Chains offer today is peppered with more familiar, singalong-inducing tracks (well, in the cooler sense of of the term); kicking off with a rapturously received Them Bones. Check My Brain, Again… moody, grungy testaments to the alternative rock influence and stature of Jerry Cantrell and co.

It’s just that, if we’re brutally honest, we rather want to fall in love with a lot of today’s show more than we actually do; operating, for the most part, on one fairly brooding level (and probably not helped by the heat - playing to a toasted, knackered pre-headliner Sunday crowd isn’t the easiest of tasks). Saying this, things grind into a heavier, groovier state of tasty sex appeal with Man In The Box, and the soulful edges of William DuVall’s vocal lines cut satisfyingly through the weight.

Closer Rooster provides a gratifying change in tone - leaving a melodic, suddenly rather beautiful final impression on the swaying onlookers. An atmospheric, quietly romantic evening festival moment. [6]