Back in full swing for it’s twelfth year, Download Festival once again brought people from across the world to Donington Park in Derbyshire for a weekend of brilliant live music that even the weather couldn’t spoil (more about that later!). And the bands themselves? Well, read on to see what Elliott and Ant thought
It’s an absolute scorcher on Friday 13th. No, really – after the rain that usually occurs this year it tops 25 degrees, quite incredibly. Unlucky for the punters who get burnt to a crisp…For the people who brave standing in the heat at the Jagermeister Acoustic Stage, they witness a couple of great sets in the shape of Mia Klose (8) and The Mercy House (7) – the former is a Swedish firecracker with enough gusto and voice to give any frontwoman a run for their money, whilst the latter play heavy rock and somehow translate that heaviness into an acoustic front. In between them on the Red Bull stage, though, are They Say Fall (8), who rose through the Red Bull Studio competition to finish top of the voting on both occasions and therefore earned the right to be the first of the eight bands to play the festival – and in the space of half an hour they prove why they ended up at the top. Guitarists Brad Bishell and Kyle Leeman have incredible screams on them, with the pair backed up beautifully by Tom Manning on bass and Joseph Sleight on drums and led from the front by Kehn Gembalczyk, a guy already building up a prescence resembling Oli Sykes and Austin Dickinson. Definitely a band to watch for the future.
Over on the Pepsi Max stage, Turbowolf (7) play to the advantage of the hot weather by turning the tent into a haze of psychedelic heaviness. The boys from Bristol are fast becoming one of the country’s top live bands and they proved it again.
The Main Stage this year is the Stephen Sutton Stage after the teenage cancer hero who sadly lost his life this year to the disease. After Miss May I play a set to very good reviews from what was bounced around in the press area Crossfaith (9) are here knowing full well they’re probably the best metal band to come out of Japan EVER. That’s not even a lie, they’re on the Main Stage for a reason and they utterly smash it. It’s the biggest stage they’ve ever played in this part of the world and they make it count. It’s something that Powerman 5000 (6) wouldn’t have been able to deal with even when on form – and today they’re not, singer Spider One sounds like his voice will give out at any second and their early 00’s brand of rock has NOT aged well in the slightest.
Skindred (8) can always be relied on to put on a great show and the momentum is brought back up when the band mastermind a superb heavy metal ‘Harlem Shake’ before the now-standard finishing double salvo of ‘Warning’ and the Newport Helicopter. And to round off a pretty horrible days for the brothers Cummings.
Within Temptation  were the first band I managed to watch most of after finishing a load of interviews. As I expected they were unable to use their full stage set but they were able to use the video screens and plenty of flames and CO2 jets to put on a good show. The Dutch band have grown in popularity rapidly in the last few months, and sold out their tour of academy venues including a date at Wembley Arena. The band sounded great – nice and clear with plenty of power, and Sharon’s vocals sounded beautiful. The only weak point was the taped vocals from Tarja that play during “Paradise (What about us)” to duet with Sharon – Tarja’s vocals were far too quiet. Other than that it was a superb set and I was gutted that a clash with Huntress meant I had to leave before they finished.
On the Red Bull stage, Huntress  were playing for the second year in a row and had a large crowd. The band came out and started to play, and showed that this is a proper metal band, before singer Jill Janus came out and started the vocals. She’s got a very unusual vocal style – she sings in such a way that it sounds like different people singing at different times, so you can get some really interesting sounds. Most bands use multiple singers to achieve what Jill’s versatile voice can do, but her party piece has to be the screams – I have no idea how she can scream for so long on one breath, but it sounds amazing. Tonight’s set includes songs from both the band’s albums including the song co-written with Lemmy (I want to fuck you to death) and the debut single, Eight of swords. A superb set and much as I hated missing the end of Within Temptation, it was worth it to see Huntress.
Rob Zombie (5) fails to ignite what everyone had hoped would be a bombastic show of pomp and circumstance. Instead of the huge pyro-fests we’ve grown used to, we merely get a few large images of famous horror monsters and a couple of inflatable coloured balls during Sick Bubblegum. Like his sibling in Powerman 5000, Rob sounds a little weak today and seems more content on complaining about playing in the sunshine than anything else. He still has a huge prescence when stomping around but it never gets off the floor. Considering what happens afterwards, it’s a huge disappointment and almost embarrassing.
In contrast to Elliott, I enjoyed Rob Zombie‘s set. It’s unrealistic to expect the full stage show when he’s not headlining, so the screens plus the mic stands were about what I expected. Rather than just stay on stage or head out on the catwalk towards the crowd, Rob Zombie was one of the few performers to get down from the stage and get up close and personal with the fans (and lets face it, at a festival like this you can be a long way from the stage even if you’re on the barrier). I enjoyed his set and the crowd around me were loving it, so I’d give him an  for this set.
On the Red Bull stage, Battlecross  were blowing away the crowds with a great heavy performance. They’d been here earlier in the year with Trivium and Killswitch engage, and judging by the number of people watching them, they’d clearly made a lot of fans on that tour.
Tyketto  were next up on the Red Bull stage and drew a very different crowd, rapidly filling the tent with AOR and melodic rock fans while the thrashers headed elsewhere. Tyketto are a band I’ve seen several times and they never put in a weak performance – they’re always superb, and Danny Vaughn not only possesses a great voice, but is a great frontman, and has the crowd singing along to almsot very song. It’s a superb performance and one that leaves me wondering why they weren’t headlining the Red Bull stage, a thought that only grew once Dan Reed Network  came on. Dan Reed Network are a great band and thoroughly enjoyed their set, but they suffered by following Tyketto as that party singalong atmosphere that Tyketto had just can’t be beaten.