Download Festival. Aside from Glastonbury and Reading, Download is certainly the biggest music festival in the UK and one of the largest and quite frankly, most important festivals in the world. The festival where the biggest names in rock and metal come to Donington Park and play the biggest sets of their careers. The 2014 event, headlined by Avenged Sevenfold, Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory in full, lot of people liked that, didn’t they?) and Aerosmith already shows that Download provide the biggest names to ever grace a stage in the world of rock and metal. Oddly enough, before this year, I had never attended a Download festival and this year, it was absolutely euphoric to change that! Having wanting to attend the holy grounds of Donington for Download since 2008 (the one Kiss headlined), I was highly, unbelievably excited to embrace the whole mighty festival weekend at Download!! As I’ve already been to the legendary, historic festivals of Reading and Sonisphere, being able to go and enjoy something different was a fantastic feeling. So!! I’m going to chat about every single band I saw at Download and give the bands a rating out of 10 and talk about each band. Let’s go!!
FRIDAY – Download 2014 was actually the first festival I attended where I didn’t do camping. In my view, camping is the holy grail for a festival experience because it puts you into that certain vibe and that amazing frame of mind of being at a festival. But anyway, we left for a four hour drive to Donington in the morning and obviously with the horrendous traffic (and to be honest, setting off a lot later than we wanted), I was absolutely gutted to miss MISS MAY I open up the main stage (missed Miss May I, get it?) and even more gutted to only see the final minute of CROSSFAITH. Both bands are amazing and it seems that they had huge crowds and that was great to hear. So, the first band I actually got to see were TURBOWOLF (6/10) who were a good start to the Download weekend. They almost blend rock with alternative and psychedelic jams that really manifest themselves in a festival environment. POWERMAN 5000 apparently were a bit off but walking towards the main stage hearing them smash out When Worlds Collide was a bit of a laugh to say the least. However, SKINDRED (8/10) were a laugh for all the right reasons! Seeing them made me think “why on Earth have I not listened to this band properly before?!”, they were absolutely awesome and also created a glorious metal-esque Harlem Shake which will surely go down in Download Festival history! Fantastic. Then I checked out THE AMITY AFFLICTION but their sound didn’t quite justify their brilliance in the Pepsi Max tent and I turned myself away after a couple of minutes. Not many bands who stand still usually win me over at festivals or gigs in general but BLACK LABEL SOCIETY (7/10) do just that. Seeing Zakk Wylde on stage was almost a starstruck-worthy moment and playing songs like Stillborn, they can easily prove that they are one of the most awesome, straight-up metal bands around today. I also have to talk about the amazing Stephen Sutton tribute that took place at Download! Huge respect and love to Andy Copping and the rest of the Download crew for creating such an amazing tribute for Stephen by naming the Main stage after him and of course who could forget, the brilliant thumbs-up that covered the turf at Download. Really touching stuff! Making my way to the Pepsi Max tent, seeing QUICKSAND with about 2 songs left and only a half full tent actually felt a bit heartbreaking. They are a criminally underrated band and yet they influenced an important genre of music. If you’re into your Deftones and bands of that ilk, you owe a lot to Quicksand for sure. ROYAL BLOOD (8/10). Royal Blood. Royal Blood. What an unreal band. I had never heard of them before Download and it was amazing to discover such a brilliant, exhilarating, unique band. They only have 2 band members with the the bass player/singer using this amazing tone that creates a humongous, monolithic bass sound fused in unison with the drummer who just gives their songs the ultimate kick in their live show. Hopefully, we will be hearing a lot about Royal Blood in the near future! However, they didn’t quite reach the level of LETLIVE. (10/10), who in my view, played the greatest set of the whole weekend and without a doubt, in the top 3 shows I have ever seen in my life. Having been going to gigs for six years now seeing letlive. in that environment at Download and absolutely destroy everything in sight was absolutely unreal. Hard-hitting, chaotic songs like 27 Club, Banshee, Renegade ’86 along with the stripped-down Pheromone Cvlt and the beautiful Muther shows that this band have absolutely everything that you want and need. Being at the front and seeing frontman Jason Aalon Butler come onstage with crutches (with torn ligaments in his knee) and just hurl one into the crowd and still put so much passion into the show just added something even more special about the set. Unreal. Thank you, letlive. Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more insane, the highly popular, Dillinger-esque, crazy BABY GODZILLA (8/10) take to the Red Bull stage and play an astonishingly blistering set. Annoyingly, the sound and the on-stage crew preventing the band from their usual madness slightly taints their set but regardless, seeing one of their guitarists playing on a bin outside the tent and presenting parts of a broken guitar to the crowd is on the one hand, hilarious and at the same time, showing how chaotic this band are. Keep an eye out for Baby Godzilla or they will certainly make you do so. Getting myself pumped and prepared for an Avenged headline set seeing ROB ZOMBIE play Dragula was really, really awesome. Apparently the set was poor but I wish I had the chance to see more of him. A lot of unnecessary online bickering about the Friday night Download headliner were quite frankly rendered redundant as AVENGED SEVENFOLD (9/10) play a truly historic headline set at Download. This was without a doubt the biggest show of their career and a lot of nerves were surely within the mindsets of the band members. However, with that said, their Download set almost showed that were born to be playing these kind of sets on these stages in front of thousands of people. Classic songs like Bat Country, Afterlife, Nightmare are obviously incredible but the band also bring deeper cuts into the set (three words: SEIZE THE DAY) and their stripped-down, back-to-basics anthems from their new record Hail To The King, Shepherd Of Fire and This Means War creating a set that spans throughout the majority of the band’s career. It wasn’t quite ‘Slipknot in 2009’ classic and with The Offspring playing Smash in full and a Greatest Hits set on the Second stage to a huge crowd, Avenged’s set didn’t quite have the interaction that we all know they’re capable of. Regardless, a perfect end to the Friday of Download 2014!
SATURDAY – SATURDAY!! My second day of Download started with PRESS TO MECO (7/10), a great, new young band who only have three members and yet they each have their own unique style of playing creating a mix of summery sounds with heavy down-tuned guitars that create a really fantastic, fresh sound. One of the the best bands I’ve discovered this year for sure. Only saw the first 15 minutes however, and went to see DYING FETUS (6/10), quite the contrast, right? Seeing an extreme death metal band open up the Main Stage was really great to see. Although I’m not sure the set was totally convincing, allowing them to play to that many people was a great opportunity for that band. Next, FOZZY (7/10) gave me another sort of starstruck moment when I see the mighty WWE legend and vocalist Chris Jericho. Songs like Do You Wanna Start A War? and Enemy sound huge on a festival stage. ZOAX (8/10), similar to Royal Blood, are an incredible Download discovery band for me. Even describing their sound is slightly complex, but their passionate rock grooves allows them to really stamp their ground at Download. BURY TOMORROW (7/10) didn’t quite match up to personal expectations but still, they pull off a great Main Stage set. Bury Tomorrow are a vital band to the British metal scene and with songs like Lionheart, An Honourable Reign, Of Glory and Man On Fire, this band are just a few years away from true world domination. However, the time for WHILE SHE SLEEPS (9/10) is now. A truly unbelievable, monumental set at Download. With their vocalist Loz taking a long recovery from his throat surgery, a set of this nature was a beautiful return. With a new record coming soon and an upcoming tour with metal legends In Flames, the machine that is While She Sleeps is only going to get bigger and bigger. The awesome racket of MARMOZETS (8/10) will surely abolish all the hangovers of the Download folk. Songs like Why Do You Hate Me? and Move, Shake, Hide are fantastic in the tent but hopefully next time they play at Download, a main stage slot will be perfect with this band. With Roadrunner behind them, expect big things from this band. Great stuff. Waiting for Killswitch, SKID ROW (6/10) play the bangers and seeing Monkey Business at Download was a really great party-vibe moment but… is it Skid Row without Sebastian Bach? SORRY!! Yeah, I’m being ‘that guy’ but Skid Row just aren’t 100% convincing without that icon. BOWLING FOR SOUP (5/10) are hilarious, obviously, but not entirely great, seeing 1985 was brilliant but we want more tunes and less chit-chat! KILLSWITCH ENGAGE (8/10) playing a Main Stage set in the sun with their anthemic songs was a true spectacle. Slightly tainted by Adam D’s guitar problems, the band still prevailed by playing one of the best sets of the weekend. You’d think that would be a tough act to follow but BRING ME THE HORIZON (9/10) do so in such spectacular style. Kicking off with Shadow Moses and having a huge production to provide almost the perfect live show, Bring Me have justified themselves well and truly as future Download headliners. Aside from Bullet, Bring Me are probably the biggest contemporary British metal band right now and to see the band bring everything they have to Download and to witness that spectacle was a true honour. Next, FALL OUT BOY (8/10), FALL OUT BOY, FALL OUT BOY, FALL OUT BOY!! Don’t care what anyone says, Fall Out Boy are amazing and one of my favourite bands of all time. Playing songs like The Phoenix, My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark, Alone Together, Dance Dance, Sugar We’re Goin’ Down, turned me into the adolescent idiot that I once used to be. The voice had pretty much disappeared after their set. Having Fall Out Boy at Download will open a lot of doors for the festival in terms of who could be headlining the festival in the future. With Fall Out Boy playing an incredible sub-headline slot, we could easily see bands like Blink-182 and Paramore headline Download in the near future and that would be really brilliant for the festival. Hopefully we can see something like that and of course look at everyone having a good old moan about it. By absolute and complete contrast to Fall Out Boy, BEHEMOTH (9/10) play an incredible set headlining the Pepsi Max stage. Behemoth well and truly conquered and even though the sound wasn’t 100%, the live spectacle and pyro brought their songs to a whole new level. In a way, it was a shame they weren’t on the Second stage or even the Main stage but playing in the tent was just as special and certainly much more intimate. After Behemoth, I went out to see LINKIN PARK (6/10) but completely missed them playing Hybrid Theory in its entirety, the only record of Linkin Park that I really like. That said, I was quite surprised at how many of their songs that I actually knew.
SUNDAY – Third and final day at Download started with the awesome KILL DEVIL HILL (8/10). For those of you who don’t know, Kill Devil Hill features the metal legend that is Rex Brown on bass and their punchy, headbangable (new word right there) tunes provided for a really awesome beginning to the Sunday. However, what made that set go from awesome to truly amazing was the appearance of Phil Anselmo who came out to provide vocals for the band’s rendition of Mouth For War, the bludgeoning Pantera classic. Seeing Phil and Rex, two members from one of the greatest metal bands of all time, onstage together was a truly electrifying moment. Obviously, we might not be able to witness the Pantera reunion with Zakk Wydle that the majority of the metal world would love to witness but seeing this on a Sunday morning rekindled the Pantera flame to a certain degree. So that was an amazing start and BUCKCHERRY (7/10) keep the energy up by playing a fun, rock n’ roll set on the Main Stage (*annoyingly, just after Kill Devil Hill, I somehow managed to get sun cream in my eye and.. it hurt.. a lot.. for about 2 hours*). The Pepsi Max tent on the Sunday provided for some really big names and some amazing upcoming talent as THY ART IS MURDER (7/10) declare “We are Thy Art Is Murder, remember the name ‘cos we plan on taking over the world” and with performances like this, it’s highly unsurprising. Great stuff. However, they don’t quite reach the same intensity and chaos as FEED THE RHINO (8/10) who wreck everything in sight. Vocalist Lee is an absolute machine, somehow managing to manipulate and drag out intensity from the crowd and with a new album just released (The Sorrow and The Sound, seriously, go and get it), Feed The Rhino will be charging through huge venues and breaking everything that stands in their way. Saw a couple minutes of THE TREATMENT but couldn’t stay as my eye felt as if it was about to spontaneously implode on itself. I mean, seriously? A bit of sun cream, madness. Anyway! SEPULTURA (6/10) don’t play a terrible set but they don’t play an entirely brilliant one either. One of the best and important metal bands in history just unfortunately don’t quite do their legacy justice at Download. The next band I saw was actually a secret set and the band weren’t going to be revealed until they actually got on stage at Download. I heard a lot of rumours and speculation and with a rammed Pepsi Max tent it seemed that everyone knew who it was.. BLACK STONE CHERRY (9/10), who only play for half an hour play hit after hit after hit and provide for one of the most fun and intimate sets of the weekend. Songs like Blind Man (my eye got better during this song, fancy that), Lonely Train and Blame It On The Boom Boom sound massive in this environment! As I cannot make their arena shows in November with Airbourne and Theory of a Deadman, it felt great to actually see BSC perform their legendary songs in this intense environment. Seeing the entirety of Black Stone Cherry meant that I sadly missed pretty much all of VOLBEAT (I swear the stage times said I could’ve seen all of BSC and 20 minutes of Volbeat), which was such a shame ‘cos I’ve heard they’re an amazing live band. However, I did manage to catch the whole of STEEL PANTHER (9/10) who were, quite simply, superb at Download! Their banter in between songs provides for fabulous entertainment and the songs sound incredible on the main stage. Next, one of my favourite bands in the world ALTER BRIDGE (8/10) take to the stage. I’ve got to admit, I love the fact that Alter Bridge get so much love from the UK because they well and truly deserve it. Having seen them in Cardiff last October and absolutely tear through their back catalogue, which comprises some of the greatest hard rock anthems in the history of music, I don’t quite understand anyone who doesn’t like Alter Bridge and seeing them sub-headline at the biggest rock festival in the UK was special. To be honest, I felt the set at Download lost a little bit of pace and they played loads of songs off Blackbird, which is a phenomenal record but some more songs off Fortress and maybe even some rarer numbers would’ve gone down a treat. Nonetheless, Alter Bridge were amazing and still one of the best bands of the weekend just because they’re Alter Bridge! Sunday night actually presented me with a horrific three-way clash with Aerosmith, Trivium and The Dillinger Escape Plan but luckily, I managed to catch a good chunk of all three bands. Starting with TRIVIUM (8/10), headlining the Second set, whose set was originally supposed to take place in the Red Bull to create a much more intimate feel and with the departure of drummer Nick Augusto and frontman Matt Heafy having to alter the Ascendancy-heavy set due to his recent problems with vocals, the special touch of Trivium’s set was slightly dented, but nonetheless they absolutely destroyed it at Download! THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (7/10) did everything right and although the crowd was small and sound wasn’t truly spectactular, seeing them headline the Pepsi Max stage at Download and still bring all their chaotic madness was nothing short of brilliant. AEROSMITH (9/10) closed Download 2014 with a pure greatest hits set, absolutely unreal. Managed to catch Eat The Rich, Love In An Elevator, I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing, Dude (Looks Like A Lady), Walk This Way, Dream On and Sweet Emotion, y’know the golden, red hot classics from the mighty Aerosmith? Great live band and seriously amazing fun.
So that’s my review of Download 2014!! With around 40 bands in total, it was so totally worth it. Not sure whether I will be attending next year but if I do, the Foo Fighters need to be there. YEAH!!