Download Festival 2016 Sunday Review – The Book Of Souls

Download Festival 2016 Second Announcement Poster header

Due to some unforeseen circumstances we’ve had a few issues in getting the final part of our Download 2016 festival coverage published for your enjoyment but better late than never, here it is! For anyone who didn’t see it the first time around, or who would like a refresher, You can catch up with the first two days coverage on the links below:

Download 2016 Day One – Friday
Download 2016 Day Two – Saturday

And now, on with the action…

Heads may be sore, limbs may be tired but all of that should’ve been shaken off instantly because Amon Amarth (9.5) have brought their full production to Download, even though their set is at midday. The site of the five mighty Norsemen powering through songs such as Deceiver Of The Gods and First Kill with various members stood atop the gigantic dragon heads with flaming jets firing off at will is something that truly needed to be seen to be fully appreciated. Concluding with the one-two punch of Guardians Of Asgard and Twilight Of The Thunder God, Amon Amarth managed to upstage every other band who’d taken to the stage at Download 2016 before them. They were on absolutely world beating form, and excitement levels for their November tour are now at an all time high. JG

Amon Amarth Download Festival 2016
Vikings, dragons, fire and metal. What more could you want?.

They may not have fire or dragons but that didn’t stop British doom metal flag fliers Witchsorrow (8) from packing out the Doghouse Tent for half an hour of seriously good homegrown riffs. Songs such as There Is No Light, There Is Only Fire were made for locations such as Download as a tent full of people bang their heads and the hair flies absolutely everywhere. The band (Necroskull, Emily Witch and Wilbrahammer) look like they’re having a blast (as much as a doom metal band can anyway) and the mood is reflected amongst the ever growing audience. A triumph for a band who have been stalwarts of the UK metal underground for the last few years. JG

Nekroskull of Witchsorrow on stage at Download 2016
Witchsorrow’s Nekroskull: Flying the gloomy flag for doom.

Today’s weather saw a lot of people flocking to the Maverick stage to find some shelter, sadly this also meant finding Attila (2). 30 minutes of incredibly generic and offensive American Metalcore shows a complete split in the crowd here today. Half seem to be in the palm of frontman Fronz’s hand, loving every minute, sexist slurs and all. However towards the back of the tent there are definitely some contrasting opinions regarding Attila’s set today and it’s almost refreshing to see not everyone has been drawn in by what was possibly the most offensive and unnecessary 30 minutes of the weekend. FD

After Attila bring such a disappointing start to the day, it’s good to see Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes (9) are here to shake things up. Frank Carter has always been known for his particularly chaotic live shows and the Rattlesnakes definitely live up to that today. The Rattlesnakes prove why they’re considered one of the most exciting bands around right now, calling for circle pits that go around the entire outside of the tent. Sadly the energy takes a slight dip when Frank calls for a Wall of Death that unfortunately gets their sound cut off, however after a very brief break and many apologies from Frank and the band the sound is back on and the Rattlesnakes continue with even more fire than before, and therefore end one of the best sets of the entire weekend.

By this point schedules are getting re-written all over the place and the mud is getting rather soupy but none of that matters when Lzzy Hale is commanding the Lemmy stage for Halestorm (8) in a fashion that Lemmy himself would’ve approved of. The songs from 2012’s breakthrough album The Strange Case Of… are always the highlight of a Halestorm show but recent single I Am The Fire sounded absolutely enormous while Mayhem got the pits going and ensured a few people got that bit more muddy. The only downside was Arejay’s insistence of having a drum solo in every show the band plays (please Arejay, give the giant drum sticks a rest for awhile). Halestorm, and Lzzy Hale in particular, were born to play on stages like this. Expect them to be even higher up the bill next time they’re here. JG

From the mistress of the riff to one of the all time great masters; The Maverick Tent is absolutely crammed full to see Mark Tremonti and his Tremonti solo project (8). Download 2016 finds Mark and co in absolutely blistering form with the opening salvos of Another Heart, Cauterize and You Waste Your Time met with thunderous responses. The material from new album Dust sounds even heavier in person, and impresses the fans who by now are several deep outside the tent. With Alter Bridge set to return shortly Tremonti the band are likely to be on hiatus for awhile but they will be welcomed back with open arms on this showing. JG

Faced with the enormity of clashing with Disturbed Main Stage set (as well as the continuing nightmare that is navigating the Download site) are Bristol ‘New Grave’ outfit Ashestoangels (9), who have recently been making waves in the UK rock scene thanks to their stellar fourth studio album How To Bleed, and an ever-growing fearsome live reputation. Led by one-man-charisma-factory Adam Crilly, the band are on killer form from the off – beginning with the quirky alt-punk of Horror Cult proves a master-stroke in getting the Dogtooth Stage crowd moving. Today is also, for many, an introduction to the band’s new and improved lineup which sees Chris Kiddier joining on bass along with Nikki Kontinen on keyboards. The result is, put simply, one of the most enjoyable sets of the day – if not the whole weekend. Fan favourites like Dorian sit comfortably alongside more recent cuts, and the entire tent seems to chant along to every chorus with gleeful enthusiasm. Crilly himself appears a ball of energy throughout – charging up and down the stage in-between verses and taking every opportunity to acquaint himself with the front rows of the audience. A guest appearance from As Sirens Fall’s Mikey Lord for Bury Us In Black also proves very popular. It’s a ridiculously high-energy performance, and one that should cement ASHESTOANGELS as one of the most exciting things to happen in British rock for a long time. JFW

Ashestoangels on stage at Download Festival 2016
Ashestoangels’ Crilly: Jack in a box on stage.

Over on the main stage Disturbed (5) continue to do what they do: making an entire career off the back of having a couple of successful songs that they’ve recycled endlessly for the next decade and a bit. “That cover” that has recently introduced Disturbed to the mainstream music consciousness in the UK makes an appearance (Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence) and is far more enjoyable than the band’s original material, as are the special guests. Lzzy Hale in particular returns to blow David Draiman away during a partial duet of U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m A Looking For while Ex Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley and Breaking Benjamin’s Ben Burley are also totted up for covers. As expected the assembled throng of Download goers go off in droves to Down With The Sickness, but it all feels a bit forced and laboured and leaves you with a glass half empty feeling. JG

Over on the Zippo Encore stage Don Broco (7) are here to represent British rock at Download and sadly like other bands similar to them, the crowd size this evening is rather underwhelming. Don Broco aren’t letting this stop them and they’re bringing the party like they always do. Also possibly more than any other band this weekend, Don Broco’s fans are some of the most dedicated here. Horrific amounts of rain and mud clearly won’t ever stop Don Broco’s push up squad from doing their thing during Thug Workout and from getting the whole crowd bouncing throughout their entire set. Don Broco seem to have a lot standing against them this evening but they’re here to prove themselves and show Download Festival why they deserve to be one of the biggest British Rock bands around right now. FD

Forced and laboured is definitely not an expression you could use to describe Gojira (8), who are mesmerizing and punishing in equal measures. Opening with Toxic Garbage Island was a real curve ball from a band who always have the ability to surprise, and from that point forward just assaulted the senses with an array of favourites old and new. Highlights included the obligatory earth shattering Heaviest Matter Of The Universe, while new songs Stranded and Silvera sounded far too huge for the confines of the Maverick Tent. From there on it’s classic Gojira as they lay waste to those in attendance with Flying Whales (complete with blow up whale who did indeed fly, as is almost mandatory) and then a crushingly heavy one-two finale of Backbone and Vacuity. Next time they’re at Donington, they will be MUCH higher up the bill on a bigger stage, that is virtually guaranteed. JG

Next up on the Zippo Encore stage are Canadian punk rockers Billy Talent (9). Billy Talent have pulled out all the stops with their stage show this evening and they’re putting on a live show to match. Opening with Devil In A Midnight Mass kicks things off with a very energetic start and this energy is kept up through the entirety of the set. One surprise is that unlike many other bands this weekend the new songs Billy Talent drop are received incredibly well, particularly “Louder Than The DJ”. Billy Talent carry on their 45 minute set, packing it full of classic fan favourites as well as the title track off their new album “Afraid Of Heights” and there isn’t a dull moment. The only thing that would have made this set better is if it had been longer, for a band who’s back catalogue is as impressive as Billy Talents, a 45 minute set is simply not long enough for them. FD

After such a high quality day of music, it seems only fitting that it falls to the mighty Iron Maiden (9) to close proceedings. Often suggestions of setlists packed with songs from a band’s latest album can fill fans with trepidation, but there was much excitement for what was to come from The Book Of Souls; justifyably so as it turns out, because the songs from Maiden’s best album since Brave New World sound even better in the flesh.

A beginning that involved If Eternity Should Fail, Speed Of Light and the particularly impressive Tears of a Clown (dedicated to Robin Williams) was hugely enjoyable. Bruce Dickinson was on great form, occasionally struggling with the high parts of Speed Of Light but that was the only minor blemish throughout the entire set. With so much new material included when it came to older material there was time only for the cream of the crop, so selections of The Trooper and especially Powerslave fit alongside The Book of Souls material perfectly. The second trip to The Book of Souls, for Death or Glory and the title track was equally impressive, touched off with some nice staging for the title track.

Iron Maiden Download Festival 2016
Steve Harris and co making it look easy, as they do.

From there on out it was Iron Maiden at full power with classic after classic; Hallowed Be Thy Name always sounds best when it’s being bellowed back at Maiden by 80,000 people and Download 2016 was no exception. That they could go straight from there into Fear Of The Dark feels almost obscene, but that’s exactly what happened. Iron Maiden was used to close the main portion of the set, but it was merely seconds until the red lights darkened and the intro to The Number Of The Beast boomed over the Donington PA. Always a highlight, but it was overshadowed somewhat this time by Bruce Dickinson’s passionate tribute to the victims of the Orlando Shootings followed by a titantic rendition of Blood Brothers. It would’ve been fitting if they had stopped right there, but instead a sprint through Wasted Years brought things to an almighty conclusion.

After the debacle of 2013, Iron Maiden were certainly back on top form at Donington and it was wonderful to see. The Book Of Souls has given the band a new lease of life and as long as everyone stays healthy, lets hope they are able to continue for many years to come. A fitting end to another fantastic Download Festival despite the knee deep mud by the end of Sunday, all that’s left to say is Team Rock Sins will see you all next year at Download 2017!


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