As the now decidedly smelly arena fills up with people for the final day of Download, the welcome sight of SUNSHINE nearly brings a tear to the tired moshers eye. Yes it’s true, there’s a little bit of sun and a little bit is clearly enough as we can already see a couple of lobster-coloured faces and it’s only been about half an hour.
A welcome snarl sees DevilDriver’s pit-carnage churning out limp bodies, and August Burns Red do their very best to see that no-one is left un-moshed whilst smashing out popular ‘Back Burner’. NYC metalheads Anthrax are thrash-tastic over on the main stage with a massive crowd going wild to ‘Fight ‘em till you can’t’ and ‘I am the Law’, but in the jam-packed Pepsi Max stage German power-metallers Edguy are giving it all the passion they can muster and a loud, melodic ‘King of Fools’ sees Edguy fans come out grinning all over.
Black Label Society’s mainstage set is heart-thumpingly loud, with the wailing fret-wankery of Zakk Wylde (who comes to the fore wearing a giant Indian headdress) who plays through a gratuitous 10 minute guitar solo and a host of hair-windmilling songs. They’re good solid metal and you can’t fail to enjoy it. Lamb of God draw a similar sized crowd who are already creating a cattle-rodeo-like circle pit before the band even reach the stage. Their guitars are a little bit lost in the wind but the rolling drums are clear as frontman Randy Blythe shrieks “You might be from England but you’re all just a bunch of fuckin’ REDNECKS!” and they drop into ‘Redneck’. The circle pit might have now become some sort of messy conga line, but everyone seems to be having a great time.
Megadeth must be pleased at their ability to still entice the ladies out of their bras, but then again it might just be because the sun is out and the cameras are on. I’m sure those ladies mum’s are going to be awful proud when they see the highlights! The melodic guitar duets and chants of ‘MEG-A-DETH’ are piercingly loud around the arena and fans go absolutely mental for Guitar-Hero favourite, ‘Symphony of Destruction’.
Soundgarden’s return to English soil was heralded by many when the announcement came, but to be honest they come off a little stale. They’re the Bjork of metal. You know that it’s clever but it’s all a bit too experimental to be something you really enjoy romping in a field to. ‘Black Hole Sun’ goes down a treat as expected, but there’s a tinge of boredom to the rest of the set. On the second stage Dropkick Murphys are nothing of the sort. Despite some pretty shoddy sound at the beginning they punk the hell out of ‘The Irish Rover’ and ‘Take ‘em Down’, sparking jigs galore and more than a few catastrophic attempts at leprechaun style heel clicks. The incredibly drunk and incredibly Irish man in front of us was having the time of his life, as he bellowed along to ‘Sunday Hardcore Matinee’.
The main event, the big one – Black Sabbath at Download, loud and proud. These guys MADE metal, and seeing them live is something you could never forget. They might be sans-Ward in the drums department, but Tony Clufetos is a great replacement choice and Sabbath open their Sunday reign with dark namesake ‘Black Sabbath’. A veritable hit-parade (how could it not be?) of tracks such as ‘Snowblind’, ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ keep the party going, and Tony Iommi “The real Iron Man” according to Ozzy, absolutely demolishes the guitar solos in ‘Iron Man’ and closer ‘Paranoid’. Ozzy is as mad as ever, legging it around stage like a man half his age and half his lifetime drug and alcohol intake. He’s nuts but we love him. Though you couldn’t say that they were at their musical peak anymore, there’s something ethereal about a Black Sabbath show. You know you’re witnessing something great that will stay with you forever, and those guys still rock harder than most of the bands in this world, so we salute them.
Download may be over for another year, but this 10 year anniversary sure is a memorable one. Hideous weather, controversial bookings, arena issues and camping equipment casualties, whatever else you remember this year’s festival for – the moshing good time you had should be top of the list.