Download Festival review – Donington Park, Day 2, Saturday 11th June


Saturday 11th

Photo: David Dillon / Download Press Images

Bringing their sun-kissed sound all the way from California Dirty Honey’s aesthetic, all loon pants and perms, seems to come straight from the ‘70s but their sound is all now, and opening shot ‘Gypsy’ throws down the gauntlet for the rest of the day. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a raunchy rock n’ roll band in full flight and this band of brothers, armed with tracks like ‘The Wire’ and ‘When I’m Gone’, really can’t go wrong. Reminding me a little of early Black Crowes, Dirty Honey are a likeable bunch and ‘Rolling 7s’ is the type of song you wish the Rolling Stones would still write, and their solid set makes a fine precursor to their upcoming tour with Rival Sons.

Photo: Abbie Shipperley / Download Press Images

Sheffield’s Malevolence are testament to the DIY ethic and they’ve rose from small gigs to festival stages, all through their own propulsion, and all on their own terms. It’s an ethos that comes shining through in their music and their full-on brand of metalcore is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Sound wise, you could draws parallels with bands like Hatebreed, but Malevolence are certainly their own beast, and the poignant ‘The Other Side’ shows another facet to the band; it’s at once heavy and lithe and sets things up nicely for ‘Keep Your Distance’, a bruiser that initiates some of the biggest circle pits Download has ever seen.

Photo: Sam McMahon / Download Press Images

Part rock show, part theatre Boston, Massachusetts’ Ice Nine Kills serve up a show that’s not to be missed and there’s a hefty crowd assembled in front of the Opus stage. “Welcome To Horrorwood” proclaims a sign and that’s fair warning as Ice Nine Kills haven’t come to take prisoners and, assisted by a cast of characters, they deliver a no-holds-barred performance right from the get go. Entertaining it may be, but I can’t help thinking this horror-themed show would be better experienced in a dark theatre rather than outside in the bright sunlight, so it’s time to get tickets for their forthcoming tour, methinks.

Not since Black Flag in their heyday have I seen a band rage with such ferocity as Will Haven. Vocalist Grady Avenell certainly cuts an imposing Henry Rollins type figure, and just like Henry he confidently commandeers centre stage, barking into the microphone and making his presence felt. The band have been out on the road touring their critically acclaimed album Carpe Diem (now celebrating its 25th anniversary) so the Dogtooth stage finds them in top form and delivering noise metal as only they can.

Photo: Matt Higgs / Download Press Images

There’s much that sets Dying Fetus apart from their peers, and most notably it’s their lyrical realism. Just as Slayer were more frighting when they sang about actual devils (Ed Gein, Josef Mengele) rather than some abstract idea, the same applies to Dying Fetus. From opener ‘Schematics’ to closer ‘Grotesque Impalement’ their set is the equivalent to being locked in a room with the most depraved serial killer. There’s no fancy gimmicks here, just the sound of hammer smashing face and knife hitting bone that’s delivered by three guys who unify as the finest purveyors of death metal.

Photo: Yushy / Download Press Images

In terms of musical brutality there’s only one band who could possibly follow Dying Fetus, and that’s self-described “unrepentant noise metal band from Birmingham” Napalm Death. From first note it feels as if someone has detonated a bomb inside the Dogtooth tent and each song is akin to pouring petrol on the flames. It’s a set largely culled from latest album, Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism, but they stop at all points of their career with ‘Scum’ from their 1987 debut album) going down very well. Throughout the gig vocalist Barney is a blur of spasmodic energy and sings like a Dalek on the point of implosion while drummer Danny delivers endless blast beats. Closer is a cover song they’ve made their own and it’s not inconceivable that they wouldn’t play it. But, thankfully, Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ never grows old.

Photo: Yushy / Download Press Images

Megadeth: one word that’s synonymous with thrash metal, and as the chords to ‘Hanger 18’ ring out, it’s obvious they’ve come to deliver a masterclass in said genre. While they’ve had a successful career I believe what’s really prevented them from attaining accolades on a Metallica level is their constantly rotating line-up. However, with James LoMenzo now back on bass it seems they’ve finally hit the right combination, and I haven’t heard the band sound this tight since Clash Of The Titans tour back in 1990. If you need evidence of their new found chemistry then the time changes during ‘Sweating Bullets’ sound crisp, crunchy and razor sharp in a way they haven’t since they were originally recorded. Likewise, ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ now chugs with metronomic precision as the band proceed to blast through a ‘greatest hits’ set and my only (minor) complaint is that there’s no songs from the So Far, So Good… album. Thankfully, Dave Mustaine hasn’t lost his trademark sneer and it’s put to good use on ‘Peace Sells’ and turns the crowd at the front of the Opus stage into a sea of pumping fists and banging heads. Bringing things nicely full circle is another track from the Rust In Peace album, ‘Holy Wars…The Punishment Due’, a closer that’s rewarded with rapt applause.

Photo: James Bridle / Download Press Images

Iron Maiden playing Donington is always been an event, a tasty piece of bait to keep metalheads salivating throughout the winter months, and this year is no different. There’s an air of expectation hanging heavy, not only because it’s Maiden, but also because it’s going to be my first time seeing the set on this tour cycle. Therefore, the heavy drapes that are obscuring the stage are only increasing my PMT (that’s Pre-Maiden Tension!). UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ is used as an intro tape (it’s a track Maiden covered on the flip of their ‘Virus’ single) and it’s certainly a good choice and gets the whole crowd into a unified groove. As the opening refrain of ‘Senjutsu’ rings out, the curtain drops away to reveal a set that’s based upon Feudal Japan, which is totally in tune with the aesthetics of the Senjutsu album and it’s two more from that album that follows in the shape of ‘Stratego’ and ‘The Writing On The Wall’, both of which go down extremely well. Although Maiden are ageing and are not quite so agile, it’s essentially the same band with Bruce Dickinson leaping through the air, Steve Harris, foot on monitor and plucking out rhythm while Janick Gers is still suffering from crazy leg syndrome.

Photo: James Bridle / Download Press Images

What follows is a quick stage reconfiguration (to the Legacy Of The Beast set) and then we’re into classic Maiden territory with a spirited ‘Revelations’ and a particularly pertinent ‘Blood Brothers’. There’s always been a theatrical element to Bruce’s performance but in the last few years he’s really brought that aspect to the fore, and I like the extra dimension it gives to a Maiden show. He’s cloaked and brandishes a large crucifix during ‘Sign Of The Cross’, omits flames during ‘Flight Of Icarus’ and, as the man in the moon looks down, prowls the stage, with a green lantern, like a lost soul during ‘Fear Of The Dark’ (incidently, it was great timing to play that song just after the sun had set). Predictably, ‘Iron Maiden’ signals the end of the show but it was a nice surprise to have ‘The Clansman’ as one of three encores and then another treat when they come back one final time for ‘Aces High’ and accompanied by a replica Spitfire. Maiden rarely disappoint in the live arena and tonight is no exception, although I do have a gripe with the set list. 9 of the 15 tracks were culled from just three albums and with nothing from Killers, Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son the set did seem a tad lopsided, but with such a deep discography to chose from someone was always going to be disappointed.

Photo: Matt Higgs / Download Press Images
  • Reviewed by Peter Dennis.

Download Festival review – Donington Park, Day 1, Friday 10th June