Features, Reviews

Download – The Review

Friday

 

 

Royal Republic 

Kicking off the weekend right with Swedish rock and roll greats Royal Republic. Combining the guitars of a band like The Hives with a singer like Adam Grahn who rivals groups such as Volbeat, this is a band that shows enough rock and roll swagger to kick off an event like Download Festival perfectly. Unfortunately with a band as good as this in as short a time slot as they had, obvious songs such as Underwear and President’s Daughter felt missing off the set, but when a band as good as Royal Republic can pull out tracks such as Baby, Tommy Gun and Full Steam Space Machine all in a row you know the band has pure talent in its arsenal. One of the saddest things in rock is why Royal Republic isn’t as big as they should be and ultimately is no fault of the band themselves. 8/10

 

Babymetal 

Forget the fact that the band are a “gimmick” Babymetal came out and rocked Download to a pulp. After being delayed for 20 minutes due to rain the size of marbles hitting the crowd, the fun energy of a band like Babymetal provided is something that the crowd came to appreciate. Pulling out hits such as Babymetal Death and Internet hit Gimme Chocolate!! as their initial two songs, they show that this is a group that is not messing about. Babymetal are here to stay and after two albums feeling like an act that should now be considered as one of the hottest global acts in music, show what Babymetal is doing as not only infectious, but brilliant too. With the Kami Band having a guitar solo that felt like it could rival Zakk Wylde halfway through the set and the group proving why they’re a metal band away from the girls felt truly special. Yui-Metal, Moa-Metal and Su-Metal also showed why they’re talented singers and with ages of 16-18 for the main band members it is commendable how they can even reach the mainstage of a festival miles away from where they were initially formed. 9/10

 

Alien Ant Farm 

Alien Ant Farm miss out on recognisable tracks and therefore have to rely too heavily on ANThology. In a group that feels much more of a heritage act than anything else AAF simply played a set that can only be described as a generic Nu Metal set. With tracks like Movies feeling no more than just a song and not the hit that it deserves to be, this is a band that felt lacking compared to everything else on the day. With a Michael Jackson cover of Smooth Criminal being the only real interesting part of the band’s set, it does feel like it was a flash in the pan. The train has moved on for Alien Ant Farm but sadly they remain static and out of touch. 3/10

 

The Amity Affliction

The Amity Affliction played a stellar set on Download’s second stage, marred only by some backstage sound issues (the backstage team’s microphones were coming over the full sound system). Opening with the (rather appropriate) I Bring The Weather With Me, the premiere single of their upcoming album, both vocalists performed excellently with backing to match. Material from the band’s 2014 album Let The Ocean Take me dominated the set, and it’s the band are evidently still in their element playing these songs. The likes of Open Letter and the closing Don’t Lean On Me had the crowd singing along in full force. 7/10

 

Killswitch Engage 

You want hits, Killswitch Engage have got them in spades, and with their new album Incarnate already sounding huge on the main stage this is a band that show why they’re undeniably the kings of metalcore. Jesse’s presence was made even more phenomenal as he recovered from a throat infection he suffered just last year. Adam D ran around and gave that perfect stage banter that rallied up the crowd for the whole of the set and the rest of the band played note for note perfect giving fans of the band something enjoyable to spend their time watching. When a band is so perfect they can literally play Rose Of Sharyn, The End Of Heartache and My Curse in a row you may as well give up and this was the case for the entirety of the set. Killswitch are now at the point of being legends and every one of their hits they could pull out could fill an arena. Given the band also made many in attendance forget about the heavy amounts of rainfall that were falling on them, it made for quite an incredible and special time with the band. 8/10

 

Korn

Korn’s set is exactly what you’d expect, lots of heavy Nu Metal heaviness and plenty of dreadlock headbanging, but whilst that may not appeal to some, it most certainly appeals to the crowd at Donnington. Their presence on stage is unmistakable, their sound is also on the same spectrum, and it’s because of these qualities, that Korn have turned themselves into Download heroes. All the hits send fans into a wet and muddy frenzy, with staples such as Right Now, Blind, Freak On A Leash and Falling Away From Me. Hopefully this is the start of Kornascension to the top of the Download bill, but why not? They have the legacy and the songs, only time will tell.   8/10

 

Gutterdammerung 

Combining a film with live music is a proposition that makes little sense but one that works perfectly. With tracks like Black Sabbath and Raining Blood taking up the set this is something that felt fun for the bands to watch. But the music almost became secondary to the film that was going on in the screen, effects like gun shots bringing in pyro, a druid walking out on stage and ringing a bell and a band behind a screen getting illuminated like they’re coming straight out of hell, it felt like it was something new but also something truly imaginative. The fact that Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins came out as Priest Svengali and actually spoke his lines live on stage was something that felt fun for a fan of Rollins (even if he cocked up his lines and was out of sync to the movie 9 times out of 10) it didn’t matter because it’s Henry Rollins. To end the set on Ace Of Spades and dedicating it to Lemmy felt like the right way to honour his legacy and whilst the film he got was good, what Lemmy represented was art and live music. Gutterdammerung felt like the perfect send off to the frontman and felt like one of the best ways his memory could live on at Donnington Park. 8/10

 

All Time Low

Possibly the biggest controversy at Download this year, before the inclusion of Against The Current when Architects had to pull out, All Time Low could have either been a breath of fresh air or a total disaster. Opening up with Kids In The Dark, it was apparent the four piece had brought their A-game to Download. Hammering through a set that ranged from 2006 EP Put Up Or Shut Up to 2016 album Future Hearts, these guys really worked the crowd. Granted, they held a rather minor portion of the crowd due to Rammstein being on the main stage, but it was certainly nothing to sneer at. Songs like Lost In Stereo and Time Bomb had the crowd shouting every word back, with the latter having a bunch of people picked to join the band onstage for a sing-a-along (leave the stage selfies out though next time, kids, we don’t pay to watch you fill your Snapchat). Throwing out a cover of Greenday’s American Idiot, it’s suddenly clear how big these guys have gotten; they aren’t a small name band any longer and playing a position like headline on the second stage at Download proves that. Rounding things off with Dear Maria, it’s clear that they’ve got quite the back catalogue of bangers and they’re only going to get bigger and better. 9/10

 

Rammstein 

The rain had gotten to a point during the day when it severely affected Rammstein’s performance. The amount of pyro seemed diminished compared to what fans are used to seeing from the band. The left speaker was broken, giving sound problems and a crackling sound over a lot of their stuff, this felt especially problematic on tracks such as Links 234. What did feel right though was the songs with tracks such as Ohne Diche being played beautifully acoustically and Mein Hertz Brent coming across perfectly live, this is a band that show normally they’d be on a 9/10. With reasons to leave out Amerika or Pussy however and playing songs such as Du Riechst So Gut and a cover of Stripped by Depeche Mode led to their set list to be severely questioned, the show still came across as amazing and it was enjoyable enough, it wasn’t what fans would expect as a full Rammstein show, however. 7/10

 

 

Saturday

 

Avatar 

Avatar opened up the mainstage of Download and gave a performance that felt like it could have been improved upon. Given the quality the band normally play at this set felt lacking (especially compared to 2014). The songs that they did play including Smells Like A Freakshow and Hail The Apocalypse felt good and felt like good singalong moments. Although this is the case, the band didn’t punch you in the face and their show seemed extremely restricted. This is a group that should either be higher up or playing in the tent and with their slot first on main stage, this just felt like a slight showing of what Avatar are capable of. Guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström gave an impressive showing for the band. The group showed they were extremely talented but unfortunately today was not the right day for them. 7/10

 

Beartooth 

Beartooth gave a set that delivered and more than exceeded a sceptic’s impression of the band. The fact a band with only two albums (and one which only came out recently) commanded a great audience this early on mainstage gave the impression that they truly had the talent for a big festival like Download. With tracks like Aggressive, Hated and Body Bag giving the impression that the band will one day be massive is already there with Beartooth and if the world is a fair place they will only continue to keep rising up the Download bill. This is a set that more than delivered from the bands perspective and one which the group have no one to thank but themselves. 8/10

 

Black Peaks

Black Peaks’ set at Download was surely one of the greatest this year’s festival had to offer. The Brighton four-piece used their brief set to play highlights from their debut album Statues. Opening with the album’s first track Glass Built Castles, the band were nigh-on technically perfect, with Will Gardner’s screams filling the tent pitch-perfect. Impressively, the band held up to the standards they set throughout the set, player their most bombastic songs like Set In Stone and closing on Saviour, it’s clear Black Peaks are bound for big things. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Black Peaks return to Download next year one or two stages up. 8/10

 

Palisades

Asking, “Who likes free shit?” will normally only return one answer – yes! Throwing t-shirts into the crowd was just one moment of this energy-fuelled set. Alongside some outstanding vocals from front man Lou, the rest of the band were a tight-knit unit and it’s hard to understand why they’re still an underground band. With the synths this band has it’s difficult to do anything but bounce. Player Haters Ball saw the band telling everyone to get low before jumping to his or her feet and a few mosh pits even broke out during the set. Closer High And Low was the moment of the set though as it truly became a party and everyone let loose: if Palisades had an anthem, this would be it. 10/10

 

Milk Teeth

Despite having lost a few supplies in London the day before, Milk Teeth were on great form at Download. Although they’re still relatively new on the circuit, word had spread as the tent was full and the audience was spilling out into the rain. The solid drumming from Oli Holbrook provided a strong backbone for the band and they rattled through a set list containing tracks like Brickwork and Crows Feet. A crowd favourite arose in Swear Jar with the majority singing along, the look on the bands members’ faces to have such a moment at a prestigious festival like Download said far more than can be written.  9/10

 

Lawnmower Deth 

When a band can have the audacity to come out to The Muppets Show theme, plug in and play comedy songs that are over 20 years old the group must be extremely talented. Thankfully Lawnmower Deth show on this day why they are indeed Thrash Metal’s best comedy act and one which will never go away from the memory of many of their fans. With tracks as great as Spook Perv Happening In The Snooker Hall and Sumo Rabbit And His Inescapable Trap Of Doom with a man in a bunny outfit jumping on the stage this is a band that show they know how to have a laugh and how to make one of the best shows on the entire festival. With Kim Wilde coming out to do Egg Sandwich and Watch Out Grandma was absolutely spectacular but watching her sing her song Kids In America with Lawnmower Deth felt like one of the most surprising moments of Download Festival. Hopefully Wilde performs more with Lawnmower Deth on most of their shows as she showed she’s a proper Punk with the comedy legends. 9/10

 

Escape The Fate

Kicking things off with Remember Every Scar, Escape The Fate were taking no prisoners and got straight down to business. It was one of those sets that make you stop and appreciate how well a band that have been at it for so long can deliver, granted they’ve had more than their share of member changes but it didn’t feel like that, for those that appreciate the genre it was a set not to miss. Reeling off hits like Gorgeous Nightmare and Just A Memory, it was real fist pumping, hug your mate show. Finishing up with This War Is Ours, they really did save the best till last, not only was it one that everyone sang along to, after a request for a wall of death, the audience obliged. Opening a sizeable pit, kids crashed into one another to the sound of awesome shredding, truly a moment that stands out in the weekend. 10/10

 

Neck Deep

Another act that look a bit out of place on the line-up was Neck Deep, but they deliver every time to a crowd, this one as accepting of them as the acts surrounding them. With an album that has been as well accepted as Life’s Not Out To Get You the band could have picked anything to play, yet it’s a mixed bag with Wishful Thinking getting a look in and even the acoustic guitar getting brought out. The true highlight of the set was Gold Steps though with everyone screaming along “life’s not out to get you”, possibly the most “pop punk” moment of the weekend. With tracks like Kali Ma and Serpents thrown in, the set was full of energy, crowd-surfers and general bromance – is that still a thing? It wasn’t one to miss. 9/10

 

Megadeth 

Legends doesn’t come close to describing the greatness that is Megadeth. In a set that includes Peace Sells, She-Wolf and Sweating Bullets this is a group that show they could headline the festival with the amount of good songs they have. The band also feels like they could have played at least 5 other hits they didn’t even touch upon which shows that Megadeth are truly one of the best bands in Thrash. With Dave Mustaine being fully on the ball in this show giving a solid performance the show felt like such an event. With a surprise of Nikki Sixx coming out to play Anarchy In The UK and the show closing out giving Triple H the “Lemmy Award” and such a wonderful speech and tribute to the Motorhead frontman, this felt like a show that most bands wished they could perform but simply can’t match. 9/10

 

Deftones
 
Playing before arguably the biggest metal band of all time was always gonna be a tough task for Deftones, and it depends where you are standing to judge if they deliver or not. From afar, it would seem like most of the crowd do not care enough, but for those right down at the front, it would also seem that they’re having a ball. It appears that it’s a hit and miss situation for the group, whilst their energy and set is something to admire and be entertained by, it also feels slightly strange, that you don’t quite know what to think or expect, especially if you’re seeing them for the first time, if you truly want to enjoy a Deftones show, you might want to know a bit more about the band.   6/10

Municipal Waste 

Municipal Waste fucked Download up. With tracks as amazing as “Mind Eraser”, “Headbanger Face Rip” and “Art Of Partying” this felt like a celebration from Download. Unfortunately what stopped Municipal Waste from being the truly great act they can be is the fact they felt extremely restricted. Usually playing in clubs or at festivals with an outdoor stage such as Bloodstock, the band usually actively encourage moshpits and crowd-surfing (even going so far as to create the “wave of death”). Unfortunately this felt like a much “safer” Municipal Waste show and from this it didn’t feel like a true Waste show. What they did do however was play their own brand of Thrash well and showed that even in a contained environment, Waste can still party and can still play a set that most Thrash fans will love. 8/10

 

Black Sabbath 

With Ozzy shouting the crowd to jump especially in that level of bog that the arena became many people were less than willing to oblige. What Sabbath can provide however is some of the best and well known songs in metal, with tracks such as Fairies Wear Boots, NIB, The Wizard, Children Of The Grave, War Pigs …etc, this is a band that literally play their entire set full of classics. Seeing as this is the last time Sabbath will play Donnington they played a set that satisfied their hardcore fans through to the most casual metal fan. Tony Iommi played some of the best guitar work of any other band on this entire bill, Geezer Butler played bass lines that cut through the entire crowd. Session drummer Tommy Clueftos also played an amazing role even having the chance to do an entire drum solo during “Rat Salad”. Sabbath are unfortunately never going to play Donnington ever again, but what a perfect way to end a near 40 year career. 8/10

 

Sunday

 

Amon Amarth 

When a band brings enough pyro to rival the headliners and a stage set-up with two Viking longship heads, it takes the piss enough when it’s main support. When this is on at 11am Amon Amarth truly show they know how to put on a heavy metal party. With heavy metal anthems such as Deceiver Of The Gods, Raise Your Horns and Twilight Of The Thunder God every other band should run away in fear. With frontman Johan Hegg coming down with the power of Odin, during the course of the set it is confusing to see as to why Amon Amarth are on so early and why they only have such a short set, the band have shown here that given a festival like Bloodstock they could easily headline and hopefully they eventually get their chance to headline a UK festival. 10/10

 

Witchsorrow 

Witchsorrow gave a decent set in the fourth stage tent but unfortunately the time they were on during the day (still early) meant that their music left less of an impact as it should have done. With some of the best Doom Metal songs such as The Trial Of Elizabeth Clarke and Made Of The Void this is a band, which show that they belong on a big festival. Still slightly underwhelming however their style of music felt lost on many who came from Amon Amarth or Grand Magus just prior. This is a band that feels like they need to be seen at a metal festival with an audience to respond to this and not a festival like Download. The group did give a solid set however, and the guitar work of Necroskull, the haunting bass of Emily Witch and the drums of Wilbrahammer resonated well throughout the tent. This is a band that feel at home in a smaller stage and one that felt like it would be lost upon an open festival stage. 7/10

 

The King Is Blind 

For a small death metal band following Witchsorrow felt the perfect fit for The King Is Blind. Tracks like Amen and Devoured worked well within the tent and the band felt like a solid unit. This is another group that felt like it would have been better to have seen them at a full metal festival like Bloodstock however as a lot of what they did conflicted with a lot of the bands on the other stages. Still for pure talent and for a band who’ve only released their debut album The King Is Blind show why they need to be taken seriously within the world of Death Metal and why they have the potential to continue getting better. 7/10

 

Attila

Attila are a band that bring mixed reactions, yet at this show they just brought the party. A real light-hearted ‘let’s fuck about’ sort of set, Middle Fingers Up showed the crowd exactly how it was going to go down. Amidst the bouncing and head banging, front man Fronz mentioned it being their first time playing Download and that next time they would be on the big stage. Enticing a circle pit, as is custom at their gigs, the guys showed that although they might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they’ve certainly got a good pull as even those running for the pit are smiling and tapping their feet. 8/10

 

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes were, from the awaiting crowd, seemingly one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, and they did not disappoint. The ex-Gallows vocalist still knows just how to conduct a crowd, and soon had a circle-pit unrivalled by anything else that weekend. New single Snake Eyes has become an instant hit with fans judging from their reaction, and the band had to play Jackals twice due to Carter misjudging just how big his circle pit had been. After inciting a wall of death that had Carter rebuked by festival security, he made his way into the crowd for a stripped back version of Beautiful Death which was surprisingly heartfelt. Ending on I Hate You, the whole tent was screaming that prolific phrase. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are one to watch, because they might just take on the world. 8/10

 

Tremonti 

Unfortunately Tremonti’s set just felt bland and boring. After the tent just witnessed the chaos that is Frank Carter, Tremonti just felt like a buzzkill to everyone’s overall attitude. With songs like Betray Me and Wish You Well the singer and guitarist has proved he’s got talent and can write songs that will work at a festival, but unfortunately any kick that might have been there in Alter Bridge has been replaced by a man who’s trying to sound as arena friendly and classic rock as he can. Alter Bridge works due to the kick from Myles Kennedy and the fact it’s genuinely rock instead of plod along, little more can be said about Tremonti’s set and unfortunately a sense of boredom came whilst watching him. 4/10

 

Breaking Benjamin

“I want anyone who says rock is dead to spend one hour here,” declared Ben part way through Breaking Benjamin’s set, for which a sizeable chunk of Download’s crowds had turned up. With new tracks like Failure in the set list it’s not hard at all to see why they’ve such a big turnout, the fist pumping and bouncing of the majority of the crowd speak volumes about how much the UK enjoys their presence. The Diary Of Jane is a shout along affair, with the crowd nearly drowning out the band; now that’s dedication. Rolling out banger after banger, these guys could easily be higher on the bill and everyone knows that. 8/10

 

Electric Wizard

After only getting a chance to play just 4 songs Electric Wizard make a band like Black Sabbath and even Witchsorrow feel like Napalm Death. Repeating the same glorious riff for 20 minutes on a track like Dopethrone, Wizard show why they command the world of Stoner Metal and why they command respect from the metal world at large. A band that feel more like a movement of notes and progression rather than an official live band Wizard deliver one of the best guitar tones and bass tones of anyone on the entire lineup. If you’re a fan of slow moving Metal music done to perfection, give Electric Wizard a chance and prepare to have your mind fully blown. 9/10

 

Gojira

When a band can play hits such as Backbone, Flying Whales and L’enfant Sauvage you know they’re on the way to bigger and better things. Gojira feel like the first extreme metal band in a long time that’s broken into the conscious of mainstream rock. This concert felt like a celebration from Gojira to their fans for how successful Magma has been and thankfully, this show felt more like an event than anything else. Frontman Joe Duplantier showed why he has some of the best vocals in metal, Christian Andreu gave one of the most impressive guitar shows all day, Jean Michel Labadie commanded the bass and drummer Mario Duplantier filled the tent with some of the hardest hitting drum beats all weekend. This is a band that now feels like they’ve been built for bigger stages and hopefully when they play their main support slot to Mastodon at this year’s Bloodstock, they will confirm many of their fans as being right. 9/10

 

Ashes To Angels

Rolling out belters like Dorian, this set is fast and hard with the band seemingly shocked at AshesToAngels’ good fortune to be playing at Download. A hidden gem on the Dogtooth stage, they seemed to have a die hard following that were passionately head banging and shouting along. Playing unsurprisingly good riffs that had you bobbing your head along wasn’t their only talent though, as front man Crilly cartwheeled about the stage without missing a note. With the stage presence these guys have, they should easily be bringing in bigger crowds in the future. 7/10

 

Napalm Death

Fast, quick and nasty. Napalm Death give some of the best politically charged Grindcore and they do it well, with tracks like Smash A Single Digit, Dear Slum Landlord …. and Suffer The Children taking up a good part of their set, this is a band that show they know what they’re doing when it comes to festivals. Frontman Barney also giving a history on Napalm Death and the wider world at large also felt amazing and felt like what they were doing had purpose and what we were doing their supporting them was learning about some of the problems that have happened/are happening within the wider world. Napalm Death is more than just a great band, they are a political statement and due to this the group simply play hard and nasty within most of their material. With tracks like You Suffer adding to the fun of the band this is a group that shows it can take a laugh as well. The best moment of the set came from the usual cover of Nazi Punks Fuck Off by Dead Kennedy’s which made many of their fans happy. With Shane Embury, Mitch Harris and Danny Herrera also taking perfect roles within the live setting of the band, the group played a set that came off as no less than perfect. 10/10

 

Halestorm

What can be said about Halestorm, they have one the best voices in rock n’ roll at helm, an immensely talented and crazy drummer as backbone, and a solid lineup and back catalogue. All of this is showcased and more at Download, and it’s quite surprising to hear from frontwoman Lzzy Hale that this is their first time on the main stage. That being the case, it’s a triumphant debut for the four piece, all the songs from Apocalyptic, Love Bites, Freak Like Me and I Miss The Misery are wildly received, and an epic and humorous drum solo from Arejay Hale make a memorable event. A special shout out to Lzzy Hale’s unimaginable and frighting vocal talents also.   9/10

 

Disturbed

Whilst part of Disturbed’s set became a who’s who of their friends with numerous cameos from the likes of: Ben Burnley, who joined them for a cover of Rage’s Killing In The Name; Lzzy Hale who dueted on a cover of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and others, it was done well and was even verging on top-quality. Alongside the covers, they threw out their recorded material like Ten Thousand Fists and (Simon & Garfunkel’s) The Sound Of Silence, which went down extremely well with the huge crowd they’d amassed. A real head turning moment though was Down With The Sickness which had the crowd surging forward, and many pushing their way through to the mosh pit. These guys are veterans for a reason, it was really something. 9/10

 

Iron Maiden 

Book Of Souls is boring live. Plain and simple, Iron Maiden played too much off their new album and due to this many of their songs came across as stale. Maiden usually play good sets and during their Maiden England tour many fans were kept happy. In short when Maiden play their classics they usually come across much better live. This was very much the case during tracks like Iron Maiden, The Number Of The Beast and Fear Of The Dark. The second half of their set was perfect but unfortunately all energy felt sucked out as they did the majority of what a lot of their fans consider to be quite a weak album. Maiden usually are talented, the musicians played in sync and perfectly but the set list couldn’t have been any more of a buzzkill. Maiden will hopefully play Download again and hopefully fans will get the classic set they all love and admire. 6/10

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