Review by Claire Frays
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…if you’re a Rocker or Metalhead that is! Download Festival weekend. And it was an absolute scorcher in more ways than one! What would 2014 hold in store for us Midlands Rock-ers? Let’s find out shall we!?
The weekends affairs were kicked off by Miss May I and boy did Ohio’s rising Metallers lay down the gauntlet. With their popularity on the rise thanks to a support stint on February’s Trivium and Killswitch Engage tour, the band enjoyed a sizable turn-out. Frontman Levi Benton strutted onstage yelling “Let’s have F***ing some fun!” as the band launched into ‘Refuse To Believe’, instantly sparking the first circle pits of the weekend. But the headbanging and crowdsurfing didn’t stop there, continuing throughout entirety of the bands set all rounded off by a stellar rendition of ‘Hey Mister’. Nicely done.
They were followed by Japan’s Crossfaith who kept the momentum in full swing. The band fuses the genres of Metal and Electronica with charismatic frontman Koie Kenta whipping the crowd into quite a frenzy frequenting calling for more circle pit action. A cover of The Prodigy’s ‘Omen’ went down a treat with set closer ‘Leviathan’ leaving the crowd hungry for more.
In stark contrast, Powerman 5000 really struggled to continue to the vibe and momentum created by both opening acts leaving well known tracks like ‘Bombshell’ and ‘When Worlds Collide’ until much later in their set when much of the crowd had already been lost.
Thankfully festival favourites Skindred caused the party vibe to return thanks to larger than life frontman Benji Webbe. Not a soul in the crowd stood still with tracks from latest album Kill The Power and Ninja sounding massive. Old hats ‘Nobody’ and Newport Helicopter-tastic ‘Warning’ (featuring Crossfaith’s Koie Kenta) rounded off a crowd-pleasing setlist.
Then came the return of Dutch Symphonic Metal-ers Within Temptation who last played the festival in 2008. With the success of Hydra driving them forward, the band continues to go from strength to strength. Opening with the awesome ‘Let Us Burn’ complete with oh so fitting flames, Sharon and the boys got off to a flying start. They continued with the epic ‘Paradise (What About Us?)’. The studio version features Tarja Turunen (formerly of Nightwish) and it was slightly awkward to hear Tarja’s verse sections on playback, when it would have made more sense for Sharon to have performed both parts. The same can be said too of Howard Jones’ parts on ‘Dangerous’. Due to the Hydra-dominated setlist, the band left out many of their more well-known songs like ‘Angels’, ‘Frozen’ and ‘What Have You Done’. You can’t help but wonder whether they would have enjoyed a greater reception had they opted for the greatest hits setlist route – but nonetheless a great performance.
After a highly impressive “Pyro-tastic” performance in 2011 headling the second stage, the lack of pyro and staging for Rob Zombie was criminal. Despite the absence of the usual props, the band still managed to pack a mean punch, with Rob Zombie clambering down into the crowd on numerous occasions and, the superb John 5 nailed a highly impressive extended guitar solo in ‘Thunder Kiss ’65’. Zombie exulted more energy than frontmen half his age, delivering the goods with ‘Dead City Radio’ and the ‘New Gods of Supertown’, ‘Superbeast’, ‘Living Dead Girl’ and obligatory set closer, ‘Dragula’.
Down on the Red Bull Studios Live Stage, Detroit’s hotly tipped Battlecross, who also opened on the Trivium/Killswitch Engage tour earlier this year, dazzled with their Crossover Thrash Metal. Tracks from the bands most recent album release, War Of Will including ‘Force Fed Lies’ and ‘My Vaccine’ sounded guitar-tastic. Expect to see these guys on a bigger stage next time.
The day was rounded off with the much anticipated headliner debut of marmite metal-ers Avenged Sevenfold. With opinions divided on whether the band deserved to headline, the pressure was well and truly on for A7x to meet expectations.
They began somewhat shakily with ‘Shepherd of Fire’ hampered somewhat by sound issues and appeared to warm into the show taking things up a notch in time for the mighty ‘Bat Country’. One of the sets most surreal moments was ‘So Far Away’ which was greeted by a swarm of lighters held aloft, swaying from side-to-side as the sun set dedicated to the bands fallen drummer, The Rev. It was followed by a stellar rendition of ‘Nightmare’ as the rain poured from the skies – surely not a coincidence. A7x’s older songs, as always, generated the biggest responses from the crowd with welcome setlist additions ‘Second Heartbeat’, ‘Beast & The Harlot’ and ‘Seize The Day’ (featured in the encore) providing the sets biggest highlights. They closed with the epic ‘A Little Piece Of Heaven’ and old –school ‘Unholy Confessions’ as fireworks squealed high above.
Overall though, whilst presenting enjoyable moments, it all seemed a bit too lacklustre and generally unconvincing when compared with previous festival headliners. Good, but not enough on this occasion.