Sonisphere 2015 cancelled: The diluted and disastrous demise of metal’s headliners

Sonisphere drew the crowd in 2014.

Sonisphere drew the crowd in 2014

After Sonishpere took the decision not to run in 2015 Getintothis’ Vicky Pea looks at the diluted world of the Metal headliner.

Deja vu. Sonisphere 2015 has been called off. Cancelled for the third time in four years. Yes that is correct.

In fact 2014 was the first time the festival had occupied Knebworth Park since 2011. It’s almost ridiculous to call it a festival at this point, more like a surreal Metal Olympics, coming around every few years to host the 200m between-set bog dash. Previous cancellations, such as in 2012, have been attributed to low ticket demand or inability to secure an acceptable line up, which is no more than they deserve when you book Adam Lambert (because everyone knows metal-heads love nothing more than singing along with an American Idol winner).

This years statement reads: “We’ve been working hard to get a line up that we felt was good enough but also on a weekend which would avoid other events that we know rock fans would want to support…We’ve said in the past that Sonisphere will only go ahead if we feel it is going to be good enough and that hasn’t changed.

Before discussing the real illness the metal festival world seems to be suffering from we want to quickly deal with this whole scheduling excuse. Mainly because it’s utter bullshit. We’re not saying clashing isn’t a problem, of course clashing with other rock/metal festivals throws up issues surrounding booking bands and securing an audience but in all honestly, is just not the case this year, after a quick Google we managed to find at least three suitable weekends in June and July. Not to mention this should have been booked last year, what where they waiting for? A late rooms discount?

Super, now we’ve totally discounted that part of the statement lets delve into the real problem.

Sonisphere Trooper

Eddie is a festival regular.

Where are all the new headline metal bands?

Organisers Kilimanjaro Live simply couldn’t secure acts of an acceptable standard to run this year so we pose the question; are there enough quality acts around? We’re talking actual headline standard metal bands who could play to upward of 60,000 people. How many potential headliners could you name for Sonisphere or Download? Ok now take away anyone that played either of those festivals last year or have been confirmed elsewhere for this year. How many you got? We’d wager not many.

Here are the usual headline suspects over the last few years, this could have easily gone back to the 1988 Monsters of Rock festival but for the sake of our sanity and word count we have cut it off at 2009.

Metallica will have headlined major UK festivals in 2015, 2014 (x2), 2012, 2011 and 2009.

Iron Maiden tick off 2014, 2013, 2010.

AC/DC get in on the act with 2010.

Slipknot finish the big four with 2015, 2014, 2011 and 2009.

So you’d be excused for expecting these bands to be actively churning out records and going on promotional tours year after year. Well you’d be wrong.

Since 2009 these four bands have released three studio albums between them. It’s simply mind boggling to think Metallica will have headlined six major festivals in seven years without releasing any new material. Add to this that several of their performances have been full “classic album” sets or “picked by the fans” such as last years Sonisphere show and the illness is progressively getting worse.

So why are we seeing the same bands over and over again? Is it a result of our own actions? We continue to pay to see these bands so you can’t blame the organisers for continuing to book them, turning the whole thing into a vicious cycle. Or is it that there is a catastrophic lack of headline quality metal bands?

Sonisphere Pit

Main stage shenanigans at Sonisphere 2014.

Before we sign off on this one there’s one last statement we will address; “Sonisphere would never go ahead if not good enough and that hasn’t changed.

Oh boy. We find it hard to believe that a festival that has given six headline slots to the same three bands over the course of its last four festivals has any problem with a lack of quality. Especially when you consider during this period weekend camping ticket prices have increased by around £50 for both Sonisphere and Download, for practically the same line ups. It’s not even money for old rope, it’s more money for the same rope.

The world of festival metal has become horribly stale and the bands that entertain the revellers during the day are becoming leaps and bounds more interesting, and raved about, than the headliners. Will someone take the risk and give these guys a leg up onto the main stage headline slot, or is the same trend of festivals swapping acts each year destined to continue? Now this writer can’t be too critical after just recently forking out to trot off to Download this year (it’s the KISS factor ok!) but in all honesty the draw of the UK metal festival leans more and more towards the atmosphere and good times had together by friends than the music, and at this rate in a couple of years we’d settle for camping with a decent pair of speakers (and a high quality portable music player?).

The good news for fans of the festival is that organisers have every intention of returning to Knebworth Park in 2016, and we’ll bet that one or two of the big four will be there. Metal will never die, but it’s headliners may diminish.

Photos taken from Sonisphere’s Facebook Page.