Friday 14th to Sunday 16th June 2013
Donington Park, Derbyshire, DE74 2RP, England
Review by Connor Flello
Many people forget that Download is not just a metal festival, it’s an alternative festival. It tries to incorporate bands who have never played in that type of environment before, such as The Hives, 30 Seconds to Mars and The Gaslight Anthem. 2013 was the biggest year for incorporating more alternative acts from last year’s more controversial line up with Chase & Status, but how did it all go?
One of the first bands I was able to see was Korn, and being the kings of Nu-Metal they did not disappoint. Playing old hits such as “Blind”, “Shoots and Ladders” to the later material from The Path of Totality album that divided fan opinion. But the response was just as overwhelming with sweaty bodies almost flying everywhere. In The Pepsi Max stage, when a whole tent jumps you know shit’s about to go down, and Motionless In White almost bathed in the craziness.
Chris Motionless jumped around the stage effortlessly Bullet For My Valentine have been going downhill since the release of their first album, and let’s be honest. Temper Trap is awful. Hearing BFMV live was almost as depressing, with the sound getting muddy with overpowering drums and undermining Matt Tucks vocals, which were gradually improved towards the end. One of the most theatrical, hate fuelled bands on the line up were relentless.
Slipknot pulled the stops to show that they’re still one of the world’s biggest rock bands. The fact that this was the first time they played Donnington without Paul Gray made it twice as emotional, with Corey Taylor dedicating “Duality” to him. Throughout the songs, the use of hydraulic platforms were used and even the barriers broke twice, to which Corey responded “We have to stop playing as you guys managed to break the barriers. You crazy motherfuckers”.
Old school rock and roll is making a return, and UFO are one of the big names of the 70’s, who started the day on the main stage. It seemed rather out of place for them, being a band of a heavily blues influence opening a stage. But the band lacked energy and any sort of charisma, which left the crowd to be rather disappointed before “Doctor Doctor” made an appearance.
On the Second stage, I Divide were up. Supporting the south west’s metal scene, these guys had a lot to offer but the performance seemed like they didn’t really care. Vocalist Tom Kavanagh was the one jumping around the stage to the post hardcore sound whilst the others just stayed still, either because of nerves or because it was too early and they couldn’t be bothered. Just keep jigging, just keep jigging.
The sounds of a mandolin at Download stuck out like a sore thumb then Crowns took on the Pepsi Max stage. The band, being out of context with its rock fuelled folk, was enjoyed by many people alike for some of the best dancing experience at Download. Credit is given to where it’s deserved, and with Scott Gornham and Black Star Riders everyone wanted to hear the new material off their debut album. The first few songs sounded amazing, but then the band suddenly reduced itself to nothing more than a tribute band to Thin Lizzy, covering all their best hits. Not something we really wanted to hear when there’s new material on the horizon.
The afternoon took a much more progressive/grunge turn with Mastodon and Alice in Chains on, and at this time the crowd seemed exhausted. Mastodon were saved due to their virtuoso playing, whereas Alice in Chains brought an extremely sluggish set. Even tracks off their latest album “The Devil put Dinosaurs Here” failed to impress. Many people claim that Motorhead have passed their prime and have reduced themselves to a touring act and not that great live. But the energy they harnessed was fantastic by delving into their back catalogue and finishing off to their anthem “Ace of Spades”. It was the perfect wake up call.
Queens of The Stone Age almost reduced that momentum to a slow haul, playing all their faster upbeat tracks but playing far too slow music for the fans who wanted a bit of action after the volatile mosh pits that Motorhead conjured.
Opting to see Enter Shikari instead with a wave of electronic/rock/dubstep mash up made them an electrifying performance, with Rou Reynolds encouraging the audience to “Use your minds, because once you stop thinking, someone else will do the thinking for you”. However, not all of it was political tomfoolery as Rory got a one direction birthday cake from the band, which he proceeded to throw into the audience, to the cries of “Ungrateful little fuck, we baked that all day for you!” from Rou.
Saturday night’s headliners seemed to follow a close theme, they were all somewhat theatrical and Iron Maiden certainly topped the list. But even blasting through their hits of “The Trooper”, “Aces High” and “Number of the Beast”, Bruce Dickinson’s vocals didn’t seem up to scratch, and his need to keep shouting “Scream for me Download” suddenly got repetitive and annoying, just like how inactive the crowd was. But that didn’t stop them from pulling off one hell of a set with costumes and pyrotechnics thrown in left right and centre for an entertaining set.
Sunday was a day where it was clashes galore to some fantastic bands playing. Coal Chamber were one of the first bands I got around to seeing, but their sound was designed to be for a more intimate setting, and not a large festival which belittled their sound. But that didn’t stop the band from building up momentum for what would happen at Five Finger Death Punch.
After making a quick escape to see The Ghost Inside on the second stage, it’s no wonder why they’re rising stars. Playing tracks from ‘Get What You Give’ to an audience that wanted to go wild in the morning, they got exactly what they deserved (no pun intended).
Five Finger Death Punch played a blistering set on the main stage. Although the guitar and drums were struggling sound wise at the beginning of the set, it eventually became one of the best sets witnessed at the festival. When you thought the set couldn’t get any better, vocalist Ivan Moody brought along his kids to head bang on stage. That alone was something that couldn’t be topped all afternoon.
Parkway Drive then showed up and decided to put almost every other band to shame. Atlas is a phenomenal album, but when playing live they take everything a notch up. Better playing, extreme circle pits and a force not to be reckoned with.
Now its appearance numero dos by Slipknot’s frontman Corey Taylor with Slipknot, but Stone Sour seemed to be an mix of Slipknot vocals and a soft rock touch to the instruments, creating little musical diversity. On the albums it sounds entirely different, with The House of Gold and Bones being a brilliant double album, but live it didn’t seem to live up to the hype. Swapping to and fro the second stage, Ghost absolutely nailed the sound.
Everything just sounded perfect from the haunting music to the atmosphere the band create in its anonymous costumed theatrics. But thanks to Airbourne, that atmosphere is pulverized into one pulsating ball of Rock n Roll that got so loud to the point they blew up a speaker. Now THAT is something that should happen more at rock festivals.
On the main stage, Download opted for the alternate sound with 30 Seconds to Mars. And Jared Leto was the only member of that band to have any screen time dedicated on him alone as his band looked on being bored to tears. He attempted to engage in crowd interaction but it was to no avail, as most people just laughed at him or defied his requests.
If you want a pure rock act, Limp Bizkit were the band to do it. Playing to a crowd who solely wanted to bounce to “Rollin’”, “Nookie” and “Break Stuff” made them by far one of the best crowds of the festival. Extra credit goes to Fred Durst who damaged his back just before Download and was still able to make it at the last minute. Although he does need to shave – he looks like a homeless Bruce Willis…
On the Jagermeister stage were one of the UK’s rising Sonic Boom Six; a band who decimated the genre barrier more than Enter Shikari with a more hip-hop influence over the rock. Halfway during the set, Laila K commented “This song sounds like Limp Bizkit” before heading into what sounded like a much better version of ‘Rollin’”, which would have undoubtedly made Mr Durst’s back better.
With their only UK festival booked this year, Rammstein were set to tear the world apart. Fireworks, unlimited pyrotechnics, bondage equipment and an inflatable penis which shot out confetti semen added to the bands over the top reputation, but considering how heavy they sounded I was quite surprised that the festival itself didn’t collapse into mayhem.
Download is indeed an alternative festival but it needs to mix and match a bit better.
There were bands who seemed out of place (The Gaslight Anthem) to some of the very founders of a genre (Slipknot, Korn) but it’s not just the bands that count into making Download a prestigious festival.
It’s all the personal experiences, the overpriced food and the weird and wacky people you can bump into that makes this festival truly unforgettable.