Download 2019 - Saturday
DOWNLOAD 2019 - SATURDAY
We join Download festival with the worst of the rain behind us, but some of the best acts ahead of us.
Words: Phil Weller
With one of Download's strongest line-ups in recent years, it only made sense for the weather Gods to stick an oar in and leave those who arrived on the Wednesday and Thursday piss wet through. But it will take more than that to dampen a Downloader's spirits and the sun is pleasantly shining, the sound of Royal Republic's joyous boogie Tommy Gun drifting towards us on the breeze as MR begins its Download adventure on the Saturday.
Weaving together enviable technicality and deceptively catchy melodies despite their mathematic silliness, Animals As Leaders are a band whose success defies the norm. Here, performing in front of a healthy crowd, their bewildering but brilliant instrumental chaos is soaked up with awe. From the scattershot riffs if Arithmaphobia and closing track CAFO's driving thrash riffs and spindrical tapped guitar passages, this incredibly niche band is a well-deserved finding popularity in broad reaches.
Polish black metallers Behemoth, here flying the flag for extreme metal on the main stage at Donnington, probably haven't played to many crowds bigger than this, especially with so many ears their sonic rapture was gracing in the late afternoon heat being new to their music. Through fire, might and a deadly arsenal of songs, they do everything in their power to sieze the moment. Conquer All sounds like an anthemic apocalypse whilst Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel is a blackened juxtaposition to the sunshine bleeding through the clouds; a stunning spectacle to witness.
Trivium, over their past few albums, have been consistently solid and respectable if never truly ground-breaking and this set affirms their status as such. Matt Heafy has developed into one of the best metal vocalists of his generation and the band's penchant for punchy, gritty grooves together make their set impressive enough, but not much more. Down From The Sky and Heart From Your Hate are a great one-two that parade everything likable about the band, whilst closer In Waves is a perfect crowd pleaser to sign off with.
Download, not for the first time, has booked a real curveball in Die Antwoord's Slipknot warm up slot and oh how metal elitists moaned. Looking at the stage, populated by large video screens, a DJ and the rapper duo of Ninja and Yolandi Visser, the lack of any actual instruments on stage would have sent those elitist’s blood pressure through the roof. Ultimately, it was the divisive set it was always going to be. Half the crowd, those up close, never stop jumping, feeding off and feeding into the duo's endless energy, the other half - which includes MR - stands on dumfounded and a little irritated. Musical preferences aside, this felt like a glorified karaoke more than anything else and so we stepped away. No complaints; there are plenty here well into it, for those who weren't, there were plenty more stages and bars to keep you entertained.
Always ones to bring death metal fun to any equation, Liverpudlian legends Carcass were once more a smile-inducing riff machine that had the Dogtooth stage packed and energised. Rifling through their tracks with pointed aggression and precision, frontman Jeff Walker cynically moans that "you're only in this tent 'cause it's f**king raining," but it's bone dry outside and the packed out tent is testament to the band's standing and live prowess.
They may have overhyped their new masks - Corey Taylor's especially, looking like a clear plastic bag with a lumpy chin - and their core members have been dropping like flies for years now, but Slipknot still know how to put on a live show. Their stage set up, with two massive keg 'drum' kits on runway platforms flanking the rest of the band and massive screens towering above them, their presence and merciless set list make their fourth headline slot at Download one of their best. Supporting The Gray Chapter back in 2015, their impenetrable edge seemed blunted, their new material simply not savage enough to rip your face off compared to the tracks of old, but four years later, with their next batch of singles All Out Life and Unsainted, they seem re-energised, reinvigorated and extra pissed off. There's no better way to affirm this than by launching straight into their venomous hate anthem People = Shit and a frantic, bulldozing rendition of Get This, the 70,000 strong crowd a sea of movement before them.
From there, there is absolutely no let up, the polish of their contemporary age well balanced with the brutality of their past. Psychosocial and Before I Forget, two career defining songs, are bellowed out in gigantean fashion whilst The Devil and I sounds fiester than ever before. On that. Taylor's voice sounds simply divine amidst such a hellish backdrop before Custer finds guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson in incendiary form.
The Iowan nine piece are at the stage of their career now where they can unleash a setlist as unrelenting as this, such is the extent and depth of material they have to pick from, and with their new record they seem to have rediscovered their mojo after a slightly more sedated headline performance last time out. Tonight though, they are untouchable and it feels oh so good to have the Slipknot that earnt a place at the metal elites table back and hungry for more.