Download Festival 2013 – Review

AAC

 Download Festival came around again last weekend and with it came a splendor of amazing bands from a huge eclectic taste of music hailing from all parts of the world. Though no one man can see all the bands, you can at least have 12 hours of music a day for three days. With that you can see your favourite band play the set you’ve already seen 6 times on their current tour, or you can stick around one stage and catch some bands you’ve never heard of before, bands that’d soon become your favourite.

This review will encompass the 14th, the 15th and the 16th of June and will be taken from the Main Stage, Zippo Stage and the Pepsi Max stage.

The weather may have been awful in the days prior, nowhere near as bad as last year but still a damper on the mood. However tens of thousands of people still got up early every day, grabbed their Trooper Ale and went to watch the stages from start to end through wind, rain or shine.

Band Review

Friday

Patent Pending – Pepsi Max Stage

A strange addition to the Download bill. These self-acclaim skate punk rockers performed many up-tempo and catchy songs, easily accessible to the fans of Bowling For Soup, and Sum 41. Whilst the songs were typical skater pop punk the band managed to keep the crowd entertaining through the hilarity and self-depreciation of the lead vocalist who possessed incredible front-man skills. His unwillingness to remains still and determination to get the crowd involved were admirable qualities that were the best parts of their set. Their choreographed dance routine, a middle finger to Justin Bieber, was one of the funniest things to witness as well. Thoroughly entertaining if you liked the music or not.

Hang The Bastard – Pepsi Max Stage

One criticism of the festival is the running order, whilst Bullet For My Valentine supporting Slipknot is a no-brainer, a skate punk band playing before a hardcore/sludge metal band is ridiculous. That aside the tent managed to pack itself with many HTB fans. With their short set they managed to play a disgustingly heavy collection of songs that got the whole crowd banging their head, and a few idiots ‘hardcore dancing’. The ludicrously high pitched vocals mixed with the monstrous tones of the bass player singing were some of the best heavy vocals you could witness. Though words went mostly understood the music made fist pumping the norm, chins sterner and necks thicker. Less crowd particiption but the solidity of the songs made a main ‘front-man’ unneeded. An upcoming metal band, if you love sludge then these are for you.

The Sword – Pepsi Max Stage

The Doom Metallers from Austin, Texas were up next. The bill now running slightly smoother genre wise. With their synth powered riffs they ploughed through a number of songs that were received very well. Due to a cult following, most probably garnered from their tour with Metallica several years ago, the songs were received well and head banged furiously. They sounded huge but sadly due to scheduling conflicts with Down some people missed the end of their set-list. 

Down – The Main Stage

Legendary ‘super-group’ Down returned to the welcoming hallowed grounds of Donnington . Opening with Eyes of the South, the band slowly came to the stage and played the entirety of the song that felt like they were jamming with the crowd. The band also played one ‘new’ song, Witchtripper and a fair chunk off NOLA, the band’s debut. This set certified that Down are a great festival band and despite the short amount of time the managed to warm up the thousands of people into a brooding motorised machine of banging necks. The mythical Phil Anselmo addressed the crowd wonderfully and retained his label as a rock legend. After playing one of the band’s signature songs, Stone The Crow, the band played Bury Me In Smoke and brought up members from the band Akord who had played The Red Bull Studios Stage earlier that day. Once the music stops and the ‘green smell’ started to lift, Phil prompted the crowd to sing the last lyrics to Stairway To Heaven before dropping the mic and leaving. One of the greatest heavy rock bands currently around, and a must-have for a metal festival.

Korn – The Main Stage

Another legendary band on the bill, Korn, California’s nu-metallers were recieved with incredible warmth. Playing just a song or two of each respective album they managed to work their way through some amazing hits to get the unfamiliar crowd involved, like Freak On A Leash and the newer Get Up! whilst also managing to play songs to keep the Korn fans constantly attentive. With the reunion of Head the atmosphere was extra special. Those who didn’t know many Korn songs would have been jumping around during most of the songs, they have a great connection with the crowd without speaking to them much and music that makes the muscles twitch. Fantastic addition to the lineup and a band that could definitely headline in a year or two.

Bullet For My Valentine – The Main Stage

Many young adults gateway band for metal. The welsh metallers have come a long way and have achieved a supremely high status in the music world, however not without annoying a few people. A huge crowd had come to see these boys play and once O Fortuna began to play they all went nuts, despite this being an overly exploited song and self-indulgent to walk onto. That aside they opened with the track Breaking Point from Temper Temper and went further into older territory, arguably better territory with the ever intoxicated opening of Your Betrayal and the truly magnificent Waking The Demon. Sadly the addition of the latter track showed how the band have fallen in terms of song writing. Though all the songs got Bullet fans involved and interested, those who did not like them probably wouldn’t been interested in the newer songs.

Converge – Pepsi Max Stage

A quick change from the mainstream world of music and back into the cult fandom. Converge played the Pepsi Max Stage whilst Bullet raged on outside. Despite the huge happenings outside they still managed to get a near full tent and the crowd were going mental. The hardcore metallers played a few songs in their short set but left making the crowd feel broken, beat and scarred, job’s a good’n some might say. Those outside the world of metal would have truly been confused by what was going on, but an open mind is key to getting into this world.

Slipknot – The Main Stage

One of the biggest bands on the planet right here. After a stellar performance back in 2009 the band went through an incredibly tough passage through the event of bass guitar and song writer Paul Gray passing away. The band, as stated during one of Corey’s many speeches, decided to continue for themselves, for Paul, and for the fans. Something all maggots are grateful for. They immaculately, even those who are closed to this music but at least appreciate how huge they’ve got for how evil they sound. Despite numerous stops due to the barrier breaking Corey managed to calm the crowd, making them realise this is a problem and it needs to be resolved. At the end of the set no one remembered this mishap and only thought about the incredibly spectacle they saw. As the rain fell during Psychosocial’s chorus, with the crowd screaming ‘and the rain will kill us all’, a wave of emotion and power flowed through those who watched and solidified Skipknot as an incredible band. New things are on the way soon as Corey subtly unveiled.

A great first day to Download Festival. Phenomenal bands that set the bar high, and fighting through the terrible conditions proved that if the weather got better, the weekend would follow it’s epic footsteps.

Saturday

Due to certain reasons our day started late on the Saturday, sadly missing out on some great bands both young and old as well as missing most of Black Star Riders set. However let us begin shall we…

Mastodon – The Main Stage

The Georgian (US) prog metal band Mastodon took to the stage at 14:30. After many cheers from the crowd at The Hunter backdrop being raised, as well as waves from Brent with appearances by Troy and Brann the band took to the stage. Opening with Black Tongue the crowd warmly received the legends. Despite being alongside some huge competition the band definitely deserved a higher slot on the bill, as well as a better sound. They were definitely way too quiet, the volume being so low that even people at the front could quite easily talk to each other with raised voices. However who would talk when the band played Oblivion, possibly the bands biggest song. The only criticism of the band is the setlist, being entirely comprised of songs off The Hunter this would have annoyed those who did not like the album. The only two songs outside the latest album were Oblivion and set closer Blood and Thunder. This is no doubt due to the cancellation of Sonisphere, where they were to play The Hunter in it’s entirety, and the lack of appreciation from an impartial audience at Reading festival. The band obviously just wanted one last chance to show the English crowds their latest stuff before moving onto brighter things. With a better sound and lineup position they could have been one of the biggest bands of the weekend.

Alice In Chains – The Main Stage

Grunge’s favourites took the stage after Mastodon finished, a little late due to the former having arrived late too. The band didn’t need an intro track nor a back drop, just Jerry Cantrell walking on stage and playing a fat chord (there will be no mention of his hair, asides from this sentence). This prompted the start of Them Bones. Thankfully the sound man must have lost his hangover because the sound was much bigger, the bass was actually audible and supremely beefy. AIC played two tracks of their new album, whilst the rest of the set consisted mostly of Dirt. Tracks like Down In A Hole and Dam The River truly explored the subtly and heaviness of the band, perfectly mixed with a performance of Rooster. Great to hear a band with decent festival sound, and to hear songs played so perfect to the record they’re arguably better.

Motörhead – The Main Stage

‘The band who play that one song’ some may say. A joke that is truly hilarious every-time it is uttered… or not. The original speed metal band played a thirteen song set. Lemmy’s presence is enough to keep any metalhead’s eyes locked at the stage, the presence of such a legend is quite surreal in any environment. The band played the set well though they perhaps should have been lower on the bill to make way to Mastodon and Alice In Chains who put on a better show. That being said the audience went mental for songs other than Ace of Spades and Overkill, and watched attentively for most of the drum and guitar solos. Most meaning it definitely went on too long. Regardless of the performance it’s still good to see such a legendary band, even if the peak has passed. A nice addition was when Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor came on stage towards the end of the set.

Queens Of The Stone Age – The Main Stage

Some people didn’t come to this as they heard the band would play the entirety of …Like Clockwork. These people are of course too presumptuous. The band opened with five great songs from Era Vulgaris warming the crowd wonderfully with the hot sun that appeared for most, if not all the set. Though they played great, were received well, and were all round a fun band their position at Download is questionable. With scenes played on the video screens resembling of that of Reading & Leeds. It’s great to go to a metal festival and be able to see some alternative music but it’s still a strange sight, and a strange position for them to be in the set; supporting Iron Maiden and following Motörhead. Regardless they were enjoyable and it was a nice change from all the heavy music.

Iron Maiden – The Main Stage

If you were bored by Iron Maiden’s set you were either too far back, don’t like Iron Maiden, or need to open your mind more. After a long silent wait, chants of ‘maiden, maiden, maiden’ died as people became concerned. These concerns were evaporated when a spitfire seemed to appear from above the stage and circle the crowd several times at an incredibly low height. The crowd went mad and were now even more hyped due to this fantastic surprised. The band opened with Moonchild and naturally played many more songs off Seventh Son. Despite their age the set was empowering and emotional. A warm experience every time Maiden perform. Just watch the footage of Afraid To Shoot Strangers if you don’t believe they can really pull on your heart strings, then watch The Trooper or any of the hits to see how mad the crowd go when everyone knows all the words. Sadly there were moments when Bruce didn’t hit the super high notes, the closing passage of Aces High for one, put to give the man his deserving credit his voice is still inspiring people everywhere and better tan a lot of clean vocalists nowadays. He still remains a hilarious and warming figure live, as well as a fantastic vocalist (He also made up for the final Aces High by belting a huge screech after a quick breath). Several incarnations of Eddy came onstage to rapturous applause and the final song Running Free was almost sadly welcomed, knowing it was the end of the set. Bruce’s promotion of the new Trooper ale went down well too. After a long silence Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life played, and crowd returned home/to their tents with some great memories.

Sunday

Graveyard – The Zippo Stage

Sweedish hard rockers Graveyard dazzled audiences with their mix of doom and blues. A slight change from The Ghost Inside but still a great addition to the line up. The guys managed to gain a larger crowd as the set went on and undoubtabley gained new fans. Despite the short set they still managed to show off their material with music off the latest two albums. A decent simplistic sound, reminiscant of old 70s psychadellic rock, very enjoyable on such a nice day.

Masters Of Reality – The Zippo Stage

Chris Goss’ ensemble made an appearance at the festival, walking onto the stage in a curiously pimp like outfit and smoking a cigarette the man and his band managed to show case some of the band’s catalog of great material to the ever growing crowds. As Goss himself said (as well as hundreds of other musicians) it’s hard to pick a set when you have so much to choose from, but the tracks they picked could be easily picked up by those who had never even heard of the band.

Amon Amarth – The Zippo Stage

The crowds around the second stage were now much thicker, with less people moving between bands, clearly fans of Amon Amarth are devout. From the get go the viking metal music blared across the field and thousands of glory hunting teens opened up the pits and went wild. Johan’s voice is a wonderful compliment to the music, a harrowing rasp in his guttural belts, made ever better that he talks how he sings. Johan, and the band’s, smiles to the crowd remind you that they aren’t the bloodthirsty vikings out for war, they’re one of the crowd and here to have fun… though they are still vikings. Sadly due to technical difficulties the set was cut short, something that the crowd could not accept but something that was evidently a sacrifice the band made so others after them could go on time. The band closed with Twilight of the Thunder God and there were more crowd surfers in those few minutes than you’ll have proably seen in your life. Great live band, they’ll no doubt be their next year with a full set.

Rival Sons – The Zippo Stage

The stage returned to a familiar line up of blues with this band. Rival Sons performed last year, however there were problems that cut the set short, something noted by vocalist Jay Buchanan. The first part of the set was great with Wild Animal going straight into You Want It. The band made a risky move by playing their epic Manifest Destiny Part 1, though it is a great song for a festival of people largely unfamiliar with you it’s a gamble. A gamble made even stranger with inclusion of Jordan, again a great song but a ballad at a metal festival is very risky. Also introducing it as ‘a song important to me’ was annoyingly self-indulgent of Jay. Though several members of the crowd got more vocal about wanting the faster songs they managed to get through with attentiveness and burst into Keep On Swinging and Pressure & Time, the band’s bigger songs. With a faster paced set they could have made a bigger impact, something they should think about with festival sets.

Ghost – The Zippo Stage

Ghost are definitely one of the most talked about bands of recent years. Some criticise the dress up, saying they need it because the music’s bland. These overly insensitive remarks are brushed off as others find a beauty in their music that isn’t in any other band that’s current. With a long introduction a euphoric applause moved across the field as Papa Emeritus II took to the stage. Those who were dedicated sang every single word, occasionally being stared and complimented by Papa himself, an intoxicating experience. There were problems with the keyboard, however the first songs don’t rely heavily on the keyboard so went largely unnoticed. When the last chorus of ‘Year Zero’ started, Papa said ‘Donnington’, the music stopped and the entire crowd ‘Hail Satan’ was possibly one of the greatest moments in metal ever. Also seeing Papa talk to the crowd more was very interesting to see, as well as him being funny. Despite the appearances it’s obvious they’re normal people, of course it’s an act, and a good one at that.

Newsted – The Pepsi Max Stage

Heavy metal has been missing something since this namesake of this band quit Metallica. It was never truly evident until now. As he said onstage he is more excited seeing the crowd than the other way round, it was almost emotional if the brutality of his voice didn’t rip out your heart, spit on it and then make you grab an axe. Perhaps that was slightly over the top, but the songs off of the Metal EP were pulverising and the crowd ate up the riffs. When the band began to play the middle section of Creeping Death was the moment that people truly missed Newsted from Metallica, his voice was ten times more brutal than it used to be, so utterly gravely it sounds like he’s firing a thousand rocks at you whilst he’s talking. The band also played Whiplash as their epic finale which was applauded wuth more action from the crowd. A great event, hopefully the band will continue for many years.

Thirty Seconds To Mars – The Main Stage

A very strange addition to the line up, these stadium rockers were introduce by the one and only Andy Copping. Their music involved a lot of crowd chanting and ‘oohs’ and ‘aah’s and pleased a lot of people. People further back began to like them less and less however, with ever growing distain for Jared Leto and his God complex. The man is a good looking guy who can work up a crowd and make women cry, why wouldn’t all the men hate him. That asides however he is a great frontman, where he occasionally drops a few notes live he makes up for with his incredible confidence and charisma on stage. Whilst the music suffers from being bland and a cheap copy of U2 it is insanely catchy and even those with hate for 30STM will find it hard not to sing a long to the passages they know. The Kill was immaculate.

Rammstein – The Main Stage

The last band of the festival, for those who didn’t see Limp Bizkit anyway. A huge wave of excitment vibrated it’s way through the crowds of Donnington, mixed with sadness that once this was over the main part of the festival was over for another year. Opening into a massive collection of heavy industrial guitar riffs, with vocalist Till coming down from the ceiling on a sparking platform with a fluffy pink coat. Truly an incredible spectacle and one of the biggest productions for a band you’re likely to ever see. The useage of fire on the guitarist instruments, attempts at cooking the keyboardist and the giant penis that shoots foam are just scratching the surface of the huge stage show that is a Rammstein concert. At one point Till even proceeded to have simulated sex with keyboardist Flake before ejaculating all over the audience (all staged of course but ultimately shocking and hilarious). There’s just so much to talk about with a Rammstein concert; everyone sings the words despite probably not knowing more than five words in German, the entire crowd cheers when the fire comes or the fireworks explode, and every is left sad when the band take their final bow. A fantastic way to end a festival and some great memories will have been had here. Genius planning by Copping, topping these three headliners will be seriously tough.

Quick Summary

Download Festival once again proved why it is one of the greatest festivals on the planet. Andy Copping and co put together an incredible weekend with a genre bending soiree of acts that entertained audiences 12 hours everyday across Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Headliners Slipknot, Iron Maiden & Rammstein delivered a perfect example of why they are three of the greatest live bands around currently; pyrotechnics, rotating drum kits from Slipknot, a spitfire fighter plane from Iron Maiden, and giant willies firing foam from Rammstein are just some examples of what you could see. Asides from these there were numerous other bands to see.

Amon Amarth for you viking metallers, or perhaps Queens of the Stone Age and Masters of Reality for you more stoner taste, or perhaps you just wanted to bang your head to The Sword, Hang The Bastard and Down. There truly is something for every rock fan and so much to discover. Moving between the tents with relative ease, meeting the strange and curious people of Earth you’ll never see again once the festival closes. There truly is a warming feeling when you touch down into the hallowed Donnington turf.

Rumour has it headliners have already been confirmed, or at least are in talks, for next year.  If you want to enjoy the greatest weekend of the year, get yourself a ticket and head over to Download Festival 2014, if it’s anything like this year you’ll be talking about it for months to come. Just as those who attending this festival will be talking about their weekend.

Verdict 5/5 Stars

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