Download 2016 (Aka ‘Drownload’) might be over for another year, but we’re still not firmly back in reality yet as our minds wander back to the musical greatness of one of the best weekends of the year. Yes there was rain (a lot of it), and yes there was mud, but we made it through the weekend and came out stronger with plenty of musical memories.
Check out our top pick of the ten acts which ruled the weekend from one main stage headliner to our new favourite band on the Dogtooth Stage.
BabyMetal- Friday- Lemmy Stage
In a classic case of ‘Sod’s Law’, the heavens open just moments before BABYMETAL are due to hit the Lemmy stage for their set, and the severity of the weather means that the Japanese j-pop metallers are 25 minutes late to the stage for safety reasons. This only serves to build up excitement further, and the band are met with deafening screams and chants of ‘BABYMETAL!’ as they arrive on stage and play their standard set opener ‘Babymetal Death’.
The rain returns to hammer down again but Su-metal, Moametal and Yuimetal are true professionals and battle through. The Kami Band are excellent, as always, and have their moment in the spotlight, slaying on their respective instruments while the girls make a brief exit offstage before ‘Catch Me If You Can’. Closing track ‘Road to Resistance’ is a triumphant end to great, albeit brief, set. It would be nice to see BABYMETAL mix things up a bit in future, but we think their recent win for ‘Best Live Band’ at the Kerrang! Awards is well deserved. 7/10 [DC]
KoRn- Friday- Lemmy Stage
Nu-metal may have gone out of fashion a long time ago, but KoRn have remained popular due to their uniqueness and incredible backlog of songs that have stood the test of time, like ‘Here To Stay’ and ‘Blind’ which sound incredible tonight. The band are in great shape, bringing an infectious energy that gets the crowd moving and Jonathan Davis‘ unmistakable vocals are nothing short of remarkable throughout. KoRn close with classic ‘Freak on a Leash’, a track that no matter how many times you’ve heard it never gets old or fails to prompt a feeble attempt at singing along to Davis’ irreverent monkey-like scatting. A firm reminder of why you should still give a shit about KoRn. 8/10 [DC]
All Time Low- Friday- Zippo Encore Stage Headliners
After selling out arenas across the country, it only seemed right that All Time Low had the chance to headline a stage at a UK festival. Download might not be the first one you’d think of, but with the genre divides of rock being so murky it only seemed fitting that All Time Low had their chance to make tonight count. Going up against Rammstein on the main stage is a mighty task but it doesn’t daunt the band as they rise to the challenge of providing the (pretty big) crowd with plenty of cheeky banter (check), massive sing-a-long choruses (check) and plenty of pyro (check).
Playing plenty of tracks from last years’ Future Hearts, the band still cater for their older fans with classics such as ‘Lost In Stereo’, ‘Weightless’ and ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’ which evoke screams from the crowd and plenty of movement. There might be little sign of a mosh pit here tonight, but there are plenty of people dancing with grins plastered on their faces. There’s fistfuls of fans’ plucked from the crowd to join the band on stage and a cheeky partial cover of Green Days’ ‘American Idiot’ which keep the set fresh and interesting.
Unlike much else that you’d see at Download Festival, All Time Low prove that they deserve the spot and push themselves as one of the best bands to play across the weekend. 8/10 [RW]
Rammstein- Friday- Lemmy Stage Headliners
It’s safe to say there are high expectations for tonight’s headliners. Known for their lavish stage set ups, fondness for pyrotechnics and erm, foaming dildos, Rammstein have a lot to live up to. A cloud of magenta smoke billows above the stage and encapsulates the sky, before the German industrial metallers explode into brand new track ‘Ramm 4’. Opening with a new song would be a risky move for other bands, but not for Rammstein.
The setlist incidentally is incredible, containing hit after hit – ‘Feuer Frei’, ‘Reise Reise’, ‘Mein Herz brennt’ and ‘Ich Will’ and more – all assisted by massive flames, the heat of which can be felt halfway across the arena. ‘Du Hast’ seems to be the song everyone has been waiting for, and it’s the one that arguably transcends the language barrier most, with the whole audience singing along. Other highlights to note are Till Lindemann levitating from the stage by way of giant illuminated wings, and a touching acoustic performance of ‘Ohne Dich’. Although tonight’s show may have lacked the usual spectacle and shock factor (no dildos, boo), Rammstein remain unmatched in terms of stage production and sublime madness. 8/10 [DC]
Atreyu- Saturday- Lemmy Stage
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the weekend (bar how disappointingly poor the Lemmy tribute was) is how hard Orange County’s finest Atreyu rock the main stage. An absolute blast from start to finish, the metalcore heroes treat us to a ‘Greatest Hits’ set, sandwiching new tracks like ‘Long Live’ between classics ‘Becoming The Bull’ and ‘Ex’s and Oh’s’. To our absolute delight, they even play their awesome cover of Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’– a brilliant choice to play at a festival. In a nutshell, Atreyu blew us away, and by god are we glad they’re back. 8/10 [DC]
Skindred- Saturday- Zippo Encore Stage
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes – Sunday- Maverick Stage
Frank Carter arrives on stage to huge applause because, let’s face it, not only are Frank and his accompanying band The Rattlesnakes a sensation live, no one wants to be in the horrific weather outside of the tent. In a fetching floral-patterned suit Frank gets right down to business, encouraging sing-a-longs and then quite possibly the largest circle pit the Maverick Stage has ever seen as he screams “I wanna see a circle pit that exits this tent here and goes all the way round”; yes that’s right around the whole bloody tent. Few frontmen would get a crowd of muddy, wet festival-goers to oblige, but it is Frank so everyone does.
Any whiff of a hangover which might be lingering is blown away as the band play through tracks from their debut album Blossom including ‘Juggernaut’, which is dedicated to “doing whatever the f**k you want in life”, which is a fitting tribute to Frank Carters independent nature. He has softened just a little bit since the old school Gallows days though, as a call on stage to his daughter Mercy proves as he exclaims his love for her. A wall of death does land Frank in hot water as the sound gets pulled, and results in a rare occurrence of Frank apologising for his actions. After this Frank asks for the audience to be seated (which few do because come on, mud!) as he enters the crowd to perform ‘Beautiful Death’ as a tribute to his late father-in-law, and it is here that we truly hear the intensity of Frank’s vocals without the hammering of instruments behind him. The half hour of excitement ends with ‘I Hate You’ and there’s no where else in the musical world where a crowd can sing “I f**king hate you, and I wish you were dead” with such smiles on their faces. 9/10 [RW]
Billy Talent- Sunday- Zippo Encore Stage
Billy Talent might be subbing for headliners Janes Addiction, before the festival stops for Iron Maiden, and the rain might be pouring down, but nothing about the situation deters the crowd pulsing around Downloads’ second stage. Going straight in with ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’, if anyone was sitting down having a cheeky nap they’ve well and truly been woken up, as that unmissable riff fills the air. Frontman Ben Kowalewicz has the right amount of swagger without being cocky or arrogant, and with left-to-right lights and killer tracks the band slay their Download performance.
They might be huge back in Canada but it’s about time that popularity translated in the UK. The band continue to push through tracks spanning their five studio albums, but it’s tracks from 2006’s Billy Talent II and 2009’s Billy Talent III which still reign, including ‘Rusted From The Rain’, ‘Devil On My Shoulder’ and ‘Red Flag’. Ben does stop to address the recent shooting in Orlando shouting “This has to end NOW!” The band are truly thankful of the crowd who have amassed to see them and that people are still here because he’s sure everyone just wants to be “At home having a bath, a wank and watching Game of Thrones”.
Helped onstage by Alexisonfire drummer Jordan Hastings, the band prove without any doubt Billy Talent are headline material. They’d slay the Zippo Encore Stage in their sleep, but on the strength of todays’ performance they deserve the big guns of main. Sadly this will probably never happen, but we can dream. 9/10 [RW]
Nightwish- Sunday- Lemmy Stage
Nightwish have undergone a few lineup changes in recent years, but it’s all been for the better as the Finnish symphonic metallers are the best they’ve ever been. Frontwoman Floor Jansen’s vocals absolutely floor us (see what we did there?) as she completely nails every song, her voice soaring effortlessly over lashings of power metal guitars and elaborate orchestral arrangements. She has a certain charisma and ‘metal maiden’ persona that her predecessors lacked, and the chemistry between her and the other band members is genuine. It’s not just the Floor Jansen show, however – each member of the band displays a level of instrumental virtuosity that borders on magical. Some may have scoffed when Nightwish were announced as sub-headliners to the mighty Iron Maiden, but by the end of their set we suspect many converts will have been left eating their words. And if they haven’t, they should probably go and grow a new pair of ears. Fantastic. 8/10 [DC]
Napalm Death- Sunday- Dogtooth Stage
Napalm Death are one of those bands that you’ve probably heard of but you probably know none of their stuff. Or at least that’s shamefully how we were before trying to push our way into the overflowing Dogtooth tent. The band have been around for longer than a vast proportion of Downloads’ crowds have been alive, but their name is the stuff of legends, of pure brutality and extreme metal. They might be already more than 30-years through their career but they play with the intensity and pure aggression of a band who are still in their teens. The Dogtooth Stage is turned into a sweaty mass of pumping fists, banging heads and movement in the one area of a tent with the room to allow a mosh pit to form.
They might only have a half hour set, but with tracks averaging just a few minutes they more than make up for the lack of set time with more tracks than most bands on main stage. To some, the band might just be a mass of noise, but to others you can feel the attachment to the band, the sentiment of the screamed lyrics and the passion behind everything that they do. The band sounds just as relevant and fresh today as we expect they did 30-odd years ago. Napalm Death have proved to plenty of people why they’re still prevalent in the metal community. 7/10 [RW]