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The Midlands Rocks

Download Festival Round Up – Sunday 10th June 2018

Review by Claire Frays and Dean Pedley

And so onto the final day of Midlands Rocks’ Donington Adventures – Extreme Metal, Hardcore, Punk, Modern Metal, Classic Rock ruled the day and here’s our take on the last day of Download Festival 2018. And, if you missed our review of the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne’s, headliner set, you can check out our review here. Now onto the Sunday bands…


Cradle of Filth is a band that should be seen in darkness and miserable weather. Period. And it’s not that they personally chose where they sat on the bill, it’s just that seeing extreme metal bands (and the corpse paint to match) in daylight doesn’t quite elude the same air of mystery and atmosphere as the dead of the night. We’re also shocked Dani Filth didn’t melt into dust in the daylight. Forgive us for being so cliché. Sometimes at outdoor gigs, the layers of symphonic metal can get lost and less impactful, but we’re pleased to report that Cradle’s sound was pretty bang on. It might be little too early for Filth’s wailing screams in ‘Heartbreak & Séance’ and ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’ but they sound grandiose and mystical nonetheless.

IMG_4077Hatebreed were up next and they packed a punch in a blistering set on the Main Stage. Demonstrating how to pack a headliner sets worth of material into 45 minutes, the band launched their hardcore assault with ‘Proven’ straight into ‘To The Threshold’. Those who have seen Hatebreed before know you’re either Chris & Frank’s side, or you’re Wayne’s side. Out for redemption following a loss in the Netherlands (the previous show), frontman Jamey Jasta did his best to raise the bar high pitting each side of Donington against each other in a scream vote. It was a close one but we definitely think victory went to Chris & Frank – sorry Wayne.

They finished proceedings with the headbangers ‘Destroy Everything’ and ‘I Will Be Heard’. If you didn’t have a bangover the next day from this set, then you did Hatebreed completely wrong. It was heavy-hitting and also one of the most uplifting, middle fingers in the air styled sets of the weekend. They were as diehard as they come and you can’t help but wish they were higher on the bill. We salute you Hatebreed.

For those who like their Rock at a less furious pace then the Dogtooth Stage was the tent to be in during the Sunday afternoon sunshine. Former Jagged Edge / Skin / Red White & Blues guitarist Myke Gray is now performing under his own name and debut solo album Shades of Gray was released last year to a positive reception. In vocalist Phil Conalane (ex-Million Dollar Reload and now fronting the excellent Blackwater Conspiracy) Gray has found the ideal frontman for his hard rocking anthems and they gallop through their twenty-odd minute set that includes ‘House of Love’ and ‘Shine a Light’ from Skin’s 1994 Keith Olsen produced debut. Gray and his band are out and about at both Steelhouse and Ramblin’ Man in the coming weeks and support Black Star Riders towards the end of the year.

We’re pretty sure that when In This Moment‘s Maria Brink got to the stage and the wind blew hair in her face which then got caught in her massively OTT headdress, that she surely must have regretted her choice(s) of attire. Older fans of the band long for a return to the Beautiful Tragedy / Star-Crossed Wasteland days when Brink and bandmates appeared more as a unit and normal band on stage. Brink even used to be found down in the crowd inciting circle pits back in the day if you can believe it. Dare I say it, we’re almost ashamed to say there were more costume changes in this set than a 90s Steps concert – none of which added any particular value to the overall performance might we add.

Onto the music then. Their set wasn’t bad at all despite being so short – far from it fact. They opened with the raw and emotional ‘Blood’. Brink’s voice is different from the usual thin and weedy sounding female rock/metal vocalists out there. It’s husky, has light and darkness in it and she can scream right there with the best of them, which sets them apart from the other female fronted bands. She really doesn’t need to rely on the silly and often unnecessary gimmicks she uses. They even broke out, ‘Black Wedding’. The album version features none other than Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, and although Halford wasn’t at Donington, Joe Cotela from Ded who joined Brink onstage did a pretty amazing job. They closed up shop with you guessed it – another costume change –  before bouncing into the ever-popular ‘Whore’ to a sea of approval.

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Back over on the Dogtooth stage the temperature was soaring and the audience were packed in like sardines for the welcome return to Donington of Toby Jepson and the incredible Wayward Sons. With just short of half an hour to impress the band really made the most of their all too brief time on stage with their riff driven rockers delivering maximum impact. Ghosts of Yet to Come has been hailed has the best thing Jepson has been involved with for years and we certainly echo that sentiment. The pace only relaxes slightly for the mid-tempo ‘Crush’ but the rest of the set has that hard rocking swagger that made the Little Angels such an infectious band in their prime. With Jepson now clearly enjoying fronting a band again and Wayward Sons having signed a four album deal with Frontiers they look set to be around for a good time yet.

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IMG_4097With the future of Black Veil Brides seemingly up in the air, if recent comments made by Black Veil Brides’ Ashley Purdy are anything to go by, then this could well have been the last occasion the UK will have seen BVB tear things up. Which depending on whether you’re a BVB fanatic or can’t stand the living daylights of them may or may not be a good/bad thing. But we for one, hope it’s not the end as these young LA Rockers surely have much more potential still to come.

This years’ assail on Donington went much, much better for Andy Biersack and co (we didn’t see any bottles thrown – which is always a good sign! 😊 ). Opening with ‘Faithless’ into ‘Coffin’, BVB exuded confidence and swagger that some of their more established peers wish they had – they also brought FIRE and impeccably snazzy guitar solos. The core BVB big choons were all there too, ‘Rebel Love Song’ sounded as catchy as it ever has and stick-it-to-the-man teen anthem ‘Fallen Angels’ with Jynxx and Jake Pitts syncopated guitar licks, centre-stage, stole the show for us. They really were all guns blazing on the main stage this time around. They ended with the rather apt ‘In The End’. Let’s hope it isn’t the end…

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Back and with a new album to boot, Shinedown made their return to the Donington Main Stage with their performance as slick as it has ever been. If there’s one thing frontman Brent Smith can do well, its effortlessly work a crowd and work a crowd well. And have the crowd firmly in the palm of his hand, he did. Yes, there is the cheesy hug your neighbour type stuff, but it just seems to work and resonate with people.They opened with the colossal wall of sound that is the ‘Sound of Madness’, before playing a fairly balanced set with fan-favourites from across Shinedown’s back catalogue.

sdown001Favouring the dare-we-say-it “heavier” side of Shinedown’s back-catalogue (and totally void of ballads), from the first note it’s evident they’re on exceptional form right now. We’d go as far to say that Shinedown is that band you don’t want as your support act – not because they’re bad or anything – it’s because they set the bar so high for acts after them to follow. New tracks from the recently released ATTENTION, ATTENTION made their live UK debuts in the form of ‘The Human Radio’ and ‘Kill Your Conscience’ which sounded HUGE. With any luck, a future tour will enable the band to showcase more of the hidden gems on this stellar album.

One of the highlights was when Smith dived off the stage and sprinted into the crowd – his team and security obviously wasn’t ready and a mad scramble ensued in a bid to keep up with him as he looped sound-desk (and the barricades) with the energy of someone half his age.‘Second Chance’, ‘Enemies’ and ‘Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom) scored the biggest singalongs of the set and saw the crowd jump, jump, jump as Shinedown’s set drew closer to the end. They ended with ‘Devil’ (we expect at some stage they’ll use this as a powerful set opener) as Smith dived into the crowd one more time to high five as many people on the barricades as he physically could.

Judging by the Shinedown tour vlog posted in the Download Festival aftermath, which documented the band’s pilgrimage to Castle Donington, it just meant so much for them to be there on that stage. It surely can’t be long before Shinedown headlines arenas of their own. ATTENTION, ATTENTION. Well Shinedown, the UK can’t wait for it to get heavy. It’s not goodbye, it’s just ’til next time.

Over on Zippo, Canada’s finest post-hardcore exports, Alexisonfire, returned to Donington for the first time in TWELVE years (last appearing in 2006!!) for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. Alexis bid farewell in 2012 before embarking on a series of appearances in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and have steadily been making an epic comeback on the scene.  And what a comeback it has been. They may not have had new music since 2009’s Old Crows/Young Cardinals but they have such an illustrious back catalogue in their armoury to more than deliver the goods.

download001Proceedings got off to a flying start with ‘Young Cardinals’ and ‘Boiled Frogs’ (not together obviously!) in a set which heavily leant towards 2006’s stunning ‘Crisis’ album – we’re certainly not complaining.

‘Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints’ with its dazzling guitar lines has never sounded better. It was backed up just like the album and led into mega tune (and arguably Alexis’ best-known track), ‘This Could Be Anywhere In The World’ – which featured surprisingly mid-set. With the contrasting cleans of George Pettit and harsh vocals of Dallas Green driving both tracks to new heights, the crowd went wild. They closed with a storming rendition of ‘Accidents’. We really hope this isn’t the last we see of them.

And then came the turn of Rise Against on their fourth Download Festival stint. No strangers to the second stage having previously headlined and sub-headlined in previous years, Chicago’s finest punk rockers once again took the top slot in the blistering Donington sun. ‘The Violence’ and ‘Satellite’ set the tone for the glorious all-hell-breaks-loose fury that followed and never really stopped. Occasionally bursting into wacky guitar solos and nuanced song endings between tracks, McIlrath, Blair, Principe and Barnes showed off their musical prowess, mad skills and purposeful lyrics. From the aggressive guitar intro and soaring chorus’ of ‘Help Is On The Way’ to newer tracks from Wolves which included ‘The Breakdown’ and ‘House On Fire’, Rise Against’s masterful set was full of speedy tunes, positive affirmations and never missed a beat.

07’s ‘Ready To Fall’ scored the horns of approval on the punchy chorus lines and Millennial’s jumped for joy by the time the Need For Speed Underground 2 (remember that on PS2?) anthem, ‘Give It All’ rocked around. But it’s Appeal To Reason’s mega-track ‘Savior’ that steals the light. If perfection in the live arena was a song, this would be it. From its misleading and understated momentarily slow introduction before “that” guitar riff dropped, to the moment the palm mute came in and it all kicked off in the crowd. Fast and furious and Donington nailed the “whoa, whoa” sections on the chorus – horns aloft. Just divine start to end. Then came the encore – one final Donington assault. ‘Make It Stop (September’s Children)’ into ‘Like The Angel’ led by McIlrath’s flawless vocals. But saving the best until last, Rise Against wasted no time launching into ‘Prayer of the Refugee’, once again proving the tour de force they are in the live arena and ensuring the second stage concluded with an almighty punk rock bang. Nicely done lads.

Setlist

The Violence
Satellite
Survive
I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore
House on Fire
Ready to Fall
Help Is on the Way
Welcome to the Breakdown
Give It All
Blood-Red, White & Blue
Re-Education (Through Labor)
Savior

Encore:
Make It Stop (September’s Children)
Like the Angel
Prayer of the Refugee

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