Written by Tom Donno, Editor, and Marta Tavares, Writer.
With the sun absolutely beating down, yes you read that correctly, SUN at Download, the excitement on Thursday afternoon was at fever pitch all around the site. An excitement paired with insane nervous energy as the festival's first ever sell out struggled with traffic logistics. All anyone wanted was to get in and watching bands as soon as possible and for us the band who kicked all things off were the motherfuckin' Cancer Bats (10/13).
It felt like a while since the Canadians had hit Donington and given how early it was on the first day they'd amassed quite the crowd over on the second stage. The show itself was hit-heavy, banging through the likes of Lucifer's Rocking Chair, Bricks & Mortar and Sabotage. When they ran through newer tracks the excitement dampened a little, but they always knew how to bring it back. It was a shame that all the chatter between songs caused them to overrun and be cut-off midway through the closer Hail Destroyer. Despite this, a great starting gun for us at Download this year.
In a year in which the booking team nailed a LOT of one-two set ups across the line up, the perfect Cancer Bats follow up came in the form of The Bronx (10/13). Given time was limited, they flew out of the blocks and within four songs vocalist Matt Caughthran was firmly in the crowd dictating traffic around him for Knifeman. The crowd thinned a little after Cancer Bats but those who were still there had a blast.
Next up for us came Jinjer (11/13) and our first foray on to the main stage this year. And they certainly did not disappoint. With the sun's heat kicking in on that Thursday, they kept the temperature high by delivering some scorching songs from their latest album Wallflowers. The back and forth between these two albums, with a throwback I Speak Astronomy from King of Everything, Jinjer came with all they had and left full grown blister on our brains as they ended their short set with As I Boil Ice. When performing live, Tatiana is the personification of a possessed Lara Croft. If her voice range is impressive when recorded, it is jaw dropping on a live performance. She's able to jump from clean melodies to impressive guttural screams in the blink of an eye at a scary level. They can't dissociate their music from what is happening on their country, as neither can we. She was the messenger of a strong memo for the whole world. What is going on Ukraine is "A political, economic and ecological catastrophe". And it needs to stop. Their merchandise said it all "We want our home back", and we hope you fucking get it back soon.
After a short reprieve (needed to get some damn shelter from the sun everyone!), we headed back across to the second stage to witness what was almost certainly one of the sets of the weekend. Puscifer (12/13) landed at Download on the Thursday and put on an absolute clinic as far as delivering weird as fuck live antics is concerned. It's impossible not to describe their set as anything but pure slapstick - we've got aliens poking Maynard with probes, Maynard and Carina Round doing synchronised choreography, wardrobe, and make-up straight from an 80s sci-fi and we mentioned aliens, right? Given the theatrics, it's easy to wonder whether the music would be left in the wind but that absolutely is not the case. Musically they sounded absolutely thunderous. Vocally Maynard and Carina bounce off each other absolutely perfectly and the band backing the theatrics sound tight and in brilliant form.
Check out our Metallica review here. And some footage of them here:
Friday kicked off with a BANG, with the Thursday night Metallica hangover looming large, Pupil Slicer (11/13) set everything on fire. Everything. Proving once more that they are here to stay and grow to be a behemoth on the metal scene, they showed up in flowy white outfits as we joined their derailed roller-coaster and rode it down a cliff against a boulder. They sounded as possessed as we like our demons to be, heavily seasoned and sizzling hot - the vocals and riffs coming from the centre of the earth with pungency in order to obliterate. We enjoyed all of it. And so did everyone! The mosh pit was as broad as it was intense. Next time, Pupil Slicer will definitely need more space than the (albeit expanded this year) Dogtooth Stage.
Following Pupil Slicer on the same stage came the boisterous bruisers Undeath (11/13). These big boys took us back to when metal was a great big ball of fun. Alex Jones was with no doubt the most upbeat vocalist at the festival - proper break your jaw smiling type of guy. We'll call it "the smile that broke hell fire" because why not? His energy made the crowd adhere to all his wishes and the mosh pits were as savage as the tent allowed. These New Yorkers honour the "party death metal band" badge: they grunted at us, we ran in circles, and we had a lovely time. If you're keen on hellish Care Bears, these are your boys.
After a short break, back over on the Main Stage came a change of pace from the likes of Pupil Slicer and Undeath in the form of Pendulum (10/13). The dance/DNB/rock ensemble have always proven popular at Download Festival over the years, seemingly following strongly in the footsteps of their friends and peers in The Prodigy. The enthusiasm was certainly there again in spades this year, helped along by the likes of Propane Nightmares and the enormous Blood Sugar / Voodoo People (Pendulum Remix) within the first four tracks. There were points where it felt like there was a bit of a lull in certain areas of the crowd but they were quick to turn things back around, bring on Matt Tuck from Bullet For My Valentine for Halo and unleashing the distinctly heavy Self vs Self late on. All in, a good set albeit Slam and Tarantula felt like absolutely glaring omissions.
Following them on the main stage were a band who hadn't graced Download with their presence for what felt like a long, long, time. Architects (11/13) had returned to the so called hallowed turf to kickstart an evening's celebration which culminated in close friends Bring Me The Horizon headlining for the first time. Opening with Nihilist in to Black Lungs, the anticipation for this set reached fever pitch as pits opened across the arena. It felt like a genuinely triumphant moment and Sam Carter looked like he was having a lovely time throughout. A lot of the band's newer material has proven divisive, something they themselves aren't shy to admit, so the likes of tear gas and deep fake did mean there were some lulls across the crowd. The band themselves sounded extremely tight, even with the recent departure of Josh Middleton. Sam Carter alluded to the fact that the set was slightly shorter than they'd wanted due to Pendulum overrunning but the band did a good job getting past that through sheer quality of performance. As they crashed through Animals to close out the set, they had the majority of those in attendance singing along for what proved to be the highlight of the show.
Click here to check out the review for Bring Me The Horizon here.
Written by Tom Donno, Editor, and Marta Tavares, Writer.