Download Festival Day One 8 June, 2018

2018’s Download Festival brings an array of sights to marvel at and I haven’t even started on the acts. People in banana outfits drinking from horns and blow up dolls strapped to peoples’ backs… It seems Download is a place where if you don’t fit into that certain criteria, you’re the odd one out. Children are amongst them too so it appears Download provides a welcome haven to all on its 16th visit to Donington Park.

So what accompanies these vibrant people, vibrant music of course and Dragonforce is no exception. The British power metal band is one of the many this weekend who dare to amaze the crowd with their mesmerising fast-paced guitar solos and visual fantasy-themed stage décor. Ashes of the Dawn displays both of the above but they also add lyrics of a chivalric nature. Lead singer Marc Hudson with his long blond hair can hit those high notes when it counts and has equal control when it comes to the moody, softer parts. Dragonforce rarely get a chance to play in the UK but let’s hope this changes.

Cellar Darling recently had their first UK tour, now they have their First UK festival together at Download 2018. Opening the Dogtooth stage the intro to Black Moon starts following Anna strolling in arm high and her beautiful beaming smile, everything sounds on point for the performance.   Coming to a close the crowd roars and shouts yeeeeahh!! Only it wasnt the end as the chorus follows one last time and leads into Hullaballoo.  Anna  “so many to be here in these early daylight hours its an absolute hour and pleasure for us to play for you, I’m not a women of many words we are story tellers, this one’s cold” Avalanche, reminding me I need to go to the Avalanche stage next.    The crowd are very receptive an atmosphere and sound is created that is something great to be in.

The combination of Annas vocal skillsand the Hurdy-Gurdy, Merlin is bashing his way on drums and Ivo strumming  making use of the full stage we are all lost in the music.

The Marmozets own the main stage with their set. Becca Macintyre is on vocals and she sure can use them. The 26 year old gives off a mix of aggression and liveliness with their song Play and she moves around the large stage manically.

My first walk down to the Avalanche stage, to catch Employed to Serve, WOW!! This is a long walk, even without the fields being full. Opening with Void Ambition with quite a large crowd, Justine Jones (vocals) stands at the front of the stage and looks evil, her demon voices take over her and she becomes possessed. The guitar riffs are very heavy and is all put together nicely to blend into your nasty hardcore sound.

It is great to see, the energy, the keeping the skill in maintaining the vocals, the set continues into Good For Nothing and  Platform 89 from their album The Warmth of a Dying Sun. The crowd at this point keep moshing away and a mini circle pit has formed.

We sit tight to catch up with, DED from Phoenix Arizona and that was a mistake for my ears as the guys come out to an 30 second intro with their eyes completely white as the bass kicks in WOW…. Such a force this makes Employed to Serve seem light! They belt out their first track for us, the vocals this time are  dominant and with the heavy bass Ded “You guys look fucking awesome, Let me get everyone to put their hands in the air now let me get a bounce all the way from the front to the back, Bounce that shit” eagerly the crowd are waiting to please.

This was a fairly interesting show to see, a little bit on the edge of my style of music again but very interesting to watch, as they axe guitars and jump around stage the band incite a circle pit.   The crowd heavily run and bounce into each other with such force, a few land on the ground and are pulled back up and back into the mosh.

We stayed sitting tight at the Avalanche Stage as there are clashing times for the bands in the stages we need to cover such is festival life. Up next is Metalcore to the core, Stray From The Path who see much more crowd surfing,  and a fairly tight performance,  it is more than my average heavy music.   The flow of bands is working well on the Avalanche stage today and its most definitely their heaviest day for this stage.  Unfortunately for some of security they are not as into this sound as the crowd.

Trekking off to the Dogtooth stage we are off to see Savage Messiah opening to the intro of Don McLean’s American Pie, I start to think what have I come to here.  The band run out and the guitars riffs and interesting rock beat hits us for Scavengers of Mercy.  There are some good backing melody and riffs as they move through to  Hands of Fate as the drum and Wing on a Prayer sounds amazing.   They create an enormous atmosphere.    This is one of the bands I have taken away from Download that I need to listen to, a lot more.

Friday also saw Jonathan Davis – best known as frontman from the band Korn – who has turned to a solo career since 2007. His style is still rocky, yet he focuses on more atmospheric sounds which can be heard in Underneath My Skin. He then moves on to other songs with the use of an upright bass. He can decide to go it alone but his voice will always link him back to his past.

If you can brave rubbing up against the masses of the unwashed, you must make the effort to get reasonably close to the main stage, otherwise the sound becomes distorted the further back you go. Volbeat has varied music transitioning from rockabilly to heavy rock and their mix of Danish/American accents makes it all the more unique. Still Counting starts off really slow almost taking on a Ska style and you think it’s going to be like that the whole way through. Just when you start to question why these guys have been invited to a rock festival, the heavy guitar solo kicks in.

Back at the Avalanche Stage to catch Cancer Bats, whom I’ve heard many a time but never watched. They are known for being full of exciting riffs and inciting riots amongst the crowd and that is exactly what they do as they race out to Gatekeeper from their latest album The Spark That Moves, released in April 2018. Liam Cormier is on form, bellowing out the lyrics, following into Pneumonia Hawk, the dirty grundgy riffs continue as the aggressive vocals entwined an energetic Liam racing around stage.   They are probably the most exciting band of the day to watch and listen to. Their cover of Beastie Boys Sabotage goes down an absolute treat and their own rick & Mortar to close, save the best until last.

Next up Blessed The Fall.  A heavy opening and heavy drums, with quite a melodic Wishful Sinking as Beau comes out before exploding into a demon scream, he proceeds to spray the crowd from a water bottle to drink and spray it in the air the crowd love it.   Cuthroat  is up next as were asked to bounce the tent, seems a very different style very shouty and aggressive with less melody to this track, although the crowd are erupting behind me.   They ask for a hell yeah and they eagerly get this after asking who hasn’t seen BlessTheFall before singer Beau Bokan says “Wow look at all the Virgins in the crowd, Why don’t we do this, I haven’t seen a wall of death in a very very long time why don’t we do that”

The crowd roar, the singer at this point is being tapped on the foot by the head of security saying no, so they move straight into the heavy Hollow.   Bodies, screams and roars and the crowd sing the lyrics, we do see a small circle pit but nothing of the size I think Beau was expecting.  Again another one I’ll check out a lot more when I can.

Back at the Avalanche stage with The Bronx.  We have some jungle music intro with bongos etc and lead singer Matt Caughthran  “are you ready to fuck shit up that’s what were here to do” the tent is in complete uproar, the biggest circle pit of the day,  the crowd are bouncing off each other.  The vocals and bass line are as heavy as it has been, the roars are immense.  It seems like complete chaos, they put on a show that’s worth watching again and again.

French origin Igorrr put on such an exciting performance which reminded me of the film beauty and the beast.  The operatic style vocals from Laure Le Prunenec and the roar-y gruffly vocals from the wolf looking character Gautier Serre showing a very emotive performance.
The crowd watch in awe, there was not circle pit or mosh, this was one of those shows to keep eyes on the band. Laure was very erratic and active in styles almost like she is possessed or being possessed by the demonic wolf .  At one point she stands at the stage not with him but behind and to the side almost like a shadow.  This was triumph of  lighting, presence and vocals.

Bad Religion are considered punk rock legends and their popularity is obvious when you look around the Avalanche stage and see how many fans have turned up. Lyrically, they are extremely clever as they cover most themes of life like politics (shown in Recipe For Hate for example).

The song You definitely has Greenday’s Jaded pace to it. On the whole Bad Religion is entertaining to watch, especially when Greg Graffin on lead vocals seems to mock his own music by gesticulating dramatically in time to the heavy drum beat as if he is a conductor, not a singer.

Napalm Death next, a comment from a colleague was “oh god are they still going” well yes they are, and yes they have a great slot prior to the headline. Mitch Harris talking to us as they are setting up complaining (in a good way) about his stupid hair getting in the way, but we say without out it nothing would look as cool, just imagine Korn without their dreds….. Anyway Mark “Barney” Greenway run out to stage and just seems to have no self control and is racing and kicking around the stage as they belt out Multinational Corporations and Instinct of Survival.  I’ve never seen them before and its one of the music genres don’t normally  listen to, so a little of it is lost on me.  The crowd though are having a good time, moshing like crazy!

TesseracT this should be good, like most times I’ve seen them, the band has remained static in line up with the exception of the vocalist who throughout my experience is Daniel Tompkins.  Tonight they open up with a very blue and smoky look as everyone takes their place.   Riffing guitars, heavy bass line to then move to soft harmonies from Daniel for Luminary. The set continues with Of Mind — Nocturne from their latest album Sonder.  Heads are rocking away listening to the blend of the heavy riffs and softer vocals which complement each other.

They have a structure that works, in one respect heavy but in the other they are soft, they keep evolving on this.  They are a great band to get lost in.

Bullet for my Valentine gets the crowd in the mood with Your Betrayal which starts with a set of drums that sound like a marching percussion before the chugging sound of the guitar comes in. The Welsh band who formed in 1998 choose a visually appealing backdrop for their set on the main stage which consists of a pair of multi-coloured angels’ wings. This is done with the full intention of mirroring their new album cover Gravity which is due to be released at the end of this month.

It would be hard for headliner Avenged Sevenfold to disappoint Download audiences tonight. They not only use pyrotechnics but also peculiar graphics. The screen shows an eyeball rolling around in a skull which judging by most of their album covers where you’ll see the ‘Deathbat’ logo, it is a clear indication that their fascination with skulls knows no bounds. To add to this they also have giant eyeball props which seem to float from stalks across the stage. Lead vocalist M. Shadows announced his love for performing in the UK and topped this by dedicating Hail to the King to his present audience.

In summary a great day, some very heavy music, some ear bleeding and a light contrast in places.


Reviewers: Catherine Verrechia and Chris Bowley

Photographs: Chris Bowley

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