Download Festival 2016 - Saturday

Download Festival 2016 - Saturday

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black_sabbath49_website_image_veyl_standard Though still drizzling, it seemed the worst of the rain was over as we awoke on Saturday morning. With an earlier 11am start and a more stacked card of bands, all signs pointed to an even better day at Donington. With a cautious combination of sunglasses, ponchos and boots, we headed out to the Arena determined not to be done over by the weather.

Opening proceedings for us on the Lemmy Stage were Ohio’s own Beartooth [6] who lived up to their reputation as one of the heaviest ‘commercial’ bands here. Playing a brand of metalcore-to-its-limits, the group got a huge reaction with the cameras frequently turning to the group of lobsters scuttling around the circle pits. Although the vocalist’s voice felt a little strained, this was still a bang on start to the day.

Whatever they’ve put in the water down in Brighton, Black Peaks’ [8] diet of that magic liquid: Tool, Mastodon and hardcore, has seen them create something of a monster in debut album Statues. Their stock has been steadily rising since its release and here the band is in their element. Vocalist Will Gardner draws in the eye, his multi-faceted approach constantly sprinkling new flavours across their songs, Glass Built Castles, Say You Will and Saviour juxtaposing carpet bomb riffs with tranquil dynamic lows and searing, instantly engaging choruses. One of the best new bands out there.

 

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Turbowolf [7] epitomise the fun of festivals with their set, encouraging the crowd to create a massive conga line which snakes around the tent. With hip shaking grooves and an all round silliness, songs like Rabbit’s Foot and Solid Gold make time fly by.

Back on the Main Stage, Atreyu [8] proved that they’re a retro band still worth their salt. There was palpable energy in the air and though singer Alex claimed ‘they would have been rich had they written [You Give Love a Bad Name]’, this set proved money isn’t all that – these guys are just fun personified. Crowd interaction is second nature to the Californians too, with the bassist jumping into the pit himself during the final song to lift this feel-good performance to new heights. The perfect mid-afternoon set.

Latest album Polaris had emphasised the weaknesses in Tesseract’s [6] musical fortress. Utilising modern technology, there isn’t even any amps on the stage and the sounds that come out of the PA are identical to their records. It all feels too machine like, the human touch dead and gone. I mean, as much as it is often a painful experience I’d still rather order my Big Mac through a snotty nosed fellow who has more flakes of dandruff on his shirt than he does brain cells than I would order through a computer. So why should music be any different? When the heavy riffs are interspersed between their dreamlike moments of lucidity, the expected impact is non-existent, it just feels so bland.

Bury Tomorrow [3] waltzed on stage to the sounds of the Champions League theme tune, but in truth their set couldn’t have been any less champion. It provided the most substantial highlight of the next 40 minutes. Memories, underpinned by all your least favourite elements of your least favourite metalcore bands, is iced with possibly the weakest chorus I have ever heard, and guitarist/vocalist James Cameron not hitting any of his intended notes didn’t help either. The worrying thing was that it represented their best chorus by far and as time drew to a stand still my head sunk deeper and deeper into the palms of my hands which, as it happens, were far more interesting.

Have you ever spent half an hour trying to eat soup with a fork? Did it actually take four hours? That’s what this felt like. I’m still wondering how you can spend time crafting a chorus, have it turn out this bad and then build a whole song around it.

As much as I love them, Megadeth [8] aren’t really a punishing live force these days. Dave Mustaine isn’t getting any younger and they often feel a little ragged, but today something was different. It took them the course of opener Hangar 18 to get any sound issues ironed out, but with Kiko Loureiro and Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren in the band they feel much more solid. Sweating Bullets is played tongue-in-cheek and Peace Sells gets the crowd in full voice. Mustaine even proves he’s a nice guy nowadays by inviting former bitter rival Nikki Sixx on stage for a baffling but admittedly enjoyable run through Anarchy In The UK.

 

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And here comes Triple H to accept the ‘Spirit of Lemmy Award’. He probably got it just because he was, well, there anyway, but he was a close friend of the guy and it was great to see him and his mountain-like biceps in the flesh. He cut a rousing promo which (thankfully) didn’t go on quite as long as an opening Raw segment. Cool!

Whilst we cooled off from being in the presence of the three H’s, Deftones [8] hit the stage to remind us that slow, atmospheric, moody music can be cool too. But not before they played Rocket Skates – which saw Chino go absolutely insane. For a moment, I was sure the rain on his shirt was sweat as he ran around the stage in true ‘spruce’ Bruce Dickinson fashion, screaming Guns! Razors! Knives! at us like we’d threatened his family. As the set went on, the pace slowed considerably, their performance growing into the drizzle and the lightshow keeping us captivated alongside Chino’s croons. Carpenter’s guitar tone was on point, as always. As the last notes of Change rang out, we opted for a change of our own and headed to the Fourth Stage for the first time.

Armed with a recently appointed second guitarist and after four years away from the UK, Municipal Waste were on fire. ‘Awh, you missed us!’ shouts Tony Foresta mid-set, and everyone in the tent seems to have – a lot. The sound quality was absolutely spot on as the Waste tore through classics like Terror Shark, The Thrashing of the Christ and Headbanger Face Rip and injected some comedy with I Want To Kill Donald Trump (Here, here). They closed the show with a rousing rendition of Born to Party which left everyone singing ‘Municipal Waste is Gonna Fuck You Up!’ long after the band had finished playing, people spilling out of the tent singing and full of smiles. Absolutely fucking brilliant [10]

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As soon as that first evil devil’s triad that the title track from their inimitable first album hinges off rung out over the muddy fields, you knew Black Sabbath [9] were not going to disappoint. The respect the entire crowd felt for the band was weightier than Axl Rose’s shopping trolley, the aura they exhumed belonging to a band that we all owe so much. The thing is, they feel indebted to us too and they seem genuinely excited to be here and that, after all these years, people still care about the noise they make. Of which, when you have the likes of Fairies Wear Boots, Snowblind and Into The Void in your arsenal, it is easy to see why the band hasn’t dated and why they still remain firmly within our hearts. Ozzy still remains a delight to witness on stage, even if he shuffles about like a Grandma at Sunday dinner – “have you got enough peas Philip?” – and Tony Iommi deservingly hears his name chanted across the night. There were no gimmicks apart from the flames that danced on top of the rows and rows of amps, no real surprises. You get what you get with Black Sabbath and what you get is a barrage of killer songs played with aplomb. But when you’re a band of this quality and fibre, you simply don’t need ‘em. Dirty Women is pleasantly interesting, N.I.B forever scintillating.

Overall then, it was a great honour to see Sabbath’s festival career come to an end here at Download. No, Ozzy’s voice wasn’t perfect, the drum solo did go on a bit, and the rain wasn’t ideal but Sabbath proved that, above everything else, they’re a great fucking rock and roll band who command a stage like few others. There’s no feeling quite like the one at the end of Paranoid when the confetti falls: this time, it was just a little more special.

Words: Ben Armstrong & Phil Weller

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