WISH YOU WERE HERE?

AVENGED SEVEN­FOLD tri­umph as they move into fes­ti­val top spots for good

Kerrang! (UK) - - Cover Story - avenged seven­fold

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

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