Its Middle Saturday at the 2019 Download Festival. The mixed weather continues, once again the entire field is covered with straw and of course there are the obligatory hangovers (and bangovers) but come 11am thousands of eager metal heads are present in the fields of Donington once again. They are present, ready in expectation of one of the most eagerly awaited main stage openers at Download in quite some time. We are of course talking about Alien Weaponry (9), and what a performance it was.
For the uninitiated, Alien Weaponry are three young men from New Zealand, aged just 18, 17 and 17. They incorporate elements of the traditional New Zealand Mauri culture into their songs, leading them to be dubbed (quite aptly) Mauri metal. Donington hasn’t heard or seen anything like this perhaps since 2005 when a group of young upstarts collectively known as Trivium (more on them later) announced themselves to the world in such spectacular fashion. Songs like Kai Tangata and the closing R? Ana Te Whenua have such power about them – both in terms of heaviness and riffery, and in the impact they make on the listener in the way the songs are crafted. If they are this good already, then they could achieve literally anything if they can maintain this quality. JG
Armed with only a debut album to their name, Bad Wolves (9) stake their claim as one of those most formidable live acts that have emerged as an overnight success on their Donington debut. There may only have been enough time for a meagre six songs but the Bad Wolves didn’t just throw down hard, they caused serious carnage down on the Zippo Stage launching into Learn To Live. Whether it was the Newport Helicopter borrowed from Skindred for No Masters or the enormous Wall of Death for Officer Down, Bad Wolves earned a reception usually reserved for the headliners – all before midday! They closed affairs with their now infamous cover of The Cranberries Zombie. The entire field was with them singing together with Tommy Vext who even ventured into the mud for a little crowd surf mid-song. Those in attendance know they’ve witnessed the start of even bigger things for this Las Vegas based quartet and this is only the beginning. It’s unlikely they’ll ever play Download this early again. CF
Texan hardcore thrash crossover favourites Power Trip (7) don’t usually fuck about live, and their Download set is zero exception. When you can drop a song as good as Executioners Tax (Swing The Axe) second in your setlist, watch the circle pits fly and carry on like you were having Sunday lunch, you know Riley Gale and co are in the zone.
Power Trip’s live powers, which were on full display on their tour with Trivium last year, are becoming ever more renown on both sides of the Atlantic, and getting to showcase tracks like Hornet’s Nest, Murderer’s Row and the set closing Crossbreaker to one of their biggest ever crowds is something they very much deserve. JG
Epica (8) are relative strangers to UK Festivals having only done Bloodstock and Hammerfest in 2007 and 2010 respectively so their Donington debut is way over-due and they’re rewarded with a sizable crowd to boot on their first live show of 2019. They even brought pyro with them. Vocalist Simone Simon’s dazzles from the first notes of The Essence Of Silence and Storm The Sorrow as flames engulf the front of the Zippo stage. Keyboardist Coen Jansen takes a trip down to the barricades with his round keyboard in tow during the majestic Victims Of Contingency as Epica show off their virtuoso musicianship across the song. They end with their signature ten-minute epic Consign To Oblivion aka the perfect mash up of classical music entwined with Metal, which sparks a massive wall of death – a rarity for an Epica show. Harsh Vocalist and Guitarist Mark Jansen is in his element though and tells the enthusiastic crowd in the “mud pits” to hold before bringing everyone in as blast beats kick in and the symphonies roar across Donington one last time. Make no mistake about it – their performance is outstanding from start to finish – but the Epica die-hards in attendance leave knowing that five songs just isn’t enough for Epica to truly hit their stride. CF
There’s something very strange about seeing black metal royalty like Behemoth (7) in the mid afternoon sunlight. The weather and time of day mattered not, for there was a fucking enormous crowd present to see Nergal and his cohorts on their biggest UK performance ever, and it’s not an opportunity they did not waste. Any misgivings from the opening Wolves Ov Siberia are quickly dispelled when they drop the thunderstorm that is Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer straight afterwards. Equally as welcome is when they drop Ov Fire And The Void soon after, Nergal flanked by Orion and Seth prowling the stage as that main riff which is heavy enough to topple an elephant is absorbed by the assembled masses.
Nergal referenced the throng in attendance, and rightly so, inviting everyone present to unite to “Conquer All” to a huge reaction, one that only grew with the introduction of the brilliant Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel before finishing with the obligatory Chant For Eschaton 2000. As one might expect, Behemoth as a live entity are tight, incredibly so, but on today’s showing, things just feel a tad static and over rehearsed. Given it was their biggest UK performance to date, one couldn’t fault them for wanting to be prepared, but Behemoth are a band who’s music has always felt very organic, and this performance was just lacking in that a bit. JG
When the stroll on to stage country rockers Brothers Osborne (8) seem confused about how they landed a second stage slot at the UK’s biggest metal festival. While not an obvious fit, their brand of whiskey soaked, guitar fuelled, southern prog rock is a welcome change on this heavy hitting Saturday at Donington. With riffs aplenty, brothers John and TJ delight the decent sized crowd as they give us a short but perfectly formed performance that quickly has toes tapping and bodies moving.
Taken from their latest album, ‘Weed, Whiskey and Willie’ goes down a storm, as does a drawn-out rendition of ‘It Ain’t My Fault’ which features a substantial guitar solo and more Southern goodness than biscuits and gravy. Brothers Osborne deliver a fantastic set of bluesy country rock that convinces even John Osborne that they might just belong at Download Festival after all. LF
Looking around the enormous crowd of people, it’s easy to see why Skindred (9) got bumped from the 2nd stage to the main and the excitement bubbles over, despite the driving rain, when Benji Webb marches into view while dressed as some kind of fashionista Iron Patriot and quickly works the crowd into an absolute frenzy for the next 45 minutes. Sound the Siren and Pressure kick things off and then it’s just banger after banger and possibly my personal highlight from the entire weekend, Gary Stringer from Reef got onstage to duet with Benji on Machine. That man’s voice has not wavered in 20+ years and sounded just PERFECT for getting up with the Skindred crew.
Throw in some audience participation to samples of California Love and Out of Space and (albeit slightly obvious set closers) of Nobody and Warning and pretty much everyone in attendance would agree Skindred came pretty fucking close to stealing the weekend. Absolutely nobody on that stage or any other worked the crowd like Benji did and when the weather refuses to let even a shred of sunshine through, that kind of frontman is exactly what the Download Dog ordered. GL
Trivium (9.5) have a long standing affinity with Download Festival and now almost 15 years after *that* main stage debut they returned to the hallowed Donington grounds for round five, and their first time on the main stage since 2012.
All hell broke loose when the double-kick blast beats thundered in for the heavy as fuck Beyond Oblivion as fists were thrust into the air and waves of fans jumped liked their lives depended on it. Until The World Goes Cold sounded a thousand times heavier live than it does on record, and Strife was so popular you had thousands of people singing the guitar riff, never mind the words. Matt Heafy declared he wanted EIGHT circle pits ahead of the drumming madness unleashed by Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr to beat previous records, you bet he sure as hell got at least 16 pits going. In Waves saw the crowd get down low and give everything they had left for one last dance with Trivium. As fireworks rocketed on stage and Co2 Cannons blasted, the crowd ricocheted off the mud yelling “In Waves” in unison in a final bid to beat the Austrian Nova Rock crowd the day before. A thrilling end to a convincing set dominated by The Sin And The Sentence album.
Trivium has been criticised on this tour run for the lack of Ascendancy in the set – and yes we too love, love, love Ascendancy a lot – but let us tell you this, seeing Heafy et al rely less on the coat tails of Ascendancy and receive equally as huge singalongs and circle pits to their new school hits proved the Floridan metallers aren’t out of the headliner race just yet. The band declared this the UK show of their careers and we definitely think they’ll be hard pushed to top this one. Many have all but written Trivium off over the years but this performance proves they still have much, much more left to give and perhaps that elusive headliner slot is finally within grasp. CF
“Check out Batushka (4), they’re really nice guys” – those words plus another sudden downpour saw us taking refuge in the Dogtooth Stage. Here we encounter the black metal band formed by Krzysztof Drabikowski. Their music and lyrics are inspired by the Eastern Orthodox Church and written in Old Church Slavonic language, yet they are not explicitly Christian, anti-Christian or Pagan. Ok so, forgetting that for a second, does their name make anyone else want to sing Kate Bush, or is that just us?
We think they played three songs, but honestly it was quite hard to tell, what with their late arrival followed by a very lengthy intro (so long we didn’t actually realise the band had started for quite some time), chanting, and extensive candle lighting (so many candles). We understand that rituals are a big part of their aesthetic, but when you only have a 45 minute set (and are late coming on) surely that should be spend showcasing your music? Once things got going the riffs from these robe wearing fiends were wonderfully hypnotic and immersive, but having checked out some of their previous performances, we were expecting more and left feeling a bit short changed. The band have recently undergone controversial line-up split, leading to two warring factions, so perhaps today’s performance can be attributed to that. Batushka really are a band that need to be seen in the flesh, we just hope their style is backed up by greater substance in future. LF
“This festival said they want to book us and we said what the fuck? But all these fucking metalheads want to see us so fuck it!” says Die Antwoord (7) rapper Ninja and apparently they really did. Drawing a frankly enormous crowd for a music style so radically different from the rest of the festival, the South Africans actually also managed to convince the sun to show its face for their ENTIRE set, while thousands of “fucking metalheads” bounced away with shit eating grins on their faces, possibly proving that metalheads and rockers actually DO have the most diverse taste in music of all the music fans out there.
I Fink U Freeky gets a huge reception, but its around that time I start to wonder if singer/rapper Yolandi Visser is in fact miming. For those who haven’t heard the duo before, hers is a very unique sounding voice and is almost a whisper with no actual power behind it unlike a lot of singers, so it seems strange to me that she is able to cut through all that bass and other music blasting through the speakers so audibly. Maybe it is possible, maybe they just have really good sound engineers, but the main point is that they were a lot of fun and I didn’t see a single person walk away disappointed or regretting taking the time to watch (Editor’s note – I saw a shit tonne of them doing a mass evac up the hill to Halestorm). I mean, some were confused as shit, but no one was disappointed… GL
Halestorm (7) have worked hard to get where they are around the world, a feat I’m sure isn’t easy with your brother and boyfriend in the band, but Lzzy Hale has led them to headlining the second / Zippo stage on the hallowed turf of Download Festival and I’m sure more great things will beckon from this point forwards. Having looked forward to this set all weekend, I wasn’t sure Do Not Disturb was the best choice of opener, but it was quickly followed by the awesome Uncomfortable, so things got rocking properly. Lzzy’s voice was frankly unbelievable from beginning to end, including bringing it down to a chilled out acoustic level for The Silence. An attempted sprint to the bar for a mid-set pint turned into a particularly slow moving queue at the bar….but at least I didn’t miss much, although it turned one thing I did miss was the anticipated drum solo, when I must have blinked or something and just saw Arejay Hale take out his signature hilarious “big sticks” (literally oversized drumsticks) and just basically do an extended drum fill before the band all returned to the stage for Freak Like Me.
Closing on standard banger I Miss The Misery, it’s apparent all the “proper” fans have had a great time, whilst some of us more casual ones felt like something was a little bit lacking, although it’s difficult to say what – did we expect more of a show? More pyro? Less harping on about what dream come true it all was (I mean surely no one dreams of just headlining the SECOND stage?)? I couldn’t say what was missing, but I must stress the band played well and did their thing and really isn’t that all we want from a rock band? We love our bands BECAUSE of what they do and who they are, so why do anything different? GL
Watching Slipknot headline Download for the first time in 2009 was something akin to a religious, almost out-of-body experience. One of the top 5 moments in Download Festival history for sure. Their two subsequent headline appearances have been great, but they’ve not managed to hit the heights of 2009 again on Donington soil. Until now. Ten years on from that first, career defining performance, Slipknot (10) went and did it again.
From the opening note of People = Shit to the very last reverb of Surfacing, the fields of Donington were turned into the biggest moshpit war zone perhaps the hallowed turf has ever seen. Whether you were down the front in the true warzone, or even halfway up the hill, Donington Park descended into anarchy. It’s hardly surprising when the opening consisted of the aforementioned People = Shit straight into (sic) into Get This. I mean come on now, who actually does that?! With Corey Taylor in fierce, magnificent form, their newest as yet unknown member a whirlwind about the stage and Clown presented and accounted for (a surprise given his recent family personal tragedy), this was a Slipknot on the very top of their game.
Anyone wondering how the new material would go down clearly hasn’t been paying attention. Within seconds of Unsainted kicking in, the maggots of Donington were singing along to the choir refrain, never mind the actual song. Then as soon as the main riff kicked in it was back to moshpit city (not to be confused with suplex city of course, though we imagine some may have felt like they’d been to suplex city on Sunday morning). Every song brought a more thunderous reaction than the previous. Hearing the opening lyrics to Disasterpiece being sung by 80,000 plus people is always an experience to put it mildly, while the fields of Donington will have been shaking from the collective bouncing to Before I Forget. Psychosocial produced another absurd balance between a war zone and an epic singing battle between Corey and their fans as to who could be loudest. You’d be forgiven for thinking by this point Download would be flagging a tad. Not one bit when Slipknot were putting on a show like this. Custer’s now infamous “Cut Cut Cut Me Up And Fuck Fuck Fuck Me Up” has probably never been sung more loudly or so fiercely by a festival crowd. Sulfur was a hugely welcome deeper cut – and one of Corey’s most impressive performances in a night full of them. Concluding the main part of the set with All Out Life with a period of quiet before perhaps the most well known intro of any Slipknot song (…..I push my fingers into my….) – Duality set Download 2019 ablaze. And Slipknot weren’t done either.
It should be noted how impressive the Slipknot staging was (there was more than a touch of the Rammstein 2012 tour production about their set up for those who remember it), but when every single member of a band is performing to this level, such things are an afterthought. Download was indeed ready to go down in history one more time with Slipknot as Jay Weinberg took us home on Spit It Out with the usual levels of carnage ensuing, before a brutal Surfacing concluded one of the best performances in the sixteen years thus far of the Download Festival. That is not an overexaggeration. Slipknot were simply that good on this night. On this form, live, Rammstein are perhaps the only other band of this size who could still deliver a performance of this quality and intensity – and even they might struggle. A mindblowingly wonderful performance that everyone who was here will remember for a very, very long time. JG
And so, the second day of Download 2019 ends. Stay tuned for the final part of our Download Festival 2019 in-depth review, and if you haven’t read it yet, don’t forget to check out our review of the first day of Download 2019 too!
Words by Jamie Giberti (JG), Claire Frays (CF), Greg Latham (GL) and Lisa Fox (LF). All photos by Jamie Giberti and Claire Frays except Corey Taylor which is by Matt Higgs.