Download Festival 2013, Castle Donington – Friday 14th to Sunday 16th June 2013

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Review by Brady Deeprose

Friday

Architects, Main Stage, 1.50pm

Just as the heavens open for what I was sure wasn’t going to be the last time, Architects took to the main stage. A band accustomed to the festival environment, the rain didn’t faze them, blasting through tracks from their latest release Daybreaker alongside such classics as ‘Early Grave’ and ‘Follow The Water’.  The main stage may have been a bit of an ambitious choice for the band as the brand of tech-ridden hardcore represented by the majority of their material is probably more suited to a tent, yet tracks from the more anthemic The Here And Now rang through beautifully in comparison.

Akord, Red Bull Bedrom Jam Stage, 2.30pm

This year, Red Bull ran the Bedroom Jam competition that gives 12 bands the opportunity to play at Download. Akrod were the frontrunners at every stage of the contest and, strolling casually onto the stage like veterans, it’s clear to see why. Proggy, 7-string silliness mixed with emotive melodies and some tasty grooves thrown in for good measure makes for an interesting 30 minutes of listening but it’s the bands wild, accomplished performance that sets them apart from their peers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them booked for next year!

Dragonforce, Zippo Encore Stage, 3.50pm

En route to Dragonforce, Asking Alexandria commanded the airwaves with a blunt, boring take on the modern metalcore scene: definitely not one to stand up and scream about.
Dragonforce however fared much better, having not played the UK for a while, there was a considerable turnout for a band that are all too often not taken seriously. Complete with new vocalist Marc Hudson  (Joining in 2011 makes him new, right?), the band ripped through tracks from their entire back catalogue with the usual flair and cheek you’d expect from a DF show. Not quite as tight as I’ve seen them in the past but being side stage, the sound wasn’t 100%.

Korn, Main Stage, 5.55pm

A serious contender for band of the festival, Korn (Complete with ex-guitarist Brian Welch) gave a stripped down, raw performance featuring a heap of classic tracks from the first few albums (notably opening with ‘Blind’) and a rare performance of ‘Twist’, a two minute tirade of the scat-screaming that Jonathan Davies is so famed for. There’s something powerful about a Korn set that’s really hard to capture with words, but it must have something to do with the sheer amount of history behind the band. You’re watching true professionals performing material that’s up to 18 years old and still packs as much of a punch as most modern releases. Definitely a performance I’ll never forget.

The Algorithm, Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage, 7.50pm

When I heard that Mike Malyan from Monuments was drumming for a French electronic/Djent DJ, I had to check them out. Fast forward a few months and I’m stood in a tent while mayhem slowly envelops the audience entrapped within the canvas. The Algorithm are a unique blend of surprisingly aggressive electronic nastiness and 4 to the floor rave-spawning madness, an act that really have to be seen to be believed. Surprisingly, they captured the brilliance of Polymorphic Code perfectly live and even built upon it, managing to get even the crustiest of Maiden fans at the back nodding their heads.

 

download_poster_largeSaturday:

Heaven’s Basement, Zippo Encore Stage, 12.30pm

The British rock ‘n’ roll scene has been craving some talented fresh meat and that’s exactly what is served up by Heaven’s Basement. After a storming performance last year in the Pepsi Max Tent, the UK’s rising stars were invited back to play a bigger stage and, guess what? They packed it out again. An energetic and memorable set, singles ‘I Am Electric’ and ‘Fire Fire’ from Filthy Empire  really hit home. Main stage next year?

Empress, Pepsi Max Tent, 3.35pm

After catching my eye supporting Cancer Bats last year, I’ve been following Reading’s Empress keenly meaning that I was front and centre for their set at Download. Just over a year since their first gig and after a successful tour with Bring Me The Horizon, Empress find themselves with a decent slot on Download’s third stage. While the crowd may not have been quite as into the performance as some of the other bands, the sheer power behind the 4-piece’s music is almost palpable and their performance was stunning, as always.

Devin Townsend, Jagermeister Acoustic Stage, 6pm

No stranger to these shores, Devin brought his stripped down but non-the-less mental live show to Donington. Despite having a lot of sound bleed from Motorhead and a hardcore band on the Red Bull Stage, Devin was resolute in his determination to bring ‘Acoustic pussy music’ to the festival. His collection of songs drawing from his immense back catalogue deserved a lot longer than 25 minutes but he managed to capture the essence of a Devin show. What’s astounding is his ability to let his personality shine through and, along with having the most powerful, stunning voice of the festival, he gave one of the most genuine and heartfelt performances.

Enter Shikari, Zippo Encore Stage, 7.35pm

For a band that frequents Reading and Leeds to come to download is often an odd sight but Shikari looked more at home during this performance than I’ve ever seen them. Their topical brand of politically infused, electro-charged metal was, clearly, just what the crowd needed to really get the party started. Playing a new track live for the first time, the boys from St Albans barrelled through an hours’ worth of genre-abusing anthems that would have been almost impossible to follow. Good job it was Iron Maiden that were tasked with it as I can think of few other bands up to the job. Let’s hope they make a return next year.

 

Sunday:

Bovine, Pepsi Max Tent, 11am

Birmingham’s answer to Baroness, Bovine have been making waves in the underground progressive/stoner scene and with the release of their debut album The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire, their status is set to soar. Even for an established band, opening a stage at 11am on the Sunday of Download is quite a daunting prospect so when Bovine start their set to a meagre crowd, everyone there was on their side. Testament to their thunderous renditions of ‘Ghost Chair’ and ‘Thank Fuck I Ain’t You’, the tent quickly filled up and by the last two tracks, they nearly had a crowd large enough to do justice to their performance.

States of Panic, Pepsi Max Tent, 11.45am

After winning the Marshall Ultimate Band competition, States of Panic (Formerly Peepshow) rolled into Donington like regulars. A higher class of performance than most of the other unsigned bands at the festival was to follow, with sleazy, synth-fuelled rock ‘n’ roll filling the tent for the bands modest 30 minute set. Frontman Johnny Gun took centre stage, whipping the crowd into a frenzy so rarely seen for an essentially unknown band. With their follow up to the sensational Brand New Breed expected soon, States of Panic is certainly a name that will be heard again.

Amon Amarth, Zippo Encore Stage, 3.20pm

Sadly, Sweden’s Amon Amarth only got to play four tracks. There are many speculations as to why their set was cut short, the most probable being that they erected a Viking longboat onstage. Yes, you read that correctly. Their set, however minimalist in length, hit hard and despite some minor sound issues, was actually one of the most entertaining of the festival. A commanding stage performance left no head un-banged and with a headline slot on the next Metal Hammer tour later this year, fans will hopefully be able to see them play for a little longer.

Ghost, Zippo Encore Stage, 5.10pm

The enigmatic Ghost proved their worth last year second headlining the Pepsi Max Stage, and were invited to bring their satanic ritual back to hallowed ground at Donington. A crowd of devout believers and Limp Bizkit fans were equally mesmerized by Papa Emeritus and co. and they preached their way through tracks from debut Opus Eponymous and this year’s Infestissumam, ending on the anthemic ‘Monstrance Clock’, leaving the crowd chanting ‘Come together as one, come together for Lucifer’s Son’: Badass.