DOWNLOAD 2018: The Big Review!

FRIDAY

Would it even be a Download weekend if there wasn’t at least the threat of rain? It’s grey but holding off as we head into the arena for a day of pure rock and metal shenanigans. The first notable difference is the somewhat extreme, and numerous bag checks. We’d been warned via the site and social media that only A4 sized backpacks and smaller would be allowed into the arena, but didn’t realise that there would also be multiple check-points between the car-park and actually getting in to see the bands. Not to worry though, the checks are pretty quick and efficient, and soon we are cresting that hill for the first amazing sight of the arena.

I’d also like to do a quick shout-out at this point to Download’s ever evolving experience enhancements. Big plastic tracks have been installed around the second stage area making both walking in general and getting to the Accessibility platform via scooter or wheelchair easier than ever, and they have employed professional BSL music performance interpreters for the Main and Zippo Encore stages, giving even more fans access to this incredible event. They have also increased accessibility shuttles from the campsites, provided a wheelchair charging station and increased their accessible portaloos by 50% on last year. This continual thought and attention to feedback is impressive, and Download is one of the few festivals out there who seem to be really improving access year on year, in all kinds of different ways. Bravo.

So, the Arena. If you’re a rock or metal fan and you haven’t been to Download before, all I can say is, it’s like coming home. All the beautiful freaks are right here with their astral hair, their pleather and fishnets, jackets covered in patches and piercings in every available inch of spare skin, tattoos blooming from black tshirts and ripped jeans. Oh and at this point in the day, approximately half of them are jammed in a never-ending queue to buy merch. Bah. Tips for next year DL – employ at least twice as many staff for this please, it was obnoxious.

Extortionately priced t-shirts in hand, we stride down the hill to catch up with the mighty Dragonforce who have gathered a massive crowd for ‘Cry Thunder’, prophetically as the rain begins to spit. Thankfully that’s where the correlation ends, but it is still pretty ridiculous when they yell “We are Dragonforce… we come from right here in sunny England…”. Frontman Marc Hudson also lets us know that they “…are filming every single song of this set… so the rest of the world sees how fucking crazy the UK is” which obviously sparks a frenzy for the next song, only to fall foul of technical difficulties. If sod wrote a law, the page would be titled ‘Dragonforce’ today. Laughing “It’s so great when your mic cuts out in front of thousands of people…” they deal with it gracefully and end on a high with ‘Through the Fire and Flames’. Oh and no, I’m still not over Herman Li’s majestic hair swishing. Werk.

Yorkshire band Marmozets fronted by enigmatic Becca Macintyre are straddling the line of hipster rock, almost too current-cool for Download but they certainly know what they’re doing. Yelling out “Last year I was camping with you lot” Becca hops around in bright pink trousers whilst a Darth Maul in the crowd is going absolutely mental with his inflatable lightsaber.

Over on the Zippo Encore stage, self-professed king of the party Andrew WK has amassed an army of bemused onlookers, if not actual fans. Yes he’s kitschy, yes he rocks up in pre-dirtied white jeans and yes he pulls faces like a more demonic Jim Carrey, but well, he’s our weirdo. The rock community is strangely proud of him. Fan fave ‘She is Beautiful’ is silly and fun and I really rate a dude who can build anticipation with the line “…and now it is time… for me to play a guitar shaped like a slice of pizza”. No really, damn I love that pizza guitar. As if he wasn’t margarita-cheesy enough he calls “It’s not Andrew UK… it’s Andrew DOUBLE UK, double the power!” and then proceeds to do an actual 100-1 countdown for anthem ‘Party Hard’. It is frankly ridiculous that everyone likes this terrible track so very much. I of course am bouncing around with them.

Now for something completely different, in the form of Danish metalheads Volbeat. Now Volbeat are no strangers to DL but they never seem to be hyped up either, someone you know but wouldn’t flock to. Not so today my friends, Volbeat are here to slay. The enormous crowd that has surrounded the main stage is singing along to ‘Lola Montez’ and frontman Michael Poulson’s Elvis-esque lilt is refreshingly different to your standard screamer vs. power vocal camps. As if to highlight the difference in fact, Barney of Napalm Death fame (who have a set later on) is brought in for a quick collab on ‘Evelyn’ with his distinctly unintelligible shrieking, but oh we do love a bit of Barney don’t we. ‘Still Counting’ goes down a storm for their last song and honestly, I think they are arguably the band of the day for me.

On the zippo stage, Hell is for Heroes have about 30 people down the front watching them, which is kinda sad actually as they were by no means awful at all, and their cover of The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ was decent. However, I think they definitely fell foul of their timeslot – everyone seems to be getting their food and booze situation sorted before tonight’s headliners.

That’s something we should really mention actually, the food. It’s been getting steadily better every year at DL but this year was off-the-charts excellent. An incredible variety but also quality, gone of the days of rat-burgers and CMOT-Dibbler style saugages-inna-bun. Truth be told, you can still buy a box of suspect noodles if you want the real Doningtons-past experience but why would you? We instead grabbed ourselves a stack of butter-milk chicken in a brioche bun and a side of poutine. Effing decadent.

In the Avalanche tent Bad Religion are shutting it down, rocking on to an intro of ‘My Sharona’ and looking decidedly less punk than they used to. No worries though, they sound exactly as good as they ever have with the likes of ‘Recipe for Hate’ and Tony Hawk Pro Skater hit ‘You’. Yelling “Everyone gearing up for a big weekend huh? I got some bad news… we can’t stay for the whole weekend… there was a backstage clause, Axl kicked us out…” the band head into the excellent ‘Anesthesia’. ‘Infected’ is the sound of the 90’s and the packed out crowd is straight up loving it.

As we head back out to the main arena for Avenged Sevenfold, as huge crowd has already gathered and though we are donning toastier clothing for the chilly night, we’re still damn thankful for the minimal rain today. To read what we thought of A7X’s headline show, click the link below!

Read our full Avenged Sevenfold review HERE

SATURDAY

Weather report: still holding, patches of sun spotted but we’re keeping quiet because we don’t want to jinx it. Still packed a poncho.

Monster Truck are providing the heavy rock sounds as we head into the afternoon, already drunk people are taking enormous risks with their phones on the high-flying sky-swing (do it for the ‘gram y’all) and lunchtime calls for another foray into the plethora of nourishment offerings. Seriously, vegan sushi, paella, duck fat roasted potatoes, a bowl of crumble and ice cream, wings, burritos, tapas, full roast chicken dinner? You want it, they have it. Oh and the now famous Motley Brew are serving up an array of hot beverages in real mugs, and they even have seats. You can take your Coachella VIP champagne and caviar and shove it up yer arse, we’re British. We like a CUPPA and a GOOD SIT DOWN.

One very notable thing on walking/squeezing around the arena today – it is RAMMED. Day sales for G’n’R must have been good this year because it is truly packed. Local lads The Struts give it big on the main stage shouting “You know we used to live in Derby just down the road… and we used to come to this festival and stand where you’re standing now… it’s incredible to be up on this stage” to a roar from the crowd. We love a hometown hero, but I’m less convinced on their actual show. I mean, they’re not bad as such, just a bit wet compared to everything else I’ve seen this weekend. The Temperance Movement however, muster all the southern soul a grey afternoon needs to get with the programme, and indeed they seem to bring out the sun a little. ‘Trouble’ and ‘Midnight Black’ are phenomenal and it’s more than a little hard to believe boho frontman Phil Campbell, with his maracas and tambourine, swaying in a lace shirt – is actually Glaswegian.

Thunder step on stage to AC/DC track, er, Thunderstruck. Well, why wouldn’t you. ‘Wonder Days’ and ‘River of Pain’ are pretty epic, it’s so great to see a band who are just absolute pro’s at what they do. Joking “Hands up who wasn’t even born in the 90’s” makes for disturbing viewing (thanks for that, Thunder, so kind) but they are absolutely killing it so I’ll let them off.

Over at Zippo Encore, there is no longer any visible section of floor. This is the busiest I’ve ever witnessed this arena without it being a headliner for sure. It seems like Babymetal’s fan base is a lot larger than anticipated and to be honest, sheer fascination seems to be driving a large portion of people in rather than actual fandom. Podium platforms for dance showcase the three firecracker leads who are sporting gold and black Xena-warrior-princess style outfits. Yeah it’s super kawaii nonsense but the music is actually decent and hit ‘Chocolate’ is both ridiculous and annoyingly catchy. I sort of love them.

Onto something we can pretty much all agree on. Kentucky kings Black Stone Cherry are Download’s biggest love story. A band championed by fans ever since their first showing here back in 2008, a decade of repeat requests for their billing, and it’s no wonder why. They are honestly flawless, vocalist Chris Robertson is arguably one of the best rock and roll singers going, he soars through ‘Blind Man’ in the now blazing sunshine, and everyone around us is singing their hearts out alongside him. Thankfully this time ‘Rain Wizard’ doesn’t coincide with a hideous downpour, as it did a few years ago, and ‘Me and Mary Jane’ has the entire crowd bouncing. A cover of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ is made for this Wayne’s World worshipping crowd – yes, we did dance like Garth, yes it was magical. ‘Like I Roll’ and ‘Blame it on the Boom Boom’ see crowd-surfers flailing towards the front and ‘Lonely Train’ is just, incredible. Closing up with ‘Family Tree’ from the new album, this has been yet another epic showing from BSC and we hope to see them back again soon.

With a huge chunk of time before Guns’n’Roses we lope off in search of sustenance, beer and portaloos as the evening draws in. It’s been an incredible day here at Donington and we are suitably amped up for the closest we’ve ever been to a full G’N’R lineup…

Read our full Guns’N’Roses review HERE

SUNDAY

WOAH. It is HOT today. Not England hot, like equatorial hot. Everyone either has the sheen of well slathered sunblock or is already burnt to a crisp and the whole place after three days of booze and no showers, smells like an armpit. A rowdy afternoon starts with the likes of Turbonegro and Kreator on the Zippo Encore stage and Hatebreed are throwing down on the main stage, yelling “This is for Dimebag, Lemmy, Chris Cornell, Chester (Bennington)… I wanna see every fist in the sky” for ‘Perseverance’. It is at this moment that a small bi-plane flies overhead with a banner reading “Jesus loves every 1 of U” and the fists become horns. Hard to tell whether it’s a joke or we’re actually the subject of some local zealot’s fear, but either way everyone is laughing and trying to take poor phone photos of it.

In This Moment bring the strange and unusual next, with everything from priestess costumes, skulls and pentagrams to choral music and interpretive dance. I don’t really know what to make of them if I’m honest. They sound like metal-Bjork. Is it a good thing? I mean I do like the toilet-paper costume, but their mini cover of Metallica’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ is a little upsetting. I did laugh at the Game of Thrones Cersei-style ‘Shame’ poster situation, but there is a nice sentiment behind it all; “…this is what I was told when I was just a girl, that I would amount to absolute shit, that I would become nothing at all… this last song is about rising above other people’s perceptions” – for ‘Whore’, accompanied by huge white balloons being batted around the crowd.

Black Veil Brides sport pyrotechnics and screaming, standard. It’s decent but they are eclipsed by next up: Shinedown. Super appropriately it is scorching hot right now and they are smashing their way through some straight up great rock and roll. Motivational as ever, frontman Brent Smith invites everyone to shake hands with a stranger next to them, and hit ‘State of my Head’ goes down a storm. “Take a look at the history you’re making this afternoon… ladies and gentlemen you look absolutely spectacular today” yells Smith, and I must sincerely disagree, we look fried, tired, sweaty and smashed. But I do appreciate the love.

Over in Avalanche, happy pop punk legends A are playing to a packed out tent, which is suspiciously full of pale people avoiding the sun-monster. Riffing on their age “hands up if you’re over the age of 30… hands up if you’ve got 2 properties… you know when bands re-form and they’re like 20 years older and you’re like why are they bothering? We just really fucking enjoy this” the band speaks to a place in all of us, who are genuinely here for the same reason – even if we’re sort of proper grown ups now. Oh and they start an over-30’s circle pit, cause it’s funny to go home to your office job with two black eyes, right?

Now, was anyone else truly alarmed by the sight of Marilyn Manson in daylight? I was. I thought he was going to spontaneously combust, burst aflame, incinerated by the power of sunlight. I mean he’s so pale as to be almost translucent – at one point he turned sideways and I swear I could see a passing plane through his face. However, it’s an absolute treat to have the master of the macabre here at Donington and he does not disappoint, rolling in with ‘Irresponsible Hate Anthem’ backed by a giant inverted monochrome crossed American flag.

Sporting a knuckle-duster mic and a long black trench, it takes all of about two minutes before he looks as though he’s sweating his ass off and has to ditch the look, pogo-ing down the runway he calls “Thank you for coming out in daylight… it’s like the opposite of our lives… do you like daytime? I don’t… we’re kind of stuck here together with daytime… let’s deal with it” perhaps displaying a little animosity towards the scheduling. It’s true, his show and music both lend themselves to a dark and brooding atmosphere, it’s a little hard to get caught up in the bloodlust when the big tattooed bloke standing next to you is eating a 99 with a flake.

‘Disposable Teens’ is obviously solid gold but it’s more than a little amusing that due to there being no option to control the lighting, we get to see people rush on an off stage during the show to dress Manson in various different outfits. More amusing still is that it is genuinely too hot for any of it and he keeps having to peel it all off himself within minutes. He’s clearly frustrated about it too “It’s very difficult, but together we can accomplish it… like having sex with the lights on”.

‘mOBSCENE’ comes with a vampiric Manson backdrop and during ‘Kill4Me’ he drags a crowd-surfing mega-fan on stage with him. She’s head to-toe Manson-merch and is sporting an “I’d Kill 4 you” flag, obviously ecstatic to hug him as he slaps her ass and sends her on her way, before togging up in an enormous Howl-like (of Moving Castle fame) black feathered trench-coat. Think, demonic Big Bird.

Talking to us as he emerges from a corner of the stage “I was just having a moment with my personal physician, with my eyesight and the sun…” it’s not clear whether that’s a joke or he’s ahem, getting medicated, but it seems extremely apt that we head into ‘The Dope Show’. ‘Sweet Dreams’ is breathy and brilliant, there’s some writhing around a smoking podium which looks rather uncomfortable, and a little bit of using drum sticks to hit a bass guitar. It’s a bit off, and I can’t put my finger on why. Dani Filth joins the action for ‘The Beautiful People’ and unfortunately he finishes up a little slow with ‘Cry Little Sister’. I’ll be honest – Download have definitely seen him better, and I hope next time we can at least give him the night.

Closing up the Avalanche for the weekend are Sweden’s mischievous mayhem peddlars – The Hives. We’ve seen them in white suits, we’ve seen them in black suits, and today – they’ve sown them together for half and half suits. Aesthetic on point. Yelling “Did you miss us? It’s good to see again isn’t it? Did you miss this face?” it’s clear they are here for fun, and they have lost absolutely none of their famous energy and life. ‘Die, Alright’ is awesome and ‘Hate To Say I Told you So’ brings back a wave of college memories, of afternoons in dingy pubs and cover bands. “We have come to the part of the show where we expect way more applause than we are getting…” garners a massive roar from the absolutely packed tent, and “…this is reparations for all the shit we stole from you in Viking times… we’re giving it back in the form of musical treasure!” makes everyone laugh. They are an unstoppable force, jumping from amps and swinging mic stands around their heads with wild abandon, they just look like they’re having the absolute best time, and so are we.

As the sun begins to set we head back to find a spot in the main arena, cover up our burnt bods and grab a beer before our final headliner – Ozzy Osbourne. It has been yet again an incredible weekend and if you’ve never experienced Download before, I can scarcely describe it to you without gushing. It’s a well-oiled machine and you don’t get this kind of bang for your buck anywhere else, I have witnessed a host of the best in rock and metal, in a field with my friends. Does it get better than that?

Read our full Ozzy Osbourne review HERE

© Image courtesy of Download Festival: Kyle McLoughlin

Download 2016 – FULL REVIEW!

You can’t deny it, something out there really has it in for Download Festival. It’s the same story every year – burnt for the first two days camping and then incessantly soaked for the rest, it’s like… metal is the music of the devil… or something…

Campers have been steadily pouring in since Wednesday, setting up epic tent-collectives with all manner of décor (bra-bunting is a particular favourite of mine) and it’s set to be a belter of a weekend, even though we’re probably all going home with trench foot and hypothermia. The Village, the hub of the camping area, is home to weird and wonderful acts such as The Wall of Death, The Inflatable Church, The Circus of Horrors, Zorbing and the fire-wielding Area 51. Oh and hilariously British pursuits like Bogan Bingo, a quiz and five-a-side football, if that’s more your speed. Head over there at night for after-hours bands, DJ’s and even catch a movie in the Cinema or laugh your arse off in The Side Splitter comedy tent.

It’s clear Download’s commitment to becoming a bit more of a well-rounded festival is working, the out of hours entertainment, things to do and see and the much improved food options mean a nicer festival experience for all, without taking the emphasis off the music at all. With the now extensive shopping and food outlets you’d better have cash on you this weekend, as despite last years’ ‘breakthrough’ technology claiming to take all the hassle out of on-site payments (which of course did not go to plan) Download have well and truly ditched the idea of RFID tags and have gone over to… er… all normal methods that you can do in the real world.

 

FRIDAY

Friday sees a dry start and Alien Ant Farm are failing to get anyone interested in anything other than Smooth Criminal, and Babymetal (half an hour late) draw a massive crowd for their J-Pop inspired metal, which is frankly just about the oddest thing ever. They’ve stuck to their goth-loli look and eardrum piercingly high vocals for Gimme Chocolate but actually the new album tracks seem a bit more developed and musically interesting rather than gimmicky. We do wish Herman Lee could have popped up for Road of Resistance, but the two girls down the front who have made a massive effort to dress like the band seem to be loving it, alongside some very big bearded men who appear to know ALL the words.

On the Encore stage, Christian rock band Skillet are killinit (see what I did there?) but the Lemmy/Motorhead tribute video on the main stage is in all honestly a bit lame. We all know Lemmy partied hard, but is it really necessary for people to recount exactly what variety of drug he offered them? Only Brian May appears to talk about him in a painfully honest way, saying “I miss him very badly”. Apart from a stage naming and a tshirt on the merch stand, it’s weirdly unspoken for the most part… maybe it’s all a bit soon for most of the bands.

Grabbing possibly the most English food available for lunch (Duck fat roast potatoes with gravy, followed by apple crumble…) we hit up the absolutely packed Maverick stage for Geordie rockers The Wildhearts who have everyone jumping to I Wanna Go Where The People Go. Over on the main stage we’re treated to a dose of Jonathon Davis’ chicken dance (hold mic, flap arms) as Korn blast out the likes of Coming Undone and Freak On A Leash. The rain is absolutely hammering down now and it kinda fits the grungy nu-metal feel, the arena is full of swamp-people whipping their hair everywhere. Amidst the seriousness of purpose that Korn portray, it’s hard not to giggle at the Lebowski-esque rug that has been laid down to stop Davis stacking it in front of everyone.

Finally it’s on to the main event, and the bedraggled but excited masses have gathered for the ever sinister yet playful German powerhouse that is Rammstein. Running through scores of hits like Sonne, Du Hast, Ich Will and Feuer frei there’s nothing missing from this incredible set. The expected but always insane pyrotechnics just keep coming, with fire breathing face-cages, firework body suits and a giant pair of angel wings, there’s just nothing these guys won’t do for a show.

Check out our full Rammstein review HERE

SATURDAY

Entering the arena today it’s obvious some effort has been made in the way of soaking up the sludge, using a ton of hay and woodchips, there’s a much boggier/safer quality to the underfoot feel, but it probably won’t last.

Over in The Kennels area, a queue is already forming for new addition WWE NXT stage, live wrestling shows hosted by Triple H, whilst self-proclaimed Swedish circus freaks Avatar are bringing some life to the main stage. Wearing what I can only describe as resplendent outfits inspired by the Vatican Guard and yelling “Bang your heads English men!” they put on a rowdy first set of the day, and gain a few more followers with their tight riffs and synchronized hairwhipping.

Beartooth’s punky tones soar across the arena to a decent sized crowd for In Between and Black Peaks are totally smashing the Maverick stage. Turbowolf take the baton next yelling “For the next half an hour, this is our home” before tumbling headlong into the likes of Rabbit’s Foot and Solid Gold.

Danko Jones starts out with classic Play The Blues which actually gets kind of a cold reception from the crowd, but soon he’s telling us “…everybody at Download gets to call me… delicious” and saying “I am a whore for that sound you make with your hands” everything starts to get lively. A fan in the front row passes up a flag requesting Sex Change Shake but Danko goes on to play Cadillac instead citing “…it’s the same three chord structure anyway… so this is like, Shake Change Sex”. There is something ridiculously fun about Danko Jones, in an overwhelmingly cheesy way. They are so uncool they’re cool. They’re the Fonz of rock.

Lawmower Deth however, are exactly the kind of godawful rubbish we should (and do) love, this time with an added Brucey Bonus of being joined by… and I can’t believe I’m writing this… Kim Wilde for Kids in America. It could not be more bonkers and everyone LOVED it.

Rival Sons bluesy cali rock has the arena up and dancing with their beers, soaring vocals and a stellar set – we loved closer Keep On Swinging. On the Encore stage Juliette and the Licks hit hard with Hot Kiss and Credence Clearwater Revival cover Proud Mary, J-Lew is just as enigmatic on stage as on screen. Megadeth are joined on stage by Nikki Sixx for Anarchy in the UK before Nikki steps out with his own band Sixx: AM for a completely different sound. It’s a strong set and a hell of a lot of people have come out to watch. Despite the sea of hair and black tshirts this weekend, it’s clear the pop-punk kids have been hiding in plain sight as the hoarde heads towards the Maverick stage for rowdy Welsh band Neck Deep, but they aren’t even going to win Taffy of the day with Skindred tearing it up over on the Encore stage. Despite the now constant rain, Skindred have drawn a huge crowd for their completely-weird-but-totally-works reggae-metal and the whole crowd is getting down and dirty for Doom Riff and Pressure. With an unsolicited play of Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ mixed into Trouble, they’ve singlehandedly outlined exactly which people we should push in the mud later, but not to worry as there’s an epic and extremely wet swirling of tshirts for Warning. We love a bit of a Newport Helicopter we do.

The rain is now unashamedly heavy and regardless of the plastic ponchos, raincoats and really fucking annoying golf umbrellas, pretty much everyone is soaked through. The crowd is built right up the main stage hill and the anticipation is palpable. Fan or not, there’s no denying that seeing Black Sabbath on their last ever tour (no really, it will be the last this time… right?) is pretty special and important. Though it’s clear throughout the set that Ozzy’s voice isn’t the best (was it ever?) the songs are heavy and hit the nerve of nostalgia so hard. Snowblind, War Pigs, Iron Man and Paranoid are obvious highlights, but no less great because of it. With the downpour drastically thinning the crowd, the views are spectacular and it’s the kind of closing show you hope for – full of hits, none of the new stuff. They will be missed.

Check out our full Black Sabbath review HERE

SUNDAY

With the early morning news that GHOST have cancelled their set today and nightmarish state of the main arena (seriously, it’s the kind of goop bodies arise from in the Walking Dead) today’s bands have to compete with the drowned-rat temperament of all those who’ve camped. Luckily there’s crepes for breakfast, a champagne tent and… hold up, what? I’m down with crumble but there’s no place for Moët in Metal. Come on.

Looking about as country as you can get, Whiskey Myers ease us in gently with Early Morning Shakes on the Encore stage before Amon Amarth give us growly Viking battle tunes from their dragon longship style stage set-up and giant fire canons. It’s even more awesome than it sounds, honestly. Whiplash back to bluesy rock with an inexplicably American sound for Glasgow vocalist Phil Campbell and The Temperance Movement. It’s an unrelentingly great set with a few tracks from the new album but finishing up with Ain’t No Telling from their first, we’re glad to see them back at Download.

On the Maverick stage, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are, well, doing what they do. There’s a huge mosh pit and lots of people seem to be enjoying themselves, but lots of other people seem to be screwing their noses up and walking away. So we head on over to the main stage for the eponymous Halestorm who have grabbed a massive crowd and are belting out Amen, I Am The Fire and I Miss The Misery. There’s no doubting Lzzy Hale’s vocal prowess but there’s something very Nickelback about them, massively produced and clean, it’s hard to put your finger on it.

Shinedown have that crowd-participation approach that we Brits love to hate, like panto – they want us to jump, so at first we do it sarcastically… then again to reinforce the joke… before you know it everyone is pogoing like a complete tosspot to a band they don’t even really like. Either we’re a very very susceptible nation, or Shinedown are actually doing a good job. I’ve no idea at this point. Delain on the Encore stage have drawn all the raven haired goth girls for a good old headbang but there’s a bit of power missing behind it all. On the Maverick stage Electric Wizard are heavy in a way that makes your stomach drop but it's Gojira who really make our skin crawl, in the best kind of way.

Disturbed are actually forcing joy out of otherwise non-fans today with the likes of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence – a stalwart of their tour repertoire. In an epic hit-to-hit continuous play we get; U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For with Lzzy Hale, The Who’s Baba O’Riley with Blaze Bayley and RATM’s Killing In The Name with Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin. Where else are you gonna see that kind of mash up? Let’s be honest though, we’re all waiting for Down With The Sickness, and Disturbed give it to us with a cry of “I think it’s apparent the entire United Kingdom has been infected with sickness…”

Nightwish are plagued from the off with the heaviest downpour of the weekend but that’s never done anything to quiet this truly epic band before. Lords of the symphonic circuit, Nightwish have been the subject of more drama than any other band, public shamings and bootings aside – they seem to have bounced back each time. In Floor Jansen they’ve found a vocalist capable of traversing Tarja Turunen’s operatic realm and the rock sound they’ve been moving steadily towards over the last few albums, and she hits the stage dressed like a Valkyrie, which I guess, is the point really. With giant bursts of fire from stage canons, Nightwish (and the now extraordinarily drenched fans) power through some of the strongest numbers of the entire weekend. Nemo’s the one everyone has been waiting for, and though it will never quite be the same without Tarja, it packs a punch and remains a fan favourite. It seems Download loves Nightwish, no matter who’s fronting. Especially that dude vogue-ing the shit out of it at the back.

Headlining the Maverick stage Saxon get more than they bargained for – the tent is bursting at its seams with the soggy and groggy, warming themselves up for Maiden with the Yorkshire boys. 747 (Strangers in the Night) is melodic-shreddingly amazing, And The Bands Played On is the perfect description of what Saxon seem to intend to do… forever… and Wheels of Steel has every single person singing along. Biff’s voice and determination is as strong as ever.

As is typical of Sunday headliners at Download, there is very little crossover of other stages, and Iron Maiden also joining us a little later than intended means the arena is absolutely COVERED in bodies. Thankfully the rain has stopped just in time for the screens to switch over to Eddie TV and Bruce Dickinson to emerge from centre stage for If Eternity Should Fail. Through a Book Of Souls heavy set we are well and truly smacked with the fact that Bruce’s throat cancer surgery has done nothing to dull his vocals or his enthusiasm, he races the stage with the same wild abandon he has always had. In the wake of Black Sabbath’s ending, it’s sort of comforting to know that Maiden have no plans to quit any time soon. Hell, they just got a new plane.

Old favorites The Trooper, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Fear Of The Dark are every bit as heart-stoppingly brilliant as we’ve come to expect, the stage sets and animatronics just can’t be rivaled. With an epic encore of The Number Of The Beast, Blood Brothers and Wasted Years, Maiden came, saw, conquered. With a long speech regarding this weekend’s tragic events in Orlando, an incredible set and more energy than any one of us can muster after three days in a field – Bruce may as well have done an actual mic drop.

Read our full Iron Maiden review HERE

So what to make of Download 2016? As always controversy over headliners is rife for this sort of festival. With a genre so diverse, with arguably warring factions – there’s always going to be something you love, and something you hate. That’s kind of the point right? If you loved the whole lineup everything would clash. If you hated the whole lineup, you wouldn’t buy a ticket. This year, Download seemed to have secured bands from a whole heap of genres without one heavily dominating the others and let’s be honest – seeing Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden on the same bill is really pretty incredible when you think about it. But who the hell is going to top this? Roll on DL2017’s announcements and the ensuing forum arguments we will inevitably be part of…

All photographs © A. Hyams, please do not use without permission.

Shinedown, Killswitch Engage and more added to Download 2016

Download Festival, in one of its biggest announcements yet confirms 33 new additions for 2016 including Shinedown, Killswitch Engage, Down, Don Broco, Architects, Neck Deep, Tremonti and more. Download Festival takes place 10-12 June 2016 in Donington Park and tickets are on sale now.

Download Festival, the world’s premier rock and metal festival, returns for 2016 with one of its biggest lineups to date. Joining headliners RammsteinBlack Sabbath and Iron Maiden for a weekend of incredible rock music are Shinedown, who played an unforgettable set at the festival in 2012. The band’s latest album Threat To Survival shot to Number 13 in the UK charts earlier this year.

Killswitch Engage, dubbed “the people’s champions of metal”, will make the floor move under your feet with a jaw-droppingly outstanding set; Down, featuring former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo, will deliver some booming dark riffs and all out metal; Don Broco, who celebrated a Number 6 album earlier this year forAutomatic, will bring charisma by the bucketload with a chaotic and immensely enjoyable live set, and Brighton metallers Architects are confirmed for a ferocious, boundlessly energetic set ensuing some gigantic circle pits.

Neck Deep are making waves as the heroes of UK pop-punk. The Wrexham five-piece have been on tour with Bring Me The Horizon and All Time Low, and will headline their own tour next year; Tremonti, fronted by former Creed and Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti, are known for their fast and heavy headbang-worthy riffs; French band Gojira will provide some full on heavy metal throwing crowds into an absolute meltdown; bringing Satan back to the masses, Swedish six-piece Ghost are confirmed for some sticky-sweet hooks and melodies, and lots of satanic musings.

Back on British soil, Billy Talent are preparing to deliver a storming set for crowds in Donington Park. The Canadian sensations will also release a new album in 2016; Saxon will bring some classic rock and guitar heavy tunes; Australian metal-core band The Amity Affliction will put on a great live set mesmerising crowds and are bound to create a raucous mosh pit; Halestorm, led by awesome frontwoman Lizzie Hale, return with some hard, riffy rock; one of the hottest bands in the ‘alternative’ world, US band Beartooth are confirmed, and Glasgow rockers Twin Atlantic, whose last two albums scored Top 5 in the UK Rock & Metal chart, will bring their unique pop rock sounds to Download.

Californian metallers Atreyu are renowned for their high-energy and impassioned sets; self-proclaimed “party-metallers” Attila will bring a heavy-hitting set; reggae-metal group Skindred will get the pit bouncing and rocking and are guaranteed to please the crowds at Donington; former Gallows frontman Frank Carter is confirmed with his new band The Rattlesnakes; Milton Keynes five-piece Tesseract, one of progressive metal’s elite, will send the audience into overdrive with a flawless performance; and with some big, belligerent metal, Counting Days are also confirmed.

Controversial electronic punk rap group Ho99o9 will be bringing their raucous live show to Donington; Milk Teeth have rapidly been gaining widespread acclaim for their nineties grunge nostalgia. Dead! went out on tour with Young Guns this year and have established themselves as one of the hottest bands to look out for in 2016, as have Exeter three-piece Black Foxxes, who have sold out every London show they’ve played. Fort Hope have been championed by Radio 1 this year and their album Courage reached Number 8 on the UK Rock & Metal Chart.

Rival Sons have earned a name as “one of the hottest rock bands on the planet” and will bring an awe-inspiring set of raw power and soulful, bluesy rock; hard rockers Breaking Benjamin are back following a five-year hiatus and will be loud and glorious; American thrash metallers Havok will bring exactly that; Dutch synth-metal band Delain are known for their upbeat energetic performances and US rockers Skillet are set to bring one hell of a monster show. Bringing some fun and thrash metal, Lawnmower Deth are also confirmed to play next year. The band are currently battling it out for the Christmas number one spot with their version of ‘Kids in America’.

Headlining the third stage on Friday, Gutterdämmerung – the brand new rock ‘n’ roll film from Belgian-Swedish visual artist Bjorn Tagemose billed as a “loud and dark fairy tale” – will be screened at Download. The film features the combined might of Slash, Iggy Pop, Josh Homme, Henry Rollins, Lemmy, Tom Araya and many more of hard rock’s finest.

Download Festival is the home of rock music and takes place on the sacred grounds of Donington Park, which have been associated with rock since the eighties. The festival attracts icons of rock and metal to its Main Stage, plus the best hot and new acts in the world. AC/DC, KISS, Metallica, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Rage Against The Machine, Slipknot, Linkin Park and many more have all headlined its main stage.