Review By Claire Frays
Download Fest Round 2. An early start for arguably the weekend’s most diverse musical day. Legends UFO were just what the doctor ordered providing a rock-tastic start to the day. Vinnie Moore’s guitar solo-ing was out of this world, just mind-blowing. Whilst the familiar ‘Doctor, Doctor’, that many know from its use as Iron Maiden’s Intro, proved a big hit with Donington’s early risers.
Brit rockers, Heaven’s Basement sounded smashing and in fine form in the first of two performances of the weekend with their straight up Rock sound. After previous years of rocking Download’s acoustic stages (2011 and 2012) and the Pepsi Max tent (2012), the band looked thrilled to be on the Zippo stage. After years of supporting huge acts, Heaven’s Basement more than held their own, commanding the stage with tracks from 2012’s ‘Filthy Empire’. Based on this performance, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw these guys on the main stage very soon.
Back on main stage, Young Guns made their return after an extensive stint of touring in the USA. Whilst their set fell a little short in matching the same levels of intensity that 2011’s performance delivered, the commitment and impact still shined through with Young Guns again proving themselves to be one of the most exciting young bands on the rise. ‘Weight Of The World’ was a major stand-out and tracks from 2012’s ‘Bones’ elicited huge responses from the crowd. There is surely only more to come from this band.
“Sounds like Korn meets Alestorm.” said a fellow downloader. “They have a dancing goblin onstage, everyone at the campsite has been talking about it.” said another. Enough to persuade anyone to drop plans and wander over to third stage to see what Nekrogoblikon was all about. Goblin Metal is quite something. If you’re into the likes of Wintersun, Turisas and Finntroll you will dig these guys. They did indeed have a dancing goblin, a mental song about furious bears and a fair few about goblins. If you missed it, you really missed out.
Metal heavyweights Heart Of A Coward are rapidly making their way up the ranks, and with former Sylosis frontman Jamie Graham on board they put on quite the performance. ‘Shade’ is a notable highlight, filled with gang chants, gnarly riffage, and soaring clean vox. In a set that can only be described as headbangers haven, Jamie’s energetic frontmanship won over even the most sceptical of fans and, the hearts of those who had just stuck their head into the tent to hear the band for the first time. Heavy, brutal and awesome.
Rising stars Bury Tomorrow pretty much demolished third stage with their performance fully justifying the hype that currently surrounds them. The only band I have seen work a tent better than these guys was Gallows’ infamous circle pit that went outside of the tent and back in again at Sonisphere 2010. When frontman Daniel Winter-Bates called for a circle pit for “the heaviest song we’ve ever written as a band”, ‘Sceptres’ he didn’t even have to ask twice as a humongous pit opened across the tent. He asked again for a bigger pit before ‘An Honourable Reign’ and the crowd didn’t disappoint. Things got aerial next with practically half of the crowd up on shoulders for some old school BT with ‘You & I’. Having missed Slipknot, the band decided to recreate similar scenes with a jump the f*ck up of their own during ‘Knight Life’ – slightly impossible when everyone is packed like sardines! ‘Royal Blood’ ended a stellar afternoon and one of the weekends big highlights. My advice? Do not miss these guys on their UK tour this winter.
Any pre-Download worries that Jimmy Eat World had about being bottled turned out to be thankfully non-existent as the band drew in one of the weekend’s largest crowds on second stage despite the QOTSA/Devin Townsend clash. ‘I Will Steal You Back’ from the recently released album ‘Damage’ opened the show nicely. It would have been nice to have seen a couple more tracks from this album, but JEW’s classy and no nonsense set really played to a festival crowd with their extensive back catalogue of big hits represented. ‘A Praise Chorus’, ‘Bleed American’, ‘Sweetness’ and ‘Pain’ sound timeless and as a catchy as ever. The song everyone had been waiting for ‘The Middle’ came last to rapturous applause and some of the weekend’s loudest cheers with singing drowning out frontman Jim Adkins and co from the get go.
In stark contrast to J.E.W, things got heavy down on third stage. Having seen Taiwanese Black Metal outfit Chthonic twice before, the opportunity to watch them perform with a six-piece orchestra was too good to pass up. The Chai Found Traditional Stringed and Woodwind Orchestra added an extra dynamic and huge sound to Chthonic’s performance, really capturing the oriental vibe and traditional Taiwanese soundscapes present across the band’s music. A real treat.
Internet speculation/dreams that UFO might perform ‘Doctor, Doctor’ live to open Iron Maiden’s set may have been shattered when the track resonated over the arena PA, but it was long forgotten as a spitfire flew over the Download grounds. Since their Maiden England gigs in the states last year, Maiden’s UK fans looked on with jealously as setlists began to filter online, wishing for a UK date. As a youngster who sadly can’t brag about seeing Maiden in ’88 (and so on) it was thrilling to see a Maiden setlist overloaded with so many classic hits one after another. From ‘The Evil That Men Do’, ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’ to ‘The Trooper’, ‘The Number Of The Beast’, ‘Run To The Hills’ and ‘Wasted Years’, the good just kept rolling. The super-human Bruce Dickinson somehow managed to scuttle the stage from side-to-side time and time again with more energy that someone half his age possesses. ‘Fear of the Dark’ was as goosebump inducing as always with *that* opening and the crowd majestically singing along in unison to the guitar melody. Amazing. ‘Iron Maiden’ followed and then came the encore. Bruce Dickinson may not have been able to reach some of those uber high notes, but I would be lying if I said that hearing ‘Aces High’ live didn’t almost have me in tears. ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and ‘Running Free’ closed a fine two hours of awesomeness. Long may Iron Maiden continue their reign. Up the Irons!