Download Festival 2016 : Live Review
17th June 2016, 13:00
Posted by Tristan
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The sense of anticipation seen for England’s Download Festival from its fans is something that many will never truly understand unless you were there to witness it first hand. The master of the “you just had to be there” quote. Formerly the host to the gargantuan Monsters of Rock has since become hallowed ground in the realm of the Metal world. Barricading ourselves away from the modern world for yet another three days Download 2016 might not have had the kindest of weather but with a spirit as tenacious as that of a Metal head it’s no matter. Across three days varying with four stages we were treated to some of the pedigree acts of both the modern and timeless classics creating a beautiful tapestry of classic influences to the likes of the forward thinking band’s leading the charge on modern Metal. Welcome to Download 2016.

Arriving on Friday, greeted by warm temperatures as Alien Ant Farm took to the stage. This would be as it turns out a red herring. Having flown twenty plus hours over the pond to be here the band are incredibly thankful for the large amount of people having come to bear witness to their performance. Despite their more hardcore fans having something to sink their teeth into, no doubt the majority were here to hear the classic “Movies” and of course their closer “Smooth Criminal” an admirable set by a band that seem to be slightly kept in the nineties but a fun nostalgia trip nonetheless.

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In the first of many instances where rain reared its ugly head, those more optimistic would be sorely wronged from the beginning of what was meant to be Babymetal‘s set. Owing to the fierce amount of rain making it physically unsafe the band were forced to, like their fans, wait it out. Subsiding slightly the band bounded out on stage to make their Download debut  treated the crowd to new single “Karate” saw the crowd just as receptive to their performance. With the phenomenon surrounding the band somewhat baffling it’s undeniable that the band are some of the tightest around along with out sweetest of trinities lapping up the Download supporters.

Photo by Matt EachusPhoto by Matt Eachus

Subsiding somewhat the rain took its leave for the arrival of Metalcore stalwarts Killswitch Engage. Kicking their set forcibly into gear with the performance of “Strength of The Mind” the band are quite like no other. Hardly strangers to the main stage at Download festival the band are seasoned purveyors of the late afternoon slot at Donington. Bringing new bangers “Hate By Design” into the fray, proving its worth from the crowds response as a worthy addition to the band’s nigh on impassable catalogue. Resident mentalist Adam D showers the crowd with shouts of “fuck” wearing inappropriately summery sunglasses for the downpour that is happening in front. After excellent renditions of “Rose Of Sharyn” and a sweet anecdote to “This Is Absolution” where’s couple walked down the aisle once again flawlessly brought forward. As the band enter their finale of “In Due Time” the stage might have been a little slicker than previously thought as Jesse Leach tumbles down laughing it off to finish up a truly brilliant set.

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Hailing from regions used to a lot nicer weather than we’re being treated to The Amity Affliction bring their own kind of sunshine. Opening with triumphant new single “I Bring The Weather With Me” the band receive a fantastic welcome with material spanning across Chasing Ghosts era the band truly are becoming a sight to behold in their own right. Set to headline the UK in their biggest tour yet in December you would do well to remember this is when The Amity Affliction began to truly crack it.

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Moving back over to the smaller Maverick stage we welcome German Rock ‘n’ Rollers Kadavar to the stage. Having released their brand new effort Berlin last year the band have been garnering more and more attention. Aided a little by the rain the band have a packed out tent on this soggy Friday. Embodying the seventies Rock ‘n’ Roll aesthetic perfect the trio deliver air tight riffing with some truly soulful Blues melodies that beckons ever more people into the increasingly crowded tent.

Photo by Adam ElmakiasPhoto by Adam Elmakias

Ever the persistent pain the arse thinking we were out of the woods  we’ve got another downpour on the way, nevertheless this doesn’t deter fans of the unbeatable Korn from making their pilgrimage to the main stage. After their somewhat painful performance earlier in Portugal where the sound was lost not once, twice but three times in total their appearance today is a breath of fresh air. Opening with classic “Blind” the band are able to cauterize the wound of weather to invite our crowd to return to their high spirits bouncing to the likes of “Here To Stay” commanded by their chainsaw mic wielding Davis each member of the band understanding their specific place within the context of the song any for cohesive delivery.

Photo by Jen O’Neill

Closing Download 2014,Rammstein were believe to have called it a day though recent rumblings in the Metal undergrowth suggest that the band are working on new material and have since been headlining European festivals a plenty. Opening the night with a medley of the band’s work before a bang of purple smoke leads us into first song “Reise Reise“. Complete with all the usual trimmings that feature in a Rammstein performance from the likes of guitar spouting fire on “Fuer Frei” and casually setting their keyboardist / stuntman / truly unlucky sod on fire during “Ich Tu Dir Weh” however it seems that Rammstein aren’t quite as into it as they have been in the a past. Despite the smoke and mirror of effects when it boils down to the performance the band seem ever so slightly lacklustre.

Photo by Jen O'NeillPhoto by Jen O’Neill

Nevertheless a somewhat more relaxed Rammstein performance is better than most band’s giving it their all. The likes of “Ich Will” coming through the speakers and featuring yet more pyro make for a suitably satisfying sight. Waging war on the sound desk Til Lindemann fires an arrow of fire (of course) at the soundest only to have it tossed back at him on stage wowing the crowd to no end. In a somewhat suprisiing choice the band go full acoustic for a rendition of “Ohne Dich” perched on the side of right hand leg of the stage before the grand finale and a Depeche Mode cover, not to mention first ever song I’ve heard in English “Stripped“. Before the grand finale of “Engel” which features a winged Till Lindemann spreading his wings and spouting fire, as you do. Being a perfect metaphor for the band’s foray into new material beginning a new chapter in the band’s already lauded catalogue it will be interesting to see what Rammstein cook up for their forthcoming new record. Despite their slight lack of enthusiasm Rammstein are still one of the best around and get every Downloader fired up here tonight.

Saturday :

Waking up to the sound of silence, at last no rain thumping! Gathering my thoughts after perhaps one too many beers ole faithful comes back and everything is suitably sodden once more. Trudging back to the arena I’m not alone in making the pilgrimage to witness the meld of prog come Heavy metal from Avatar this morning. Having released their brand new album Feathers and Flesh the band are in full folklore get up on stage today opening the main stage. A fantastic achieve,net for the band particularly following the recentl release of their brand new album. Performing for half an hour the crowd are treated to new cuts “The Eagle Has Landed” before gracefully taking their leave winning over a substantial crowd of supporters at Donington. Keep your eyes peeled for our interview with the band too!

Criminally overlooked by myself Beartooth are one of the biggest surprises of today. Having just released their brand new album Agressive the band are primed and ready to unleash hell and for a momentary lapse of rain are simply destroying the main stage. Belting out the likes of old classics and new bangers and though die to technicalities are unable to incite a mosh pit get one started anyway making them definitely one of the heavier band’s of the festival particularly on main stage following a performance like this will no doubt bring them to heights higher than before . Brace yourself this Bears’ teeth are sharp.

Photo by Ben GibsonPhoto by Ben Gibson

Often a double edged sword hype can be a band’s best ally and simultaneously its worst enemy. Making tidal waves in their scene Black Peaks have been the word on the edge of everybody’s lips of recent. Just a week prior to their appearance over at The Maverick stage the band supported Deftones on their Wembley Arena appearance proving that these brightonians have more than it takes to hang with the big boys. Stepping into the already incredibly crowded tent here a Download it’s clear to see the hype, my friends, is indeed real. Commanding the stage the moment the band emerge the audience is entranced in their post rock come hardcore delivery . With pitch perfect sound the likes of “Set In Stone” sees our anything but stationary band ripping Download apart. Understanding the surreal aspect of the band’s appearance here singer Will Gardner reminisces back to the ten years previous watching Tool stoned off his face go now performing ate festival. For those in the know their performance today was absolutely sublime, Black Peaks have a long way to go but have made an indelible start that will see them no doubt soon leagues above their peers.

Photo by Kennerdeigh ScottPhoto by Kennerdeigh Scott

Moving back over to the main stage the sixteen year old in me was once again unleashed as Atreyu to the stage. Celebrating their deccenium commemorating their land mark A Deathgrip On Yesterday record this year the band are also celebrating their return to the scene with their 2015 effort Long Live. Starting with the classic “Right Side of The Bed” the band are positively on fire today. With a gleeful Alex Varkatzas grinning from ear to ear as our soggy crowd chant the words of “Ex’s and Oh’s” back to the band and with the announcement of the inspired title from album the new album of “Long Live” the band launch into the records title track reaping their rewards. In an interview you’ll hear soon we spoke to Travis regarding the band’s return and it’s clear to see that the band have been welcomed back with open arms by our punters here this Saturday. Opting for somewhat of an odd choice the band perform “Do You Know Who You Are?” Hardly the more festival oriented of songs yet goes down well in a live setting. Not to mention Travis Miguel’s scintillating solos blister past with a perfect clarity.

Heading over to the second stage Tesseract are set to make their biggest. U.K.  festival appearance previously seen at Sonisphere the  band make their Download debut today on the second stage. Bringing their revitalised line up hurtling towards the fans who no doubt have been waiting with baited breath for the band to arrive. singer Dan Tompkins unleashing his  critical mass vocals in “Phoenix” proving that the band are able to sound just as flawless in an open air setting as they do in the carefully planned out inside venues.

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Moving back over to the main stage as the metallic icon of Megadeth is branded on the main stage we await Dave Mustaine and co for their appearance. Their first UK festival appearance with new line up featuring Kiko Loueirio rip into brand new political spit in the face “Post American World“. Having carefully chosen his two new right hand men the band delivered on the album of the career just this January. Delving once more into newer territory the band roll out title track “Dystopia” and “The Threat Is Real” as if they were already engrained in their DNA. Heading into Cryptic Writings era were given a dose “She-Wolf” followed by the usual “Symphony of Destruction” spread. Owing to them being for time Mustaine is not very chatty and we found why when a special one off rendition of “Anarchy In The UK” is blasted out featuring none other than Nikki Sixx a moment most though would never happen particularly as Mustaine states “well I guess hell has frozen over…” . An appearance of Vic Rattlehead during “Peace Sells…” Sends us home into “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” as Megadeth’s phenomenal set comes to a close.

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Currently reaping their rewards from brand new album Gore, Deftones are back in action. Having previously performed at Donington also following the aforementioned Thrash Giants Deftones are no strangers to these hallowed lands. Displaying their aptitude for being on a stage as large as this the band work through cuts from  Diamond Eyes album along with classics of “My Own Worst Summer” showcasing Chino’s often alarming pterodactyl like scream. Though it’s the likes of “Prayers / Triangles” that the crowd receive well of course with classics going down a treat. Masterful in their tightrope walk between eight string bludgeoning and serene delayed style melodies the band are completely faultless today. Tones that erupt from Stephen Carpenter’s striking guitars in the likes of “You’ve Seen The Butcher” echo throughout download. Ticking the White Pony list much of the band’s material stems from the classic, yet coupled with their more mature sound contrary to their more rap metal back ground today their set is just as brilliant as they were back in 2014.

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Hiking up the hill to the Dogtooth stage it was time to get Wasted. Arriving in absolutely packed out tent Municipal Waste brought their full throttle, breakneck thrashing to the rabid fans down the front. Spotting the infamous Donald Trump walls shirt all over the arena today the band are greeted with a warm welcome as they blast through nineteen plus rippers ranging from the classic “Sadistic Magician” to “I Wanna Kill The President” which given the run time is able to be given another go changing the lyrics to one wall building pillock. Despite their blatant love for partying, Municipal Waste are brilliant. Tight in their delivery working the crowd into a frenzy for the likes of grand finale “The Art Of Partying” and of course “Headbanger Face Rip“. For those who had the house to check these Virginians out had the real party here at Download.

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As chants of “Municipal Waste are gonna fuck you up!” subside outside the true time has come for The End. Influential in the entire creation of Heavy Metal Black Sabbath are quite possibly the most important band’s of the genre. As the house music quiets and the sound of recording rain sets in with an ominous tempest the worlds most evil chord that is the Diminished chord signals the arrival of “Black Sabbath“. Navigated masterfully by Iommi and co with shout from the crazy man himself of “I can’t fuckin’ hear you!?” Owing to Ozzy’s age does beg the thought is that a genuine question. Happily moving into “Fairies Wear Boots” the band continue down the path of darkness. Regardless of their absolutely unmissable world status what is apparent tonight is Sabbath’s stripped back approach. Performing in a field for thousands of people the band retain an air of the simplistic that could been seeing them performing in a local Brummie pub.

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Rolling out the likes of “War Pigs” and “Snowblind” each met with raucous approval from the sodden crowd here tonight the band understand exactly what a crowd of festival goers want to heard. With material consisting essential of the seminal first four records tonight is one for old schoolers. Again simplistic yet effective use of psychedelic tints of the band performing retain the drug induced aroma of the 70’s the band were involved in without hopefully everyone being off their face here at Download. Getting deafening shouts of approval here Ozzy works the crowd well back by the iron foundation of both Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi who receives the loudest applause when introduced. Following an epic drum solo were brought into the denouement of personal favourite “Children of The Grave” which hurtles into the modern day with brilliant ear piercing clarity as a faux departure brings th band back on stage one last time for a rendition of the classic “Paranoid” purple confetti (of course!) erupts from the front of the stage as the band gracefully make their exit having done justice here tonight. Taking into acocount the combined age of all of the members is in the triple digits you might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks but why the hell would you want to!

Sunday :

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Heading once more unto the breach the weary travellers and no doubt slightly aching heads of Download trudged back to the main stage but for good reason! With the arrival of more rain what better setting for our Metal demi gods Amon Amarth to bring their excellent performance here today. With a stage set up that sees the conceptual ideas from their latest album Jomsviking somewhat come alive the likes of “Death In Fire” are bellowed out opening with the classic “Pursuit of Vikings” make for a surprising amount of pyro for 12:00 on a Sunday afternoon. Impressing even Johan Hegg, stating that the audience truly are “Vikings“. Quick though their set might be its a snapshot of what this band are capable of, having announced their new headline tour it will be wise to make sure you catch these unstoppable Vikings.

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Heading over the the Encore stage we await another type of Viking troupe. Rooted in more of the classic Heavy Metal genres Grand Magus appear on the second stage to deliver a no less devastating set. Frontman JB commanding his legions as the inevitable choral work for “Hammer of The North” is sung back to the band make for an emotional finale. Coupled with material from the bands new offering Sword Songs has the band firing on all cylinders here today.

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Following the exit of our Swedish double whammy we saw the arrival of the Bethesda boys. Quaking from the moment the band set foot on the stage Periphery were quite simply sublime. Sonic accuracy the likes that most bands will never see hit the audience as a hair raising rendition of “The Scourge” proves that whatever the time of day Spencer Sotelo can hit those notes dead on. With a UK live premiere of brand new track “The Price Is Wrong” easily being the highlight of the bands performance and potentially stealing the crown for heaviest from “The Walk“. The band roll out the fairly tricky to navigate track with ease giving us all a snapshot of what is to come on P3. Delivering jaw dropping performances seems to be the norm for Periphery but today the band excelled and quite possibly blew every band off the stage.

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Sludging my way over to the Maverick Stage we awaited for the arrival of Tremonti. Having just released new album Dust and Cauterize the year previous the band are raring to go. Bursting on stage with a level of enthusiasm that really lifts spirits in this downpour Tremonti commands the packed out tent. Blowing the speakers apart the volume here is something to note, making for the somewhat more simple song structures to have even more impact. The likes of “Another Heart” breathe through the speakers, hurtling “You Waste Your Time” back at the band, the crowd here match in volume in both literal and metaphorical senses making for Tremonti to have a truly fantastic, albeit short performance.

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From the Rock heavy battering in The Maverick Stage we navigate our way back to the Encore stage for Don Broco. Fast rising, with only two albums in the bank our British born boys are truly beginning to make a name for themselves. Their brand of indie come funk come Metal has attracted a sizeable crowd. Delivering a set spilling over with energy translates into the crowd as, despite the space between the fans and band, the interaction works in an intimate setting making the likes of “Automatic” to resonate perfectly. Dipping into a small section of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” before the likes of “Fire” make an appearance. Announcing they have only two songs left before being corrected no doubt by stage crews to in fact having only one the lasting effect is felt on “Nerve” as the band leave the stage triumphant and converting one more punter.

Once more tackling the mud assault course that no doubt the Territorial Army are forced to undertake we arrive to one of the most anticipated bands of the festival. Somewhat of a curious decision to have a band the magnitude of Gojira in a smaller tent begs the question that surely they would be better suited to main stage. As the chords of “Toxic Garbage Island” timidly make their way through the speakers each member appears on the stage slowly forming the quartet that we have come to love bringing the song crashing into the audience. Wasting no time the band launch into “L’Enfant Sauvage” to deliver another pitch perfect performance. Keeping their cards close to their chest the band eventually reveal their hand with two stunning renditions of “Silvera” and “Stranded”. Demonstrating the sheer power behind frontman Joe Duplantiers voice shakes the rafters of the tent. With the briny tones of “Flying Whales” coming through the speakers its surprising that necks haven’t cracked yet, finishing with a neat rendition of the classic “Remembrance” breakdown before spearheading into “Vacuity” to send us home. Answering our rhetorical question with a resounding “yesGojira are merely at the beginning of their career and who knows we might see them a lot further up the bill on a much bigger stage.

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Speaking of stages, having been the first ever Finnish band to sell out Wembley Arena, Nightwish bring their Endless Forms Most Beautiful set up to Download’s main stage today. An imposing looking Floor Jansen stands imperiously as her multi instrumentalists sit aside her. Bringing all sorts of majesty into the fray tonight for Nightwish’s main support slot here on Sunday, from the woodland tones of “Elan” to the classic keys of “Nemo”, Jansen not only holds her own but sits as a perfect bridge between past and present Nightwish. Master of any instrument you’ve probably never heard of Troy Donockley adds flourish to the more subtle element of Nightwish breathing life into melodic sections contrasting with the distorted guitars making for a beautiful juxtaposition. After a slightly awkward introduction from bassist, perhaps talking is not the man’s strong but what Nightwish do they do well. Coalescing to create a true sonic banquet each member becomes embedded in the bigger picture of the likes of “Ghost Love Score” complete with pyro (of course) makes for an incredibly majestic display. As the band move into their grand finale of “Last Ride Of The Day” the performance comes full circle with a simply magnificent finish before Richard Dawkins aids Nightwish in their exit being a suitable compare to their outro. More than proving their spot on tonight bill with their new release Endless Forms Most Beautiful turning in endless revenue most beautiful the band are set to be storming festivals the world over.

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Donington has a history of holding the title of hallowed ground yet none could be more appropriate for the arrival of Sunday headliners. Performing at the very first Monsters of Rock it’s hard to believe Iron Maiden are still going. Not only are they still performing but released their very first double album last September and have subsequently been flying the world over in their very own jumbo jet in support of The Book Of Souls. Now THAT is something to to brag about. As the familiar echo of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” oozes through the speakers the screens at Donington light up immediately igniting the crowds anticipation. As the mythical Ed Force One is dislodged by the helpful hand of Satan and thrown into the crowd Iron Maiden appear.

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Having been lucky enough to see the band multiple times tonight Iron Maiden simply embody Rock ‘n Roll. Frontman Bruce Dickinson might have a look that resembles any Metal heads dad but the man is simply full of energy! Beaming as he chastises what we think is punter for being on his phone but turns out to be the band’s manager with a hotline to the weather as Dickinson says “turn off the fucking rain for Maiden!” the band are simply brilliant. The usual trade offs between Gers, Smith and Murray all take place during the likes of “The Trooper” and “The Book of Souls” but it’s the tomfoolery the boys get up to that truly brings the youthful spirit into the Maiden crowd tonight. Recounting one of their previous South African shows where mid way through “Death or Glory” a fan threw a plus monkey which has now made its way around the world with the band forming “the monkey dance” or perhaps midway through epic solo’s where plush lizards appear only to be fought by Harris poking it with his bass guitar.

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The soon to be classic belter “Speed of Light” bursts out of the pa tonight as the crowd rapturoulsly sing along. Of course later there are the classic sing a longs for “Fear Of The Dark” and the hangman’s hymn “Hallowed Be Thy Name” which all get the relvant harmonies sung back 85,000 people strong but personally its highlight “The Red and The Black” that truly gets the crowd going. With a seven minute mid section solo extravanganza no one but Maiden could pull it off. Complete with all sorts of sized Eddie’s from monolithic H(Ed)ie on the stage to a giant size Mayan Eddie searching for Dickinson before the man rips out his heart. The theatrics here tonight are purposefully cheesy. Ending on somewhat of a somber tone following the recent attack in Orlando, Dickinson dedicates “Blood Brothers” to the fallen victims in the shooting making for a poignant close before moving into “Wasted Years” for the final blow.

Witnessing bands from all different walks of life from the absolute world class megastars to some of the debut Download appearances. Over the course of three days and four stages and a metric tonne of rain Download 2016 has been quite possibly the best experience yet in Donington and sadly if you bump into a punter in a pub or at a gig chances are you’ll have that old adage put to you as “you just had to be there…”