In just three years Sonisphere at Knebworth has become a major event in the UK festival calendar. Playing host to a sold-out capacity of 60,000, Sonisphere boasts the crème of rock and metal across the July 8-10 weekend. Hitting the stage for the opening day of the festival is the long awaited debut of ‘The Big 4’ in the UK, a show that some people have been waiting 30 years for.

Anthrax are the first of the thrash titans to treat the audience with a set that starts the first circle pits of the day to the opener “Caught In A Mosh”. Rushing through the anthemic “Madhouse” and “Antisocial” the New York metallers end on the 1987 classic “I Am The Law”.

Megadeth are on top form and give the sun-soaked masses exactly what they want. Playing older hits including “Hangar 18” and the ever popular “Sweating Bullets”, Mustaine and co. also deliver a new track “Public Enemy No. 1”. Mustaine’s distinctive voice rings out across the fields as Megadeth culminate their hour long display with “Holy Wars…” leaving the crowd begging for more.

The music then gets much more evil with the onslaught of Slayer. Arguably the band of the festival, the kings of thrash pull out all the stops to give their baying fans an anger-filled 60 minutes. Opening on “Disciple”, the circle pits are at full speed and it’s only a matter of time before the anthem of Sonisphere is played – “Raining Blood”.

Appreciation is the one word to sum up tonight’s headliners, Metallica. Playing an almost entirely old-school set filled with pyrotechnics, the masters of metal smash through “One”, “Seek & Destroy” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” amongst others.

The biggest and best moment is a performance of Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” with members of all the bands who had preceded Metallica on Main Stage. Seeing James Hetfield perform with Dave Mustaine is a moment that will go down in metal history for everyone.

Saturday belongs to Watford punks Gallows. Tearing the Saturn Stage apart from the start, Gallows mix it up with big tracks from “Grey Britain” and “Orchestra Of Wolves”. Creating a circle pit that goes around the sound stage, the punks of Sonisphere have come to party.

Although the party takes on a different mood as frontman Frank Carter announces that he is leaving Gallows after the current tour, this doesn’t stop him giving an emotionally violent performance.

Over on the Main Stage are one of the least metal bands of the festival, but also one of the favourites. Geek rockers Weezer play a choice set of crowd pleasers such as “Surf Wax America”, “Beverly Hills” and “My Name Is Jonas”.

River Cuomo is constantly in the crowd and working up his fans into a frenzy, he is adored by pop-punk fans young and old. As well as playing the hits from their extensive back catalogue, Weezer crank out Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” and Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” – no-one in attendance is left unsatisfied.

Back on the Saturn stage the mood is set to change with the Latin American prog maestros The Mars Volta. Filling the set with almost entirely unknown material, the crowd are stood on awe of Omar Rodríguez-López’ experimental stylings. Throughout the entire performance frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala is creating devastation, from throwing a metal barricade off stage to ripping off the Sonisphere banner in front of the stage, he’s fired up.

Sunday afternoon belongs to the veterans of heavy metal (and no strangers to festival carnage) – Motorhead. Walking on stage to chants of “Lemmy! Lemmy!” the coolest pensioner in the world puts his voice and bass through their paces with a rapid punishing greatest hits set.

A slight image change now, though. The leather and long hair is replaced with baggy jeans and a New York Yankees baseball cap as Limp Bizkit play a set dictated to them by the crowd. Taking requests throughout the entire performance, Fred Durst and co. play a very “Chocolate Starfish…” heavy set including “My Generation”, “Boiler” and “Take A Look Around”.

Closing the three day extravaganza are arguably the peers of Limp Bizkit – Slipknot. Delivering an emotional performance from start to finish in remembrance of bassist Paul Gray who passed away in May last year. Gray’s empty boiler suit and mask are on a stand on stage throughout the set which is emblazoned at times with his band number: two. Playing a staggering 17 songs to almost every single reveller at Sonisphere, the band span their back catalogue including the surprise inclusions of “Purity” and “Only One”.

Once the chaos ends, the emotive nature of the performance is truly defined by placing Paul’s stand in the centre of the stage whilst Slipknot’s “’Til We Die” plays over the speakers.

The crowd who were not long ago punching and kicking their way through each other are now stood still in appreciation, teary-eyed and thankful for what they have witnessed. There’s no better way to end a weekend of musical mischief.