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Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

There are few places more fitting for a temple of rock and metal to be built than on sprawling festival grounds nestled deep in the heart of the Rust Belt. Sonic Temple has made its home in Columbus, Ohio since its inception in 2019, and the festival has since become an unwavering bastion of the heavy music scene. The time has come once again for fans around the country – as well as around the world – to make their annual pilgrimage to Historic Crew Stadium for a four-day, four-stage celebration of outstanding music.

Sonic Temple rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the former Rock on the Range festival, and the festival has since grown to be one of the premiere music festivals in the United States. Year after year, Sonic Temple draws in exceptional attendance while continuously booking some of the biggest names in the American hard rock and heavy metal scenes.

Now in its third iteration, and having expanded from three stages to four stages for an even greater assembly of heavy hitters, Sonic Temple is kicking off a long weekend of sonic thrills and adoration for the musical arts. The atmosphere at Historic Crew Stadium is electric, the air abuzz with the voices of tens of thousands of eager fans, and eager throngs make their way to the barricades beneath a cloud-dotted blue sky.

Festivities would commence in the cool of the late morning, and the first set we caught was the energetic performance courtesy of virtuoso guitarist and solo artist Nita Strauss. The sonic pallet that she’d deliver from the Temple Stage with her touring band in tow would be of a heavier and punchier variety than what most have observed during her extended tenure with Alice Cooper, and the resulting blend of modern groove and heavy metal stylings with Nita‘s virtuosic Neo-classical flair had the crowd roaring before the first song was over.

Alongside drummer and husband Josh Villalta, guitarist Jay Tarantino and the versatile vocal presence of Kasey Karlsen particularly, whose mastery of harsh and soaring vocal styles have proven invaluable in emulating the various guest vocalists rounding out her recent sophomore studio album The Call Of The Void, she effortlessly cruised through banger entries like “Digital Bullets” and “The Wolf You Feed”. However, at the close of their set, the zenith point would be nailed between performance power and the correspondingly insane response from the audience when Disturbed helmsman David Draiman entered the fray to reprise his studio performance of “Dead Inside”.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

Next to bring the modern thunder to the Temple Stage with more of an early 2000s flavor would be Dallas nu-metal trustees Drowning Pool. Reprising the same 6-song set that they’d brought to the final day of the Welcome To Rockville festival down in Florida, one couldn’t help that the movement and enthusiasm level was a bit higher on stage, likely owing to the even milder weather conditions. Vocalist Ryan McCombs was a picture of sheer intensity as he wandered about the stage, microphone clasped between his heavily tatted arms and voice shouting at full volume.

His renditions of early classic staples “Sinner” and closing hurrah “Bodies” were a strong and worthy emulation of the original studio performance of the long departed Dave Williams that originally put this fold on the map, ditto his even more raucous and biting interpretation of Billy Idol classic “Rebel Yell”. The rest of the band were no less involved and intense in their delivery, though epic beard-toting guitarist C.J. Pierce and bassist Stevie Benton upped up the ante regarding stage movement and crowd work.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

The Temple Stage would continue to be the focal point of the early afternoon sonic assault shaking the pillars of the Historic Crew Stadium with the nu-metal punch of San Diego titans P.O.D. Much like the previous acts noted, they were a prime fixture of the recently concluded Welcome To Rockville festival, though they would take this opportunity to mix their 7-song set up a bit just in case any fans had followed them from Daytona Beach. Their signature opening number “Drop” off their latest album Veritas would still get the sea of bodies before the band moving like crazy, but later in the set their previous banger “Afraid To Die” would be switched out in favor of the hip-hop-infused stomp and rebellious resound of “I Won’t Bow Down”.

Guitar-driven pounder and title song of 2012 LP Murdered Love would stand in the place of “Satellite” with frontman Sonny Sandoval jumping about like he had springs on his feet as he rapped, shouted, and preached to the masses. But in typical fashion, it would be the obligatory classics “Boom” and “Alive” that would truly bring down the house, delivered with the same kinetic stage movement and enthusiasm that one would expect from these 30-year veterans of the scene.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

Late afternoon at the Temple Stage would see Canadian hard rockers with an alternative twist Theory Of A Deadman take over the proceedings. Entering as usual to the classic Neil Diamond hit “Sweet Caroline” playing through the PA system before it became distorted and slowly faded into the theme from The Last Of Us, they would bring their grungy mode of rock with a slightly stronger edge to it.

The stage setup this time around favored their performance greater; as it sat a good bit lower than during their Welcome To Rockville set, allowing a much clearer view of drummer Joey Dandeneau as he wailed away at his kit from an elevated platform. Heavy entries like “Dinosaur”, “Lowlife” and closing monster “Bad Girlfriend” (which fittingly sounds like something off The Cult‘s appropriately named album Sonic Temple) naturally saw the most enthusiastic crowd response, but one couldn’t help but take note of the melancholy sincerity behind the delivery of back to back ballad entries “Hate My Life” and “Rx (Medicate)”.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

Breaking from the consistent barrage occurring on the Temple Stage would be the rap-infused metalcore mayhem offered up by Texas’ Fire From The Gods over on the Sanctuary Stage. They would open up their medley of ground-pounding anthems with a vicious performance of the tile entry off their latest album Soul Revolution, minus one member of their studio lineup, but even as a four-piece they stomped the stage while packing a sound that was no less massive.

Everybody on stage was as mobile as could be expected, but one couldn’t help but fixate upon the towering presence and bouncier-than-a-springboard stage behavior of vocalist AJ Channer, who seemed to stand almost 2 feet taller than the rest of the band and brought a comparatively large vocal display. Politically charged crushers like “The Voiceless” and “Truth To The Weak (Not Built To Collapse)” hit with the same level of intensity, as did nearly every other entry in their 8-song set, though the entire thing would come to a massive peak with the melodic fanfare with a pummeling edge served up via their rendition of “Right Now” as the masses moved and flailed to its chorus.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

Back at the Temple Stage the modernity would continue with more of a visual flair courtesy of Illinois-born 2000s nu-metal icons Mudvayne. Having been a regular fixture of the festival circuit since live music activities resumed worldwide in 2021, they would likewise reprise the same short and wildly varied set that sums up their eclectic 10-year studio run, though visually they would sport the same nightmare from a diabolical carnival display that typified their earliest incarnation and feature a healthy amount of aggressive fodder from their acclaimed 2000 debut LP L.D. 50 like “Death Blooms”, “Nothing To Gein” and “Dig”.

The milder conditions of Columbus, Ohio in the late afternoon would mean a lot less sweat and flaked makeup as drummer Matthew McDonough and virtuoso bassist Ryan Martinie displayed their skills and craftsmanship, one pounding his drumkit mercilessly while the other moved incessantly around. Vocalist Chad Gray ripped the airwaves with his piercing shouts, paired with his signature theatrically-infused demeanor, in stark contrast with guitarist Greg Tribbet more tranquil stance, focusing mostly on his instrument. Their set would also be marked by versatility as they proved equally effective in delivering melodic and easier-digest fair like “World So Cold” which would be greeted with a sea of voices singing along.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

The temperature would be raised considerably over at the Cathedral Stage with a swift and brutal reprise of the mad thrashing fury that Slayer guitarist and cofounder Kerry King would bring with his solo band. Like a true act born from the lowest level of hell, the showcase delivered would be chock full of so much pyrotechnics work and dark imagery that all in the first few rows might well have experienced the same degree of heat that those who witnessed King‘s performance in the sweltering heat in Florida a week prior.

The combined gravitas that came along with the shared presence of Bay Area veteran guitarist Phil Demmel of Vio-Lence fame, fellow Slayer member, and ex-Forbidden/ex-Exodus drummer Paul Bostaph alone was palpable from the opening resound of newly hatched thrasher “Where I Reign”, and all brought to a head by the gargantuan roar of Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda. Naturally an obligatory showing of old-school Slayer classics like “Raining Blood” drew the loudest audience response, but couldn’t help but be in awe of the formidable power exuded by new King entries like “Idle Hands” and the closing hurrah “From Hell I Rise”.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

With the sky beginning to fade with the onset of early evening, the sonic contours of Sonic Temple 2024 would turn appropriately to the gothic and moody flavor of Evanescence. Here is where the stage setup would transition into headliner territory, topped off by a stellar view of drummer Will Hunt‘s kit as he drove the grooves of each banger in their marathon 14-song set, flanked at each side with columns of rectangular, 2 ft. long LED lights paired with sets of circular, rotating lights in groups of four, along with a massive LED panel featuring the band’s logo either wreathed in flames or surrounded by moving green lights as the set progressed.

Lead guitarist Troy McLawhorn would turn some heads with his signature working class getup featuring a black and white long-sleeve flannel shirt and a much shorter haircut, though Amy Lee‘s highly animated stage presentation and black attire would remain the focal point. Touring bassist Emma Anzai would also steal some attention from the crowd with her signature crab walk moves as one infectious melodic hook gave way to another. Classic entries like “Going Under” and “My Immortal” would garner massive audience participation, though the renditions of more recent ear candy off their 2021 album The Bitter Truth like “Yeah Right” and “Wasted On You” were no slouches.

As expected, all seemed to pale in comparison to the climax point achieved on their closing performance of “Bring Me To Life”, which also featured a surprise performance of the rapped vocal part of the original studio version by P.O.D.‘s Sonny Sandoval.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

Back at the Sanctuary Stage it could be argued that Pennsylvania metalcore veterans August Burns Red would win the award for the most colorful stage attire of the day. The cacophony of Gothenburg-inspired riffs and anger-steeped hardcore shouts projected outward by vocalist Jake Luhrs often seemed to clash with the flamboyant shirts being donned by each member of the fold, with lead guitarist JB Brubaker‘s peach and ocean blue collared shirt and signature flip-flops underscoring the bizarre contrast of a band playing metalcore cold enough for winter while looking primed for a holiday at the beach.

While the band’s summer-infused appearance would make anyone believe they were playing a festival in the South Florida circuit, the marvel of energy and intensity they exuded on stage certainly matched the proverbial high temperatures of the Sunshine State, and the crowd response was correspondingly off the charts. Whether it was their breakout opening performance of “Thirty And Seven”, or subsequent deliveries of banger riff machines like “Backfire” or “Bloodletter”, the guitar-driven fury that they’d bring was among the most well-received showcases of the day.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

Old school heavy metal thunder would conquer the headlining slot of the Cathedral Stage with the entry of the original titans of leather-clad mayhem Judas Priest. Though well into his 72nd year on Earth and in mortal form, Rob Halford put on a master class in crowd work and spared no expense in raining down the high-shrieking fury at every point, while the even elder body of bassist and lone founding member Ian Hill moved about the best of them and 62-year-old Scott Travis effortlessly brought the thunder of the metal gods through his massive drum kit.

Though each standing in for the original classic axe-dueler of yesteryear in Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing respectively, guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap could have well been mistaken for the originals in how they seamlessly gelled with the rest of the band and effortlessly emulated the signature riffs and wild solos of classic speed metal entries like “Painkiller”, “Rapid Fire” and also made a massive impression in the audience’s skulls via newer material like “Panic Attack”, “Invincible Shield” and “Lightning Strikes”.

Apart from the raucous response to the aforementioned “Painkiller”, audience approval would be its loudest during the more old-school rocking classics “Breaking The Law”, “Living After Midnight” and “Electric Eye”, as has been the tradition in this band’s more than 40 years of delivering the goods.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

The final word on day one of Sonic Temple 2024 would be reserved for the Temple Stage courtesy of nu-metal icons Disturbed. The stage setup would reflect the culmination of the day’s events, with a massive array of LED columns, pyrotechnics, and smoke cannons that would fill the saturate the night sky as completely as the music that it would accompany.

David Draiman would enter the stage wearing his usual Matrix-like leather overcoat, which would be ditched after their second song “Stupify” as even the cool of an Ohio evening would seem like a blazing inferno given the heat being generated on stage. Bassist John Moyer and guitarist Dan Donegan were in a state of constant motion, jumping and shifting about, while drummer Mike Wengren‘s position on the back platform was perfect for a bird’s eye view of what he was doing from the photo pit and beyond.

Sonic Temple 2024: Day One Recap

There would be several highlight moments, from the blistering showings of “Ten Thousand Fists” and “The Vengeful One”, to the haunting balladry of Draiman‘s performance of Simon & Garfunkel‘s “The Sound Of Silence”; with special note being made of their rendition of “Don’t Tell Me”, which would see New Years Day‘s own Ash Costello making an appearance. But this outfit has always been one for saving the best of last, and the massive encore trifecta of “Unstoppable”, “Down With The Sickness” and “Inside The Fire” was what truly brought this first day of rock and metal to its triumphant end.

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