Download Festival, Donington Park – Day 2 – Friday 9th June 2023


With drummer Jonno Panichi providing a thunderous drum roll by way of an introduction, Stand Atlantic get the second day of Download off to an earth-quaking start. They’ve come all the way from Sydney, Australia, and they haven’t come to take prisoners. They deliver a no-holds-barred performance that finds all the needles firmly in the red, and by second song ‘Jurassic Park’ they’re firmly in the groove, and the crowd require little goading to jump and shout in unison. Final track ‘molotov [OK]’ is rewarded with the first circle pit of the day, and thoroughly deserved it is to.

I don’t know what they’re putting in the Australian water, but that country is currently birthing an array of heavy bands (of all different stripes) and another band born from the fertile Sydney scene are Redhook.
Self-described purveyors of “screaming rap rock electro pop mutants”, they make the ground shake and the earth ululate, and if there are any doubters present, then they’re converted by the time the band reach ‘I Don’t Keep Up’. Some saxophone was the last thing I was expecting, yet it fits into their controlled chaos very well. Redhook attract the kind of rabid fans who sing along with every word, and their boisterous beats pull in fans from all points of Donington Park.

There’s nothing quite like the sound of a death metal band in full-flight, and that’s exactly what you get from New York’s Undeath. They are currently the premier disseminators of extreme metal; imagine the most depraved serial killer on a murderous rampage and you’d have something approaching the terror emanating from the Dogtooth stage. Full of squealing guitars and pounding drums, their set is the musical equivalent of a hammer smashing face. Offstage vocalist Alex Jones is the most affable character, but once he picks up a microphone a strange transmogrification occurs and he turns into the kind of individual you wouldn’t want to bump into down a dark alley. The great thing about Undeath is that they don’t feel the need to blast beat all the time, but when they do, they unleash the hounds of hades.

Although they’ve been terrorising listeners for over a decade-and-a-half, my first exposure to Manchester’s Ingested came via their appearance on the recent Cannibal Corpse tour. They were a standout band on that package, and they are shining just as brightly today, and the technical bent they bring to bear certainly livens things up. With a wild, wide-eyed stare, vocalist Jay Evans cuts the figure of an escaped convict, and when he tells the audience to crouch down and jump on command, they have no choice but to obey. Ingested create an experience like no other, and if you’ve yet to make their acquaintance, you need to rectify this as soon as possible.

There’s a buzz surrounding the appearance of Empire State Bastard, primarily because they have former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo sitting behind the kit today. But, don’t write the band off as some kind of novelty act, because nothing could be further from the truth, a huge cheer welcomes the band onstage, and Empire State Bastard proceed to deliver a set that tumbles over the crowd like a landslide. Quieter sections act as a foil for the louder, and the band flit between the two with reckless abandon, the vocals are equally versatile and veer between falsetto and guttural, while Mr Lombardo ensures it is all delivered with the requisite punch. Very heavy and very nice.

In the annuls of metal, I don’t believe a band has been more appropriately-titled than Architects. They sculpt sound and fashion it into structures that represent the brutalist dreams of Le Corbusier writ large. Delivered with emphasis on humongous grooves, Architects swing like a huge wrecking ball and ululate like the ocean waves. ‘Doomsday’ is a prime example of the band’s ethos, as metronomic drums beat at our chests, a heart attack just waiting to happen. Dean Searle’s vocals are caustic, and corrode like battery acid, and he demands that virgin crowd surfers are launched, the multitude are only happy to oblige, and soon send legions crashing over the barrier. The twin drum attack of final number ‘Animals’ makes for cacophonous conclusion, and one that ensures they won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

Shock rockers GWAR have been held up at the airport, and now won’t be appearing until tomorrow which causes a rumble of discontent in the crowd, yet Carpenter Brut sweetens the atmosphere somewhat. The mysterious and enigmatic darkwave artist Frank Hueso (Carpenter Brut) pays definite homage to the ‘80s with neon blues and pinks lighting the stage, and any one of the songs he performs tonight would make the perfect accompaniment to slasher flicks such as Friday The 13th or Child’s Play and his dark, discombobulating sound pays perfect homage. As the sun sets and the temperature drops, things inside the Dogtooth tent heat up a few degrees as all those present shake their tush to Carpenter Brut’s irresistible beats. A cover of Michael Sembello’s ‘Maniac’ (best known from the Flashdance film) is a track Hueso has made his own, and it makes for the perfect closer. It has a capacity crowd all singing and dancing, which is perhaps the greatest gift music can give.

As more and more of rock and metal’s more established bands start disappearing over the horizon, the question arises every year as to who will be future headliners. It’s a quandary of no small proportions, yet Sheffield’s very own Bring Me The Horizon have stepped up to the plate as the saviours of heavy metal. They certainly know how to make an entrance, and after the Resident Evil intro tape, flames burst from the stage and lick the sky and the band appear amidst explosions which send sparks flying like confetti in every direction. ‘AmEN!’ was the surprise single recently released, and it makes an equally surprising opener, but when it comes to Bring Me The Horizon, you should always expect the unexpected. Their career has been characterised by a constant, chameleon-like change, and tonight’s set is indicative of that. For some reason, they only draw on tracks from their recent discography (2013 onwards), yet this gives things a unified, cohesive feel, like a concept album, only on stage. ‘Teardrops’ and ‘The House Of Wolves’ both raise the ante, goading the crowd on to further insanity, as horns are held on high and moshers strut their stuff in the pit. There’s plenty to spike the casual fans interest (not that there’s many of those present) as the band bring out the Nova Twins to perform on ‘1X1’ and, welcomed with a huge cheer, Evanescence’s Amy Lee to add her considerable talents to ‘One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March towards Your Death’ and ‘Nihilist Blues’. An acoustic version of ‘Follow You’ closes the show, but acoustically is no way for Bring Me The Horizon to depart, and they return for three well deserved encores, the last of which, ‘Can You Feel My Heart’ sends all home happy.

Photo: Abbie Shipperley

Bring Me The Horizon Set List:

1. Resident Evil (Introduction)
2. AmEN!
3. Teardrops
4. The House Of Wolves
6. Dear Diary,
7. Parasite Eve
8. Shadow Moses
9. 1X1
10. LosT
11. One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death
12. Nihilist Blues
13. DiE4U
14. Kingslayer
15. Follow You
16. Drown
17. Throne
18. Can You Feel My Heart

See review of Day 1

See review of Day 3

See review of Day 4

* Photography by Philip Piskor.