London Docklands Arena

It promised to be a legendary weekend for metal...

It promised to be a legendary weekend for metal. But before The Lost Weekend even properly begins, it appears cursed. Saturday’s headliners [a]Nine Inch Nails[/a] pull out at the last moment after drummer Jerome Dillon contracts gastroenteritis. Shit. In a very real sense.

So the majority of Britain’s gothic population turn on their black heels, collect their refunds and return to darkened rooms around the country. The 9,000-capacity venue looks half-empty at any one time and the bands’ start times are pushed back, with Ash thrust into the headline slot.

In the face of all this, the hardcore commotion of Surrey’s HUNDRED REASONS is a small revelation. Throwing guitar shapes reminiscent of H|sker D|, songs of the calibre of ‘Cerebra’ suggest this lot will be signed up and shipped out pronto.

“I only make love to Jesus/I only fuck God”. Afternoon, Katie Jane. In mad bird Courtney Love petticoat stylee, QUEEN ADREENA‘s Katie Jane Garside prances onto the main stage, flanked by a cross-dressing bass player, a mod-suited guitarist and a nu-punk drummer. Entertaining, but, like bad art, you only really need to see it once.

The much anticipated A PERFECT CIRCLE are much more worthwhile. With gorgeously off kilter melodies, Tool mainman Maynard James Keenan leads his new hobby band through the undulating pick of debut album ‘Mer De Noms’, including first single ‘Judith’. Finishing with a strangely restrained medley of The Cure‘s ‘Lovesong’ and Ozzy Osbourne‘s ‘Diary Of A Madman’, Keenan refuses to face the crowd in protest at photographer’s flashguns – or perhaps he’s too ashamed of his blue hipster tie-dyed keks.

ASH, meanwhile, indulge in all their metal fantasies in a heroic attempt to fit in, in spite of being greeted by a volley of bottles from an evidently tired and emotional crowd, now looking increasingly spartan. A raucous blaze of guitars, they barely stop for breath, living out their dreams of being Nirvana, the Stooges and The Velvet Underground all at once. And besides the rabid likes of ‘Jesus Says’ and ‘Kung Fu’, there’s new tunes like ‘Envy’ that prove Ash still have a grasp on a tough and energetic brand of pop. Not that this is enough to placate the crowd. Fifty minutes later it’s all over and the lights go up to the pissed-off chant of, “Nine Inch Nails!”

Come Sunday and things are marginally brighter. THERAPY? perform their best set in years, determined to force the crowd into having a good time. Andy Cairns and co wheel out all the hits, and we’re surprised to find that ‘Screamager’, ‘Die Laughing’ and an apocalyptic ‘Church Of Noise’ are still as affecting as ever.

Back on the second stage, it’s the violent rap-metal of ONE MINUTE SILENCE. Considering they managed to start a riot recently, they’re relatively restrained today. ‘Hly Man’ and ‘1845’ cement their reputation as one of the UK’s more muscular live acts.

The major draw of the night, though, is the established brutality of MACHINE HEAD. They might normally offer a relentless wall of noise, but tonight they play a more varied set. Songs like the thunderous ‘Take My Scars’ and the crunching ‘Nothing Left’ underline their Rage Against The Machine-style aesthetic, and prove that eight years after their inception they remain a menacing prospect.

Certainly much more so than SKUNK ANANSIE. Their epic soft-metal has been chosen to close this event, but despite taut renditions of ‘Selling Jesus’, ‘Weak’ and ‘Twisted (Everyday Hurts)’ they don’t do much to salvage proceedings.

This 20-band bill was meant to usurp last year’s excellent Big Day Out, but from the moment Nine Inch Nails pulled out it was doomed to disappoint. Metal fans felt this let down since Lars Ulrich admitted to being an Oasis fan.