Download Festival 2022 – Saturday Review

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After the thoroughly great first day of Download Festival 2022 (read our Friday Download 2022 review here if you missed it), it was time to go again for the often legendary Middle Saturday. A quick shower and back to the arena it was! Things got going a little later than planned thanks to Iron Maiden’s crew having some reported rigging issues (hardly surprising with a full size replica Spitfire – more on that later) but that wasn’t going to dampen enthusiasm on another gloriously sunny Donington day.

Our first band on Saturday afternoon, Those Damn Crows (8) are the perfect wake up call for anyone still feeling the effects of the night before. Brimming over with Southern swagger, the Welsh rockers take to the stage with a confidence that exceeds their years. In particular vocalist Shane Greenhall, who commands the crowd with ease and enthusiasm during their short but impactful set.

Enjoyable throughout, they slowly but surely pull more and more of the audience out of their hangovers. However, it’s the closing double bill of Sin on Skin and ever present Rock N Roll Ain’t Dead that really brings things home for the boys from across the border. With hips swaying and hands raised around the arena throughout, proving once again that Those Damn Crows are force to be reckoned with. Even when a lot of us are still half asleep! HL

Speaking of forces to be reckoned with, it’s time for a band that have gone from strength to strength since their last appearance here at Download, Malevolence (9). The Sheffield based demolition crew have pulled a huge crowd over to the second stage for their highly anticipated set this afternoon too and they do not disappoint in the slightest.

Guitarists Konan Hall and Josh Baines unleash hell upon the front row as soon as the band’s introduction fades out. With the opening riff to Malicious Intent hitting everyone in the vicinity like a sledgehammer and causing circle pits to appear as if from nowhere

Alex Taylor prowls the stage like a seasoned general, pausing only to command more chaos and carnage from his obedient audience as the band plough on, each breakdown more bone shattering than the last. Until finally, Keep Your Distance signals an end to the brutality and Tappsel calls everyone to turn the second stage into a warzone one last time. Something they’re only too happy to do. Main stage next year? We hope so! HL

Malevolence’s Alex Taylor – photo by Jemma Dodd

It’s off to The Avalanche Stage next to take a break from mid-afternoon sun and check out Loathe (8.5) who sound ferocious as they tear into opening track, Aggressive Evolution.

The prog metal five piece from Liverpool sound impeccable throughout in fact. Balancing the kind of down tuned polyrhythmic filth Meshuggah would be proud of, alongside a mellower more ethereal sound that would be immediately familiar to shoegazers and Deftones fans alike.

Lead singer Kadeem France holds everyone’s attention with his undeniable stage presence too. Ordering waves crowd surfers over the barrier during final track White Hot and by the time the dust has settled, there’s the feeling that anyone not here to witness their performance today has missed out on a treat. HL

A capacity crowd awaited Holding Absence (8) at the Avalanche Stage, hardly surprising given the last twelve months they’ve had. The now traditional opener of Celebration Song did not materialise, with the band launching straight into the lively Curse Me With Your Kiss. Material for the energetic set is split across the bands full catalogue, with Drummer Ashley Green adding extra kick drum fills all over the place, adding to the highly impressive performance. The reaction to new single Aching Longing and especially Afterlife show what a brilliant 12 months Lucas Woodland and the rest of Holding Absence have had. Closing as they always do with the emotional Wilt, Download 2022 goes down as another triumph for Holding Absence. Main stage next time perhaps? JG

Lucas Woodland of Holding Absence – photo by Jemma Dodd

Over on the main stage, Zakk Wylde and the rest of the Black Label Society (7.5) put on a strong if slightly by the numbers effort for their UK chapter. All of the right ingredients are there, but even the trademark wall of amplifiers can’t hide the fact that their set is missing the kind of electricity that the viking axeman and co. usually bring with them to the stage.

Crowd pleasers like Bleed for Me and Fire It Up go down well, with fists pumping the air around the arena to the beat. The usual guitar solo interlude, normally dominated by Ozzys right hand man, really benefits from the involvement of Dario Lorina too. With the pair trading guitar acrobatics with the kind of old school showmanship that most would avoid for being too clichéd.

A familiar double bill of Suicide Messiah and Stillborn bring a fitting end to the proceedings. However, despite a couple of standout moments BLS never really gain enough momentum to make their appearance at this year’s Download truly memorable. HL

Scottish metal favourites Bleed From Within (8.5) should never have been on The Dogtooth Stage, judging by the overflowing crowd that awaited them. They may not have had the pyro that they brought to the Download Pilot twelve months earlier, but they brought an intensity so fierce the spirit of William Wallace would have been proud of them. New album Shrine is arguably a career best and the likes of Levitate sound absolutely enormous as the capacity crowd bellow every word back at the band. As they close with a tectonically heavy The End Of All We Know, even Scott Kennedy’s vocals getting slightly muddied in the mix at times can’t stop this being a total triumph. They should never play a stage this small at Download again. JG

Despite having been on the scene for two decades, it’s taken a while for Shinedown (8) to climb their way this high up the bill. The Florida quartet thrive in the late afternoon sun though, bounding onto the mainstage accompanied by bursts of flame to start things off with The Saints of Violence and Innuendo.

There are a few anthemic singalong moments to be had, with Bully and Second Chance going down particularly well. With many climbing onto the shoulders of someone nearby to join in with vocalist Brent Smith during the latter.

It’s their final track, Sound of Madness that gets the biggest reaction though. With the old fam favourite receiving an ovation that lasts long after the final chord has finishing ringing out around the arena. HL

Creeper (7.5) are their usual effervescent selves, but for the first time this Download Festival for Rock Sins sound issues threaten to get the better of what is otherwise a highly enjoyable show. The bass is so high in the mix Will and Hannah are sometimes drowned out, but there are thousands of willing volunteers on hand to boost the vocals. Recent single Midnight is a high point in a set powered mostly by 2020 album Sex, Death and the Infinite Void. Will Ghould works the crowd with a skill well beyond his years, and there are plenty of tears around for the climatic rendition of Misery. It’s not quite at the level of their breathtaking Download Pilot set a year ago, but it is still very good. JG

Will Ghould of Creeper – photo by Jemma Dodd

Despite all the hype around todays show, Deftones (6) fail to impress even with a setlist full of nu-metal classics and nearly ninety minutes to deliver them. Chino Moreno, one of only two original members present on this tour; consistently struggles to hit the higher end of his vocal range. Leaving a good portion of the singing up to the audience. Something which isn’t a problem during their bigger hits like Be Quiet and Drive. However when the Deftones lean back into one of their more experimental numbers the space he leaves behind in the mix becomes immediately apparent.

Lance Jackman, Stephen Carpenters replacement for this short run of European shows; does a reasonable job filling in. However, without Sergio Vega to back him up on the bass guitar their sound lacks it’s usual thickness. There seems to be some chemistry missing on stage as well and while serviceable, there’s nothing exceptional about the performance so many have been looking forward to.

For those that just want to hear My Own Summer, everything will seem present and correct. For hardcore fans though, this is a set that feels lethargic at best and leaves them questioning their expectations by the time it draws to a close. HL

Given Megadeth (9) frontman Dave Mustaine’s well documented battle with throat cancer and the band’s line up issues, it could be understood that the huge crowd in attendance for Saturday night’s Opus Stage headliners weren’t sure what kind of show they might get. They need not have worried. From the opening Hangar 18 it is clear all four members of Megadeth mean business.

Former Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren and recently returned bassist James Lomenzo take turns beaming away as they thunder through material from across Megadeth’s extensive catalogue. Dave Mustaine may be singing a little lower but is on good form, sounding particularly menacing on The Threat Is Real. Dread And The Fugitive Mind and Angry Again are pulled from the archives to the delight of the hardcore fans in attendance. Kiko Loureiro aka the Brazilian Riff machine does a great job throughout, taking turns with Mustaine on the likes of Sweating Bullets and Dystopia.

The heavens threaten to open for a brief moment, with a smattering of rain producing a rainbow over the Opus Stage during a thunderous Symphony Of Destruction. One of those beautiful moments of music and nature syncing together perfectly. There’s only one way a Megadeth show ends in recent years and it’s with the can’t miss combo of Peace Sells and Holy Wars, with enormous sing-a-long’s ensuing for both. As Dave Mustaine jokingly references the masses sprinting off to catch Iron Maiden as they wrap up, this is a Download Festival return Megadeth can be extremely happy with. JG

Like Dave Mustaine, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson has had his own cancer battle to handle in more recent years, and evidence from shows since then have suggested mixed results. Not tonight. Bruce, and indeed the entirety of Iron Maiden (9) are on jaw dropping form tonight. They may have headlined Download Festival five times (and Donington under any name a whopping EIGHT times), but there is a substantial argument for this being their finest Download Festival performance at the very least.

It doesn’t necessarily feel like that to begin with as they begin with three songs in a row from new album Senjutsu – though The Writing’s On The Wall is up there with any singles Maiden have released in the last twenty years. New album promotion out of the way, the audience is treated to roughly one hundred minutes of Iron Maiden classics one after another.

The classics are kicked off with a very popular rendition of Blood Brothers. Perhaps more surprisingly is the inclusion of Sign Of The Cross from the Blaze Bayley era, which sounds great and is accompanied by some very elaborate staging, Bruce prowling across the stage in a grim reaper style hood and cloak with a giant light up cross. A run of Fear Of The Dark, Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Number Of The Beast and Iron Maiden is quite frankly ridiculous. Everyone from the casual Maiden fans to the die hards jump around the fields of Donington, fists pumping the sky and there are even one or two chairs being swung around vigorously while Steve Harris and Adrian Smith sprint around the stage.

Iron Maiden bring out the Spitfire – photo by James Bridle

The encore is no less impressive; The Trooper sees a red coat Eddie engaged in combat with Bruce (Bruce of course comes out on top in the end). Another dip into the Blaze years brings out The Clansman for a most welcome appearance. And of course no Maiden set at Donington would be complete without Run To The Hills. But still they weren’t done. After unveiling a full size replica Spitfire that flew above the stage, Aces High was belted out by the assembled throng as the Middle Saturday of Download Festival 2022 was brought to an epic conclusion. JG

The second day of Download 2022 was a wonderful example of the new breed being fully ready to step up to the plate with bigger festival slots, but for the most part the old guard are still fully up to their challenge. Heavy music fans are truly spoilt at the moment with days like this – long may it continue.

Reviews by Jamie Giberti (JG) and Hank Leyland (HL). All photos by Jemma Dodd except the Iron Maiden spitfire photo, by James Bridle.

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