Another drizzly Download Festival is now in the books but even the dismal weather and the mud couldn’t stop 90,000 metalheads from having a great time at Donnington Park at the weekend. With headliners as varied as Def Leppard, Slipknot and Tool’s first performance at Download in 12 years, there was something for everyone. Away from the main stage also saw headline performances from All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus as supergroup Simple Creatures, Enter Shikari playing an ‘intimate’ set in the Avalanche stage, and Slayer’s final ever UK show closed the Zippo Encore stage on Sunday night.
Friday was the ‘classic rock’ day and many of the old-school metalheads who had been coming to Donington since the Monsters of Rock days would have been more than satisfied with Def Leppard and Slash on the main stage, however it was on the Dogtooth stage where one of the standout performances of the festival was played. Conjurer managed to absolutely pack out the fourth stage for their debut Download performance and put on one of the best shows of the weekend, with a brutal setlist taken mostly from their incredible debut album ‘Mire’ which left everyone enthralled. Without a doubt they will be back soon, and hopefully on a much bigger stage so that everyone can actually fit. Ne Obliviscaris also put on an insane show on the Dogtooth stage on Friday, absolutely stunning the crowd with their violin-based progressive metal that was unlike anything else at Download.
Saturday began with a slight lifting of the weather, and one of the few cover bands to ever grace the Donington festival in the form of Elvana, who answer the question that no one has ever asked – what if Nirvana were fronted by Elvis Presley? Without a doubt they caused some of the biggest singalongs to the weekend – particularly when merging ‘Hound Dog’ into ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ which was the perfect way to kick-start the day. The main stage in particular on Saturday was a who’s who of metal heavyweights, with Power Trip, Behemoth and one of the best live bands in the world in Skindred all putting on incredible shows, however the most eclectic performance of the weekend came from Die Antwoord. Somehow the South African duo managed to convert a huge swathe of metalheads, and by the time they finished the crowd were bouncing like an EDM show. However the absolute highlight of the entire weekend was Slipknot’s incredible headline set on Saturday night which had the perfect setlist; opening with People=Shit and closing with the now iconic crowd surf during Spit It Out before rounding off with Surfacing. Every single member of the band was on top form – which is especially impressive considering that Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan lost his daughter only a few weeks beforehand. New songs ‘All Out Life’ and ‘Unsainted’ from the upcoming album ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ received warm responses and showed that Slipknot are still a force to be reckoned with.
Sunday opened with New Orleans’ metalcore band Cane Hill on the main stage who put on a masterful performance mostly showcasing their most recent album ‘Too Far Gone’ which inspired mosh pits even at 11am. Dinosaur Pile Up on the Zippo Encore stage also put on an excellent early show, showcasing hits from their recent album ‘Celebrity Mansions.’ Black Peaks also put on an absolute stormer of a show, and created a completely incendiary atmosphere – using pyro in a tent got everyone excited – demonstrating why they are one of the most exciting bands in British rock music today. Back on the main stage, Lamb of God were putting on a clinic, and cementing their place as one of the most highly respected metal bands, with a set as heavy as anything else played across the whole weekend. This is a band who look set to one day headline Download if this show was anything to go by. Enter Shikari headlined a completely rammed Avalanche stage, with the tent being so packed that the queue to get in was at least 50 people deep! With a career spanning setlist including rarity ‘Quelle Surprise,’ it is obvious that they are masters of the live show – and certainly were the best dressed band at Download, showing up on stage all dressed in full suits. Tool closed out the festival with their first appearance at Donington in 12 years, and the cult band showed why they were worth the excitement, playing two new songs from their long-awaited new album (which will be their first since 2006) alongside older tracks such as ‘Vicarious’ and ‘Stinkfist’ accompanied by trippy visuals. This was a masterclass in musicianship and was the perfect end to a weekend that showcased the best of heavy music in the world today.