With the 2014 Download Festival now less than two weeks away, it’s about that time of year again where Rock Sins picks out our acts that we really think you should see across the weekend. In part one of our preview, we’ve got ten bands we think you should see on the first day of music. So without any further ado, here’s our recommendations of who to sing, circle pit and headbang along to on Friday:
There’s been a lot of controversy over the decision of Andy Copping and The Powers That Be at Live Nation to promote Avenged Sevenfold to Download headliner status, but lets take a look at the facts; The only metal band to have a UK number one album in the last six years who aren’t Iron Maiden, Metallica or Black Sabbath and a sold out arena tour last December which won almost universal acclaim for their performances means that if a “new” band was going to break through the Download glass ceiling, Orange County’s favourite sons were the obvious choice.
Having taken a gigantic step up with their 2010 album mainstream breakthrough album Nightmare, A7X’s more recent offering Hail To The King has had less favour with the critics, but when you’re achieving number ones and selling out arenas, ultimately it doesn’t matter what a few columnists think of your most recent CD. They have the tunes to pull it off and if their arena tour was anything to go by, one would expect a very good stage show as well. The biggest moment in their career as a band so far – we don’t expect they’ll let us down. For a reminder of their successes in 2011 sub-headlining for System Of A Down, check out this video of them performing the title track from Nightmare:
The Lord Of Horror returns to Download for only the second time! Having headlined the second stage on his only other previous outing at Donington under the Download Festival banner, this time around Rob Zombie and his band take the big step up to main stage sub-headliners. The only worry with this is whether he will be too good an act for Avenged Sevenfold to follow.
If Avenged Sevenfold aren’t your cup of tea then there’s some fantastic alternatives on offer. Our prime choice of alternative is Swedish prog metal masters Opeth, who always put on a great show with their spellbinding songs and frontman Mikel Akerfeldt’s rapier like dry wit equally entertaining. Their newest album Pale Communion has been pushed back to August so there may not been as much material from that as may have been on offer if schedules hadn’t changed. Then again, the Opeth back catalogue is now so vast who knows what they will serve up when they headline the Pepsi Max Tent. It’s likely to be highly enjoyable regardless. Get there early for this one, as we suspect the Pepsi Max Tent is likely to be bursting at the seems.
The perfect warm up for their Swedish friends and peers in Opeth, flying the flag for the UK on the first day of Download are prog rockers Anathema. With most recent album Weather Systems arguably the masterpiece of their almost 25 years together as a band having received critical and fan acclaim the world over, and a new album out just before Download entitled Distant Satellites, things are going from strength to strength for the Liverpool Natives. Back in a tented environment this year and with a late slot (even if it will still largely be daylight outside), the conditions about as good as they can be to make Anathema one of the performances of the whole weekend. A tough choice for many between them and Rob Zombie awaits.
The dance metal act from Japan have developed a fearsome reputation over the last eighteen months as being a “go-to” band when you want to put on a fantastic live show. Having had their own headline shows and touring with bands such as Bring Me The Horizon and their most high profile tour thus far on the 2014 Kerrang Tour with Limp Bizkit, a Download main stage slot represents another step up for Crossfaith. A band perfect for getting the early part of the festival going on the Friday, the likes of The Evolution and We Are The Future should go down a storm with the Donington masses. Bet the house on Crossfaith, they’re going to be huge. Not familiar with what Crossfaith are capable of? We recommend watching the video for Photosphere below:
Everyone’s favourite metal witch Jill Janus and the Huntress lads are back at Download for the second year running and it is a welcome return for a band who have started to establish a dedicated fan base on this side of the Atlantic. Having entertained the crowds as the opening act for Lamb of God across the UK at the start of the year (winning generally very favourable reviews in the process), Huntress will be returning to The Red Bull tent to play their unique brand of Judas Priest inspired metal for the Donington masses. We’d recommend catching them because it’s fairly reasonable to say they won’t be playing stages of this size at UK festivals for much longer.
Their album The Blackest Beautiful was universally acclaimed by virtually everyone who heard it and they’ve been called one of the most important bands to come along in a generation. With a build up like that, one almost wonders why letlive. are “only” playing The Pepsi Max Tent, but in many other ways it seems like the perfect venue. letlive.’s enigmatic frontman Jason Butler will whip the tent into a frenzy, and we fully expect the band to back up the excellent live reputation they’ve built for themselves over the last couple of years. This could be another springboard for them, much like a performance in the same venue did for home-grown favourite Bury Tomorrow twelve months earlier. Once again, get there early for this one or you could miss out.
Something of a forgotten name in industrial / nu metal for many until they were announced to be part of this year’s Download, Powerman 5000 will be making their Donington début at this year’s festival. Frontman (and only original member) Spider One just happens to be Rob Zombie’s little brother which may have something to do with their appearance on the bill, but a chance to hear songs like When Worlds Collide, Supernova Goes Pop and Drop The Bombshell will go down very well with a certain generation of fans and they may even acquire some new ones too. One for the nu-metal and WWE Attitude Era connoisseur’s among the Download going public.
Another band currently at the top of their careers thus far, Within Temptation have brought symphonic metal to the masses with a UK Top 10 album in the shape of Hydra which has spawned smash hit singles thanks to collaborations with ex Nightwish singer Tarja, rapper Xzibit and Devil You Know / former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones. With the ability to captivate (not to mention sell out) arenas across Europe and beyond, Within Temptation are now at the forefront of symphonic metal and this will be the most high profile performance from a symphonic metal band at Download in the event’s history. The power of Sharon den Adel’s voice is enough to make all but the hardiest doubters sit up and take notice with just a few bars while the rest of the band weave a spell of melody and riffs around her voice. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they’re likely to go down a storm at Donington this year.
The Amity Affliction
Those suffering from comparative metalcore withdrawal ahead of the likes of Bury Tomorrow, While She Sleeps and Killswitch Engage appearing on the main stage on Saturday would do well to visit the Pepsi Max Tent in mid afternoon to check out Australian outfit The Amity Affliction. With their new album Let The Ocean Take Me appearing rapidly on the horizon which looks set to be one of 2014’s top metalcore albums (a fair statement considering the amount of new metalcore albums flying around at the moment) and a Pepsi Max Tent where the circle pits can really get going, This Australian outfit seem set to follow in the considerable footsteps of their compatriots Parkway Drive and become a real force. Our dark horse tip for the day.
Other notable mentions: We would have included Skindred in this list for sure, and the only reason we haven’t is that everyone knows how enjoyable and reliable they are live, especially in a festival situation so you should definitely give them a look as well. A rare trip to the UK by Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society should never be overlooked, and many will relish the chance to see US punk rockers The Offspring performing their breakthrough album Smash in it’s entirety when they headline the second stage. Further down the bill there’s also the likes of Battlecross and Baby Godzilla to be enjoyed in the Red Bull tent, and man of many talents Jamie Lenman will no doubt put on quite a show on the acoustic stage.
Stay tuned as parts two and three of our preview of Download 2014 will be coming next week! If you need any further info or to purchase tickets (both day tickets and weekend tickets are still available), head over to www.downloadfestival.co.uk.