Download Festival is one the biggest Rock and Metal events in the world, and with a line up boasting headliners of the calibre of Slipknot, Muse and Kiss it was clear when rolling in to the Donington site that 2015 was going to be another memorable year. There was sun, there was rain, there was so much MUD but the atmosphere held strong and we had the chance to catch some truly excellent performances across the whole weekend. We caught so much in fact we’ve split this review in to two! Part one we focus on all things Friday, whilst part two will cover the rest of the weekend. If you were at Download Festival this year let us know about your experience on Twitter ( @roomthirteenmag) or find us on Facebook!

Opening up the Main Stage on the Friday, whilst obviously a very privileged spot, is also a tough task for anyone. All That Remains (10/13) were entrusted with it this year and as the crowds were filtering in they delivered an energetic show whilst excellently getting everyone in the mood for the rest of the weekend. The band’s chunky riffs were the first real test of the sound at the Main Stage and it pulled through. Front man Philip Labonte made sure to cover as much of the stage as possible, as even for a band who have been around for a fair amount of time now they all seemed genuinely delighted to be there throughout the show. Heading a short distance across the site, next up were rising stars God Damn (11/13) who have very quickly become favourites of ours here at Room Thirteen. We’ve said it before reviewing their lives shows, but it truly is astounding the kind of sound and volume they’re able to create as a guitar and drum duo. The fourth stage was absolutely booming as soon as they came on stage, as they ripped through a performance containing tracks both new and old. Looking across the crowd it was also great to see a fair few singing along to every word - a fan base which is clearly building with every show they play. In fact they made such an impression, when they announced their last track it was met with faces of confusion and disappointment.

Another band who have been attracting more and more attention in recent years are the Swedish Heavy Blues outfit Blues Pills (10/13). For them the sound did hamper the early part of the performance, as the volume seemed to have been turned down a notch. It did get better as the set progressed though, and they certainly had a fair few singing along and dancing across the crowd. Elin Larsson’s voice was undeniably as brilliant as usual, even if her stage presence appeared a little static, and as they threw themselves into crowd favourite Devil Man at the end of the set there was widespread appreciation for a performance bursting at the seams with pure groove. Sticking around the Second Stage, next up were cult heroes Corrosion Of Conformity (10/13) and with Pepper Keenan back in the fold there was a clear level of high expectation across the crowd. In many ways Corrosion Of Conformity were the band whereby Pepper discovered his true RIFF potential and right from the off there was an absolute barrage of riff after riff. Albatross definitely gained the biggest reaction but just looking at the band’s performance there was a genuine sense that they were enjoying playing as a unit again rather than it just being for the pay cheque with Pepper in particular on fine form leading the line.

Moving back across the arena to the Main Stage and we got the first dose of ‘watching good performances’ to watching a truly great one. The almighty Clutch (12/13) launched in to Crucial Velocity in an appearance which honestly felt overdue at Download. The crowd were in to it straight away, as whether you are in a small venue or at a massive outdoor show Neil Fallon grabs your attention by the throat and just does not let it go. The show was very Earth Rocker heavy with the likes of Cyborg Bette, The Face and the always astounding D.C. Sound Attack all getting a run through. With a new album on the horizon we were also treated to a new track which sounded excellent. The crowd were loud and appreciative throughout and frankly it just felt like they could have played all night. Whether you were standing watching in awe or jumping around like a loon down the front you’d have to be thoroughly miserable to have not enjoyed this set.
Clutch/Download 2015. Photo Credit: Giles Smith

One of the bands who are consistently requested to return to the Download line up are Judas Priest (11/13) and off the back of their sub-headlining performance this year you can see why. This is a band who have been going for more than 40 years now and still they’re showing others how it should be done. In recent years the band have played several shows which have been met with shaky reviews, but today at Download they were on fine form. Rob Halford in particular was at his snarling and venomous best with the band once again truly encapsulating the sound and feel of Heavy Metal with Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner also putting on a clinic in dual guitar work. With it being a festival crowd, the atmosphere did drop slightly at some points for lesser known tracks, but once they threw down in to some of the old classics like Breaking The Law and Hell Bent For Leather (accompanied by Halford riding his motorbike on stage) the place went crazy.

Closing out the day on the Friday then, in a festival which has truly become home for them, were the mighty Slipknot (12/13). This was the third time the band have headlined the festival, but the first time with their new stage show (and band members) in tow and once again they’ve affirmed their place right at the top of the Heavy Music, like that was ever in doubt anyway. For those who seen the band on the arena tour at the start of the year, they would have been quick to point out that this was pretty much an identical set list and set up as then which was a bit of a shame but it didn’t stop the whole place descending in to absolute carnage from start to finish even if the rain throughout was almost biblical. The new drummer and bassist have really grown into their roles in the band now with their confidence clearly shining brighter than the shows earlier on the tour. The tracks off of the new album have also found their spot in the set, dare we say far more successfully than the tracks from All Hope Is Gone ever did during that album cycle. As ever though, this nine piece unit are just on a completely different level live to so many other bands out there, whether they’re dropping an atom bomb with Sic or People=Shit or leading a sing along with Duality or Vermillion there is just no letting up. Download Festival is definitely home for Slipknot, so here’s to more chaotic and astonishing headlining slots in the future.
Slipknot/Download 2015. Photo Credit: Danny North

Review by Tom Donno with help from Jo Santos

Part Two of the Download Review at this link - PART 2