Donington park, Derby
A7X, Guns N’ roses and ozzy bring delirium to Download, plus Nine Inch Nails, Stone Sour, Zeal & Ardor, Wolves In The Throne room and more!
The annual pilgrimage to Donington Park reaches its 16th year under the Download moniker, overtaking Monsters of rock in terms of longevity in the process. And 2018’s line-up perfectly represents the past, with a Main Stage full of legitimate legends, and the present, with some of our world’s most exciting new bands peppered on the smaller stages. There are few more savage ways to kick off proceedings than EMPLOYED TO SERVE . hitting the Avalanche stage, the angular barbs and massive chug of I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away) epitomise the singular path they’re carving through the UK scene. With an entrancing combination of modern rock and lush atmospherics alongside chanteuse Anna Murphy’s ethereal vocals, Swiss storytellers CELLAR DARLING  strike a bombastic chord with the appreciative Dogtooth stage crowd. on the Zippo Stage, melodic metalcore mob MISS MAY I’S  acerbic belligerence resonates with the hungry masses. riffs are plentiful and their “Download, are you with us today?” war cry is rewarded with cheers. he’s rarely fully clothed during live performances, but Jonny hawkins and NOTHING MORE  are hardly bereft of passion or confidence; their set brims with soul-stirring melodies and hook-filled earworms.
The first Hammer-friendly band on the Main Stage this weekend are AVATAR  who draw a huge and enthusiastic crowd. Visually, they look the part but the sound is still swirling around the field. DRAGONFORCE  follow them and fare little better, with the signature guitar histrionics dropping in and out at regular intervals, although they do leave with a triumphant Through The Fire And Flames. combining NYhc swagger, hip-hop bounce and the immediacy of Goodnight Alt-Right, STRAY FROM THE PATH  have a full house when it comes to getting a packed Avalanche tent to eat out of their hands. MARMOZETS  play a blinder of a set over on the Main Stage with their glorious new material receiving a rapturous reception, nestled in amongst mathy adrenaline shots like Particle and Vibetech.
Do people still wanna party hard, get wasted and bloody their noses? Judging by the joyous singalongs, ANDREW WK  the answer is ‘Yes!’, as he brings the feelgood factor to the Zippo stage. SAVAGE MESSIAH’S  meat’n’potatoes thrash is always enjoyable on record, but on the Dogtooth stage they really step up and deliver a set worthy of their influences. The find of the day, though, are LOATHE , who look every inch the part, with each member having their own distinct vibe onstage, and their gobby, urban tech-metal sounds inhumanly massive.
VOLBEAT’S  Main Stage crowd bellow and boogie along to every word of their metal-meets- Johnny cash rock’n’roll. It’s certainly energetic, chorus-driven fun – if you can abide frontman Michael Poulsen’s irksome vocals. A huge crowd greets CANCER BATS’  uncontrollably potent set, with liam cormier covering every each of the Avalanche stage as the riffs celebrating 10 years of Hail Destroyer detonate around him. Sadly the crowd thins out considerably for THE BRONX , whose emotionally charged set deserves better. Korn talisman JONATHAN DAVIS  is on stunning form, delving into material from solo opus Black Labyrinth while synths, sitars and surging drum rhythms collide on Queen Of The Damned soundtrack hit Forsaken.
The best way to avoid vanilla rock bands at Download is to plunge into the insane world of IGORRR . Death metal meets opera meets synapse-busting electronics, and everyone in the Dogtooth tent is simultaneously bewildered and exhilarated.
Following a few career missteps, it seemed unlikely BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE  would ever headline Download now. But armed with new slick, arena-ready material, it seems they’ve finally regained their swag. Though unable to compete with the vigour of their younger peers, BAD RELIGION  perform punk classics American Jesus and Sorrow with the same conviction and effortless skill they’ve managed for nearly 40 years. NAPALM DEATH  are on blistering form today. So no change there. From the seminal Instinct Of Survival to a climactic and genuinely exhilarating Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Barney and the boys have seldom seemed more necessary. We are finally seeing TESSERACT  turn into the band that many predicted they could be; tonight the new songs from Sonder decimate the Dogtooth tent. Don’t bet against them headlining a larger stage here one day.
When AVENGED SEVENFOLD  headlined Download in 2014, some questioned their clout to step up to the top spot. This time, the oc boys seem less starry-eyed by the pressure, buoyed by material from The Stage, they deliver a stomping, confident and pyro-packed performance that cements their bona fide headliner status.
After steadily creeping up the bill, LAWNMOWER DETH  have finally conquered Download’s second stage. As joyously chaotic and cack-handed as ever, they’re actually getting really fucking good at this. And Egg Sandwich is a tune. The Pepper Keenan-led CORROSION OF CONFORMITY  are on imperious form, reminding everyone how to do huge riffs and hay-chewing Sabbathian splendour properly. They play Clean My Wounds and
A7X CEMENT THEIR BONA FIDE HEADLINER STATUS
metalheads of a certain age shed joyful tears. BURY TOMORROW  seem to be on absurdly early considering their huge crowd and confident showing. “You can blame Axl rose for that,” laughs Dani Winter-Bates from the stage, but BT slay all the same.
The intrigue around SLEEP TOKEN  ensures a throng of Dogtooth onlookers experiencing a genuinely odd set that’s part performance, part otherworldly invocation. SHVPES  have all the bounce, enthusiasm and sincerity to be ideal festival regulars. Sadly, what their rap metal needs in order to be relevant is convincing songs.
It’s a legitimate case of “brace for impact” over at the Avalanche stage as ROLO TOMASSI  decimate the baying throng savouring their blend of potent aggression and emotive intensity. Soon after come Jason Aalon Butler’s THE FEVER 333 , whose ‘surprise set’ is a highlight of the whole weekend. energetic, urgent and unpredictable, there are barely five seconds where any one member stands still. Immense. Swathed in shooting plumes of dry ice, ASKING ALEXANDRIA  quickly engage the audience with the rock star bombast of newer material, but the set is let down by sound gremlins. Naysayers continuing to dismiss youthful upstarts BABYMETAL  as a gimmick, be advised: today’s joyous J-Pop-meets-thundering power-metal set rages like an absolute beast at the Zippo stage. one of the most aggro sets of the weekend comes from MALEVOLENCE , who beat seven shades of shit out of the Dogtooth Stage with their beatdown-heavy, Pantera-tinged metalcore. BEING AS AN OCEAN’S  atmospheric posthardcore might stick out, but leaves an increasingly sizeable mark with each rolling wave, not least new song Alone.
“You guys aren’t fucking about, are you?” says frontman Winston Mccall of the enormous mass of bodies at the Zippo stage. From the crunch of Crushed and Bottom Feeder to the pyro, fire and spinning drumkit, PARKWAY DRIVE  do everything to pencil themselves in as future Main Stage headliners. When cJ McMahon isn’t auditioning for Australia’s Most offensive comedian, THY ART IS MURDER’S  sheer ferocity goes head to head with Axl & co with a deathcore rendition of Du Hast stealing the night. Playing right before GN’r and therefore to a humongous crowd, BLACK STONE CHERRY
 milk the opportunity. This is the band at their best: groovy, infectious and swaggering.
After two previous Donington appearances – one a tragedy and one tragic – we finally get something close to the GUNS N’ ROSES  we deserve . True, its three-hours-plus is padded out with endless solos and unnecessary covers, and Axl has sounded better. But when they chuck out Night Train, You Could Be Mine or Civil War they are untouchable.
The blistering sun clashes nicely with the piercing scream, swearing and dad jokes of Dani Filth, but it’s a disappointingly short time allotted for CRADLE OF FILTH’S  Main Stage machinations. A few years ago PUPPY  had the songs but not the stage presence to command the Zippo encore Stage. Today they look like they belong there, and their eccentric pop-rock sounds the part. every festival would benefit from HATEBREED’S  blend of aggression and relentless positivity, with even those limping away from the pit still determined to sing along to every word. The stage theatrics of IN THIS MOMENT  are certainly unique, but it’s unbalanced when the musical highlight of their sterile metal is the intro of For Whom The Bell Tolls during a costume change.
What do you expect from a band including Mike Patton and Dave lombardo other than experimental, batshit violence? DEAD CROSS  deliver incendiary hardcore on the Zippo stage that revels in its cerebral complexity. KREATOR  are staggering today. An eye-frazzling, ear-shagging eruption of visceral heavy metal fury, they tear through a handful of classics, ending with a version of Pleasure To Kill that’s so vicious it should probably be muzzled and neutered. Yikes. Ice T might have some less than ‘woke’ opinions, but BODY COUNT  are a great festival band. Their own material is getting progressively stronger, and any band who opens with Raining Blood deserve a thumbs up.
While there’s no denying the anthemic clout of songs like Fallen Angels and The Legacy, by the midpoint of BLACK VEIL BRIDES’  performance, riff déjà vu has kicked in. There’s a whole lot of love on display for SHINEDOWN  as the Florida rockers gleam under a scorching mid-afternoon sun. A rare burst of psychedelia at Download,
ALL THEM WITCHES’  rumbling campfire doom creates its own immersive bubble of ghoulish Americana within the Dogtooth tent. Defiantly odd but still armed with great riffs, the Americans are one of few leftfield options here and all the better for it. Meanwhile, JAMIE LENMAN  pulls out his heaviest material and screams his face off to a packed Avalanche crowd, who suck up every last squalling, beast of a note. cracking stuff.
Per Nilsson does an exemplary job of standing in for Fredrik Thordendal as MESHUGGAH  mercilessly pummel senses you didn’t even realise existed. The percussive assault of Pravus and unstoppable avalanche of Demiurge are enough to make you forget the absence of standards like Bleed. Still unlike anything else at Download or in this universe. Arguably the biggest star black metal’s produced since its infernal heyday, MYRKUR  has presence and mystique in vast supply. She also has some incredible songs that send a huge Dogtooth crowd into raptures. The night sky’s the limit. ALEXISONFIRE  deliver a highlight of the fest, a fiery and emotionally cathartic experience that sees everyone screaming the words to
Boiled Frogs and Crisis like life depends on it.
Despite the early eyebrow-raising slurring, it’s a hair-raising showing from MARILYN MANSON  as the God of Fuck stomps through old and new cuts; from classics The Beautiful People and mOBSCENE to SAY10. It’s a career-defining performance from BARONESS  closing the Dogtooth Stage. John Baizley looks genuinely thrilled to see the level of love pointed in his direction from a crowd clearly besotted with their beautifully sublime songs. chicago punks RISE AGAINST  close the second stage with a performance of heart-swelling intensity. Satellite, Saviour and Survive are revolutionary punk anthems that make you think, feel and raise your fists and Tim McIlrath’s impassioned monologues make sure we all leave feeling like we can truly move mountains.
There’s only good news when OZZY OSBOURNE  hits the stage. In fine voice and, unlike his last appearance here with Sabbath, consistently in tune, he’s clearly having the time of his life right now. Zakk Wylde leads the charge through a hit-packed set, peeling off those seminal solos with outrageous ease, while his boss grins so much he risks splitting his face. “I fuckin’ love it!” he yelps at one point. Download concurs. ozzy’s still the fucking man.
PARKWAY DO EVERYTHING TO PENCIL THEMSELVES IN AS FUTURE MAIN STAGE HEADLINERS
STEPHEN HILL/DOM LAWSON/DANNII LEIVERS/ SOPHIE MAUGHAN/ADAM REES
Andrew WK wringsthe good timesMaria Brink In This Moment’sit to their critics tries to stick Avenged’s M. Shadows deliversThe Stage from, er, the stage Shinedown can’tFlorida Cut The Cweather, so bring
Dani Filth’s kookytake on kabukiAvenged Sevenfold on fiery form
corrosion of conformity’sset leaves a lot of brokenmen in the crowd
he’s an awesome frontman, but Winston Mccall’s duck face needs work Nothing like arefreshing Ice T on a summer’sdayup, has anyone “roll up, roll guy?”seen our sound
Black Stone cherry keep the GN’r happy with their crowdSouthern charm
The God of Fuck came prepared for bad weather.either that or he’s now into flasher-macs…
Asking Alexandria’s Danny wails inthe company of sound gremlins
love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying Volbeat bring the boogie