Review by Jack Arkell
With the clouds parting to reveal the first real glance of sunshine of the weekend, female fronted Canadians Kobra and the Lotus open proceeding on the second stage. Despite the desirable weather and the quality of the music, the band struggle to attract much of a crowd. Still, those who have headed elsewhere for their 11am entertainment are the ones losing out, as this is one act that will certainly climb up festival bills in years to come.
Speaking of such bands, the fact that Black Spiders are given an 11.45am stage time is almost criminal, though there is no chance of the band or their fans complaining. Instead, the perpetually exemplary act threw a pre-noon party punctuated by mass headbanging and raised middle fingers. One can never tire of belting tracks such as ‘Stay Down’ and ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’, and by the time ‘Blood of the Kings’ rounded off the performance, the hard working band had earned themselves even more followers.
German power metal exports Edguy combined warm humour with colossal sound in the Pepsi Max tent to distinguish themselves as one of the bands of the day, before Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society delivered a solo-laden yet disappointingly mechanical set over on the main stage.
If ever there was a band averted to playing run-of-the-mill sets, it has to be Lamb of God. After wheeling out some new material at the top of the setlist, the Virginians cranked up the volume with a sheer barrage of pummelling heavy metal, with better-known songs such as ‘Redneck’ and ‘Black Label’ predictably inciting some of the biggest mosh pits of the day.
Considerably more middle of the road yet no less impressive live are Shinedown, who played in front of a packed second stage crowd in the Donington sun. Off the back of the hugely successful ‘Amaryllis’ record, Shinedown seem destined to headline festivals if their output continues to win them fans, and certainly the band already have a pool of festival anthems to draw from, including ‘Devour’ and the genuinely towering ‘Second Chance’, which is sung back to them by thousands of voices on this day.
The crowd was divided between those who had waited for years for Swedish punks Refused to return and those who had no idea they had even existed, with seemingly no middle ground. The band thrived on this though, rifling through a set that showed that none of the anger and punk spirit had been lost since the band’s original run. Between songs, vocalist Dennis Lyxzen spoke almost apologetically about the fact that his band had been away for so long, exuding gratitude that their fans had waited for them to return. Though one of their final tracks was entitled ‘The Refused are Fucking Dead’, it was clear that the once cult band have risen from the ashes to popularity never before experienced by them.
Keeping up the punk spirit, the Irish-American Dropkick Murphys sub-headlined the second stage, providing an alternative to Soundgarden’s main stage UK return. Though at times there was something mysteriously flat about their performance, the Celtic punks never fail to get crowds jumping to their mammoth hit ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’, and so it continued on the final day of Download 2012.
But of course, the day belonged to Black Sabbath. With the band’s reunion in danger of turning into a soap opera due to contracts and replacements, it was an honour for everyone in attendance to forget about all of the rumours for an hour and a half in order to watch the mighty Sabbath return to Donington. With the second half of their performance running unopposed, a crowd of 100,000 people all joined in on a journey through time that took in the quintessential riffage of ‘The Wizard’, ‘Sweet Leaf’, ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Iron Man’. Ozzy Osbourne’s voice is unblemished by age. Tony Iommi is as iconic in his work as ever, despite going through treatment for Lymphoma. Geezer Butler’s bass playing is still as impeccable as ever, and just for the record, Tommy Clufetos is a powerhouse behind the drumkit, as proven by his breathtaking solo.
‘Paranoid’ signals the end of the most important set of the weekend, before the band takes a bow in front of a firework display that puts Bonfire night to shame. Ozzy’s promise that the new album will be ready for next year is one that softens the blow that Download Festival is over for another year, but if this year’s solid line-up and excellent ticket sales are anything to go by, it looks as if Download 2013 will be one to start looking forward to already…