Black Sabbath – Download 2016 Review

Well what can you say about the finality of one of the most prolific bands in history’s last ever show at their spiritual home of Donington Park? The band have played here time and time again, Monsters of Rock, Ozzfest, Download – Donington in all it’s incarnations. Black Sabbath are sewn into the fabric here and the arena is awash with black shirts in all shapes and sizes, from a tour history spanning decades and generations. Families making sure their kids get to experience this once in their lifetime, the younger crowd who may not be die-hard Sabbath lovers but are here nevertheless, and those original fans with a tear for the end of an era. Everyone feels the gravity of tonight’s performance, and that’s a pretty big weight to put on any band’s shoulders.

As the sky darkens ominously and the purple Black Sabbath logo lights up the big screens, there is a hush of anticipation for the Birmingham band, one city over from where they were formed – this always feels like a homecoming. With visuals depicting the birth of Satan from an Aliens-esque egg the band alight the stage to an almighty roar and thousands upon thousands of hands thrust into the air in horns.

Starting off with namesake Black Sabbath (we really enjoy it when artists sing about themselves… well, maybe not Craig David…) it’s clear that Ozzy’s voice is ahem, off. The difference between this show and their last Donington stint is pretty noticeable and there’s a lot of chatter in the crowd to that effect. It also seems like they’ve purposefully slowed down their already trademark slow heavy metal, to accommodate Ozzy’s vocals, but hey, we’ve been listening to upbeat bands all day… that must be it… right?

Yelling his standard “I can’t fuckin’ hear you” there’s a little nostalgic twinge as someone nearby retorts an unheard “That’s cause you’re fuckin’ deaf”, I think I’ve heard that every single time I’ve seen Ozzy live and this will be the last time. Fairies Wear Boots is a fan favourite and everyone is singing along but the wind and rain have notched up and the 4 speaker stacks in the middle of the arena just aren’t good enough to travel it up the hill. Every year the same argument – it’s fine for the earlier bands when the crowd is split, but for the headliners it leaves at least half the arena with shockingly poor audio.

Into The Void and Snowblind are fantastic, with Iommi shredding the hell out of his guitar in his nonplussed style, and despite the constant rain (maybe there was a market for changing the name to Rainblind…), the swishing of ponchos and smack of wet hair on cheeks says that everyone is having a headbangingly excellent time. Sabbath anthem War Pigs however is absolutely epic, due to the thousands strong crowd singing every bit of it at the maximum capacity of their lungs.

We get a traditional gratuitous drum solo and then everything we wanted to hear; N.I.B, Hand of Doom, the heart-stoppingly good Iron Man (complete with flaming pyrotechnics on the stage and sound tent) and Children Of The Grave.

With an encore of Sabbath’s biggest hit Paranoid, and a tear-jerking ‘The End’ plastered on the big screens, it’s time to say goodbye to arguably the most important band in heavy metal, the forefathers of everything you see here. Though it might not have been the best we’ve ever seen Black Sabbath, there is an overwhelming sense of importance, that we were there, the very last time the godfathers of heavy metal played the most iconic location in heavy metal. It almost makes you want to get a commemorative tattoo. Or, you could go snatch up a ticket for their final UK tour dates EVER. Whimper. Sniff. Sabbath – we will miss you, always.

Photo Credit (Ozzy): Ben Gibson

Photo Credit (Stage): Jen O'Neill

All photos courtesy of Download Festival

Rammstein – Download 2016 Review

Despite a day of heavy downpours over a now very boggy Donington Park (yes yes, we’ve heard the monikers… Drownload… Downpour Festival…), thousands of expectant faces are turned towards the main stage for tonight’s headliner – German heavy metal powerhouse, Rammstein. There’s nothing quite like a side of S&M or pyrotechnics alongside learning how to count to vier whilst headbanging, and Rammstein promise a whole lot more than just their stage show.

As a cinematic countdown begins, video screens send a message “Enjoy the show, please do not be preoccupied with recording it” and instantly Go-Pro’s are thrust into the air on ridiculous, view-ruining monopods. I mean come on, what the hell are you actually going to do with that footage man?

Regardless of the moronathon, Rammstein smash their way onstage as only they can – with giant showoff billowing clouds of pink smoke, which when combined with the ongoing drizzle turns quickly into a spatter of blood on anyone wearing lighter than black outfits. First up new song Ramm 4 sees giant firework laden platforms lowering guitarists Kruspe and Landers onto the stage and the always enigmatic frontman Till Lindemann emerges in a childcatcher-esque outfit and his patent white painted face.

The stage look for Rammstein has always been industrial but this time steps over into the cyborg realm with giant stage-high light bars which respond to the band’s instruments. Reise, Reise is absolutely gut churningly heavy, and Till sports a very fetching duffel coat over his flash-bang adorned waistcoat which explodes, quite obviously right in his face. How this band have not sustained more serious pyrotechnic related injuries I’ll never know.

The electronic intro bleeps for Feuer Frei raise an enormouse guttural roar from the crowd, and there is no shortage of actual fire alongside the music, their signature flamethrowing face cages are everything Batman’s Bane wishes he was. Keyboardist/freak on a leash Lorenz is hastily shoved into a box after being dragged around the floor, emerging later in an extremely spangly sequined suit to walk off his horrors on a treadmill whilst Till wields a giant flaming arc that sort of looks like a crossbow. You really couldn’t make it up. A crackly speaker on the right side of the stage threatens to dull Mein Hertz Brennt but as Till’s heart (flare) lights up, every single person in the arena is singing their lungs raw. Following up with Links 2, 3, 4 this is shaping up to be a stellar performance from Rammstein.

Guitar flamethrowers, fireballs erupting from the sound tent in the middle of the crowd and zip-wire fireworks streaking back and forth – every time you think you’ve seen it all, Rammstein amp it up a little more. Ich Will has everyone yelling back the required replies ‘Wir hören dich’ and so on, Du Hast is heavier than a heavy thing and Depeche Mode cover Stripped just couldn’t sound more seedy than in a German accent.

For the Encore, we are treated to the completely epic Sonne followed by an acoustic Ohne Dich but it’s Till’s ascension into angel-dom that is the real icing on this weird and wonderful cake. Giant metal wings loaded with white sparking fireworks lift Till into the air above the stage floor for Engel and it is motherlovin’ glorious. Leaving us with a brief “Thank you. Danke schoen, you’re amazing” the stage erupts in a backdrop of massive rocket fireworks and the arena is engulfed in smoke. There’s nothing more to say except that Rammstein are arguably one of the best metal acts of our time and here’s hoping they don’t leave it too long before returning with even more incredible shows.