Whilst the poor weather seemed never ending there was certainly a few bands on Saturday’s line-up to lift some spirits. Slipknot mark their return headlining the festival after a four year absence, Halestorm are the first ever female fronted band to headline any stage ever at the festival and Download veterans, Trivium, make yet another appearance. With the arena on the cusp of being so muddy that dowloaders’ wellies are getting stuck, it’s really hard to see how it could get any worse, so you might as well just get stuck in.
Bad Wolves (★★★★★) pulled in an almighty crowd for 11:50am on a very overcast Saturday morning. They had six songs to show they’re more than just that cover of The Cranberries that everyone knows so well and they succeeded greatly. ‘No Masters’ was a beautiful display of melodic metal that weaved nicely into a set that kept throwing out tracks, to people who have no idea who they are, that would leave them with plenty more fans than they started the day with. A Game of Thrones inspired wall of death; the Realms Of Men vs the White Walkers, made the crowd a little more interested to get involved in a wall of death this early on in the day, but the moment a lot of people turned up for ‘Zombie’ became a massive hit for Bad Wolves, all the proceeds from the track went to The Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan’s children after the singer had planned to re-record the track with the band prior to her death which is why the bands’ cover became such a massive hit within the rock and heavy metal community, thus creating a lovely four minutes of comradery that every got up this early for.
What a better way to begin your Saturday of rock than with Swedish legends Royal Republic. They have a unique brand of pop rock crossed with the sharpest suits around, what’s more to love? Fireman and Dancer makes you dance wildly and Full Steam Spacemachine is undoubtedly a bop with catchy riffs to boot. A newly trademarked move was created this weekend; ‘three person pits’ are now definitely a thing and we have Royal Republic to thank for them. Explaining to the crowd that they’ve recently purchased a key-tar and it’s not worked on tour yet, Download was going to be the sixth time lucky and it went down a treat. Tommy Gun and Baby are classics from the band and a solid way to finish their set, they’re touring at the end of the year- do not miss out on the chance to catch them live. (5/5) – Erin Moore
If it’s clean pop-punk you were looking for, Hot Milk (★★★) on the Avalanche Stage would’ve been the fix to start you off for the day. They would’ve looked out of place on the festival bill overall but this stage on this particular day seemed more like a Slam Dunk Festival setup with the likes of Roam and Simple Creatures following towards the end of the day. ‘Awful Ever After’ really rounded out their sickly-sweet set that possibly looked like something was missing visually. However, they certainly liked to say the word ‘Download’ a lot. Toronto’s own The Beaches (★★★) followed and their very chilled out set didn’t leave any memorable songs stuck in your brain but still proved to be an enjoyable set filled with some decent tracks to bop to at 2pm.
Japanese outfit Lovebites (★★★) were greeted with an overflowing tent over on the Dogtooth Stage. Probably something they didn’t expect, being relatively unknown but having dipped their feet in the waters with Bloodstock Festival last year they’re slowing bringing some attention to themselves in the UK. All the girls possibly didn’t get the memo about the amount of mud surrounding the festival as they were all donning entirely white outfits including dresses or skirts and high heels. Their duel guitar solos were the shining star of the set which alone would’ve been enough to entice anyone to watch their set. The vocals seem to not everyone’s taste, Asami’s high pitched almost European symphonic metal inspired vocals seem to borrow from other non-metal genres to make them entirely distinctive, but overall, they can be extremely overjoyed, an overflowing tent mid-afternoon is impressive work.
Download Festival know how to fit similar bands on a lineup and Saturday was most definitely the party day and the good times continued with Welsh ragga rockers Skindred. Playing what was essentially a greatest hits set was a perfect way to distract from the biggest downpour of rain of the weekend. Marching on stage to the Imperial March from Star Wars straight into Sound The Siren the Welsh boys were making the most of their bump up to the main stage after originally being put onto the second stage. Bringing special guest Gary Stringer from the band Reef on for Machine, Skindred essentially were stating their case to be future festival headliners. The riff from the start of Nobody is undeniably legendary but the song the crowd were waiting for was Warning, the Newport Helicopter this year was arguably the biggest yet with 99% of the crowd taking part. There is definitely a case for this band to headline the festival in the future, they’ve got the songs, the rapport and most importantly the banter to headline at the least second stage in the near future. (5/5) -Erin Moore
Palisades (★★★) are the type of band to slip in and out of genres, they’ve had no problems incorporating electronics into their music and the new track ‘Erase The Pain’ showed a darker and more vulnerable side after writing the track in a time when they felt like everyone had turned their back on them. There was nothing too out of the ordinary to set them aside from other bands of the same category but still the audience the Avalanche Stage attracted would’ve played well into their core audience.
If you managed to squeeze yourself into the Doghouse tent on Saturday afternoon you would’ve gotten the chance to see the viral Mongolian outfit The Hu. The traditional throat singing crossed with the rock tones was another example of how brave Download festival is in putting these leftfield bands on but somehow each time it works so well. Yuve Yuve Yu and Wolf Totem are the songs most people in the tent were waiting for and they didn’t disappoint, The Hu are possibly not the band you would listen to a full album from but for 30/40 minutes at a festival they’re perfect. (3/5) – Erin Moore
Having played the festival many times over the year Trivium know how to rock Donington park. Their last appearance was headlining the Zippo Stage in 2014 and five years and two albums later they brought even more fire to the main stage. Calling out their friend ‘Pit Troll’ out in the crowd they know the mosh pits will be inclusive and a safe space for all- if you’re not aware of the Pit Troll, he does exactly what it says on the tin. He makes sure nobody messes around or tries to injure one another in the circle and mosh pits, he picks people up when they fall down, there needs to be more Pit Trolls at gigs. During Like Lights to the Flies vocalist Matt Heafy tells the crowd that they played Nova Rock in Austria and they were the biggest and loudest crowd they’ve ever played to, therefore forcing the Donington revellers to beat them and the rain-soaked British metal-heads didn’t disappoint. During the set a biplane flew over the crowd with the words “Jesus calls, will you listen?” much to the sarcastic delight of the seemingly heavily atheist crowd at Download, maybe the guys from FlyJesus might check their target audience next time? The sun started to shine during Trivium’s set and by the time they played Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr the energy in the crowd had ramped back up. When the band first played the festival they had a record seven circle pits during the song and this year they destroyed that record by having at least seven on one side of the crowd alone. If you had the energy to queue up to get a pint during the weekend you could’ve played along with the In Waves drinking game whilst Trivium played their final song of the set… yep you guessed, drink each time Heafy screams In Waves. Rounding off what was a solid set, the Trivium boys are solidifying themselves as legends in the metal game and could see themselves headlining festivals in the not too far future. (4/5) – Erin Moore
Mysteriously simplistic yet surprisingly captivating, Nothing, Nowhere (★★★★) didn’t let his sickness stop him putting on a show. Opener ‘Clarity In Kerosene’ showed his aggressive lyrics mixed between rapping and singing, whilst his set up is simple, with only a drummer a guitarist and a tiny sound box for instrumentals. The overall visuals on the surface seemed quite reserved but the focus landed more on the lyrics, maybe haven given a longer set the mixture of two different genre, rap and rock, that have worked so well together over the years, would’ve made a deadlier impact to properly showcase the abundance of artwork he’s made through the years.
Die Antwoord (★★★★) must’ve done something quite the opposite of a rain dance backstage because as soon as ‘Pitbull Terrier’ came booming through the speakers it stopped raining. For the two-piece from South Africa to even be on this line-up was throwing something different into the mix, but to have them perform right before Slipknot, well there’s no better hype music out there. Out of the three headliners this weekend, Slipknot definitely have the craziest fans and rapper Ninja seemed more than happy with the reaction after only a few songs. Love it or hate it, it got a massive amount of the crowd ready for Slipknot, and nobody can deny it’s a spectacle to watch.
For Lzzy, Joe, Arejay and Josh, headlining the second stage at this year’s Download was huge- not only for the band themselves but for the actual history of Download festival. Lzzy Hale is the first woman to headline a stage ever at the festival, let’s hope this is the start of a new revolution for metal because they apparently (according to Lzzy’s Instagram) got the biggest audience ever for a second stage headliner too. Beginning the set with Lzzy walking solo onto the stage to start the gig acapella the audience knew the band were taking this headline shot seriously, launching into Do Not Disturb there’s cheeky lyrics, heavy riffs and solid drum fills and not to mention Lzzy’s killer high heels. Mz Hyde from the band’s second album was a pleasant surprise for the older fans of the band, I Am the Fire is anthemic and huge but it was the drop of Familiar Taste Of Poison again sung acapella that was a perfect moment from the band. Dropping straight into Amen from their third album, Halestorm thrashed around at the end of the song that felt a little self-indulgent but who is to blame them, they’re headlining a stage at a festival? A drop in pace came when Lzzy and guitarist Joe were lone on the stage for the acoustic track The Silence, a moment that shouldn’t work at a festival but really did for Halestorm. The crowd fell silent to listen to Lzzy’s exceptional vocal range and time seemed to stop for the moment. A drum solo from Lzzy’s brother Arejay broke up the set and his infamous use of the ‘big sticks’ gave the audience a real laugh.
A guest vocal from Asami, the vocalist from Japanese band Lovebites for Love Bites (So Do I) was apt as the Japanese outfit got their band name from the title of the song. It was a real sweet moment as the rest of the band were watching and were visibly buzzing at the fact their singer got the chance to sing on stage with Halestorm. The American rockers closed their headline set with I Miss The Misery, another chance for Ms Hale to showcase her unreal vocals and the chance for the rest of the band to really show what they’re made of. The only criticism for the set would’ve been that there were too many newer songs placed in the set rather than it being more of a greatest hits style set, the audience understand that they are touring their latest album but sometimes at a festival it’s nice to hear the belters you know, especially as they didn’t clash with anybody on the main stage at all during their set. (4.5/5)
It’s no secret that Corey Taylor absolutely adores Download Festival and by now it’s probably somewhat of a second home to Slipknot (★★★★★). They’ve headlined the festival now four times and will definitely continue to headline in the future, given their ability to keep churning out quality albums and dominate the metal scene worldwide. With a whole new look that fans were extremely excited to see live for the first time, it’s now the start of a whole new album cycle for the band. With posters dotted around the main arena for the new album set to drop in August this was the first glimpse of a new era for everyone in attendance.
The band nearly didn’t make it to the Download Festival grounds having got stuck in Switzerland due to the weather, however they’re happy to be a Download in front of a crowd that Taylor explains “never disappoints.” The fact that they are now not playing some of their most famous and aggressive tracks because they simply do not have room and still play one of the best headline sets of the festival speaks volumes. Starting off with ‘People=Shit’ and going straight into ‘(sic)’ starts the set off on a whirlwind of absurd energy. Whilst the tempo remains as Slipknot-esque for most of the set ‘Vermillion’ brings it down for just a little while before the ever aggressive ‘Custer’ brings it back on course. Whilst new track ‘Unsainted’ seemed to have knocked fan favourite ‘Wait and Bleed’ off the setlist it shows their wiliness to put their new tracks ahead of arguably some of their biggest tracks, it won’t be for long as Taylor promised they’d be back “sooner than you think.” There was nothing stopping anyone from seeing at least half of Slipknot headline this time around as all the other headline sets had been over and done by before 10pm, and they were perfectly worthy of everybody who attended the festival’s attention if not every other time they headlined then definitely at this point when they’re on the cusp of something really special, yet again.