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.
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.