Written by Tom Donno, Editor, and Marta Tavares, Writer.
Walking into the arena at Download Festival this year, it was clear everyone was in for something special. On Metallica's current tour, the band are hitting each destination for two nights, playing two completely different setlists and with Download's 20th anniversary bumper year extending to four days they slotted perfectly in to both the Thursday and Saturday headline spot. The Metallica towers were up, a smaller than normal snake pit was built, Donington was ready to welcome back the biggest Metal band of all time for the first time since 2012 with a bang.
Across the two nights, the band treated the Download faithful to deep cuts, classics, and new tracks - all of which were greeted with a level of fervour and excitement. The Thursday night headline slot quickly made headlines. Police received noise complaints across the region with Hetfield's booming cries heard as far as 15 miles away. That pummelling volume was certainly felt in the arena, with an opening foursome of Creeping Death, Harvester Of Sorrow, Leper Messiah and King Nothing the band completely fulfilled their moniker as titans. By the time the second night rolled around, the volume had been dampened somewhat which was a bit of a shame - one only assumes a direct reaction to complaints received from night one.
With the band very much in the swing of touring 72 Seasons, two full sets gave them time to crack out some of this new material. By far the best response came via If Darkness Had A Son and You Must Burn!, both of which were part of the setlist on night two. That's not to say the other tracks didn't also gain positive response - it is certainly fair to say that these are tracks which gain a bigger feel in the live environment.
Two particularly special moments came with the band's performance of Orion on night one and The Call Of Ktulu on night two in a clear homage to the late Cliff Burton. Hetfield in particular looked ridiculously imperious throughout both, holding an insane Ktulu designed guitar, riffing through with a giant cigar burning in his mouth. You might be cool, you might be awesome, but you'll never be as cool or awesome as James Hetfield smashing his way through these tracks with that guitar smoking a cigar. Sorry.
Overall then, Metallica utterly conquered at Download this year, delivering two brilliant sets and generating an absolutely electric atmosphere. Other major highlights included the tour debut of Whiplash, Until It Sleeps, Whiskey In The Jar with an intro jam ripped from The Outlaw Torn and a powerful rendition of Fade To Black which caused Lars' snare drum to completely cave in. What a band.
Bring Me The Horizon (12/13)
Bring Me The Horizon headlining Download Festival. There were points in this band's career where that prospect seemed impossible but through sheer will, might, work ethic and growth we're now at a stage where they simply couldn't be thought of as anything less. This was the band's first go at headlining Download Festival and based on what they delivered on that warm Friday night, it absolutely will not be the last. Theatrical, unique, powerful and exciting - Bring Me The Horizon planted their flag at Donington this year and no one is taking that away from them.
Kicking things off with the POST-HUMAN Live Experience Bootup video packages, it was impossible not to notice everyone instantly intrigued by what was about to unfold. What's great is Bring Me The Horizon have fully embraced the theatrical silliness - something they've threatened to do for a while now - and they look like they're having a glorious time with it. An opening one-two of AmEN! and Teardrops set the tone with The House Of Wolves coming in next to a thunderous reception. By the time those three tracks were up, you knew you were part of something special.
Later on in the set, to boost that special festival headline show feel even more, the band brought on Nova Twins for 1x1 and a few tracks later Amy Lee from Evanescence to run through One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death (first time she's ever performed it with the band) and Nihilist Blues. Oli Sykes was at his amusingly abusive best throughout, a frontman at the peak of his powers right now. He had the entire field in the palm of his hand and he looked equally excited and slightly terrified by it all - a genuinely endearing thing to see.
This is a band who now think through every single detail with laser focus, and it shows. In the direct aftermath, many were comparing this show to other legendary performances at Download over the years including the likes of Slipknot in 2009. With the dust now settled, it is very much clear that this was every much the "moment" as some of those being thrown around.
There is perhaps no band more synonymous with Download Festival than Slipknot. This is a band who would show up every single band above them in the earlier days and when given their shot to headline in 2009 delivered in a way many have never been able to replicate. In fact, it can be argued that the band were victims of their own success with that one as, despite always bringing an absolute ruckus, they've never been able to quite hit that height.
That being said, with each Slipknot headline show at Download there comes a sense of intrigue - this year the shock departure of Craig "133" Jones on the eve of the festival, the release of an unannounced EP and the surprise return of Shawn "Clown" Crahan after recent news he'd have to step away from this particular leg of the tour due to personal reasons helped build this. And as ever, intrigue makes way for a battering ram as soon as they hit the stage - on this particular occasion in the form of The Blister Exists.
Perhaps aware that their most recent record, The End, So Far has proven divisive, the band only dipped in to this material on two occasions with The Dying Song (Time To Sing) and Yen. For the latter there was a very obvious dip in enthusiasm across the crowd especially considering it was in Liberate and Psychosocial sandwich.
On the night Corey Taylor announced he was having some vocal issues, although it didn't necessarily feel like it came to the fore too much. It was clear to see his own performance was impacted by it but perhaps the saving grace here was the first hour or so was just song after song after song with little to zero chatter in between. Taylor himself gave a self-deprecating nod towards this himself, joking the band had bet with him that the crowd would get just as riled up for the first hour if he kept the chatter to a minimum.
All in all, safe to mark this off as another excellent Slipknot Download performance. On their next return though, there's hope that they bring something vastly different to the experience as their peers on the rise (i.e. BMTH) are chomping at the bit and starting to make a bigger impact.
Written by Tom Donno, Editor, and Marta Tavares, Writer.