Another year, another venture into a field at Donington Park in the East Midlands for the annual Download Festival. We’ve been coming here as music fans for over 10 years and every year somehow manages to surpass our expectations.
After checking out the forecast weeks in advance and for the most part of the week knowing there was a chance of rain it really wasn’t going to dampen our spirits.
First up for us on Friday was the mighty Northlane. We’ve seen them loads but never on a stage quite this big and opening up the festival is no easy task. Without any bias we can say they easily rose to the challenge. The sound was some of the best i’ve ever heard on the main stage in a while. New material went down a treat with the crowd and really set the energy levels for the rest of the weekend.
Next up were goth metal crew Motionless In White who rattled through a bunch of their old hits and new material from their latest record GRAVEYARD SHIFT much to the delight of the masses. Shout out to the guy who chucked a beer at us during the last song though. You’re the real MVP.
In amidst all this we managed to skip off to the Dogtooth stage to catch Holding Absence and then to see a packed out tent going nuts to Astroid Boys over on the Avalanche Stage before an absolutely crushing set from Code Orange who win the award for heaviest band of the weekend. Imagine getting hit in the face with a truck, similar experience. The highlight of the day on the Avalanche Stage had to be State Champs. Honestly i wasn’t sure how well this years pop punk offering would go down with the usual heavy metal Download audience but today highlighted just how mixed this audience really is. The tent was packed and there were singalongs galore right from start to finish.
Back to the main stage and to round off the days activities were supergroup Prophets Of Rage. Hearing them smash through some total classics got the entire crowd singing along. Tom Morello is still the man we can confirm.
We’ve waited for this for years having missed System Of A Down the first time round after their return from hiatus but we weren’t going to miss them this time. We can confirm that they most definitely still have it, Rattling through 30 songs over the almost 2 hour set including fan favourites Toxicity, Chop Suey, Aerials, B.Y.O.B and War? The weather was perfect, the bands stage production even better. There aren’t many bands around like SOAD proving they rightly have what it takes to headline a show of this magnitude
As is pretty standard these days at festivals. You drink a little too much on Friday night and end up sleeping in and missing bands. That’s exactly what happened and we ended up showing up in the arena just as Creeper were wrapping up. We caught a little bit of Sikth ripping out some riffs before heading over to see Trash Boat on the Avalanche Stage. Having listened to them loads but never seeing them live we were pretty pumped. Needless to say they smashed it, if you’re not a fan you really need to check them out. It set the stage for what was basically us spending the whole day at the Avalanche Stage seeing As It Is and some almighty singalongs during the Knuckle Puck set.
We did however manage to make it up to see a few songs from Suicide Silence on the Zippo Encore Stage, plenty of moshing up there before heading on to see Casey on the Dogtooth Stage. All of the feels there. Honestly this band has the potential to be absolutely huge. They just have everything, perfect amount of emotion going on. You can expect to see them much further up the bill in years to come.
Meanwhile over on the Main stage Of Mice & Men and Pierce The Veil were playing to absolutely huge crowds. Quite literally people as far as the eye could see. Both looking perfectly at home on the big stage. We didn’t know what to make of OMAM post Austin Carlile but you know what it actually works. There is a little less energy which you’d normally get from a front man but the songs really did sound great and we’re interested to hear a new album from them.
Back over on the Avalanche Stage Every Time I Die were tearing through their set in front of a capacity crowd. Smashing out a stellar setlist that included ‘Underwater Bimbos from outer space’, ‘Ebolarama’ and ‘Map Change’. There aren’t too many bands who can go at 100% for a whole set but these guys are definitely one of them.
Then it was time to eat a nasty burger and head over to the main stage for the evenings finale. A Day To Remember straight into Biffy Clyro.
ADTR have been here before, numerous times but this is their highest slot at Download Festival and they’ve certainly brought out the big guns. Their production is always top drawer and today is no exception. Fire, CO2, pyro and huge beach balls in the crowd galore. Their set spans all of their albums and the pit is never once not moving. At some points in the set there’s multiple pits open. Ending on ‘Downfall Of Us All’ is a great choice and probably their most popular hit. The loudest crowd singalongs we’ve heard so far this weekend.
Biffy Clyro are no stranger to playing huge shows and whilst they really don’t have anything to prove they might have felt they did. Download purists were up in arms when they were announced as a headliner but truth be told the bands back catalogue features some heavier material. Ok, they’re no Slayer but they’re a rock band and Download is a Rock and metal festival. Anyway all of this is forgotten as soon as the band takes to the stage to rapturous applause and judging by the volume of the crowd singing back every word at frontman Simon Neil during first few songs. The set is varied, covering albums including Puzzle, The Vertigo Of Bliss, Infinity Land, Only Revolutions and their recent album Ellipsis. It’s at this point that it dawns on me what an actual number of chart hits they’ve had over the years and even though the band has found mainstream success their live performance is still pretty gritty and connected with the audience. The stage production was wonderful and a bonfire night esque fireworks display made a spectacular even better. If you ever doubted this band could headline to such numbers, how wrong you were
Sunday always starts with a relaxed vibe. Usually most people go hard with the partying on the Saturday night and the same could be said for us. We managed to stroll over to the main stage to watch In Flames rip an absolute barnstormer of a set. These Swedes are not short of riffs in their arsenal and they unleashed some serious metal to get everyone awake and ready for the rest of the days action.
Following this we caught Devildriver up on the second stage. We’re pretty sure this is the place where all the metal horns have located themselves for the day looking at the people stood around us. This is where we spent most of the evening in anticipation of the impending Slayer set. Over on the Avalanche stage Basement and Moose Blood both played to packed out tents. Quite interesting to see how well some of the not really heavy bands did this weekend. It shows that the genres really do transcend the generations and that the elitist tag often given to metal fans is clearly not true.
We have to be honest at this point, we did consider retiring for the evening and heading back to camp and missing Aerosmith. We’re not really big fans but we couldn’t resist a bit of a singalong to at least the few songs that we know. So off we went. Almost impossible to get near the stage due to the sheer number of people watching them but we did indeed sing our lungs out to ‘Don’t wanna miss a thing’, ‘Janie’s got a gun’, and their Beatles cover of ‘Come Together’. You really can’t fault the fact they’ve had an incredibly long career and it almost seems like the perfect place to make their final stand in the UK.
All in all we had an excellent weekend and we’re already looking forward to 2018’s festival which will take place on the 8th-10th June 2018. Tickets and info can be found here