DOWNLOAD 2017 – Friday Review

After a week of doomy skies and rainfall, as well as monikers Drownload and Downpour festival from previous years, you’d be forgiven for going head-to-toe storm wear to Donington. For now though, the weather looks decent so we're donning hats and sunblock.

After a fairly heavy security check, welcome after the recent tragedies in both Manchester and London, we get through to the main arena to see some things have changed. The main difference to the site is that the third stage has been moved up to the top of the hill from its previous home in the bottom corner. Though it means more of a hike between bands to change stage, it has solved a few problems – there’s no more sound transference/overlap when two bands are on at the same time, you don’t have to crush past the toilet queues to get in and the VIP area is more easily accessible now too. Though it’s more likely to have been moved due to the horrendous drainage issues in the rain last year. In fact, there seem to be dug-in irrigation channels all over this year, which according to sod’s law probably means it’ll be blazing sunshine all weekend.

Despite the arenas being quite quiet today, The Raven Age have pulled a decent crowd and are giving their second round at Download everything they have, alongside a commentary on the recent attacks from frontman Michael Burrough “Thank you for turning out, in the face of adversity, we really fucking appreciate it… this one is for Manchester… London… Paris…”.

Next up is the unusual DL pick, rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who appears to be dressed in a dirty lab coat. It’s clear from the first beat he’s a powerful presence and he careens around the stage with explosive passion. Covering Oasis’ Wonderwall is a guaranteed goal in the UK, I mean we all think it’s shit but we do know the words, however it’s ‘Alpha Omega’ that gets everyone yelling along. After jumping off the top of the drum-kit in his massive winkle-picker shoes and jumping into the pit to dance along the front of the crowd, MGK reduces one fan to tears. After calling “Beautiful girl in the front row wearing the white MGK hoody… this one’s for you” he drops down on one knee in front of her and continues with the song whilst holding her hand. It’s adorable… especially considering two minutes ago he was screaming at everyone to get their middle fingers up.

Suicidal Tendencies are ridiculous fun, frontman Mike Muir grins maniacally as crowd-surfers are yanked down by security guards, whilst on the main stage 5 Finger Death Punch are inciting circle pits to snippets of Crazy Train and Smoke on the Water. Someone dressed in an inflatable t-rex costume is trying desperately to leave during ‘Burn MF’, without much success.

Good Charlotte offer up the disturbing realisation that they started this band 21 years ago, asking “how many of you remember us from high school?” but the crowd is bouncing along as if they don’t have jobs… kids… adult responsibilities, all the same.

The lyrics “Girls like cars and money” from ‘Girls & Boys’ were pretty standard fayre for the noughties pop punk scene but times have changed and bagging on girls is a hot topic these days. So it’s not entirely surprising that following the song comes a sort of apologetic disclaimer “firstly I wanna say thank you to every girl who came here today. The whole thing looks better, smells nicer… is smarter… what the world needs… all you girls out there, not afraid to stand up, to express yourselves…”

Closing the Zippo Encore stage with more pop punk are Sum 41, headed up by Deryck Whibley who is looking decidedly healthier than he has done in a while, with his blonde hair still spiked upwards in defiance of the passing of time. He really doesn’t look like he’s aged with us at all to be honest. What a bastard. It’s a huge turnout and the crowd is going wild for the classics ‘Still Waiting’, ‘In Too Deep’ and finishing up with ‘Fat Lip’.

A miraculously dry day at Download sees droves of half-drunk, half-sunburnt red faces heading to the main arena for Friday night's main stage headliner System of a Down. Having played at Download last in 2011, SOAD were definitely due a return to the main stage at Donington and thousands of people are already packed in to watch.

Starting strong with 'Suite-Pee' and 'Prison Song', blending seamlessly into 'Violent Pornography' (which I realise sounds rather rude…) SOAD make it known that they mean business. It's rare for a band to be respected and liked across the board, but it really seems like System aren't the great divider that other headline acts seem to be. Droves of people are coming in from the second stage where Sum 41 are just finishing up, and the standing is packed all the way to the back of the arena.

With his now white-streaked beard, Serj Tankian holds the crowd in the palm of his hand and a giant screen behind shows clips of black and white movies and news stories during the bass heavy 'Aerials'. It's bone-shakingly heavy and there is a deafening chorus of people joining in around us, Download have got the main stage sound absolutely spot on this year, it's pitch perfect from way back into the arena.
Into the much loved 'Bounce' for some limb-flailingly chaotic pogoing, during which a man in an extraordinarily short tutu with "Twat" sharpied across his forehead, almost loses what's left of his dwindling dignity, followed shortly by the incredible 'Psycho' and 'Chop Suey' – absolute classics. The guy on the front row wearing a full tuxedo is going berserk and I know how he feels, this is shaping up to be one of the best headline sets Download has ever seen.

After a solid 45 minutes of play without so much as a pause, Serj yells out to the crowd "Download, how you fucking doing out there?" and that's our lot. SOAD truly came to just smash it up, not stop for a chat. For a band heavily invested in political topics and lyrics, I had sort of wished for a quip or two regarding yesterday's UK election results, maybe something about being well hung…

Closing out with the enormously enjoyable 'Toxicity' and 'Sugar' SOAD have pulled off a near perfect headline set, and despite the obviously lower numbers at the festival this year, everyone seems to have turned out to see them do it. Roll on day two!

Bloodstock Open Air 2016 – Full Review

It’s that special last month before Autumn sets in, the high summer sun shines down on the most inappropriately weather-attired crowd of the entire year, yes, It’s Bloodstock Open Air. I will never stop being equally amused and proud that the metal community rocks black tshirts, heavy denim, sticky leather and a mass of metalware regardless of temperature, or indeed comfort.

Though this year’s Bloodstock line-up has been the topic of much forum debate and there are some rather under-represented groups (female musicians on the main stage anyone?) this year, you can’t deny there is first-class metal on offer this weekend. Friday sees a beautiful site-wide crab-athon (Crabulon) with Evil Scarecrow, and Corrosion of Conformity tear up the Ronnie James Dio stage with their gritty bluesy metal, to a decent crowd having overcome some mishaps on the route here. “In case you guys don’t know, we lost our guitars in fucking Paris… we’re kind of winging it” the guys let us know, before a calling Donald Trump a dickhead and dedicating the beautifully relevant ‘Vote With A Bullet’ to him.

Over on the Sophie Lancaster stage, the comedically named Foetal Juice hailing from Manchester, sound pretty much exactly as you’d expect – extreme but a little bit silly. Everyone in the tent seems to love them though, which is pretty good going for group of mates who started this for fun.

Heading over to the Kraken Rum garden for a spot of black ice-cream (good work guys, you know this is exactly the crowd to appreciate a gothic dessert) we take the opportunity to check out the merch stall and pop into Lemmy’s Bar to raise a glass (well, plastic cup) to the man, the legend. Back on the Sophie stage XII Boar are absolutely killing it, yelling out “You’re here! You’ve made it to the party” to us latecomers joining them mid-set. It’s a bit of a shame about the noise-pollution next door, the music on the fairground rides is offensively loud and unnecessary. No-one needs to hear Sweet Child O’Mine more than once in half an hour.

Home grown heroes Venom are a massive Friday highlight with their thrashy, wild child behaviour and obvious love of what they do. Calling out “It’s great to see the fucking UK legions” to a roaring crowd, it’s nice to see a proper homecoming. Demon-faced Behemoth are kind of a BOA staple now right? The band are over from Poland, presumably to promote Satanism and murder… *snigger* and for a band who’ve done every trick in the goth manual to seem dark and gloomy, they look like they’re having a pretty amazing time.

Last up is the final ever (yes really, EVER) UK Twisted Sister show on their ‘Forty & Fuck It’ tour, and it’s an absolute blinder. Playing 15 minutes over the curfew, with every single hit you wanted to hear, and a gigantic crowd singing alongside them – Twisted Sister go out with a bang. Like the music or not, you can’t deny they’ve got amazing showmanship and the ability to engage with a crowd on a funny and personal level. They will be hugely missed.

Read our full Twisted Sister review HERE

 

Saturday sees the likes of The Raven Age, off the back of their supporting role in Iron Maiden’s Book of Souls world tour, carving out a name for themselves on the Sophie stage, and Rotting Christ have the main stage under a veil of darkness with their unique melodic metal and some synchronized headbanging. Fear Factory pull in a huge crowd and those 90’s sounds are just so nostalgic it makes us want to buy some of those huge jeans again, you know the kind with safety pins all up the seam and one of those giant ball-chains attached to your wallet.

Grabbing some grub is much more difficult than we had anticipated, this festival has come a long way on the food front since it’s early days of scary burger vs. scary hotdog options. We opt for a Bi-ella (It’s not sexual, it’s just both kinds of paella – meat and veggie. Actually I take it back, that is pretty sexual.) and chilli-inna-bun, which is much less Dibbler than it sounds. Both were awesome and actually worthy of high price tag we’ve come to expect from UK festivals.

Paradise Lost playing in the late evening sun is an absolute treat, but the stunningly beautiful guitars ring out across a sleepy crowd, there are a lot more people sitting down in a post-dinner sun-drenched haze. Only the astoundingly tall Kraken diver is dancing around like a lunatic, presumably taking an in-suit bath in his own sweat.

Over on the Sophie stage One Machine are throwing down hard, their sound is interesting and fresh and there’s a pretty decent crowd in there enjoying it. In the Hobgoblin New Blood tent, Warwickshire band The Face of Ruin have In Flames vibes and we are loving their rowdy set. Let’s hope they return to BOA soon… next year even… on a bigger stage…

On the main stage it’s time for the truly incredible Gojira, and judging by the sheer size of the crowd that has turned out to see them, they could just have well bumped Mastodon from tonight’s top spot. There’s something so strangely hypnotic about Gojira, it’s hard to put your finger on it, but as the sun sets on day two of BOA it’s clear they’re one of the true highlights of the festival already, and ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ is the anthem. Shouting out “Are you having a great day at the festival? Are you drinking enough beer? Are you happy?” It’s kind of adorable that they care about our festival welfare, and everyone is more than appreciative of the brand new tracks from Magma.

In comparison it’s hard to watch Mastodon’s entrance onto the main stage, with dodgy sound and a do-the-job attitude, the magic dwindles a little. Sure, they’re musically strong but there’s less of the awe and more of the ought about them. However, as the night pulls on Mastodon appear to get comfortable and the last half an hour is considerably, thankfully better.

Read our full Mastodon review HERE

 

As the hungover masses drag their butts outta bed (well, sleeping bag) for one last day of metal mayhem, the Sunday lineup sees the likes of Satyricon, complete with forked mic stand and altogether too much white face powder – makeover the main stage with their black metal in the rather overcast afternoon. It’s sort of appropriate. On the Sophie stage, Derange deserve a bigger crowd than they’ve got – I mean, no their sound is nothing exactly new, but they execute well and vocalist Cat Pereira is commanding centre stage.

Outside after a bloody (literally, one guy had his head cut open) battle reenactment, it’s time for the final challenges of the Bloodstock’s Strongest Man competition, and get this… the trophy is Thor’s Hammer! Amazing. After a lot of grunting, sweating and swearing, a little crowd participation and some free tshirts being thrown about, a champion is crowned. It’s been a brilliant little event, hope to see it back bigger for next year.

On the main stage there’s a kicking of heels as we wait patiently for Dragonforce to appear. Technical difficulties are blamed and it’s a blistering, albeit short show from the power-metal heroes. Despite the crowd chanting ‘Herman Lee’ rather than Dragonforce before they came on, it really doesn’t seem to have phased the rest of the band, and frontman Marc Hudson yells “We are Dragonforce from London England, and it’s nice to fucking play at home for once”. ‘Cry Thunder’ and ‘Through The Fire And  Flames’ have the entire crowd wailing along as crowd surfers flail overhead, which is pretty great considering that’s all we got. Five songs seems hardly enough.

Symphony X are somewhat underwhelming but New Blood’s Valous, immediately followed by amusingly named Footprints in the Custard – are anything but. Both bands are energetic and enthusiastic, an atmosphere that spills over into their rowdy crowds who are loving it.

As the many… many Judges circle the site telling you not to take photos of them, or pretending to terminate delinquents, they can only herald one band. Anthrax hit the stage with all the raw power you’d expect from a band twenty years their junior, they just make it look easy. ‘Antisocial‘ has the entire arena thrashing, and as they close out with ‘Indians’ shouting “This is the war dance, bang your fucking heads! Everyone move ok?” it’s unsurprising to see the BOA crowd comply, hard.

Following up with another of the ‘Big Four’ thrash metal bands, Slayer are here to re-conquer Bloodstock and with a stage top to bottom bathed in real actual fire (how they sustained playing in that direct heat, I have no idea) it’s almost as if they’ve come out to prove they’re children of the underworld. Last time Slayer topped the BOA bill was just after the death of Jeff Hanneman, three years later we see a fresher, stronger Slayer with a giant Hanneman tribute flag, and something to prove. With the massive and iconic riffs of ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Raining Blood’ reverberating around Catton Park, it’s hard to imagine a better way to close Bloodstock 2016. Here’s to 2016, and wondering what the next lineup will bring…

Read our full Slayer review HERE

Check out our full photo gallery HERE

All photos © A. Hyams 2016. Do not use without permission.

New bands announced for Bloodstock 2016

There’s just 48 days until your wait is over for BLOODSTOCK – the biggest heavy metal party weekender of the year!  BLOODSTOCK HQ is a hive of activity; the sunshine is on pre-order and there are still more bands being confirmed!

Added for an early afternoon main stage slot on Sunday are rising, home-grown Century Media metalheads, HEART OF A COWARD (https://www.facebook.com/heartofacoward). Check out the video for ‘Hollow’ from last album ‘Deliverance’ at: https://youtu.be/C-h3c2VnA7A.

Joining Friday’s Sophie Stage bill are German symphonic metal outfit BEYOND THE BLACK (https://www.facebook.com/beyondtheblackofficial), Wigan’s own progressive sludgelords BOSS KELOID (https://www.facebook.com/bosskeloidband), and self-described ‘epic fantasycore’ group FURY from Worcester (https://www.facebook.com/furyofficial).   

Meanwhile, snagging a Sophie Stage slot on Saturday are heavy psych merchants VODUN (https://www.facebook.com/VODUNBAND) fresh from Stone Free festival last weekend and fast-rising London melodic metallers, THE RAVEN AGE (https://www.facebook.com/TheRavenAge).

BLOODSTOCK is very pleased to welcome back TEENAGE CANCER TRUST as their official charity partner once again.  After shattering all previous fundraising records in 2015 with a colossal total in excess of £13.5K, BLOODSTOCK hopes you’ll join them to raise even more cash in 2016 to help TEENAGE CANCER TRUST support young people with cancer all over the UK.

Meantime, the ‘Metal 2 The Masses’ finals continue around the UK through to 10th July (remaining dates below).  BLOODSTOCK’s ‘Metal 2 The Masses’ judging squad have been searching hard for hot new talent and these lucky bands have won slots on the Hobgoblin New Blood stage!

Friday welcomes Mansfield stoner/groove rock trio WITCHTRIPPER (https://www.facebook.com/witchtripperuk) and Leicester’s melodic doomsters GARGANJUA (https://www.facebook.com/Garganjua). On Saturday, Leicester M2TM winners CONJURER (https://www.facebook.com/conjureruk) bring their blend of progressive post-metal sludge/groove, plus Norwich M2TM finalists VENDETTA (https://www.facebook.com/VendettaUKHC) offer up a slice of pure British hardcore aggression.  Joining Sunday’s New Blood mayhem are Luton’s FAR FROM HISTORY (https://www.facebook.com/farfromhistoryuk), mixing chugging groove and hardcore riffs to round out your weekend.

There’s also a chance for punters at each M2TM event to win weekend tickets to BLOODSTOCK, a case of Hobgoblin Ale to take home, or various other BLOODSTOCK related prizes.  You can even shake hands with BLOODSTOCK’s ‘M2TM’ mainman, Simon Hall.  Remaining finals run as follows so get out, support, and win those festival tickets for yourself!

 

24th Jun – SWINDON – The Victoria

24th Jun – DEWSBURY – The Old Turk

25th Jun – MERSEYSIDE / LIVERPOOL – Bumper

1st Jul – LINCOLNSHIRE / LINCOLN – The Lincoln Imp

2nd Jul – READING – Facebar

9th Jul – BURNLEY – Sanctuary

9th Jul – BOURNEMOUTH – The Anvil

9th Jul – POLAND / BIELSKO-BIALA – The Rude Boy Club

10th Jul – BIRMINGHAM – The Roadhouse

 

Already announced for 2016 are our three headliners, TWISTED SISTER (in their last ever UK show), MASTODON and SLAYER, plus special guests BEHEMOTH, GOJIRA and ANTHRAX.  Also on the bill are FEAR FACTORY, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, SYMPHONY X, SATYRICON, PARADISE LOST, DRAGONFORCE, METAL ALLEGIANCE, STUCK MOJO, ROTTING CHRIST, MISERY LOVES CO, AKERCOCKE, GHOST BATH, VENOM, UNEARTH, DIAMOND HEAD, GOATWHORE, ACID REIGN and many more.  Additional bands are still to be announced.