Review by Jack Arkell
The tenth Download Festival got off to an inauspicious start when days of rainfall prior to the event meant that extra measures had to be taken to make the arena safe for festival goers. Unfortunately, this came at a cost to fans of Rise to Remain and Cancer Bats, whose early afternoon slots were cancelled as a result of the late opening.
This meant that Fear Factory had the honour of opening the festival on the main stage. Though their trudging metal pleased die hard fans, it perhaps wasn’t the high octane start that Rise to Remain could have provided. The likes of ‘Recharger’ and the stomping ‘Linchpin’ proved to be the highlights of a disappointingly tepid set.
A sizeable genre diversion later and punk legends NOFX take to the stage, armed with a back catalogue of cult classics and some top notch stage patter for in between. Though thousands gathered in front of the main stage, it seemed that many were there out of curiosity, with only a core of fans taking delight in the likes of ‘Dinosaurs Will Die’ and ‘Leaving Jesusland’, though the band’s better known track ‘Bob’ did incite the first proper sing-along of the day.
Following NOFX were Billy Talent, a band clearly influenced by their predecessors today. Frontman Ben Kowalewicz covers every inch of the stage, fuelled by the feedback from the audience. Yes, ‘Devil in a Midnight Mass’ and ‘Red Flag’ bookend the setlist, both of which incite mass pogoing, but it is the moment in between these songs which provides the set with a true Download moment when the band allow fellow Canadians Cancer Bats to play a song during their own performance time. Going someway to making up for the earlier disappointment, Liam Cormier and co. ripped into a piercing rendition of ‘Hail Destroyer’, much to the surprise and extreme delight of their fans.
Over on the second stage, prog-metallers Opeth put on a quite masterful display of musicianship, playing perhaps the most musically varied show of the day. Death metal growls combine with folk acoustic guitars as frontman Mikael Akerfeldt’s self-deprecating sense of humour wins the day, warning the crowd before set-closer ‘Deliverance’ that “this is a long song, you may find it a little boring.”
Meanwhile, back on the main stage, controversial booking of the year Chase and Status avoid the bottling that many expected, but prove to be somewhat repetitive after a few songs. Thank Andy Copping for The Safety Fire then, the band who played the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage at the same time as the previously mentioned dubstep act. Occupying the second smallest stage of the festival, the London metalcore outfit thrive on the intimacy and intensity that their surroundings provide, reeling off tracks from their 2012 album ‘Grind the Ocean’. One of the discoveries of the day, The Safety Fire are most certainly ones to watch.
But following them in the Red Bull sponsored tent are Gallows, a band who are well and truly deserving of their reputation for flawless live performances. Within minutes, vocalist Wade MacNeil is in the thick of the moshpit, making believers out of those who doubted whether he could replace Frank Carter. The fact is that Wade is every bit as charismatic and passionate as the former frontman, and he displayed his insatiable appetite over the course of an exhilarating 45 minute set that topped everything else that happened on the first day of Download. ‘Mondo Chaos’ and ‘True Colours’ from the ‘Death is Birth’ EP sat alongside older material such as ‘Abandon Ship’ and ‘Leeches’ in a well selected yet criminally short setlist that provides not a single dull moment.
With hoarse throats and a collection of bruises, the congregation headed out into the campsite in the knowledge that there were still two more days to go…