RECOVERED? HAD YOUR FIRST SHOWER IN FOUR DAYS? THEN RELIVE THE BEST OF DONINGTON WITH OUR HUGE REVIEW…
“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