Review by Claire Frays
Download Festival Review 2012
Myself and my camping buddies were delighted when the arena opened two hours late. Not because we disliked the first two bands (Rise To Remain and Cancer Bats) by any means, but the weather conditions and our “not so cool spot” on White Camp was slowly becoming more of a mud island pouring into our tents, quite literally. As a result, we decided to abandon ship and made a real mess of things moving our already pitched tents up onto the safety ground of Yellow Camp, which would turn out to be our home for the next three days.
Our race around the Donington track up to the arena saw us greeted with the heavy sounds of Industrial Metallers Fear Factory. The band raced through their 45 minute mainstage slot like nobody’s business, blasting their way through ‘Linchpin’, ‘Powershifter’, ‘Self Bias Resistor’ and the pulverizing, ‘Recharger’ from recent June album release ‘The Industrialist’. Just the wake-up call we needed.
In contrast, NOFX inject a fun vibe into the arena. I vaguely remember something about “screamo, emo kids” being mentioned, tongue in cheek of course. It would have been nice to have seen the band add in the recently released single ‘My Stepdad’s A Cop And My Stepmom’s A Domme’, apparently written about the lead singers daughter whose stepdad is a cop and stepmom a domme. The lyrics are quite frankly hilarious which sees the band compare both “jobs” in a Steel Panther kind of humorous way. But anyway, their witty set is the perfect mix to brighten up a dull and rainy start to Download 2012.
Next up on Mainstage, Billy Talent kindly allow fellow Canadian’s Cancer Bats to perform one song mid-way through their set, to make up for the bands morning cancellation (and later rescheduled set) due to the adverse weather conditions in Donington. The band rips their way through a showcase of material from various albums including the infectiously catchy new single, ‘Viking Death March’, but it’s the old hats ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’, ‘Rusted In The Rain’ (Fitting given the weather at this time!), ‘Fallen Leaves’ and ‘Red Flag’ which score the most recognition.
But Friday was all about Machine “FUCKING” Head, who easily topped their Sonisphere 2009 22 Circle Pit Record to ‘Struck A Nerve’, with a whopping 29 circle pits to the furious ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’. HELL FREAKING YEAH. Sir Robb Flynn, Messrs Demmel, Duce and McClain are on fine form this evening, with ‘I Am Hell (Sonata In C#)’ commencing proceedings in total Machine Head style. The mighty “Halo” from The Blackening unleashes 9 minutes of thrilling riffage, the note perfect guitar solo, hand clapping, fist pumping, insane headbanging and… mudfights in mosh pits! The bands hour long set goes by in the blink of eye. Surely a headliner slot at Download is destined for Machine Head in the next couple of years…
Next, A quick race over to second stage to catch the close of Sweden’s finest Progressive Death Metallers, Opeth – probably one of the worst clashes of the entire weekend – but the Swedes again proved that in the live arena, they are unstoppable with their tight musicianship.
The choices for the next hour are between Chase & Status, Axewound (the side project of Matt Tuck from Bullet For My Valentine and Liam Cormier from Cancer Bats) or Nightwish.
We opt for Nightwish. I’ll make it clear that as a “Tarja-holic” and “untrue fan of the band” (the names that some fans call anyone who deems Tarja Turunen any good – at least on Last FM!) that I was dreading this set the most of any the entire weekend. Nightwish have cleverly and probably wisely included lots of new era material in their set tonight including ‘Storytime’, ‘I Want My Tears Back’ and ‘Song Of Myself’. These tracks are much more suited to Anette Olzon’s voice than much of Nightwish’s back catalogue (especially tracks from Oceanborn and Wishmaster), and the accompanying vocals from Tarot’s Marco Hietala in old era material, ‘Planet Hell’ and ‘Wish I Had An Angel’ are a job well done. Troy Donockley on uillean pipes also joins the band tonight, providing an extra dimension to Nightwish’s already bombastic sound, whilst flame-thrower pyro shooting off in different directions, mirrors the magical compositions of Nightwish maestro, Tuomas Holopainen. The crowd loves every moment…
But it was the headliners that stole the show. Slash, mainman Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators rock to a jam packed second stage, showcasing tracks from their most recent album release ‘Apocalyptic Love’. Opening with the spectacularly rock-tastic ‘One Last Thrill’ it’s clear that the entire band is on fine form this evening. Slash is as perfect as ever and Kennedy’s voice is just incredible in every way possible, his vocal range and tone in particular is quite something. Popular recent single release ‘You’re A Lie’ goes down a treat, but it’s the Guns ‘N’ Roses material which included ‘Nightrain’, ‘Rocket Queen’, ‘Mr. Brownstone’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, and closing song ‘Paradise City’ that secures the loudest singing of the night. Axl who?! The Slash/Kennedy combination is most definitely a winner in our eyes.
After catching the last half of The Prodigy’s set looking on in awe at their brilliant light show, we arrive back at Yellow Camp, relieved that our tents are somehow still standing…
American Metalcore-rs, As I Lay Dying are the perfect Saturday morning opener, shredding the faces off Download’s early morning risers – even blow-up dolls are going wild for the band (;-))! In a career spanning 10 years it’s no surprise that a fair bit of earlier AILD material dominates the setlist ,with ’94 Hours’ and ‘Forever’ from 2003 release ‘Frail Words Collapse’ and ‘Though Struggle’ and ‘Confined’ ‘ from 2005’s ‘Shadows Are Security’ all featured. Tracks from 2010’s Billboard 200 Top 10 album ‘The Powerless Rise’ includes ‘Condemned’ and the rapidly paced and emotive catchy chorus sounds of ‘Anodyne Sea’.
Meanwhile, rising stars, Halestorm led by frontwoman/singer/guitarist extraordinaire, Lzzy Hale demolish second stage. Lzzy’s voice is incredibly versatile and sounds like no other in the rock world currently. Her voice switches between more aggressively placed vocals which are a little similar to Maria Brink from ‘In This Moment’ and catchy rock-y cleans, providing very impressive stuff indeed! ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ and ‘Mz. Hyde’ are notable highlights. Based on this performance they won’t be occupying a slot that low down on the bill again.
The band everyone loves to hate that isn’t Nickelback, marmite band Black Veil Brides grace the stage following their successful Download 2011 appearance delighting equally as many fans as they are offending at the same time. But it’s the newly crowned Kerrang! Award winning single ‘Rebel Love Song’ and the infectious sing-a-long chorus’ of ‘Fallen Angels’ that provide the standout songs of the bands entire set.
After a tip-off from a friend and fellow reviewer, I manage to snag a pass from a security guard to enter the “Snakepit” for Trivium’s set, which as the Trivium-holic I am, literally made my entire weekend. ‘Capsizing The Sea’’s haunting melody explodes into the striking ‘In Waves’ before driving into the ultimate circle pit anthem, the savage ‘Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr’. But it’s ‘The Deceived’ that scores the most circle pits of the entire set, including one rather large pit in the snakepit (!) as curious onlookers struggle to keep their eyes on the band, who by this point are racing across Metallica’s stage ramps, thrusting themselves closer to the main barriers to the delight of the crowded mainstage. ‘A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation’ is a case of “jump, jump, jump” in time with frontman Matt Heafy or get your feet broken, so jump we do as the big screens depict beautiful scenes of synchronized bouncing from front to back, side to side. Shogun’s ‘Throes Of Perdition’ draws a short, but fan pleasing set to an end.
Next to hop on mainstage are Steel Panther’s hilariously funny quartet; frontman Michael Starr, guitarist Satchel, “pouting” bassist Lexxi Foxx and drummer Stixx Zadinia, who bring the fun factor out in full force at Donington. The band has pretty much become a household name at Download with 2012 marking the bands 3rd appearance in 4 years. Songs from debut album ‘Feel The Steel’ are as hilarious as they were the first time around, especially ‘Asian Hooker’ and the heartfelt “ballad” ‘Community Property’ but material from ‘Balls Out’ is right behind it with ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’ and ’17 Girls In A Row’ both full of even wittier lines and equally as amusing “back stories”. The end of the set sees Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman, Corey Taylor joining the band for a fabulous rendition of ‘Death To All But Metal’. Whatever you think about Steel Panther, you can’t deny that these are four extremely talented musicians who have found a bit of niche and ran away with it. With any luck they’ll be back next year for yet more entertainment. *Fingers Crossed*
The singing doesn’t get louder all weekend than during Tenacious –D’s set. Jack Black and Kyle Gass kick things off with recent single release ‘Rize Of The Fenix’. The majority of the set is devoted to showcasing material from this album, all of which sends the Download mainstage into a frenzy. The phenomenal “best song in the world”, ‘Tribute’ is the biggest highlight of the day, with various festival punters attempting to put on that “Devil” voice. ‘Double Team’ closes a hard days rocking, but we have a couple more bands to see before we can slip off our shoes! Just one thing though, where was the ‘Pick Of Destiny’?
Over on third stage, Metal’s brightest young stars, Sylosis shred their way through a short 30 minute slot allowing time for a mere five songs. But quality over quantity is what you get here with ‘A Serpents Tongue’, ‘Stained Humanity’, ‘Eclipsed’, ‘Teras’ and the amazing ‘Empyreal’.
If you missed Corey Taylor, then where the hell were you?! The Pepsi Max tent is rammed to watch Corey’s acoustic set which included everything from Stone Sour favourites ‘Bother’ and ‘Through Glass’ to acoustic Slipknot ‘ Spit It Out’ and ‘Snuff’ to covers of Alice in Chains’ ‘Down In A Hole’, Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Something I Can Never Have’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, U2’s ‘With Or Without You’ and one fabulous rendition of ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ with guest vocals from none other than Miss Lzzy Hale from Halestorm! And if that wasn’t enough, Corey also treated the crowd to a brand new Stone Sour song which I’m told was called ‘Taciturn’ and sounded very awesome indeed. If this track is anything to go by then the new Stone Sour release will be KILLER!
Back at second stage, reinstated Killswitch Engage frontman Jesse Leach sounds surprisingly great on the “Howard-era” Killswitch material; ‘Rose Of Sharyn’,‘The Arms Of Sorrow’, ‘This Is Absolution’, ‘The End Of Heartache’ and, ‘My Curse’ which makes up the bulk of KSE’s performance tonight. Older Jesse material from ‘Alive And Just Breathing’ sounds as good as it always did with ‘My Last Serenade’ providing the penultimate song of the set. But it’s ‘Holy Diver’, which I admit I am surprised to see, that ties up Killswitch’s 5th Download appearance.
There seems to be a surprising lack of atmosphere and enthusiasm towards the rear of the crowd tonight throughout Metallica’s duration. If you’re not interested in the band and would rather talk continuously, then please just go back to your tent! Needless to say, I’m out of there pretty sharpish to where I can actually see and enjoy the show. ‘Hit The Lights’ and ‘Master Of Puppets’ provide a sensational opening to proceedings. I think that Download even got the “tour debut” of ‘The Four Horsemen’! Seeing the Black album played backwards in its entirety is most definitely one of the festivals highlights this year. Tracks like ‘Nothing Else Matters’, ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Wherever I May Roam’ and of course ‘Enter Sandman’ are all timeless Metal classics that sound just as good today as they probably did when they were first released. (I wasn’t even a year old at the time, so I can’t really comment ;-)) The encore provides us with ‘Battery’, ‘One’ and ‘Seek And Destroy’ – a killer ending, to a KILLER show.
Opening the day’s proceedings is a tall order for any band, especially on the Sunday when the majority of download-ers partied hard on the two previous nights and have the hangovers and aching limbs to prove it.
Sadly, this means that large proportion of fans missed out on the awesome, Stellar Revival, who rocked their little hearts out to one of the smallest crowds on mainstage all weekend. It’s a shame that the turnout is so low, but the band takes it all in their stride with lots of interaction throughout their set. This was the bands first ever UK appearance which might have contributed to their lack of presence on peoples radars, but if you like Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge, Theory Of A Deadman, Shinedown styled bands, then you’ll want to hear these guys. They’re going to be much bigger than the measly turnout on Sunday morning suggested – watch this space! Check out their recently released single ‘The Crazy Ones’.
The turnout for DevilDriver however, is much, much, much bigger. The circle pits have already started to the bands INTRODUCTION music (!!!!) and even Mr Blobby (Yes, the pink and yellow “thing” with googly eyes) is in on the action as ‘End Of The Line’ roars across the arena. The frantically paced ‘Dead To Rights’ sets off even more pits and wakes up the headbangers all the way to the back. The heavy keeps on coming with ‘Horn Of Betrayal’ and ‘I Could Care Less’, the latter seeing Metalheads yelling those very words in the chorus of the song right back at frontman Dez Fafara. But it’s ‘Clouds Over California’ that brings the set to an epic close with circle pit so giant and vicious that it broke my wellies!
Over on second stage, August Burns Red dazzle with a metalcore feast complete with guitar brilliance. ‘Internal Cannon’ from 2011 album ‘Leveler’ is a stand out song in their setlist, which includes an impressive Spanish-y/classically influenced guitar breakdown and powerful vocals raw with aggression. If you’re a fan of All That Remains, Killswitch Engage and Trivium then make sure you check out these guys!
Edguy who as frontman/singer Tobias Sammet points out, are the only German band on the entire bill, provide one of the most funny and entertaining sets of the entire weekend. Sammet states it is their dream to appear on the mainstage and jokingly points out that they paid their sound man double to drown out the band on the mainstage – Anthrax! ‘Superheroes’, ‘King Of Fool’s, ‘Lavatory Love Machine’ are all epicly good Power Metal hits. Sammet’s vocal range is extremely impressive, but it is most refreshing to see a band with gleaming smiles etched across their faces throughout Edguy’s entire set, clearly loving every single moment of the band’s debut Download appearance. So please, please, please, Mr Copping, book these hilarious and musical genius’s on the Mainstage for next year. We all need more Power Metal in our lives.
Shadows Fall are one of the most polished live bands around, there is a never a note wrong or a song that lacks intensity with these guys. Frontman Brian Fair deserves a medal in the “best windmill” category for his impressive windmillling with dreads down to the floor! I’d hate to be in the way with those flinging about on-stage! He introduces two new songs from Shadows Falls upcoming album ‘Fire From The Sky’ titled ‘Divide And Conquer’ and ‘The Unknown’, and judging by the reception of these two tracks, the new album will be quite something! ‘The Light That Blinds’ that has one of the most awesome guitar intros, commencing slowly and building up to a crescendo of lightning fast fingering that appears from out of nowhere and, a melt your face off guitar solo closes an impressively tight set.
Back on mainstage, Lamb Of God kick things up a notch with opening tracks ‘Desolation’ and ‘Ghost Walking’ from the smashing 2012 album ‘Resolution’. There is a nice mix of songs across the majority of Lamb Of God’s studio albums (though nothing from As The Palaces Burn) thrown into the Download setlist including, the heavy hitting ‘Walk With Me In Hell’, ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’, ‘Laid To Rest’ and ‘Redneck’. Black Label (as always) rounds of a crushing setlist sparking numerous Walls Of Death as the crowd salutes frontman Randy Blythe with the “Metal Horns” of approval. What an energetic set.
Second stage is completely full for American Hard Rockers, Shinedown and their 40 minute slot made up mostly of the bands popular single releases; ‘Sound Of Madness’, ‘Bully’ , ‘Unity’, ‘Devour’, ‘Diamond Eyes ( Boom–Lay Boom-Lay Boom)’ and ‘Second Chance’. The band sound flawless and I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys are back headlining second stage before long.
The talented Gus G becoming known as Ozzy Osbourne’s touring guitarist has definitely helped Greek Power Metallers, Firewind increase the size of their fanbase. The band powers through their 30 minute slot winning over countless new fans with their technical musicianship and immaculate Power Metal vocals.
Third stage is full in anticipation of Ghost’s set which I can only assume was people who had heard of how good Ghost are and wanted to see them for themselves. The result? Absolutely hilarious, as confused glances of ghost newbies turn to those around them commenting on “What the hell is this?” before promptly exiting (!) as Papa Emiritus and his nameless ghouls enter the stage to the opening of ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’. Those who “get” Ghost are treated to 45 minutes of spellbinding intense doomy Metal.
Periphery kind of shot themselves in the foot a little when they asked the crowd why they were watching Periphery when Black Sabbath could be playing their last ever track over on Mainstage. He seems unaware that Sabbath aren’t actually onstage at this time and won’t appear for atleast another half an hour at 9PM! At the time, I had planned to watch their set in its entirety, but these words ringed true for much of the crowd who abandoned the band after half of their set. And so after 30 minutes of blissful Djent riffs and melodic, emotive screams and clean vocals, we too departed for Black Sabbath who blasted through an incredible 2 hours of greatest hits and annihilating riffs, but I’ll leave it to MR’s Harry Paterson to spill the beans about Sabbath – check out his Review here!
And so ended Download for another year… here’s hoping for a sunny Download 2013!