As Britain was slowly coming down from the snap election high, Theresa May was forced into an uncomfortable position, whilst Labour supporters were fully into what many are now calling The Corbyn Effect. Not scheduled to land together, the overall result following Friday morning’s news set the tone perfectly for an absolutely fantastic three day break away to one of the best European events, Download Festival.
Arriving on Friday morning the air was eerily warm, with the beautiful sunlight baring down on Donington it was a welcome contrast from last years horrendous downpour which earned the festival the coveted name of #Drownload. With smiles all round punters began to enter the site for what was the first day of a three day smorgasbord of fantastic talent. However, upon arriving at the arena, the first thing to notice was the visible change in layout. Originally skeptical, as we humans are with change, I was unsure whether or not this change around would be a good idea. Turns out it couldn’t have been better! After having been accredited, I walked down to the guest area where I was met with security who would be just as thorough as you might think but did so with the kind of spirit that you would only have at a festival.
Not only checking out the plethora of bands, whilst there I was able to chat to some pretty fantastic people who would be performing on the stages at the festival. Which, in this new layout was an absolute breeze! Owing to the fact that the press area was moved further away from the stage enabled us to have more coherent interviews without being interrupted mid way through a conversation with the thunderous roar of an emerging band from the Main Stage. It was also perfectly laid out, utilising enough space to enable room to work and also sit and wait for whoever it might be that you would be waiting for to emerge from the further reaches of their dressing rooms, nice work Download!
Paulo Gonçalvez – Download 2017
However it is of course first and foremost about the bands! Arriving as quickly as possible and setting up the relevant equipment, by the time I was ready and walking over to the Main Stage the sounds of Scranton’s biggest export since The Office were bounding out of the main stage in the form of Motionless In White. Galvanising a huge crowd to come out to the main stage on Friday afternoon the band blasted through new Graveyard Shift numbers “LOUD (Fuck It)” along with other single “Rats”. Clearly you can see that given the reach from the likes of a Main Stage performance, Motionless In White are able to extend their hand to fans all over the festival and whilst there are a fair share of painted white faces, there are more than enough people that might not have been familiar with the band but after their performance are sure to remember their faces to hit up their UK tour in January 2018.
Ross Silcocks – Download 2017
After the band take their leave, its not long until there is the appearance of Sabaton’s calling card that is the ultimate war machine of the tank. A fitting metaphor for the band themselves, the bands resilience has been somewhat admirable with their popularity reaching staggering heights following their release of last years The Last Stand. Now accustomed to the larger scale venues it seems that Sabaton are more than at home with their Main Stage performance today. Kicking things off with “Ghost Division” the band had the crowd in the palm of their hands. With hardly any wanderers peoples gaze were fixed on the Main Stage for the duration of their potent and fiery set that would give bands way higher up the bill a run for their money. Simply put, Sabaton have become accustomed to their grander status now. Following their successful Brixton shows last year, the band seem to be reaching higher than ever before and Download is raising the bar even higher.
Moving temporarily over to the second stage we were able to see newcomers The Raven Age extend their wings even further. Kicking the year off in style the band supported the kings that are Anthrax. Having more than proved themselves in this month long tour, it seems that this is only the beginning for this budding young band. No doubt in part to do with guitarist George Harris’ connection with the Iron Maiden bass player, I feel its important to understand that TheRaven Age aren’t riding off anyone’s coat tails. Taking their own brand of Metalcore and bringing it to what was a sizeable audience on the Zippo Encore Stage it was a fantastic way to open up Download.
Paulo Gonçalves – Download 2017
Moving with the wind as we return to mid afternoon, slowly but surely as Mastodon have been releasing record after record they have been climbing the Main Stage (blood) mountain. Releasing their brand new album Emperor of Sand back in March the band burst on stage to the iron hulk of “Sultan’s Curse” immediately proving that their new material stacks up just as intimidatingly as their classics. With a set list that consists of as much old material as ever, you might want to hear more of the brand new album. However never fear, following their performance here today the band have announced a brand new UK appearance that will be no doubt one of the highlights of December 2017. Though as the festival atmosphere can be an uncaring entity, today the wind is kind to Mastodon as their sound positively soars in the likes of “Steambreather” before the segue into the thump of “Mother Puncher”.
Matt Eachus – Download 2017
Hitting the headlines for some more obscure reasons of late, the future of Five Finger Death Punch has been uncertain. With recent rumblings in the camps denoting the band to less than favourable characteristics and even the departure of Ivan Moody. On what is surprisingly still a beautifully sunny Friday evening, the band are well into the vibe here at Download. With releases ranging from their brand new record Got Your Six to their classic American Capitalist released a terrifying six years ago(?!). The band, perhaps might not be to the more astute metal head’s taste but it is undeniable that their ability to work a crowd is brought home once more in their huge performance making it no doubt a highlight of the weekend for festival goers.
Nothing however could have quite prepared us for the power that would be brought forward with Prophets of Rage. Making their UK debut, there’s no larger platform than Download Festival. If you might not know the band are formed of members of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cyprus Hill. Originally penned as what would be a “why not?” kind of watch for me at Download, it was clear that the second the Prophets took to the stage that they would be one of the real highlights of Download Festival.
Matt Eachus – Download 2017
Working their way effortlessly through Rage Against The Machine‘s catalogue, those who might have thought that band were simply an expensive karaoke act are sorely wrong. Bringing with them the venom that inspired the likes of “Fight The Power” Chuck D‘s aggression flanked by B. Real‘s more down to earth screams command the crowd from start to finish. With a touching Audioslave piece of “Like A Stone” in memory of Chris Cornell, despite there being so many personalities on stage each one shines together. Whether it be the groove of “Bulls On Parade” or the riffing on “Know Your Enemy” this band are as tight as they get. With the recent political upset in the UK, Prophets of Rage‘s performance has an added sense of immediacy about it. As Chuck D states that the UK did actually “Take the power back” after Labour had a fantastic surge, it fills an audience with positivity. A feeling that there may well be a movement into change, here lies the genius of Prophets of Rage making them so much more than just a Rage covers band. This sense of revolution will never die so long as their songs are still sung. Not to mention their own new material “Unfuck The World” is in keeping with the classic Tom Morello formula yet sounds fresh, which is no surprise as the guitarist was light years before his time. Ask anyone that was at Download this weekend, Prophets of Rage came, saw and conquered. Viva la revolucion!
Caitlin Mogridge – Download 2017
In keeping with this revisiting of the past, our Friday headliners are soon to be summoned. After making sure a last ditch run to the bar is complete, something which I feel is worth mentioning, the cup scheme this year that Download implemented saw people take a far more conscious recycling footprint. Placing a £2 deposit down on a cup, you’re less likely to throw it on the floor a la normal Download. Instead crowds of fans actually made sure that they looked after the environment and boy did it really make a difference to the festival. Well done to all of the top people in Greenpeace! Readied for the arrival of the Armenians the crowd are waiting with baited breath. Arriving on stage, immediately you can see that although, yes the band are an incredibly tight unit, there is a distinct lack of charisma here.
This hunch of mine is confirmed throughout the bands performance. Its not to say that it is a bad performance, it is merely somewhat stale. This being no fault of Download’s own its more to do with the band. Having not released new material now for twelve years, time is getting on with System of A Down and while they could play “Chop Suey” or “Mr Jack” until the cows come home, there needs to be a new fire ignited underneath the band. Here it seems that the band are merely recycling their material and aren’t truly engaged together as a unit! Not meaning they deliver a bad performance, of course the pitch perfect renditions of “Aerials”, “Bounce” and “Violent Pornography” are brilliant as you might expect but tonight there just isn’t that sense of absolute wonder that is held with a headline festival act. Having seen System of A Down headline back in 2011, the band had that sense of genius that you would want. That was six years ago. There is hope that new material will be coming our way but if I was them I wouldn’t bank on being able to rely on your back catalogue forever.
Having grown slightly weary, I wandered over to the smallest and most intimate Dogtooth stage to see a band that, despite its ridiculous influence in the Metal community had never had the honour of performing at Download Festival. I’m talking about the OG’s that are Exodus. From the moment the band arrive on stage they hit the ground running. With drummer Tom Hunting‘s absolutely relentless battery from the kit coupled with the high pitched squeals of Zetro Souza on “Blood In, Blood Out” it makes for a fierce contrast to the weary Nu-Metal coming from the main stage. Of course they might not be able to attract as big of a fan base as the headline act but Exodus have a real sense of loyalty. Having taken up somewhat of a residency over in London’s Underworld the band seem to have their heart allied to the UK. For anyone who has seen Exodus before, they will know what I am talking about. Absolutely phenomenal action happening both on stage and off with circle pits igniting left right and centre. With arrival of “The Toxic Waltz” giving every one a little hazardous jig, Exodus are just the perfect close out to Friday’s procession its just a shame it took them so long to be there!
Check back tomorrow for Download’s Saturday coverage!