Kerrang! (UK) - - Welcome - WORDS: Steve Beebee, Emily Carter, Sam Law, John Longbottom, David Mclaugh­lin, Nick Ruskell, Tom Shepherd, Paul Travers PHO­TOS: Chris Casey, Jenn Five, Ross Halfin, Paul Har­ries

“Wakey wakey!” shouts BOS­TON MANOR (KKK) singer Henry Cox. Which is about as good a way to kick off three days of mu­sic, mosh­ing and mak­ing a fool of your­self as any. To be fair, it’s a bit of a slow start, but the crowd grad­u­ally warms to the band’s brand of ex­pan­sive post-hard­core. AVATAR (KKK), mean­while, play their hand early, as gui­tarist Jonas Jarlsby rises into the air on a large throne. Un­for­tu­nately, they for­get to add the ‘ex­tra’ to the or­di­nar­i­ness of the mu­sic. It’s a per­fectly functional mix of power metal and grunge-tinged riffs, but it doesn’t quite meet their Game Of Thrones-meets-the Crow the­atri­cal pre­ten­sions.

You know that feeling when it’s not even 2pm and there’s a lorry driv­ing back and forth over your skull? Welcome to Em­ployed To Serve’s (KKKK) Down­load set on the Avalanche Stage. Plat­form 89, I Spend My Days (Wish­ing Them Away) and Beg For Rain sound big­ger and more bru­tal than ever, as the band cru­cify the rammed tent over and over. “This guy in a ba­nana suit’s do­ing a lot of work in the pit,” roars singer Jus­tine Jones, be­fore gui­tarist Sammy Ur­win downs his in­stru­ment to join him. A truly ba­nanas set from one of Britain’s most crush­ing and ex­cit­ing bands.

MARMOZETS (KKKK) in­ject the first real sense of ur­gency into the Main Stage, but then it does feel like they’re mak­ing up for lost time. Their sec­ond al­bum Know­ing What You Know Now was a long time com­ing, and they’ve been a bounc­ing ball of barely sup­pressed en­ergy ever since. Becca Mac­in­tyre doesn’t say much to­day be­yond, “Eh up, Down­load”, but she re­ally doesn’t need to. The tightly-coiled grooves and killer hooks of Meant To Be and Ma­jor Sys­tem Er­ror do all the talk­ing for her.

Has any­one ever lasted a full Andrew W.K. (KKKK) set with­out us­ing the ‘P’-word? No, be­cause it’s im­pos­si­ble not to. Grin­ning and gurn­ing his way through Ready To Die, She Is Beau­ti­ful and Party Hard, the party god proves ex­actly why he’s an en­dur­ing in­sti­tu­tion for pos­i­tiv­ity, good times and play­ing so­los on lu­di­crous, pizza-shaped gui­tars.

You want a big dose of ag­gres­sive met­al­core? Here’s STRAY FROM THE PATH (KKKK). Rather than some testos­terone-fu­elled orgy of vi­o­lence, how­ever, the Long Is­land crew pack a world of so­ciopo­lit­i­cal com­plex­ity be­neath their new bullish sounds. Songs like Good­night Alt-right con­firm the bounce in the mosh­pit, but more im­por­tantly, there’s the feeling that their pos­i­tive mes­sage is ac­tu­ally striking a few chords to­day. Their Cal­i­for­nian com­pa­tri­ots in STICK TO YOUR GUNS (KKK) of­fer up a sim­i­larly po­lit­i­cally-charged as­sault, but by com­par­i­son their per­sonal strug­gles seem only to un­der­pin – rather than truly in­form – their sounds. And de­spite draw­ing heav­ily from last year’s ex­cel­lent True View al­bum, they strug­gle to un­lock the same vis­ceral im­me­di­acy. There’s emo­tion­ally-charged gun­pow­der be­neath the hard riffs, how­ever, and when held up against any­one else on this year’s line-up, they burn with the same in­sis­tent lu­mi­nes­cence.

Yeah, peo­ple are be­ing power-slammed to within an inch of their life in the Down­load wrestling ring but, over on the Zippo En­core Stage, a violin and a dou­ble bass are adding some hefty serv­ings of class to Korn front­man Jonathan Davis’ (KKK) solo out­ing. The brood­ing and som­bre set builds and bursts over and over, while he busts his sig­na­ture moves as he ploughs through What It Is and Hap­pi­ness. None of th­ese tunes are Freak On A Leash, but this is still a hell of a sub­sti­tute for the real thing – think of it as Quorn to Jonathan’s Korn.

Main Stagers VOLBEAT (KKK) avoid the crit­i­cism that of­ten dogs them – of ef­fec­tively play­ing the same song sev­eral times – by pick­ing their way through a com­mend­ably di­verse setlist. There’s the rock­a­billy-meetsmetal­lica Dead But Ris­ing, a sur­pris­ingly heart­felt For Evigt, and even a bizarre and memorable duet with Na­palm Death’s Bar­ney Green­way to keep things weirdly in­ter­est­ing. Over on the Avalanche Stage, CAN­CER

BATS (KKKK) are cel­e­brat­ing a decade of Hail De­stroyer. “This one is for those of you who’ve been here all along!” an­nounces Liam Cormier, as the On­tario col­lec­tive launch into that record’s ti­tle-track. It’s one of the most sim­plis­ti­cally bril­liant mo­ments of the week­end. And that’s be­fore they throw in slab-heavy nuggets like R.A.T.S. and up­tempo chaos-deal­ers like Bricks & Mor­tar. They’re an almost im­pos­si­ble act to fol­low, but THE BRONX

(KKKK) have never been a band to back down to such chal­lenges. Per­form­ing be­neath a mas­sive ‘BRVNX’ ban­ner (a nod to their re­cent fifth al­bum), the Los Angeles hard­core crew drop a car­pet bomb of their finest songs – in­clud­ing a throb­bing Shitty Fu­ture, and a rag­ing Heart At­tack Amer­i­can lead­ing the tributes to late chef An­thony Bour­dain – to spine-tin­gling ef­fect. Some might sug­gest that they’re tread­ing wa­ter, but as they cut loose the un­hinged fe­roc­ity of His­tory’s Stran­glers, there’s no doubt they’re still one of punk’s most es­sen­tial bands.

There’s a fresh hunger about BUL­LET FOR MY VALEN­TINE (KKKK) right now. Of their eight Down­load ap­pear­ances, the last three have now been di­rectly be­neath the Main Stage head­lin­ers. On this form, the re­ju­ve­nated Welsh met­allers are re­ally mak­ing clear their in­ten­tion to as­cend to the top next time. Front­man Matt Tuck is bril­liantly backed by the pow­er­ful vo­cals of bassist Jamie Mathias, and de­spite a change in fo­cus, new songs Over It and Let­ting You Go sit snugly among clas­sics like Your Be­trayal and the (South Wales) bay area thrash of Scream Aim Fire. It’s a top drawer per­for­mance, one that’s as pol­ished as it is ex­plo­sive.

With a new al­bum due in Oc­to­ber and a UK tour freshly an­nounced for Novem­ber, tonight’s head­lin­ing set on the Zippo En­core Stage is a glimpse be­hind the cur­tain of the next phase of You Me At Six (KKKK). And it doesn’t dis­ap­point. “We’re not at V Fes­ti­val or some pile of shit like that,” yells front­man and win­ner of Down­load’s loud­est shirt com­pe­ti­tion, Josh Franceschi. “We’re at the best rock’n’roll fes­ti­val in the world!” And as if to re­con­firm this point, they wheel out hit after hit. The whole field joins in with Save It For The Bed­room, Lover­boy, Un­der­dog and mas­sive closer Bite My Tongue as the fire­works from Avenged Seven­fold’s set on the Main Stage start to fly…

Red Bull-et For My Valen­tine gives you wings

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