Lovers of Rock and Metal made the annual “pilgrimage” to the hallowed Donington Park grounds for the twelfth edition of Download Festival. When the scribes team (and friends) weren't dominating the dodgems in the campsite village, we were moshing around like maniacs across all of the festival stages to catch as many bands as possible across the weekend. And boy did we see some cracking sets!
Here’s Part One of our Download Festival review – stay tuned for Saturday and Sunday coming real soon!
Kicking the festival off were Metalcore-rs Miss May I. Much of their setlist was built around 2014’s Rise Of The Lion with ‘Refuse To Believe’, ‘Hero With No Name’, ‘Gone’ and ‘Echoes’ all well-received. The bands metalcore headbang-tastic anthems got the festival off to a rocking start with the weekends first mosh pits, crowd surfers and horns raised in approval. Just the wake-up call everyone needed. 7/10
Next up were Japanese fusion masters of metal/electronica, Crossfaith who provided one of the weekends’ biggest highlights drawing in a huge crowd at Mainstage. The cries for circle pit after circle pit and crowd participation from frontman Koie Kenta were numerous, with the bands infectious tunes and boundless energy driving the set to new heights. Even the most sceptical of Download attendees surely sat up and took notice. There is only more to come from these guys. Watch this space! 8/10
No strangers to Download, Skindred once again proved that they are the ultimate festival kings. Eccentric frontman Benji Webbe worked the Donington crowd with ease calling for punters to wave like the Queen, bounce and to clap hands “bitches” all set long. Crossfaith’s Koie Kenta also took to the stage making a guest appearance in Warning. Various garments were held aloft and violently swung for a mahoosive ‘Newport Helicopter’ which saw the majority of the Download crowd participating as other punters ducked to narrowly avoid being hit in the eyeballs by zips from hoodies (!). 9/10
An under–represented genre at Download and one that struggles to make in-roads in the UK, in comparison to the enormous popularity it enjoys in Mainland Europe and South America, Within Temptation (next to Nightwish) are are paving the way in the Female Fronted Symphonic Metal genre. The band has taken huge leaps with most recent album Hydra, with this appearance being the highest position on Main Stage that a Symphonic Metal band has held to date. With a setlist almost entirely dominated by tracks from Hydra, the band sounded as tight as ever with Sharon Den Adel’s angelic voice soaring across the Mainstage on opening songs Let It Burn and Paradise (What About Us?) complete with pyro. The only gripes would be the playback for Tarja Turunen’s part on Paradise (What About Us?) and Howard Jones’ part on Dangerous. Surely it would have made sense for Sharon to have performed both parts for the verses at least. The setlist chosen probably did them no favours either focusing too much on newer material causing well-known tracks like Angels to be left out. That being said though, a fine performance which no doubt won them many new fans. 8/10
A pyro-less Rob Zombie perhaps struggled to emulate the immense 2011 performance as 2nd stage headliner, but still gave everything that he had - including an extended trip down to the barricades in the thick of the crowd action. He also wins the award for coolest mic stand! The usual hits and fan-favourites were present in the form of Superbeast, Living Dead Girl, Sick Bubble-gum and of course Dragula! A shout-out has to go to guitarist John 5 who provided one of the best “Show-Off” guitar solos of the weekend in Thunder Kiss ’65. Theatrics or not, the music and overall performance were great. 7/10
Tipped as worth checking out by no less than 5FDP’s Chris Kael, Battlecross put on a hell of a show way out on the 4th stage. Despite the awkward slot they were placed in just before Avenged Sevenfold, a sizable crowd did make the effort to catch the band’s Download debut. And the Crossover Thrash-ers certainly didn’t disappoint, owning every second of their 25 minute set. Force Fed Lies and My Vaccine being notable highlights as well as plenty of face-melting shredding. A job very well done, although you can’t help but wonder about the carnage and circle pits they would have caused if they had been on the Pepsi Max stage instead. 7/10
And then came the turn of marmite headliners Avenged Sevenfold. The announcement that they would headline way back in November of last year delighted as many as it outraged, with many questioning the bands worthiness to occupy the prestigious headliner slot. With the promise of a pyro-heavy set, and the momentum of a sold out arena tour behind them, could Avenged Sevenfold step up to the plate to deliver the performance of a lifetime and prove that they deserve to headline?
As always, the bands older material stood miles ahead of the rest with tracks like Second Heartbeat, Bat Country, and Burn It Down going down a storm. Thankfully they did decide to include the awesome Beast & The Harlot - which they criminally left out on the arena tour last year - much to the delight of virtually fan in attendance.
Seize The Day too was a welcome inclusion in the first of two encores, prompting some of the weekends loudest singing. The second encore featured the magical combination of A Little Piece Of Heaven into Unholy Confessions as fireworks erupted over mainstage.
The verdict then?
Whilst obvious fans got a great deal out of A7x, in equal measure the opposite side of the fence also got a big slice of exactly what they expected. The performance lacked the conviction that a headliner should possess to truly take the performance to the next level. It was all a bit Crash, Bang but without the big slap in the face, mind is blown wallop. At times thrilling, at times uninspired, but lacking that extra magic. 6/10