Download Festival 2012 – Saturday – Metallica Review

After a brief glimpse of sunshine and a compacting of mud, the Download site seems to be in much better spirits as the main stage is set for the return of Metallica to it's hallowed ground. As Download veterans they pretty well have the home-team advantage with anything they play, but this year sees Metallica revisit their 'do a whole album' idea (having performed Master of Puppets in its entirety at Download 2006) with a complete run through of The Black Album. Backwards.

As the sky darkens and the arena fills up with expectant fans, Metallica arrive with all the collected-calm you'd expect of rock legends, and hammer out some taster tracks to the tune of 'Master of Puppets' and 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' with the accompaniment of thousands of voices from the crowd. Despite the fact that Metallica are clearly absolutely smashing it, taking a walk around the arena shows a very different picture. Go ever so slightly up the hill from the sound desk and suddenly you're in Metalli-karaoke land. The sound is so low and tinny you could be forgiven for thinking Download were using ipod speakers down there, and a lot of people are upset – made ever more apparent as song by song, irked fans get up and leave. Hetfield's shouts of "Are you with us Download?" are unfortunately met with cries of "We can't fucking hear you". Is it to do with the fact that the speaker stacks were lowered because of windy conditions? Did they have to turn it down because of the other stages? Given that The Prodigy's set last night was clear as bell around the whole site, it would seem something is amiss.

Metallica

As Metallica take a breather, a making-of video is screened about The Black Album, lamenting the incredible 300 tour dates the band made when it came out and various other insane statistics (as well as a lot of very bouffant mullets, both from fans AND the band) and Metallica begin the album with gusto, from 'The Struggle Within' and backwards through The Black Album from there. It's 'Nothing Else Matters' that really takes the prize for most-crooned though, a sea of lighter flames ripples toward the stage where Hetfield's face, eyes closed, is plastered onto a giant back screen.

With crowd-pleasers 'Wherever I may roam', 'The Unforgiven' and monster smash hit 'Enter Sandman' Metallica close out The Black Album in style, with ear-busting fireworks and a thank you to the Download family. The inevitable encore is a scorcher, 'Battery' is followed by 'One' complete with fireworks used to project wartime missiles and 'Seek and Destroy' which is accompanied by huge black blow up beach-balls thrown into the thrashing crowd, as huge fireworks fired from the top of the stage crown the performance. Metallica were undeniably spectacular and clearly a Download favourite, it's just a shame that not everyone got to experience them at their epic, amazing best.

Download Festival 2012 – Friday – The Prodigy Review

Despite the day's earlier setbacks – road closures, 6-hour traffic waits to get into the site, the arena opening being pushed back 2 hours, bands missing their slots entirely (Europe) and all the campsites looking more like the bog of eternal stench than a home away from home, it's Friday night, the day has been full of rawk and it's time for a bit of a rave yeah?

Like mudcrabs scrabbling in a swamp the main stage arena is filled with dirty Downloaders heading towards the front for Friday headliners The Prodigy. 30 minutes late, the band ignite the stage with 'World's On Fire' and Keith's red trouser/white leather jacket combo can be seen jerking around a mile off.

With a cosmic ripple from the front, Breathe drops with all the force of a clubland superhit, there's no doubt The Prodigy deserve to be here – the crowd is loving it. Hits from their most recent album, the aptly named for the weather 'Thunder', and 'Omen' go down a storm with fans glow-stick dancing in a 90's rave fashion, but it's still the iconic 'Firestarter' which gains the biggest roar from the crowd.

Over on the Encore stage Slash is ripping it up with the obligatory 'Paradise City' and a shred-tastic version of 'God Save The Queen' to an absolutely rammed arena. I mean like, people standing shoulder to shoulder right up to the food stands kind of rammed. The kind of rammed where you can not only smell, but taste the person next to you. Oh and every single hand is up in the air saluting the rock.

However, The Prodigy's hit parade of 'Smack My Bitch Up', 'Diesel Power' and an encore including 'Take Me To The Hospital' is the full force finisher to the night, with lasers strong enough to bring down the East Midlands Airport planes and a barrage of strobe lighting, swampy Download goers have clearly forgotten that it's cold and wet and are just having a fucking great time.

Download Friday

Review by Anna Hyams

Photo courtesy of Jessica Gilbert

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 Review by Anna Hyams

Bloodstock is renowned for it’s no-nonsense approach to the scene, entwining bands from all areas of rock and metal into a bill like no other. There’s no pop-punk to be found here, no wet-eared emo kids and definitely no over-sized sunglasses wearing, prissy ‘my-hunters-will-get-dirty’ Moss-alikes. Bloodstock is a haven for real lovers of metal.
 The Defiled
Friday’s starter for ten The Defiled playing to their biggest BOA crowd yet, exploded onto the stage with a distinctly arrogant air about them, growling and grimacing into the microphones for catchy new track ‘Call To Arms’ and earning the respect of the morning main stage crowd with an energetic show, while the distinctly more rock n roll style of Bloodstock veterans Wolf, brought out the animal in us with ‘Skullcrusher’ dedicated to a techie who’d earlier sustained a head injury in an accident. Notable but not entirely special performances from Triptykon and Kreator seemed to gather fair sized but not huge crowds, whilst Lawnmower Deth’s brand of ear-bleeding thrash on the Sophie stage sticks it to the man in style. Props to Primitai on the New Blood stage for a great set, they deserved a bigger crowd.
 
Despite retro rockers W.A.S.P’s steely eyed stare and (albeit tamed) list of hits, they weren’t the epic performance we wanted them to be, particularly with the culling of ‘Animal’ and Blackie Lawless’ pvc under-suit is frankly a
little bit creepy at his age. The shout out of “If you want your country back, you’ve got to take it” referring to the recent rioting, was also met with apathy around site – most obviously from the man next to us who shouted back “Shut up you American arse!”. Stand out performance of the day goes to the Devin Townsend Project, returning to BOA after 2010’s comedy of technical errors, Devin and the gang absolutely smash it up with a whimsical tour through his deranged mind and facial expressions often reserved for Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura.
 
Saturday’s offering of Finntroll saw a topless Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns belting out the folksy vocals with hair windmilling, and former Emperor frontman Ihsahn gave a relatively demure performance, preferring to head-down shred rather than move about the stage.
 
WintersunDespite another batch of technical difficulties, metal dream-team Wintersun were seen to regain their honour after pulling out of BOA 2009 with their harmonic vocals, and the vast member-count of Therion provided much mirth as they swirled about the vortex of the stage each taking a turn to grace the front with their symphonic metal and odd collection of fancy dress. Aside the amusement, even the toughest members of the crowd were seen to be staring open mouthed in the direction of the fine ladies of Therion, and singing along with more than a few songs. Straight from the jaws of Wacken, Italy’s power metal powerhouse Rhapsody of Fire put on a musically flawless set with huge crowd pleasers ‘Holy Thunderforce’ and ‘Emerald Sword’ to a dedicated audience (hundreds of Rhapsody tshirts on show) brandishing blow up swords.
 
Badger-faced black metal headliners Immortal spent most of their set looking disparagingly at the crowd in an effort to seem cool, which is hard to do when you’re wearing black leather pants covered in what looks like talcum-powder, but hey-ho.
Though they’re not every metalhead’s keg of ale, they did put on a good show and end BOA Saturday with a flaming bang.
 
Napalm DeathWith a glimmer of sunshine, Brummie grindcore gods Napalm Death began their audio assault on Bloodstock Sunday, with all the fire and fury they could muster, stopping only to breathe and calmly say “We’re Napalm Death from Birmingham, and this song is about Peace…” before launching into another incomprehensible scream. Hammerfall provided light relief with a good old sing along (it’s easy, apart from Craig David, they probably weave their own name into more songs than any other band) with the likes of ‘Let The Hammer Fall’, ‘Hammerfall’ and the incredibly funny ‘Hearts On Fire’ which sounds quite a lot like ‘Arse On Fire’ from across the arena.
 
At The Gates’ brutal death metal reunion was welcomed onto the main stage with a huge crowd as they rolled through a selection of their vast catalogue for a good old headbang, and venerated death metallers Morbid Angel threw down with everything they had. Hailing from sunny Florida, you’ve got to wonder how they fit in with the Disney crowd there…
 
Home grown rockers Motörhead are certainly deserving of a headline slot at BOA, especially as they closed Wacken only a week ago, but something was definitely amiss. Gritty voiced Lemmy looked bored as sin and apart from the obvious hype for ‘Ace of Spades’ the people of BOA were largely unresponsive. After a day of hard, fast and heavy thrash – were Motörhead the musical equivalent of a 50mph zone on the motörway?
 
Motorhead
 
Anyway, the epic performance of the day, nay the weekend goes to the raw talent of San Francisco’s Exodus with an absolutely scorching set of drum-pounding, ear-drum-busting old-school thrash. So many people came out blinking into the sunlight saying “I never really liked them before, but… wow.” and we were utterly converted by the sheer power rolling off them into the crowd. Tattooed frontman Rob Dukes grimaced and swore his way through a stunningly heavy set, inciting the scariest circle pit you can imagine, all fist-meets-face. If you get a chance to see them – take it, you won’t be disappointed.
 
Exodus
 
All in all, Bloodstock Open Air 2011, with its eclectic mix of new and old metal from many different genres and backgrounds has claimed another victory. In a lineup which is arguably weaker than previous years it would be easy to say that it just didn’t work, but the spirit was there, the community was there and everyone was having a great time experiencing bands that you might see once in a blue moon otherwise, thanks to the Cowell’s of the world. Roll on BOA 2012…
 
See Anna's photos from Bloodstock 2011 here: