Despite the predictions of a total wash out of Doningtons annual festivities, mother nature had been kind to Download 2016, at least until the Friday. As Team Rock Sins took to the hallowed turf there was still grass to be seen, albeit not for much longer!
First band of the day were Swedes Royal Republic (7), who opened the main stage in typically entertaining form. Some of the tracks from their latest album Weekend Man caught the ear but it was tracks such as Tommy Gun from their breakthrough debut We Are The Royal that typically received the loudest reaction. Closing with the always entertaining (and thoroughly bonkers) Full Steam Space Machine, Royal Republic definitely made themselves some new friends at Download 2016.
Over on the Maverick stage a significantly busy tent is waiting for Zoax (7) to take to the stage. Within seconds front man Adam Carrol is demanding movement from the crowd, everyone quickly obliges and begins bouncing around to the bands jazz enthused post-hardcore. The band continue to keep this energy going throughout their entire set and set a considerably high bar for the bands to follow today.
Next up on the Maverick Stage Nottingham based punks Heck (8). Heck are a band well known for their chaotic live shows and today is no different, even the first song see Matt Reynolds and Jonny Hall (vocals and guitars) flinging themselves around the stage and quickly into the crowd. Unfortunately mid way through Heck’s set the sound is cut due to the band climbing the stage, this is only a small set back as things are quickly resolved and the band continue to power through crowd favourites such as “Good As Dead” and “Power Boat Disaster”. Sadly the band find their sound cut again as they finish their set, although annoying it doesn’t tarnish the set at all, it seems that the entire crowd and band have loved this set and it won’t be one easily forgotten.
Babymetal (6) were always going to split opinion, and Download 2016 was no different on that front. It seemed that their presence had angered mother nature herself (perhaps with a few words from Lemmy) as their set was delayed by around 25 minutes due to perhaps the heaviest ever downpour to hit the fields of Donington. When Su-Metal and co did finally take to the stage along with their (admittedly heavy as fuck) masked backing band it was the mishmash many would have expected. With that said, there was something very endearing about seeing Su asking for a circle pit and asking for more from the audience (“bigger, bigger!”). The Donington masses duly obliged, merging multiple pits into one huge one. Love them or hate them, you couldn’t take your eyes off Babymetal.
Normality then resumed as Killswitch Engage (9) were on absolutely magical form from start to finish. Opening with Strength Of The Mind, they spent the next 50 minutes ploughing through songs from old favourites like Fixation On The Darkness & This Is Absolution to new songs like Hate By Design and Alone I Stand. Songs new and old alike were greeted with huge responses, while Adam D’s infamous stage banter reached new heights (or lows, depending on your view point). Between dedicating a song to “Urinary Tract Infection” (which took him about 6 goes to say and left Jesse Leach in fits of laughter) and telling an audience member their mother was going to be first in line for some post-show lovin’, there was never a dull moment to be had. The last third was pure Killswitch Engage gold – My Last Serenade, Rose Of Sharyn, End Of Heartache, My Curse, all hailed more loudly than the previous. Closing with In Due Time, anyone who saw this will be counting the days until Killswitch Engage return to the UK in December.
Counting Days (7) come out to a very packed out Dogtooth Stage and it’s instantly clear why they’re one of the most exciting new metal bands around right now. They fire through 30 minutes of heavy metal songs with a pure hardcore aggression and have large amounts of the crowd either opening pits or shouting along. Although short it’s an incredibly strong set and proves that Counting Days could be playing a significant role in the future of British heavy metal.
Some bands early in the day have struggled to gain larger crowds on the Lemmy Stage due to the weather, this is not however the case with Korn (7) as they pull an incredibly large crowd. Korn are almost a cult band here at Download festival as it seems as if everyone here is watching them and bouncing along and absolutely loving every moment of this career spanning setlist. Many say that Korn have missed their chance to be headlining arenas and even festivals like this, but today’s set rivals many currently festival headliners and suggests that at some point in the coming years, Korn could be back on the top of these festival bills.
Mid way through Korn’s set Twin Atlantic (8) take to the Zippo Encore stage and it is instantly clear they have got one of the most unfortunate stage times of the whole festival. For a band who are just a stones throw away from headlining arenas, they come on to a shockingly small crowd and it hardly seems like this will be a standout set of the weekend. The band make a bold move by opening with a new track “Gold Elephant: Cherry Aligator” but it doesn’t seem to pay off and sadly gives the set a quite slow start. Despite a lack of reaction from the crowd the band aren’t going to let this stop them and they themselves still give an absolutely incredible sounding performance, around half way through their set things seem to really pick up once the band drop “I Am An Animal”, Twin Atlantic are finally getting the reaction they deserve from this small but passionate crowd and this attitude continues throughout the entire set.
Similarly to Twin Atlantic, All Time Low (8.5) seem to have drawn an incredibly small crowd this evening, all though they are the second stage headliner, it somewhat understandably seems like Download Festival is just not their ideal crowd. This doesn’t seem to phase All Time Low in the slightest, opening up with “Kids In The Dark” instantly gets everyone here jumping and dancing along whilst the band carry on with the same attitude they would when playing a sold out arena show. All Time Low have pulled out all the stops today, they’ve thought of everything from challenging Rammstein with a considerably large amount of pyros, to getting a group of fans onstage to help sing “Time Bomb”, to even things as simple as a great career spanning setlist that even included old classics such as “Jasey Rae”. It may not be a huge crowd watching All Time Low today but it’s incredibly clear that everyone here is absolutely loving it and having a extremely fun time.
Rammstein (8.5) were on fire (literally) as always, but a barrage of technical difficulties meant that the German industrial metal legends set didn’t quite have it’s usual earth shattering impact. The new opening track that we were treated to (referred to by some as Ramm 4) was a brilliant way to kick things off, and the opening half hour or so was notably different to previous recent Rammstein UK shows. Songs like Reise Reise and the rarely heard Zerstören were given welcome airings, before things ramped up considerably with Feuer Frei and Ich Tu De Weh either side of another lesser heard song of recent times in Seimann.
What was unfortunately detracting from the usual brilliance all the way through was the constant crackling from the bank of speakers on the right hand side of the main stage. Seemingly several adjustments were made (including turning the volume down a fair bit) but nothing seemed to overcome the issue. The band seemed increasingly frustrated at various points, culminating in Till Lindemann aiming a broken microphone at the poor stagehand who came to replace it. But nothing was going to stop the wet Download masses enjoying the world’s premiere non English speaking metal band, even if the sound was a bit on the dodgy side.
From that point on it was solid Rammstein classics; Du Riechst So Gut, Mein Herz Brennt, Links 2-3-4, Ich Will, Du Hast all sending the crowd, for want of a better expression, absolutely batshit. Till and friends had brought some new toys with them too, with various new pyro tricks added to some of the usual suspects, the most impressive of which was the pyro riser added near the sound stage during Du Hast which still had it’s usual fireworks (literally). Even with all of this Rammstein are still capable of greater surprises; closing the main part of the set with a cover of Depeche Mode’s Stripped is certainly not something many would’ve expected, but it was a hugely impressive cover.
The encore was something special as always, a booming rendition of Sonne and a stripped back acoustic performance of Ohne Dich which took many by surprise before the flaming angel wings came out and Till took flight for the set closing Engel. Absolutely brilliant as always, it’s just such a shame it was marred by the sound issues, meaning Rammstein couldn’t quite live up to 2013’s life affirming performance through no fault of their own.
With the pyro extinguished and the rain still firmly falling, day one at Download 2016 came to a close. Stay tuned for our reviews of days two and three very soon!
Words by Jamie Giberti and Fran Dignon.