LIVE: Download Festival @ Donington Park (Sunday – 14/06/2015)

Date: June 14th, 2015
Venue: Donington Park, Donington


Known far and wide for the hallowed grounds on which many of rock’s heroes of the past, present and in time future have walked and played on, Donington’s Download Festival is the UK’s most prestigious rock and metal festival. Back once again, as it is every year, equipped with a line-up that draws in an impressive crowd, we got into the thick of it for the whole weekend for what could arguably be the best weekend in music all year long.


POP EVIL – 8/10
Sunday main stage openers Pop Evil pack a set that’s worth getting up early for. Unfortunately during this time, the majority of the festival goers are still passed out or desperately trying to revive themselves from their burning hangovers. Although Pop Evil are barely onstage for 25 minutes, they deliver an engaging set of stripped down rock ‘n’ roll that even those not familiar with the band could enjoy. “Obviously the real rock ‘n’ roll brothers and sisters are up this early” laughs frontman Leigh Kakaty, before diving into hits ‘Boss’s Daughter’, ‘Deal With The Devil’, and ‘Trenches’. [KH]

36 CRAZYFISTS – 7/10
Similar to All That Remains opening on Friday, it’s surprising to see a 90s metalcore band this early on, but unlike All That Remains, 36 Crazyfists nail it. Their latest album ‘Time & Trauma’ airs of nostalgia, but is new enough at the core to be interesting, so ‘Vanish’ is a decent opener. They show up, have as much fun as possible, and are clearly thankful that they’re still here and able to do this. Of course, their hit ‘Slit Wrist Theory’ goes off; it’s a chorus built to stand the test of time, as are 36 Crazyfists. [JK]

“Welcome to our church of metal” screams Max Cavalera, your priest of heaviness for the morning, and who better to be preaching to you than the brothers who were the heart and soul of Sepultura? Their heavy as iron balls formula hasn’t changed much with this outfit. It’s simplistic aggressive metal. Their sound is off and on, with the bass being louder than Max’s guitar and occasionally his vocals. They work through any shields the audience have put up by playing the Sepultura classic (but a slightly rushed rendition of) ‘Roots Bloody Roots’, and getting the crowd to sing Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ when they don’t know the words. Before they finish with ‘Sanctuary’, they also play Sepultura’s ‘Refuse Resist’, which feels like a real treat. All in all, it;s a fairly successful mass considering they weren’t exactly preaching to the choir. [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

SLASH – 8/10
The legendary Guns ‘N’ Roses guitarist and global guitar god Slash knows what he’s doing, not least because this is his third Download performance with his solo act. He plays select bangers from his own material, like massive opener ‘You’re A Lie’ straight into GnR gems like ‘Nighttrain’. Myles Kennedy (also of Alter Bridge fame) makes sure no one is missing Axl much (not that anyone really was) by delivering his huge range full force. Of course, he shows us why he’s one of the best singers in the game right now, otherwise he wouldn’t be standing next to the top hatted wizard. More modern singles into old hits ensue, with ‘Back From Cali’ going into ‘You Could Be Mine’, and, after the huge title track from latest output ‘World On Fire’ and ‘Anastasia’ into ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, we get ‘Slither’ (from Velvet Revolver) with the massive close of ‘Paradise City’. It’s the perfect mix of crowd pleasing and newer material. Again, the man knows what he’s doing. He’s a guitar god, and in Slash, we trust. [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

KISS – 9/10
Having the severely important duty of closing the festival off, headliners Kiss boast a performance that we won’t soon forget. Packing an obscene amount of fireworks, pyro and visual effects, the performance is nothing short of a spectacle of excellence. Despite each of the four members exceeding the age of 60, they’re more than capable of packing an energetic performance of songs both old and new. Vocalist Paul Stanley demands the crowd of 85,000 to chant his name before zip lining his way across the cheering audience and performing on a platform in the middle of the crowd. Bassist Gene Simmons packs quite a disturbing distorted bass solo, spewing blood from his mouth as he proceeds to smack his bass heavily. Stanley announced that it won’t be the last time the band hit the UK before closing on fan favorites ‘Rock & Roll All Night’ and ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, delivering a memorable end to another memorable year. [KH]


Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

H.E.A.T. – 8/10
Perfectly encapsulating the sound of 80s rock ‘n’ roll and with a modern twist, Sweden’s H.E.A.T. deliver a set full of anthemic tracks that you wish you knew the words to. After touring extensively on new album ‘Tearing Down The Walls’, it would come as no surprise that two thirds of the band’s setlist were hits from the album. Tracks ‘A Shot At Redemption’, ‘Point Of No Return’, and the album’s title track all shine as modern day rock classics. [KH]

After being on the scene for the last fourteen years, it’s quite a surprise that Finnish hard rockers Von Hertzen Rockers lack real engagement with the audience and appear reserved onstage. The band’s sound doesn’t stand up compared to contemporary bands on the day and sounds a little raw and dated. Their setlist also contains songs mainly from their latesdt two albums, ‘Nine Lives’ and ‘New Day Rising’, barely touching on their older material. [KH]

To be honest, we got exactly what we expected from a band who would call themselves Backyard Babies; their standard rock is about as imaginative as their name (which isn’t very, although if you disagree then maybe you’ll like them to be the soundtrack to your rice cakes and weak tea based life, you bland fuck). It was one of those festival sets where even if you weren’t drunk you forget most of it. They’re about as gripping as water based lubricants. [JRK]

A thought passed through our minds whilst watching We Are Harlot, “Would anyone give a shit about this band if Danny Worsnop wasn’t in it?”, and, whilst the field would probably be much emptier if he wasn’t, the audience would more likely be wearing Scorpion shirts than Asking Alexandria ones if that were the case. But, the fact is that Danny Worsnop is in We Are Harlot, and it suits him so much more than his previous band, the aforementioned Asking Alexandria, ever did. He’s much more suited for classic rock than metalcore, and not just in terms of his voice, his swagger as he strolls across the stage, the showmanship. It’s all Steven Tyler worship at heart, but at least it’s coming from the heart whilst some of his AA performances came across really forced. We Are Harlot put on a cracking show featuring all the bangers from their latest record, including the addictive ‘Dancing On Nails’, and a killer cover of Queen’s ‘Tie Your Mother Down’. [JK]

Yes, they played ‘I Stand Alone’. Apparently they have some other songs too. [JK]

If you did actually want to know what Godsmack were like, Eagles Of Death Metal were everything they weren’t; charismatic, punchy, and their songs were enjoyable whether or not you knew them. Songs like ‘Cherry Cola’ and ‘I Want You So Hard’ are made of such a fun rock groove that makes keeping your hips still and having a bad time impossible. Eagles Of Death Metal climax with ‘Speaking In Tongues’, featuring a huge riff-off as they finish all over us. Sexy, filthy rock ‘n’ roll! [JK]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

IN FLAMES – 8/10
The last of the scattered extreme legends on this bill, and, whilst some death metal fans consider them a pop act now, they do end up putting on one of the best performances out of all the heavier bands over the weekend. Anders Fridén is one hell of a frontman who just wants to see a heavy metal party, which is exactly what he gets. Whilst there’s nothing from ‘The Jester Race’ (not that we had our hopes up), their setlist spans everything from ‘Clayman’, which is to be admired, and each track sees a new wave of crowd surfers. They may not be the most intense or heavy band from the melo-death world, but they’re definitely the most fun, and their live shows prove that. [JK]

LAMB OF GOD – 9/10
Lamb Of God should be headliners. Sorry A Day To Remember, you’re ambitious, but get in line. They’ve headlined a large UK festival before (Bloodstock 2013), they’ve never made a bad album, they have some huge singles, and they’re one of the most globally recognised bands in metal. However, whenever the discussion of ‘next big headliner’ comes up, LOG are criminally overlooked and, quite frankly, the second stage just isn’t big enough to handle what this band have done and what they mean.

Last time the Virginia groove metal five-piece played Donington, vocalist Randy Blythe was arrested in Prague and went through some of the darkest days of his life to clear his name for the death of a fan. Since then, they’ve seemed to have had a fire under their asses, and it’s showed in their live performances. The band take their places onstage and rip into ‘Desolation’, which has become a brilliant opener. Blythe strolls onto the stage as calm as you like, but, as soon as he picks up that mic, it’s like nothing has changed since the last time they played. He becomes the visceral frontman with a seemingly endless brutality to his voice.

The band are as tight as ever. You won’t catch sloppiness at a LoG show, their musicianship is mindblowingly heavy, consistent, and never hailed enough. After a killer rendition of ‘Ghost Walking’, they blast into new track ‘512’, and seeing this will get you more excited for the new record than any music video or radio play. The band throw themselves into a completely new state, some of which fueled by the distressing event they are now finally able to put behind them.

Form this point out, it’s nothing but absolute bangers: ‘Walk With Me In Hell’, ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’, ‘Redneck’, ‘Laid To Rest’, new track ‘Still Echoes’, and ‘Ruin’, which is impossible to stand still for. They throw out crowd moving anthems like it’s nothing. It’s one of those sets that you never want to end because it’s just a barrage of brutal familiarity with some of the most passionate and talented musicians going today backing them. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, but at least they end it with the stomping ‘Black Label’. With the crowd wanting more, the band can only graciously thank them as Blythe takes a snap for his ever impressive photography collection. Could they headline? Definitely. Will they? It’s uncertain, we can only hope. AT LEAST GIVE THEM SUB HEADLINING ON THE MAIN STAGE! JEEZ! [JK]

Another contender for future headliners; with a radio backed commercial fourth album that did well and a constantly growing fanbase, their chances are looking good, but can Enter Shikari deliver a crowd pleasing set? They’ve smashed it on this very stage before, the very same place on the line-up too, as well as countless sets all over Reading Festival. We know that they can be entertaining, but can they be a real crowd pleaser? If this set is anything to go by, then no.

It’s a strong set. The new material from ‘The Mindsweeper’ is much more enjoyable live and sounds great, which is impressive considering the countless amount of electronics and post production effects put on over the songs in the studio. Frontman Rou Reynolds does a bit more programing and mixing with his impressive live mix set, and his vocals are still decent. The band are tight, especially Rob Rolfe#s drumming, who doesn’t get enough shouts for his impressive kit work throughout the band’s whole career. It’s enjoyable, it’s great, but it’s not crowd pleasing. If anything, it’s a step away from last time that they played.

Die-hards may just put this down to setlist nit picking, but if you’re at a festival, would you rather hear a song about the British class system, or a song about drinking cider? Of course they play the earwigs which have been relentlessly played by radio, like ‘Anesthetist’, ‘The Last Garrison’, and ‘Torn Apart’, fair. But then it just feels like Shikari are ignoring everything else they’ve done. They play ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ (god forbid if they don’t), and a remix of ‘Mothership’ and ‘Juggernauts’ (mashed up into ‘The Last Garrison’). Where are the fun songs? Where are the tracks that put them onto the stage on which they stand? The main thing is that they’ll play ‘Slipshod’ and countless tracks off of their EPs, but will we hear ‘Zzzonked’? Like fuck.

The songs they played were fine, they did their job, but Enter Shikari could’ve built a setlist that would of blown peoples’ minds and turned that field into the rave-mosh that they’re known for. You can call it setlist nitpicking, but really it’s a missed opportunity. [JK]


Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Despite boasting an eerie melancholic sound, New York death pop outfit September Mourning lack the energy and intensity of many bands that proceeded them. As well as being limited in their crowd interaction, the band heavily rely on pre-recorded material, which sucked the audience out of the live atmosphere. The band do, however, execute some of their hits pretty well in a live setting, including the excellent ‘Children Of Fate’ and ‘Before The Fall’. The band’s cover of the Ben E. King classic ‘Stand By Me’ fails to translate well into their dark sinister style, and frankly is barely recognisable as the original hit. [KH]

There may be some a tad too hungover for Evil Scarecrow’s shenanigans, but that isn’t the case considering the tent is packed full of those ready to raise a claw. Even without their silly sense of humor injected into their songs, they still ripp, with cheesily good guitar licks and solid choruses they prove they’re more than a comedy band. Their stage show is like a Rob Zombie gig but on a tighter budget, with weird bin aliens and the mighty crabulon coming on stage with their Art Attack costumes (not a diss, Art Attack was wicked). To close, they let loose the hilarious headbanger ‘Crabulon’, a moment people are clearly waiting for. The band can’t quite seem to believe it when the whole tent scuttles left and right, an excellently high note to end a set on. [JK]

In a very different vein to humorous metal Evil Scarecrow, Code Orange are really serious hardcore, so serious that they make every band your friends are into seem like The Chuckle Brothers. They’re one of the most hyped acts of the HC underground recently, they certainly know how to throw out a ballsy riff, and bassist Joe Goldman does a good job of going mental in place of a frontman (as drummer Jami Morgan provides most vocals). They don’t do anything pretty or flash. They show up, fuck things up with some of the most brutal hardcore, and leave. Fair ‘nough. [JK]

After being announced as one of the special guests at this year’s festival, many fans are surprised to learn that The Darkness would be hitting the very intimate Maverick Stage. Hundreds of fans encompass the edges of the tent, pushing and shoving to get a glance at the glam rock legends. The band deliver a career spanning set, from recent hit ‘Open Fire’, all the way back to their debut single, ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’. Justin Hawkins is on top form, smashing out his high and powerful falsetto and nailing every solo across the set. Monster hit ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ draw sthings to a close, and unites the whole crowd in singing to its extremely catchy chorus. [KH]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Making a name for themselves as one of the best names in US metalcore, The Ghost Inside have relentlessly toured England over the last year in promotion of their latest album, ‘Dear Youth’. Vocalist Jonathan Vigil confesses doing his homework before hitting England, watching the entire The Inbetweeners boxset before returning back. Vigil proves himself to be one of the most honest frontman in rock, confessing that ten years of his life just flew by trying to progress his career, before entering the title track of their aforementioned latest record. The band remains extremely energetic and active throughout, proving that they’re worthy contenders for the main stage in upcoming years. [KH]

“We were pretty worried about how it was going to go after seeing the line-up of much heavier bands”, confesses frontman Ryan Keys. His anxiety is fortunately short lived, as the packed Maverick stage enthusiastically engage with songs old and new, chanting “Yellowcard” frantically inbetween hits. Newer tracks ‘Crash The Gates’ and ‘Make Me So’ lack the bite and impact of their classics, and Keys desperately tries to get the audience to sing along, saying “I want you to lose your fucking voice. If you don’t know the words, make them up”. Set highlights include opener ‘Lights And Sounds’, ‘Ocean Avenue’, and ‘Way Away’, which includes a shiny new piano intro. [KH]


Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

HYENA – 7/10
Things are looking good for Hyena, with their debut Download performance slotted right between support slots with Ash and Eagles Of Death Metal. Despite having a few initial technical difficulties, the band prove themselves worthy of their flourishing reputation, delivering a promising half an hour of lo-fi rock ‘n’ roll. The rock outfit premiere an exclusive new track, and dedicated their debut single ‘Mental Home’ to any members of the audience that have heard of them before. [KH]

LTNT – 7/10
Despite being one of the smallest bands at the festival, LTNT have been able to land a tour with the mighty Seether and gain a respectable slot on the festival’s Jake Stage. The show coincides with their bass player’s birthday, and what a better way to spend it, in a tent heaving with music fans at the legendary Donnington Park. Although the band’s sound isn’t terribly original, with a fuzzy rock sound that we’ve all heard countless times before, they’re still able to pack an engaging set of catchy tunes. Single ‘Body Blood’ is extremely well received by fans tipping the impression that it wasn’t many peoples’ first LTNT show. [KH]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Californian metallers Butchers Babies may appear pretty from the onset, but they succeed in delivering one of the heaviest blows of the weekend. “We’re here to fuck shit up” yells vocalist Carla Harvey before the band delve into hits ‘The Mirror Never Lies’ and ‘Goliath’. The twin vocalists Harvey and Heidi Shepherd compliment each other extremely well and work together in engaging the audience, from crazy headspins to jumping and diving across the stage. [KH]

Salt Lake City’s Chelsea Grin pack possibly the heaviest set of the day, and leave us all curious as to why they were offered the festival’s smallest stage. Vocalist Alex Koehler’s screams and shouts sound as menacing as ever, and the band remain extremely tight throughout their impressively technical set. “I want to feel this stage fucking shake” yells Koehler, before diving into the penultimate track, ‘Sonnet Of The Wretched’. The band provid a powerful set, which was a worthy alternative to legends Lamb Of God and Motley Crue, who were both concurrently performing. [KH]

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

Written by Jack King [JK], and Kieran Harris [KH]