WISH YOU WERE HERE?
AVENGED SEVENFOLD triumph as they move into festival top spots for good
Thirty minutes before Avenged Sevenfold are due to come offstage tonight, the evening suddenly takes on a serious, poignant tone. “Anthony Bourdain died today,” exhales frontman M. Shadows to the huge congregation before him, reflecting on the shock passing of the 61-year-old celebrity chef. “We’ve lost too many people to suicide. It doesn’t make you weak: we all have those feelings. Reach out to each other.”
Cue a touching sing-along to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. It’s an ashamedly bold move on the band’s behalf, attempting a cover that Saturday’s headliners – and Shadows’ favourite band – Guns N’ Roses also tackle live; but this evening it pays off, taking A7X’S set to greater heights than their 2014 bill-topping debut. In an otherwise unrelenting set, this stripped-back moment is a truly beautiful touch.
Before that, though, it’s business as usual for Huntington Beach’s finest. With a mysterious eye appearing on the Main Stage’s screens inspecting the audience before a note has even been played, it initially seems as though Avenged Sevenfold are following a similar route, productionwise, to their 2017 UK arena tour. But as the set begins and the group storm the stage to, um, The Stage, it’s clear that they’ve not only built on their already-impressive show, but exceeded it by some way.
“This song goes out to our favourite goddamn place in the world,” grins Shadows elatedly as he gears up for a fiery Afterlife. “England was the first place to embrace Avenged Sevenfold!” We’re repaid with the fists-in-thesky thrill of Hail To The King, complete with a giant Iron Maiden-esque mascot emerging from behind the drums, and the relentless pyro that accompanies Buried Alive. There are also touching moments, like when an eloquent tribute video to The Rev plays over an emotional So Far Away. Put simply: everything is on point for Avenged Sevenfold tonight.
What’s more, Shadows and co don’t ignore their hardcore contingent. Rarelyplayed gems like 2003’s Eternal Rest, 2005’s M.I.A. and even the epic Higher from 2016’s The Stage all get an airing, meaning that this now-staple Download band are still capable of keeping people on their toes some 19 years into their career. With a less-than-twohour slot, you could argue that performing the non-singles isn’t entirely necessary; as such, massive hits like Beast And The Harlot and Almost Easy are regrettably missed off the set list. But A7X have always done things their own way, and though those songs would be welcome, their absence doesn’t put a dent in things tonight.
“Now all the people who can’t stand us are back at the campsite… we’re not playing any more songs about the Devil – here’s a song about necrophilia!” chuckles Shadows as he introduces depraved fan-favourite A Little Piece Of Heaven in all its nine-minute glory, before the night culminates with an exceptional Unholy Confessions – topped off with the biggest circle pits of the day.
If 2014 was the year Avenged Sevenfold proved that they could happily share festival headline status with metal’s elite, 2018 is the year they cemented themselves as a band whose place is very much at Download’s top table. EMILY CARTER
No rock’n’roll dream has ever included a desire to play at 11am, and the somewhat laidback sound of THE PINK SLIPS
(KKK) doesn’t provide the Main Stage with an electrifying start. Singer Grave (Grace Mckagan, Duff’s daughter) is nevertheless a riveting presence, sneering her lipstick-smeared vocals while slithering around the stage. Meanwhile, WSTR (KKK) are having a whale of a time. “This is a special one!” yells frontman Sammy Clifford. “Download’s the first festival I ever went to when I was 16, and now we’re playing it. Let’s make a circle pit!” The Liverpudlians’ crunchy pop-punk rips the Avalanche Stage tent open as they tear through Nail The Casket, but it falls to Higher Power (KKKK) to serve up the first proper pits of the day. The Leeds hardcore crew deliver a bumper load, stepping up and laying down a bruising set of heaving breakdowns and thrash riffs, as frontman Jimmy Wizard rages along the front barrier.
Glitzy Brit rockers THE STRUTS (KKKK) have been making waves in the U.S. for years now, and their delight at finally sharing some of that love with a Main Stage home crowd is clear. Their set is a clean distillation of ‘70s-inspired British glam, and today it gleams so bright it’d make even The Darkness need shades.
This looks like being a big year for BURY TOMORROW (KKK), with the release of a new album, Black Flame, imminent and their biggest UK tour to date looming. Today they demonstrate their ability with a big crowd, with frontman Dani Winterbates’ banter hovering just the right side of ham and cheese. Some of their songs lack some X-factor, but there’s no denying their steamroller effectiveness, or the drilling perfection of recent single Knife Of Gold. Elsewhere, ROLO TOMASSI (KKKK) are now experts at causing jaws to drop and frightening the unwary at festivals. These days they have a broader melodic streak to go with the twisty aggression, but they still inject songs like A Flood Of Light with jarring stabs of noise, and remain devastatingly unique.
SHVPES (KKK) look ready to explode when they hit the Dogtooth Stage. They’re too savvy these days to let their pent-up studio aggression spin out of control now they’re on the road again, but it’s a close-run thing, with frontman Griffin Dickinson a whirling personification of his band’s furious alt.metal.
Announced by K! just days before the festival, The Fever 333’s (KKKK) first ever UK show was never going to be a pedestrian affair. Politically-charged punk numbers like Made An America and Walking In My Shoes sound huge, but this show is all about the manic energy and the spectacle. The band are airborne more than they’re on the ground, with Jason Aalon Butler and drummer Aric Improta backflipping across the stage. That is when Jason isn’t beatboxing, whacking the drums or hanging from the lighting rig. It’s chaos of the most infectious kind, and it’s absolutely fucking fantastic.
Making his entrance on the Zippo Encore Stage, ASKING ALEXANDRIA (KKKK) frontman Danny Worsnop falls spectacularly on his arse. “Dude, you looked pretty fucking ridiculous,” guffaws guitarist Ben Bruce. Thankfully their 40-minute set is otherwise sure-footed, with the band alternating brutality with nuance, and laced as ever with a touch of danger. Anthems like The Death Of Me and Where Did It Go? unite their huge crowd, and it’s clear the good ship AA is operating on full steam once again.
What the fox is going on? If it involves a Metal Resistance and seven mysterious masked figures holding staffs, it can only be BABYMETAL (KKKK). The Japanese collective always have a grand narrative, even if only the Fox God knows exactly what it is. Luckily for anyone struggling to follow the plot – and at the weekend’s halfway point there are surely plenty – they also have some far clearer musical hooks. They may still be operating without Yuimetal, but even a woman down they own everything they are and make it into something truly special today.
Having made no fewer than six Download appearances since their memorable debut as relative unknowns in 2008, BLACK STONE CHERRY
(KKK) have earned their slot just below GN’R. Predictably, it’s another solidly thrusting performance, with the set list crammed with crowd-pleasers, as well as deep cut Rain Wizard. The likeable Kentucky rockers are the epitome of dependability, rock’s equivalent to comfortable old (cowboy) boots, and in the late afternoon sunshine, that’s all you need.
“I think I’ve broken my fucking finger!” grins one young lady with perverse glee as
Knocked Loose (KKKK) detonate the entire Dogtooth Stage into one massive mosh for Counting Worms. Outright carnage is standard for the Kentucky wrecking crew these days, but even so, as Isaac Hale cranks out the riff to Slayer’s South Of Heaven as an intro to cataclysmic closer Deadringer, it’s impossible not to be blown away anyway.
We all knew that
PARKWAY DRIVE (KKKKK)
took some big steps into new frontiers on recent album Reverence, but who could have guessed they’d end up somewhere between Mötley Crüe and Rammstein? In terms of explosive production and visuals alone, their set headlining the Zippo Encore Stage is incredible, with a rotating drum kit that would make Tommy Lee jealous and more flames than a barbecue enthusiasts jamboree. But there’s far more to get excited about than the explosions, impressive as they are. “Send your surfers, I want you to swarm this motherfucker,” demands frontman Winston Mccall as they launch into Idols And Anchors. Absolutely no-one does the pit-stirring metalcore thing better than Byron Bay’s finest, but now there are new set pieces – like the mangled poetry of Writings On The Wall delivered through a wreath of dry ice – to show some of their other muscle. This is a band in the throes of transformation, and it’s magnificent to behold.
Sweet Child O’ Mine is pumping from the stacks. A banner with two pistols hangs behind the stage. This is the moment the festival’s been waiting for, as into the spotlight walk… Neck Deep?! (KKKK) If you’re going up against Guns at Donington, you’ve got to have a sense of humour about it, right? “We thought there might be no-one here!” laughs frontman Ben Barlow, but the massive sing-along to In Bloom proves him wrong. The rammed tent bounces its way through Happy Judgement Day (accompanied by some spicy pyro), before the band ask Where Do We Go When We Go? Well, lads, the answer is the Main Stage. You can still catch some of it…
“Oooh, come here, guitar – give us a smooch…”
Ironically, it was right then that Winston remembered he’d left the gas on