Bones are aching, livers are ruined, and boots are muddy – we’re firmly in the homestretch of Download festival. Def Leppard closed Friday night with a bombastic Hysteria set and Saturday was topped by a returning Slipknot – notching up their headline tally to four. And while the destructive nine-piece brought war to Donington, a lot more happened in the hours beforehand.
Here’s what Kerrang! learned on the Saturday of Download…
Alien Weaponry Might Just Be Metal’s Next Big Things
Download has something of a history of making young bands’ careers with one great performance. Amassing a huge crowd just after gates open, Kiwi metallers Alien Weaponry are this year’s high hopes. With a crowd stretching to the horizon and songs as concussively convincing as Kai Tangata, absolutely everyone is getting stuck into the mosh pit scrum.
Hot Milk Are Primed And Ready
Hot Milk might be a baby band in relative terms, having only a handful of live shows and a few more songs to their name thus far, but they are very much at home on the Avalanche Stage today. They attack the task with lots of heart and charm, with massive hooks to match, and the interplay between co-vocalists Hannah Mee and James Shaw should see them go far. Big things are coming their way.
Behemoth Don’t Do Small Shows
It may be 2.20pm when Behemoth appear, the bright light not conducive to their brooding brand of blackened metal, but Nergal clearly isn’t prepared to compromise on the chaos. Not only is the main stage transformed into a vast demonic altar of black on black on black, there are vast plumes of fire that fan outwards at regular intervals to bring a touch of Hades to Donington. Toasty.
Bad Wolves Are More Than Just A Cover
Although they might be best known for their viral cover of Zombie, Los Angeles metallers Bad Wolves do have other songs. And people seem to know and love them. Surprisingly, on this occasion, their take on The Cranberries’ iconic anthem isn’t all that live, but it does get an early afternoon crowd riled up, even if it sounds almost nothing like any of their other tracks. The politically-charged Officer Down is probably their most provocative, but the sentiment is largely lost here as vocalist Tommy Vext conducts the field of punters gathered in front of him like an orchestra as they helicopter their t-shirts. It’s an impressive sight, if not necessarily matched by the sounds.
Reef Are Metal
Given what a brash ball of energy he is in front of a crowd, you wouldn’t think Skindred’s Benji Webbe would want to share his stage with another vocalist. But that’s exactly what he does partway through the ragga metaller’s triumphant set. Reef singer Gary Stringer joins the band for a run through of their on-record collaboration Machine – and what a powerful juggernaut it proves to be!
Straw Is Also Metal
Where would Download’s great unwashed be without it? Probably submerged in a massive swampy mess, that’s where. The biblical downpours that did the damage underfoot in the days leading up to the weekend’s festivities were both cruel, ill-timed and unforgiving. Add hordes of people chewing it up with every clomping welly boot and you have a potentially festival-ruining disaster to contend with. Luckily our old pal straw has come to the rescue at Download and then some. Well done, straw. All hail the bales!
Batushka Aren’t For Everyone
Okay, it doesn’t help that taboo-busting Polish black-metallers Batushka hit the Dogtooth stage in the middle of a rainstorm, surrounded by casual punters who’d really rather be queuing for Slipknot rather than watching an avant-garde performance inspired by the smells and bells of the Eastern Orthodox church. Even still, the glacial pace of their set and the sheer strangeness of watching a faux-spiritual ceremony unfolding in the mud is enough to leave many punters walking out in sheer confusion. It’s no less exciting for those already indoctrinated into their church, of course.
Jeff Gutt’s Voice Is Incredible
Since joining Stone Temple Pilots in 2017, Jeff Gutt, who appeared on two series of The X-Factor in America, has brought hope and fire to the grunge legends when their future seemed uncertain after the deaths of vocalists Scott Weiland and Chester Bennington. The band’s Saturday headline slot on the Zippo Encore stage was a revelation, reminding the huge crowd what an embarrassment of riches their back catalogue remains. And Jeff sounds particularly badass belting out classics Dead & Bloated and Sex Type Thing.
Carcass Remain A Cut Above
It takes a fucking age to shove our way from the back of the tent to the churning mosh pit for Liverpudlian death/grind legends Carcass. When we get there, it’s an absolute warzone, with one punter in a wheelchair presiding over the carnage. From Buried Dreams to Corporal Jigsore Quandary, it’s spine-tingling proof that there’s much to be said for still killing the old way.
The Wonder Years Are Duracell Bunnies
Philadelphia pop-punk heroes The Wonder Years used to insane touring schedules, but their gig here is beyond ridiculous. The six-piece flew in in the morning especially for their set and are only in the country for 30 hours, but they play with as much vigour and energy as a band who had been resting for weeks.
Die Antwoord Aren’t Just A YouTube Thing
South Africa’s hip-hop/dance outfit Die Antwoord are known more for their insane videos than their music, but they prove tonight that they’re also a really great live band. Ninja and Yolandi are mesmerising – and also slightly terrifying – performers, and the way the crowd responds to their high-octane, weird as fuck songs shows just how universal and transcendental the power of music can be.
Slipknot. Are. Back.
Questions have lingered, in recent years, over whether Iowan titans Slipknot might’ve traded the serrated edge with which they made their name for a more carnivalesque – albeit no less potent – brand of showmanship. Any doubts are answered in resounding fashion with Saturday’s gut-wrenching, breath-taking main stage headline. We’ll dig into the many layers of brilliance beneath the masks in our full magazine review, but safe to say there’s a renewed menace (and, in Corey Taylor’s fucked-up translucent headgear, a sheer unsettling strangeness) pulsing through proceedings that day-one maggots have been sorely missing.
Read our full Download Festival review in Kerrang! magazine on June 19.
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Posted on June 16th 2019, 1:52pm