Download Festival. Main Stage. Photo credit: Ross Silcocks.
Woozy and slightly deaf come Sunday morning there was an intense need for some cobwebs to be blown in to the atmosphere. Enter Red Fang (11/13). Their criminally short set jammed six tracks together in a loud rush of riffs and powerful delivery in the normally spectacular Red Fang fashion. Their crowd was growing in numbers by the end as those entering the arena became naturally drawn over, just a shame it was so early on in the day. What a band. Following this excellent start to the day, things took a bit of a dive off a cliff over on the Main Stage as In Flames (6/13) made a pretty shoddy job of their attempt to win over a largely disinterested crowd. When the highlight of your show is when you are handing out beers to the crowd as opposed to what you're actually there for then you know something is wrong.
Perhaps somewhat out of place on the second stage, Liverpool's Anathema (10/13) unfortunately delivered their soul-stirring alt/prog rock to a noticeably thinned crowd, but nevertheless performed like the absolute professionals they are. Beyond adept at crafting beautiful songs, Anathema have shown time and again on record that they are a truly spellbinding proposition; something that, with melodies that bring tears to the eyes, they do their very best to recreate here. The set perhaps lost something of its momentum in the middle with newer number Springfield, but the exquisite Untouchable, Pt. 1 ensured that the band ended on a very high note indeed.
Touche Amore's (11/13) latest album Stage Four, a stunning tribute to vocalist Jeremy Bolm's mother, was an unexpected triumph last year, and was given a good airing in the tent on the third stage. The band's impassioned post-hardcore is driven by the sincerity with which Bolm delivers his vocal performance; a man whose every word you cannot help but clutch tightly to your chest. The closing one-two of the moving Rapture and the punk-laden freneticism of Honest Sleep showcases the diversity of a band that has made people sit up and take notice in recent months. Industrial legends Ministry (9/13) were next up on the second stage and whilst sounding great throughout and Al Jourgensen being as entertaining as he can be it did feel like you could've watched about 10/15 minutes and it would've been enough.
Playing 5 songs in 45 minutes, Opeth (10/13) hardly tried to cram as much into their set as possible, but whipping out Ghost Of Perdition second certainly held the attention of fans that yearn for the band's heavier material. Mikael Akerfeldt's guttural vocals sounded as demonic as ever, and soared across the field; thankfully, Opeth were on the winning side from the pretty hit-and-miss sound on the second stage and closed their set on a blistering rendition of Deliverance.
Following Opeth came the absolute titans that are Slayer (12/13) in their headlining slot on the second stage. Due to the schedule on the day this final slot actually ended up being quite early but that didn't do anything to effect the level of crowd excitement as they hit the stage. Thankfully for the masses who turned up Slayer were also absolutely bang on form, smashing through hit after hit and showcasing exactly why they're still the undeniable kings of Thrash. When you can end your set with a run of South Of Heaven, Raining Blood, Chemical Warfare and Angel Of Death HOW can you fuck with that?
Easily one of the most forward-thinking, inspirational, challenging and mind-blowing bands that have ever graced this planet, it was heavy hearts that Download bade a fond farewell to The Dillinger Escape Plan (13/13), a band that have never compromised, and never taken a misstep in a career of calculated savagery. That they bow out on the back of one of their very best records in Dissociation is testament to a group of musicians that have consistently done things their own way. When you open a set with Prancer followed by When I Lost My Bet, and then jam Black Bubblegum and Milk Lizard back-to-back midway through, it's pretty clear that this is going to be something special, and indeed, this was less a headline set and more a lap of honour. When the closing encore of Sunshine The Werewolf flowed seamlessly into 43% Burnt and brought the show to a close, there couldn't have been many in attendance who weren't wondering whether we'll ever see a band even remotely similar to The Dillinger Escape Plan ever again. Simply outstanding.
Steven Tyler. Aerosmith. Photo Credit: Ben Gibson.
We reach then the conclusion of this year's festival and the legendary Aerosmith (10/13) closing out proceedings. There has been rumblings (and half confirmations) that this is going to be Aerosmith's final run, potentially making this the last ever UK appearance for the band so with that said the general buzz across the arena for this show had been building all day. The challenge presented to Aerosmith was to try and make this show different enough from their last two headline performances whilst also doing what might be their last UK show justice. If you were to look across all three of their Download headline shows, it is very difficult to beat the one actually chosen for DVD release but the band did a sterling job, throwing in a handful of Fleetwood Mac covers alongside a very well received rendition of Beatles classic Come Together. Steven Tyler's voice was absolutely on point throughout with his showmanship not letting up for a single minute. Joe Perry's role was no less impressive on the night although he is definitely showing a bit more fatigue than his closest compadre. Whether this is their last run or not, recent events dictate that opportunities to see some of the legendary units in our scene cannot always be passed up because you just never know what each day is going to bring. Singalongs galore with the likes of Dude Looks Like A Lady and Walk This Way with real goosebumps rising to the surface during Dream On.
Once again another HUGE shout-out to the team behind putting together Download Festival every single year. There's nothing quite like the atmosphere at Donington and they're absolutely key in enabling that to happen. See you in the field in 2018!
Download Festival. Main Stage. Photo credit: Ross Silcocks.