With far muddier boots and sore heads galore the masses descended in to the arena again on Saturday morning for a day stacked with more clashes and big bands than the other two days combined. We had to make a lot of choices on the day which meant we missed some great acts, but chatting to some of you on the day we want to use this chance to give a massive shout out to both Milk Teeth and Cane Hill who sound like they absolutely brought the ruckus down on the Fourth Stage this year. Big things abound for both of these in the very near future.
We kicked off our day checking out Beartooth (8/13) play an impressive early slot on the Main Stage. There were some questionable decisions regarding the placing of bands across the line up all weekend, so it was good to see the growing American outfit Beartooth given the opportunity to raise their profile on the Main. Much like Royal Republic the day before, the band didn’t let the occasion affect them, blasting through their set without much hesitation, even getting the crowd going with some early pits and sing alongs. They sound a lot like a younger A Day To Remember, and with this level of confidence we wouldn’t be surprised if their careers hit the same trajectory as ADTR have experienced in the last few years.
Trudging back across to the Maverick Stage, we made it just in time for the absolutely brilliant Black Peaks (11/13) who on their debut album are deservedly making unbelievable strides whilst raising their own profile with every passing show. We caught them a week before supporting Deftones and whilst the sound that night may have been better than it was at Download, it didn’t stop this genuinely being one of the best, and most important, sets all weekend. Musically they’re difficult to describe, with an eclectic shifting between heavy and atmospheric leaving you almost breathless in a live setting. Their album is good, very good, but live Black Peaks become a whole new monster. There were a lot of casual punters simply passing through the area who were instantly drawn in to the tent and it was great to look across at everyone expressing shock and joy at what they were watching. The future is theirs for the taking, what a band.
Following on from that excellent performance were another band who, to put it simply, have never let anyone down live. Turbowolf (11/13) have been pretty damn quiet since ending their touring cycle off of Two Hands last year, but they showed absolutely no signs of ring rust when they entered the melee on the Maverick Stage this year. Everyone seems to do the whole “get everyone down on the floor and jump” thing these days, but for Turbowolf to do so before a note was even struck on opening track Ancient Snake triggered half an hour of complete chaos. Vocalist Chris Georgiadis has this incredible knack of getting absolutely everyone invested in to the live show, and looking towards the back for Solid Gold, once again he had the whole place in the palm of his hands. The band revealed on stage that they’re currently busy writing their third album, even treating us to a new great sounding track called Domino.
Turbowolf. Photo Credit: Tom Donno
Following on from this double dose of bedlam at the Maverick Stage we moved across to the Second Stage to check out the Prog Metal masters Tesseract (10/13). In a mid-afternoon, outdoor, set the risk with bands like Tesseract is the feel that you might lose some of the atmospherics and all of those intricacies which makes their music so powerful. Luckily the sound on this particular stage was absolutely on point all weekend, and without a single amp behind them or any form of backdrop, the band plugged in to the house PA and sounded absolutely thunderous. Their crowd was small, but they did a lot to win over any passing casuals - top performance.
Immediately following on from Tesseract on the same stage were a very different band indeed. For Bury Tomorrow (8/13) this was a very big performance, one that would help them truly kick on, especially with the backing of the excellent Earthbound as well. Unfortunately today wasn’t one of their best, they started strong but by the end they’d lost a lot of interest in the crowd - and they even finished a bit early as well. It was a shame not to hear them opening with the first track on the new album The Eternal - a track which feels readymade to serve exactly that purpose.
Heading back over to the Main Stage, next up were the legendary Megadeth (10/13), the only representative of the Big Four at this year’s event. Since the release of Dystopia Megadeth feel like a band reenergised - something which has filtered through in to the live performance. With Chris Adler on Lamb Of God duty, he was sadly unavailable, but Mustaine has drafted in Soilwork’s Dirk Verbeuren who was more than up to the task on the day. They were initially struck by some sound issues, with opener Hangar 18 sounding very quiet, but everything kicked in to gear about three or four tracks in and there was no looking back. Megadeth have become one of the perfect festival bands, blasting through all of their hits whilst also being able to throw in the odd new track and as we all know, Mustaine’s vocals can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, but he was bang on form throughout the whole performance. Ellefson’s Bass also sounded particularly menacing throughout the show. Probably the biggest downer of the whole set though was the band inviting on Nikki Sixx for them to bastardise the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK. Both Megadeth and Motley Crue have released covers of this track over the years, but this didn’t mean we needed to see them limp through it live together. Other than that, this was a top Megadeth show with the crowd fully invested from start to finish.
Megadeth. Photo Credit: Kennerdeigh Scott via Download Festival Press
Following on from Megadeth, one of the hottest bands on the planet right now grasped their sub-headlining slot by the throat and just did not let go. Deftones (12/13) are one of the most unstoppable forces in all of Heavy Music and whilst their actual set list was incredibly similar to the brilliant Wembley Arena show last week, it didn’t stop it being one of the performances of the weekend. The heavens opened once again as soon as they hit the stage but much like Korn the day before, this did nothing to dampen the excitement and joy across the whole crowd. Tracks like Diamond Eyes, My Own Summer and Knife Prty were sung along at intense volume and it was great looking up at the stage at a band who were well and truly grasping the moment. For a start they certainly upstaged that evening’s headliners...
”What is this, that stands before me?”. The opening line to the track Black Sabbath and the words which circulated around everyone’s head as soon as Ozzy Osbourne ambled his way on stage. In the last few years, the reunited members of Black Sabbath (8/13) have played shows which have truly recaptured a sense of the early days, looking at the shows at Download 2012 and Hyde Park as a reference point, but tonight there hasn’t been a clearer indication that this is a band who are both exhausted and thankfully coming to the end. Musically the band sounded good, both Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler have never been anything but incredibly tight but Ozzy Osbourne really was having an absolute shitter on the night. Whether it was fumbling lines, missing his cues or just forgetting he needed to sing at all, it was sad to see the all round Black Sabbath experience going out with a bit of a whimper at Donington this year. The rain was absolutely unforgiving throughout the show, and whilst it did add to the ominous Doom atmospherically, there were a lot of people who simply gave up and headed off. Had the band been on world beating form we have no doubts that everyone would have just stuck it out, but when you hear classics like Iron Man and War Pigs just not sounding as big as they should it was all just a big disappointment.
Mud. Photo Credit: Tom Donno
Mud. Still loads. Flowing rivers of water now too. On with the bands....
First up for us on day three were the excellent Amon Amarth (10/13) who for a midday set brought with them so much stage production it was incredible. As you can see from the picture, the band were joined on stage by two huge dragon heads alongside some intense pyro effects. They really were rewarding all of those who trudged through the mud to see them this early, something they toasted several times with their Viking drinking horns. The new album Jomsviking has seen a return to form for this band and the new tracks sat alongside classics like Guardians Of Asgaard and Twilight Of The Thunder God very well. An exciting kick off to the day to say the least.
Amon Amarth. Photo Credit: Tom Donno
After a day spent largely at some of the bigger stages on Saturday, we ventured over to the Fourth Stage early on to check out The King Is Blind (10/13). This band released their debut album Our Father earlier this year, and ever since they’ve been riding a wave of momentum which has seen them continuing to build up quite the following. Their performance at Download this year proved to be both a perfect introduction to those hiding from the continual rain, and a big moment for their fans. Much like In Search Of Sun on the first day, The King Is Blind grasped their Donington opportunity without even a hint of hesitation, tearing through a brutally heavy set which proved itself as an excellent introduction for day number three for many.
Going across to the second stage Periphery (9/13) attracted a fairly light crowd as they delivered their breed of Prog Metal. Much like most of the bands on this stage this year, the sound was excellent, with the clarity helping capture the intricacy contained within their music. You cannot help compare this to the Tesseract show the day before, with them both being the leading lights in this particular scene, and whilst they did sound good they didn’t sound quite as powerful as their counterparts the previous day.
With a quick scurry back across the arena, next up on the Maverick Stage were Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (11/13). Ever since Carter released his album with The Rattlesnakes last year he has regained the kind of fire and fervent enthusiasm he was so famous for during his time in the Gallows. Coming out on stage, all dressed up in a suit, there was immediately a sense of curiosity as to where this was all going but bang right from the off Frank Carter displayed exactly why he is one of the best frontmen in heavy music at the moment. Keeping the crowd as entertained between tracks is truly a talent and his stories and anecdotes proved to be as good as the music itself. He truly serves as a puppet master when he gets on stage, dictating a circle pit which went out of the tent, around the outside and back in again, a wall of death which threatened the show being pulled and a sit down, touching, sing along with ridiculous ease. Great performance by a band absolutely on fire at the moment.
WWE NXT. Photo Credit: Tom Donno
At this point we decided to check out one of the key extra curricular activities at the festival this year in WWE NXT. This wildly popular arm of the WWE packed out the tent they were housed in all weekend, going through in excess of six shows. As entertainment value goes, this proved to be an excellent addition to the festival this year and we hope that it’ll be back again in the future. Massive shout out to the crowds - you won’t find more sarcastic and humorous chants than from a British crowd, we challenge you to do so.
Back with the music, up next was the phenomenal performance by Gojira (13/13). Whoever decided it was a good idea for them to play in the tent on the third stage needs to have their head checked, because it was packed almost to the point of three four people deep going outside, but either way, they delivered probably the set of the weekend. Ghost pulling out meant a small change in the timings which worked to Gojira’s benefit as they ended up with a slightly longer set time. Immediately they sounded more crushing, more heavy, more punishing, more exciting than any other band on the entire line up. The new tracks Stranded and Silvera sounded even more menacing in the live environment, and sat alongside the likes of The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe and Flying Whales perfectly. Everything about their live show is just incredibly intense, driven mainly by the exceptional Mario Duplantier behind the kit. There were pits down the front, but for the most part everyone was standing and head-banging almost in awe. This lot are hands down the best live band in Metal at the moment.
Next up were the Second Stage’s headliners Jane’s Addiction (10/13) whose performance was a bizarre one in the fact that it flew through so many different highs and lows, but at the very least it made it one of the more memorable shows of the weekend. Considering the fact that they were this particular stage’s headliners, the crowd for them was shamefully small (although it is worth noting that by this point it felt like a hell of a lot of people had just headed home due to the conditions). There were a handful of people having the time of their lives - you could easily spot them because they all had faded nineties Jane’s Addiction shirts on - but for the casuals the band did suffer slightly in keeping everyone engaged. Just as the performance was hitting a lull they went through a flurry of hits, Been Caught Stealing, Ocean Size and a cover of David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel. The band sounded tight throughout, with Perry’s vocals maybe lacking a little bit, but star of the show was definitely Dave Navarro whose performance alone boosted the band’s overall score. Biggest spectacle of the show was Ted, Just Admit It... where two girls were hooked to zip lines quite literally through their backs as they swung back and forth whilst the band played through the track below them. To a point you did kind of wonder whether a band like this really needed all of the skimpily clad dancing girls but there you go.
Jane's Addiction. Photo Credit: Tom Donno
So then, we reach our final band of the review and the massive Iron Maiden (8/13). With the weather conditions as bad as they were this was probably the lightest crowd we’ve seen for Iron Maiden at a festival in recent years, but it didn’t stop them singing along louder than for any other band. A shame then that this was quite a lacklustre Maiden show. It has been frankly incredible hearing some opinions around this show, with so many people saying that they sounded better than ever. To be blunt this just wasn’t true. Bruce Dickinson, whilst running around and giving it his all seemed to have his microphone volume turned down whenever he was struggling and Nicko behind the kit generally sounded off the pace during various parts. Yes they played the hits, and they treated us to a few new tracks, but as a whole it was ultimately disappointing. Hardcore Iron Maiden fans will probably read that with contempt, but the fact is it just wasn’t that good. There were plenty of exciting performances from young, hungry, talent across the line up this year - and if ever you needed clearer evidence that the future needs to be embraced please refer to the jaded Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden performances side by side.