Opening up the Opus stage with a performance guaranteed to blow away any hangovers it’s Control The Storm and their mixture of power metal with progressive elements is going down very well on a Sunday morning. They are a fine piece of British talent who really deserve to be playing further up the bill, and ‘Strike To Defend’ initiates the first circle pit of the day. A nice mixture of male and female vocals, airy synths and thunderous drums, noodling guitars and pounding bass make control the storm an interesting tension of opposites and an infinitely interesting proposition.
One of the best things about a festival is stumbling upon a band and having a moment of epiphany, and this year that honour goes to The Velveteers. They’re a three-piece band who’re powered by two drummers and the synchronised beat they provide is very hypnotic. They’re so in tune with each other that they remind me of the evil twins from The Shining and they certainly share some kind of telepathy. Imagine the MC5 jamming with The Velvet Underground and you’d have something approaching their raw power, and with new album, Daydream Nightmare freshly released it seems like they are on the cusp of greatness. Future mayhem beckons.
Sometimes you have to admire bands who give their fans exactly what they want and Power Wolf do just that. ‘We Bring Fire’ is the apt opener and they soon have the crowd holding their horns high. With their corpse paint and anthemic songs it’s a shame that the band weren’t on a bit later in the day when people’s throats weren’t more “lubricated” because tracks such as ‘Werewolves Of Armenia’ and ‘We Your Drink Blood’ are tailor made to be sung loudly by thousands of drunken voices. The band’s strength is also their Achilles heel and vocalist Attila Dorn spends too much time explaining the nuances of crowd participation; in a 50 minute set every second counts and a band should hit the fans with a barrage of quality songs (of which Power Wolf have plenty) rather than breaking up the rhythm with too many stage raps.
There was a time when Christian metal was seen as a bit, well, naff. And if such a band was on a metal bill, there was a good chance they’d get bottled off the stage, but then there was never a band quite like Skillet before. Throwing a bit of everything into the pot, their sound is a pleasant mixture of classic rock, alt-rock and nu-metal and while such a mixture could become a tad eclectic, Skillet blend their ingredients in just right proportions. Performing tracks from their critically acclaimed album Dominion, they rock out harder that most bands on the bill and on the strength of their energetic show and tracks such as ‘Feel Invincible’ and ‘Hero’ I’m sure they’ve won many new converts today.
In an Avalanche tent that bursting at the seams Trash Boat are whipping up a storm. With unbridled indignation the set they deliver seethes with anger and with lyrics that a barked like a political manifesto things soon go into overdrive. You’d expect their songs to be Crass-like thrashings but there’s a strong groove underpinning their tunes which renders them very mosh-able. It all adds up to a full-on sonic assault and with songs such as ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’ (the title track from their new album) in their arsenal they are guaranteed to please the right-on brigade.
Today is my first time seeing Korn live and I often wondered how they’d carry over their youthful exuberance into middle age. They were a band that were so rooted in adolescence (Toys R Us were part inspiration for their name) that I could never imagine Jonathan Davies singing songs such as ‘Freak On A Leash’ as an adult. It won’t take long to find out as an extended intro (‘Dead’) reaches its conclusion and the band arrive and launch into the heavy funk of ‘Here To Stay’. Korn inspire a loyal following and those who’ve come to pay homage punch the air and sing along to every word. The band deliver a career-spanning set with ‘Shoots And Ladders’ going down very well (especially as it contains a snippet of Metallica’s ‘One’) and of course ‘Freak On A Leash’ which the band perform with a youthful exuberance that rolls back the years. ‘A.D.I.D.A.S. is another highlight and segues into closer ‘Blind’ which sets the bar high for Apex stage headliners Biffy Clyro.
Formed in 1977, American hardcore legends the Descendents forever changed the course of alternative music and have gone on to influence a whole raft of bands; Pennywise, NOFX and Green Day are just some of the new breed who’ve fallen under their spell. And with a string of hard (yet accessible) albums, it’s easy to see why. The band’s mixture of aggression and melody is highly addictive and a full Avalanche tent have come to get their fix. Opening with a barrage of power chords ‘Everything Sux’ says all it has to in 90 blistering seconds and it leaves the crowd feeling slightly windswept in its wake. It sets a dangerous precedent as the Descendents unleash classic song after classic song, and in double quick time, and the fast and furious nature of their performance only adheres them even more to the crowd. Squeezing over 25 songs into their hour set should give you a flavour of a Descendents gig and as final track ‘Catalina’ rings out were left slightly shell shocked at the sets conclusion.
The choice of Biffy Clyro as headliners created much discussion in the Download community. In fact, its a decision that’s polarised festival goers like never before, and opinion is swinging wildly between two extremes. However, there’s not the same buzz electrifying the air that was present as we awaited Kiss and Maiden. In fact, as Steel Panther wrap up on the Opus stage there’s a mass exodus towards the exits, and Donington Park continues haemorrhaging punters throughout Biffy’s performance. Of course, people have school/work tomorrow which could explain their departure but if Maiden were closing the festival, I’m sure people would hang around. However, those who left are missing out on a great performance and from opening shot DumDum to final encore ‘Many Of Horror’ Biffy Clyro deliver a tight set that’s bang on the money. I’m a big fan of three-piece bands, as with no place to hide every member comes to the fore, and that’s just what you get with Biffy Clyro as each musician vies for your attention, especially drummer Ben Johnson who hits the skins exceptionally hard. Vocalist/guitarist Simon Neil and bassist James Johnston cover every inch of stage and they’re one of those rarefied bands who seem to make contact with everyone inside the racetrack and there’s not one of their fans who feels remiss at their performance.
As the traditional fireworks light up the sky and bring down the curtain on a heavy weekend, it’s great to have Donington back, and in all its pomp and glory. And after the three horrendous years we’ve all experienced, Download 2022 was just the tonic to pick us up.
- Reviewed by Peter Dennis.