As of 2018, Download Festival has officially been running for more consecutive years than its legendary predecessor Monsters Of Rock at the grounds of Donington Park, and with it have solidified further its already firm status as one of the biggest and most prestigious rock festivals in the world.
With another trio of gigantic headliners yet again this year, with the Sunday seeing a main stage headline set and what will be one of the very final live performances from Ozzy Osbourne, our team made their way down to the hallowed grounds of Download for another weekend of devil horns, head banging, and circle pits galore.
CRADLE OF FILTH – 7/10
It’s glorious weather for Cradle Of Filth over on the main stage. The UK extreme metal legends are no stranger to large stages, and it shows. From the symphonic strains of ‘Dusk And Her Embrace’ to the searing dramatics of ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’, everything is delivered with assuredness and aplomb. Dani Filth’s ear piercing screech is as brutal as ever, as are Martin Skauropka’s breakneck drums. For some it may be a little too early for something so raucous, but Cradle Of Filth remain a shining example of homegrown metal talent. [LC]
HATEBREED – 7/10
Andy Copping is always vocal on Twitter about how Jamey Jasta and Hatebreed are welcome at Download Festival whenever they like. The hardcore legends have been part of the heavy metal community and welcomed back with arms wide by the fans whenever they’re available to take their standard mid-afternoon set on the main stage. The Connecticut lads have a tonne of quality records to reach back into, and they start with big hitters ‘Proven’ and ‘To The Threshold’ to get the whiplash off to a devastating start.
Jasta is wearing his classic bandana and a black hoodie in what must be pushing a ridiculous 30 degrees heat and the energy is relentless with ‘Looking Down The Barrel Of Today’ and ‘Something’s Off’ back-to-back, but the crowd are maintaining their intensity throughout. A knockout of ‘Destroy Everything’ and ‘I Will Be Heard’ to finish means that Hatebreed will stay on the Download Festival Christmas card list. [MH]
IN THIS MOMENT – 4/10
LA metallers In This Moment are known for their theatrical onstage antics, but today at Download, it’s all a bit overdone and unnecessary. Bursting out of a flag emblazoned with a giant cross, vocalist Maria Brink begins a dramatic performance of ‘Blood’, her black cloak billowing around her – although her vocals fail to carry, which is a bit disappointing.
There’s all kinds of strange gestures and dance moves, and a bizarre wedding march signals the start of ‘Black Wedding’, but it feels like the gawdy theatrics are just making up for what would otherwise be dull and uninspired music. There’s a fair few screaming fans down the front, but the rest of the crowd don’t seem too bothered, and it’s hard to blame them. Maybe you have to ‘get it?’. [LC]
BLACK VEIL BRIDES – 6/10
The excitement around Black Veil Brides seems to have died slightly over the last few years, but they’re one of a few hard rock bands that are standing the test of time and have always added interest to their stage shows – ideal for their slot on the main stage today. The set starts well with ‘Faithless’, and Andy Biersack is really giving it both barrels by giving it some extra screams to blend in with the Download aesthetic, and the following riff in ‘Coffin’ sounds monstrous.
Sadly, ‘Wake Up’ is next so the woahs are out in full force… and it’s rubbish, truly rubbish. You’d expect this on album fodder from this kind of band, but they aren’t going to be winning over any audiences with this. Thankfully the set turns to some of the better ‘Set The World On Fire’ material with ‘The Legacy’ greeted with a particularly large high pitched scream, and Biersack gets to sit out most of the singing. ‘In The End’ finishes up for what is a relatively decent showing from the make-up wearing Ohio rockers who need to keep this fresh to maintain their succession at Download. [MH]
SHINEDOWN – 7/10
In recent years, Shinedown have gone from strength-to-strength, supporting Iron Maiden and nabbing a co-headlining tour with the likes of Five Finger Death Punch and Godsmack, so it’s no surprise to see them so high up on the bill this year. It’s a set full of radio-friendly rock numbers, with the likes of ‘Cut The Cord’ and the impossibly catchy ‘State Of My Head’ evoking sing-alongs from the considerable number of fans in the audience, before slow burner ‘Second Chance’ gets arms waving. Vocalist Brent Smith has serious pipes and is a truly entertaining watch. It’s a little bit safe and predictable, but there’s no doubting the impressive talent on display. [LC]
MARILYN MANSON – 6/10
People clustered around the main stage talk in hushed whispers as Marilyn Manson’s show starts, and no-one seems too sure what to expect. His previous Download performances have been a bit hit-and-miss to say the least, with the self-professed God of Fuck turning up drunk and slurring on occasion. Tonight, though, he seems remarkably calm and placid – and it’s almost disappointing.
Still, the setlist is a rollercoaster ride through some of his greatest hits, from ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘mOBSCENE’, to ‘The Dope Show’ and ‘Antichrist Superstar’. Though there’s a few glaring omissions – neither ‘Fight Song’ nor the infamous ‘Tainted Love’ cover make an appearance – what’s there is decent enough, but it just lacks the excitement and bombast that you usually expect from Manson. You usually either love or loathe him, but this time around, you might even ignore him. [LC]
OZZY OSBOURNE – 8/10
“Let me hear you!”, rings around the main stage as Ozzy calls for the Donington crowd to get excited before he enters his last ever performance at the iconic UK venue. “I can’t fucking hear you!”, he continues, but we’re treated to a montage of pictures and videos through the years before his arrival which is bizarrely laced with intros to Ozzy’s solo material that… well, we’re about to hear.
The Godfather Of Heavy Metal finally takes the stage in front of the massive black cross and launches into ‘Bark At The Moon’ and ‘Mr. Crowley’. The Black Sabbath singer seems to having a whale of a time and the enjoyment is transcending throughout the Leicestershire field as he gets them waving their arms around during ‘I Don’t Know’. Zakk Wylde is back on lead guitar for the No More Tours, Vol. 2 tour run, and keeps the songs together with his excellent musicianship. Sabbath’s ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ creeps into the set, but it’s nothing like the sing-along that occurs during ‘War Pigs’, which triggers the fire throughout the stage screens and on the cross. It’s metal as fuck.
There was plenty to be said regarding the capability of whether 69-year-old Ozzy was up to the challenge of headlining Download Festival (for the first and last time in his career) after a well-documented ropey performance with Sabbath back in 2016, but the festival deserves to hear tracks like ‘No More Tears’ and ‘Suicide Solution’ regardless, and Ozzy is doing great. Sure, he’s a little bit dopey between songs, but that’s half of the magic, and he gets a break during Wylde’s ten minute solo that sees the huge figure of the man in the crowd playing with his teeth. Nonetheless, ‘I Don’t Want To Change The World’ sounds fantastic, and there’s no introduction or description needed for the one and only ‘Crazy Train’.
Ozzy Osbourne has been monumentally important in heavy metal and live music in the UK, but he still has the mentality of a kid fronting a band in a pub. He’s already encouraging the crowd to chant “One more song” before he leaves the stage himself. Unsurprisingly, he returns! ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ and, of course, ‘Paranoid’ conclude Ozzy Osbourne at Donington Park for the last time. The legend bows out on a high, and everyone walking back to the car park and camp sites are still singing ‘Paranoid’ half an hour later. That’s the sign of a good show. [MH]
ZIPPO ENCORE STAGE:
GRETA VAN FLEET – 6/10
The first thing that strikes you when watching Greta Van Fleet is that they’re super young. The Michigan band are blowing up right now thanks to their technical prowess and Led Zeppelin style solo driven music and style. We’re talking feather earrings, jackets with tassels, open buttoned shirts, you name it; even the tambourine is out for the extended rendition of ‘Black Smoke Rising’. The three Kiszka brothers and drummer Danny Wagner are confident and sound excellent on an outdoor stage during ‘Safari Song’. There’s no doubt that these boys will run through the classic rock scene in a matter of years. Watch out. [MH]
TURBONEGRO – 10/10
Swedish glam rock punks Turbonegro are now ten records into their career and what we see at Download in 2018 is the mastered craft of band evolution. As part as their tongue-in-cheek homosexual stage presence, the band dress up in signature costumes of policeman, farmers, sailors; we;re a cowboy away from The Village People on stage today, but it’s lead singer Tony Sylvester who arrives when the riff kicks in for ‘Hot For Nietzsche’ with his handlebar moustache and short, short, short shorts that woos the crowd.
The single from latest record ‘Rock N Roll Machine’ is simply fantastic with funny lyrics, fist in the air, catchy vocal hooks and a masterclass in showmanship from Tom of Norway. Seminal track ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ has the easiest sing-along that you’ll hear all day, which just highlights the magic of the death punk band – it’s instantly enjoyable whether you’ve never heard of the band, or you have a TurboJugend patch on your denim jacket. The performance is as un-politically correct as possible as proven after new track ‘Fist City’ when Seltzer (who has bravely had his foot up on the speaker) announces to the crowd that the song could be about fist fighting or fist fucking, it’s up to them.
The frontman is hilariously toying with the crowd with his British references, and between track gibberish and present ‘Special Education’ to the Zippo Encore stage as an opportunity to pass just one GCSE this year: in death punk. Turbonegro are one of a kind, and their cult following is sure to have increased following their faultless set today. [MH]
BODY COUNT – 8/10
Thrash metal rap crossover band Body Count have had resurgence thanks to their excellent 2017 record ‘Bloodlust’ that takes a stance against the state of the modern world. Ice-T knows his metal, and the band open up with ‘Raining In Blood/Postmortem’ with the Slayer cover instantly enticing in the crowd – and there’s a big one in to see them play through ‘Bowels Of The Devil’ and ‘No Lives Matter’.
Ice-T keeps up the dangerous façade by saying he can’t believe those stupid mother fuckers let them through customs again. ‘There Goes The Neighborhood’ sounds aggressive and Ernie C has serious licks throughout before Body Count have a little surprise in store as he gets Jamey Jasta out to accompany them on ‘Cop Killer’ for a double dose of hardcore. [MH]
THRICE – 8/10
Post-hardcore legends Thrice have been quiet for a while now. However, they’re now taking a prime slot on the Zippo Encore stage in the glorious Sunday sun, having released a new single just days ago, so it’s looking like they’re back to chase down the crown. Beginning with a ‘Hurricane’ just as strong and stormy as its title suggests, frontman Dustin Kensrue then puts in an emotive and cathartic performance on classic ‘The Artist In The Ambulance’, before an invigorating ‘Black Honey’ sees sunburnt arms thrust in the air.
New single ‘The Grey’ barely raises a whisper from the crowd, but it’s still early days, and if the rest of Thrice’s new material is as strong as this performance, that elusive crown is almost certainly theirs. [LC]
ALEXISONFIRE – 9/10
They’re playing a sold out Brixton Academy the day after this performance, so it’s no surprise that Alexisonfire arrive on stage with confidence. They’re greeted by some of the loudest cheers of the day, too (even as George Pettitt jokingly shouts “weak”), so it’s evident that they’ve been sorely missed. As soon as the stirring chorus of ‘Young Cardinals’ kicks in, you realise just why that is.
Powering through a setlist packed with bangers, like the bone chilling ‘Boiled Frogs’, and the soaring hook of ‘This Could Be Anywhere In The World’, the entire performance is a solid reminder of what we’ve all been missing since they’ve been away. Nothing is confirmed yet as to whether there’s new music on the cards, but for now, the only band ever are well and truly back. [LC]
RISE AGAINST – 8/10
The unenviable task of closing the stage after that performance is designated to Chicago punks, Rise Against, and the second they plunge into the rousing ‘Satellite’, it’s clear that it’s a task they’re more than suited for. Never ones to shy away from commenting on current issues, vocalist Tim McIlrath raises the matter of mental health early on in the set. “This one’s for Chris (Cornell) and Chester (Bennington),” he says in a moment of poignant sincerity before ‘Survive’.
The likes of ‘Ready To Fall’ and ‘Welcome To The Breakdown’ has revellers pogoing left and right, before huge sing-alongs on ‘Saviour’ and the riotous ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’, the iconic opening riff of which whips the crowd into a frenzy with ease. It’s not easy to follow-up the likes of Alexisonfire and Thrice, and a lesser band may have been overshadowed, but Rise Against take to the challenge and come out shining. [LC]
THE AVALANCHE STAGE:
DREAM STATE – 8/10
Going to watch a band at 11am on a Sunday morning is a nightmare for any festival reveller, but you could do far worse than South Wales five-piece Dream State. Playing through the critically acclaimed ‘Recovery’ EP in its entirety, frontwoman CJ Gilpin leads the sizeable crowd through the anthemic ‘New Waves’, the melodious ‘Solace’, and breakout hit ‘White Lies’, with candidness and aplomb. These guys are getting a lot of hype right now, and they deserve every bit of it. [LC]
PUPPY – 7/10
The crowd shows no signs of dwindling for London metal trio Puppy, and indeed, they’re worth sticking around for. The sharp opening riff of ‘Entombed’ signals their arrival, and there’s plenty of energy on display. Frontman Jock Norton isn’t your traditional metal vocalist, and there’s definitely some experimentation going on here, with glam rock and even grunge influences woven in with metallic riffs, and you get the impression that the band don’t take themselves all that seriously, which only makes them more likeable. [LC]
BAD COP/BAD COP – 6/10
Bad Cop/Bad Cop are the kind of band that probably would’ve been booked on the punk stage at Reading & Leeds Festival a few years ago, but thanks to The Avalanche Stage, Download now has a platform for melodic punk bands old and new. Bad Cop/Bad Cop are a Fat Wreck punk rock band with shared vocals and harmonies that compliment their quick tempo and friendly melodies.
A slower Joan Jett-esque ‘Amputations’ is a slow clap waiting to happen, and the bass picking intro to ‘Warriors’ is melodious punk rock 101 and a treat for the fans who came to see Bad Religion last night. ‘Victoria’ is upbeat and fun despite the distressing lyrics regarding the death of a 13-year-old who. The SoCal band are a breath of fresh air at Download and great fun for the metalheads who’ve crept in to see what happens in the little tents that they’ve just spotted around the arena. [MH]
MILK TEETH – 7/10
With hangovers now well and truly shaken off, Stroud punks Milk Teeth are ready to introduce the crowd to their gritty and grungy sound. The infectious hook of opener ‘Nearby Catfight’ wakes up anyone still sleeping, and from here on out it’s a steady pattern of big beats and even bigger choruses.
Things slow down a little on the the moody ‘Swear Jar’, which has a riff evocative of early Green Day, before the pace picks up again on climactic closer, ‘Owning Your Okayness’. Guitarist Billy Hutton gets so excited that he scales the lighting rig, while vocalist Becky Blomfield is confident and charismatic. Definitely worth a look. [LC]
JAMIE LENMAN – 7/10
Dressed all in white, Jamie Lenman takes to the stage with just a drummer to back him and his guitar up and lifts off with ‘Hell In A Fast Car’, taken from his critically acclaimed sophomore record, ‘Devolver’. It appears that the moustached singer is embracing the heavier side of his repertoire today, with ‘One Of My Eyes Is A Clock’ following shortly after with which Lenman proclaims it to be the heaviest song to be played all weekend.
The sound in the tent is great with just the two of them, especially on the brilliant ‘Personal’, as every layer is captured easily. Back in 2007, Reuben played the main stage at Download, so as a throwback to eleven years ago to the day, ‘Every Time A Teenager Listens To Drum & Bass A Rockstar Dies’ comes out of the locker at The Avalanche Stage before ‘Mississippi’ closes the eleven year anniversary set. Smart and elegant, Lenman adds a bit of class to proceedings, and continues to be admired by this festival. [MH]
A – 9/10
A are back, again! Jason Perry and the band returned to tour with Hell Is For Heroes earlier in the year, and Download have scooped them up ASAP to relive the old days once again since the split back in 2005. This time they’re back with McFly’s Dougie Poynter on bass, who runs around the stage like a ten-week-old puppy, which isn’t probably that necessary, but it’s harmless fun we suppose. Plus, he provides pretty decent ammunition for Perry to make fun of.
‘Bad Idea’ and ‘Monkey Kong’ set the tone with a couple of faster punkier tracks before Perry throws off his poker visor and declares “The next song is shit!” before playing UK number 20 hit single, ‘Starbucks’. The chat between songs is very funny, and Perry entices what he calls an “age appropriate circle pit” – described as being similar to walking football for over 60s as everyone has work tomorrow – which makes ‘I Love Lake Tahoe’ even more enjoyable.
‘Old Folks’ and ‘Nothing’ are perfect to finish the show, and thankfully the band hint at a new tour coming our way at the end of the year. Long live A. [MH]
LESS THAN JAKE – 8/10
Florida ska legends Less Than Jake have been playing Download Festival since 2003, and are still the exciting prospect they were back and have had the songs in the meantime to back it up. The Avalanche Stage sets are relatively short compared to the main stages, so Less Than Jake are hitting bullseye at every opportunity: ‘Sugar In Your Gas Tank’, ‘The Ghost Of Me And You’, and ‘Dopeman’ lead the surge before the circle pit starts for ‘Plastic Cup Politics’.
The onstage antics are still going strong with a toilet roll gun shooting into the crowd, which the band make it known that they had to bring American toilet roll because it flies better than the UK stuff. Ska will live on through the best bands in the genre and there’s no surprise that Less Than Jake are still going strong in 2018 with tracks like ‘Look What Happened’ and ‘The Science Of Selling Yourself Short’. They even announce that they’re back later in the year with lifelong friends Reel Big Fish for a string of co-headline dates that is sure to get the ska fans’ hearts racing.
The standard end of ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ and ‘Gainesville Rock City’ will never get old and, once again, Less Than Jake successfully deliver the set everyone that Download knew they would. Is it predictable? Yeah. Is it great? Sure is. [MH]
MYKE GRAY – 6/10
Hard rockers Skin played Monsters of Rock at Donington in 1994 alongside Aerosmith, Sepultura, and Pantera to name a few, and have been playing reunion tours intermittently since their break-up in 1998, including a slot on third stage at Download back in 2010. The Dogtooth stage welcomes today lead guitarist and songwriter Myke Gray to relive some Skin classics with his band that includes Million Dollar Reload vocalist, Phil Conalane.
It’s certainly an older crowd in the tent, and they’re loving the classic rock tones of ‘House Of Love’ and ‘Take Me Down To The River’ to the extent that Conalane hardly sings any of the choruses throughout the set, and leaves it to everyone else in the room, with ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ in particular getting the biggest reaction. A tidy set from British oldies that highlights the diversity of Download Festival in 2018, and shows that it still definitely appreciates the roots. [MH]
Written by Mike Heath [MH] and Lottie Cook [LC].