Monday, 15 June 2015

Review - Download Festival 2015

The 2015 installment of the Download Festival has finished and been consigned to the history books. After declaring I would do no festivals in 2015, I was certain I wouldn’t be there. But, much like Download 2014, there eventually was enough there to get me there for the whole weekend. Once again, I stayed in a hotel for the weekend which I have to say, based on the weather over the weekend, I was very happy about. The organisers of Download handled the arena the best they possibly could after the rain. It wasn’t as bad as it was in 2012 that is for sure. The problem is that there is nothing they can really do – they can try to manage the arena after the rain has happened but if there is even a little bit of rain, it will cause an issue somewhere in the arena due to the sheer number of people there. It just so happened there was quite a lot of rain and that meant that certain parts of the arena were quite challenging to walk through, even wearing wellies. Still, like I said, there is nothing really the organisers can do once the rain has started and I think they did all they could. Another talking point for this festival was the fact that it was entirely cashless (which did make me wonder why there was someone trying to flog programs in the queue to get in the arena for Weekend Arena Only ticket holders – none of us had access to our money yet!). I read there were some initial teething problems which sucks for the people it affected, but from a personal stand point, it was great. The first thing I did after getting my wristband was go and test to see if it was working by buying a bottle of water, and it worked fine. The only time there was even the slightest bit of an issue with it was when I didn’t press the tag against the reader properly – when that is the biggest issue I faced with the cashless system over the weekend, I consider it a success. Right then, I’m going to start my review of the weekend, appropriately, with Friday. Scores are out of 10, which is a sensible way to do it I think.


I arrived to the arena a fair bit after doors after reading online reports that there were massive queues for Weekend Arena Only ticket holders. I figured there was no point rushing down as the first band I really wanted to see weren’t on until half 2. However, I arrived to Download after At The Gates started and then missed them as there was still a queue when I arrived at 14.45. That was a bit annoying but not the end of the world as I saw them on their headline tour last year (and they were a late addition to the bill). The first band I saw were Lacuna Coil (7) who were a really good way to kick off the festival. What the set reminded me, more than anything, is that I’ve only listened to their latest album once and I really ought to revisit it. Following them on the main stage was Clutch (10), who aside from Slipknot were the band I was looking forward to the most on the Friday, and they just smashed it. They looked totally comfortable on that big stage which was great to see, and this set pretty much had everything I wanted from it. They played one new song from their upcoming album, which was very good and gives me high hopes about the rest of the new album. They are on tour towards the end of the year and I am very tempted to go and see them in London on the basis of how good they were here. After Clutch finished, I headed off the second stage to watch Corrosion of Conformity (7), a band I don’t know an awful lot about other than the fact they played at the same time as Five Finger Death Punch, which made them all the more appealing. It just so happened that they were really very good. I only know two songs of theirs really, and they played them both, so I was happy. I stuck around the second stage to catch a bit of Thunder (6) and by a bit, I mean 2 songs. Hey, they started well!

I left Thunder early because I didn’t want to miss any of Judas Priest (10), and based on how good they were, that was a good decision. I’ve seen them live a few times now and they have just been excellent every time. It was nice to hear Rob Halford actually sing ‘Breaking The Law’ as well (the last couple of times I’ve seen them, he has let the crowd sing the whole lot). After they finished, I ducked back round to the second stage to watch that stages headliner, Black Stone Cherry (8). They had some technical difficulties and it was really raining at this point (they opened with Rain Wizard, which was appropriate) but they were still great. I didn’t watch the whole set as I wanted to watch all of the main stage headliner, but I enjoyed what I did see. The new song, Roadrunner, sounded very good. I’m not sure if it was from an upcoming album or whether it was one cut from their album released last year, but either way, I liked it. At Download 2013, I watched Black Stone Cherry over Slipknot. This time around, I watched all of Slipknot (10) and after their set, I was very glad I did. I would say they were better earlier in the year at Wembley Arena, but that is hardly a criticism as they were just stunning that night. I’m not a big fan of Killpop from their latest album, which they played, but I really like AOV and was pleased to hear that getting a live airing. They were an ace way to end the first day at Donington.


Same story as the day before, I had planned to be in at 11 but got there for about half past. First band of the day for me as Funeral For A Friend (6). Hey, remember when they sub-headlined the festival in 2006? What happened there? (I’m not being insulting, I really don’t know). Anyway, they were good. I headed to the second stage after them for Malefice (6), a band I hadn’t seen in a good few years. I liked their set. I think I would have enjoyed them more if they had longer than the 25 minute set they had, but no matter. I stuck around for Apocalyptica (4). I’ve somewhat soured on them since Wacken last year, through no fault of theirs. However, I only saw two songs which is why the score is so low. However, the score is also that low because during the first song, a singer came out which lead me to ask “when did they get a singer?!” – always up to date me. I had no idea what the song was and thought it was okay. The second song was ‘I’m Not Jesus’, a song I love…when Corey Taylor is singing. Hey, nothing against the singer they have, but Corey Taylor he is not. They announced their next one would be another one I didn’t know and I moved back to main stage.

I saw Hollywood Undead (8) for a short while in 2011 when I came to Download for the day. I liked what I saw then but in all honesty have just not kept up with them. I decided to see them again and they didn’t let me down. There was one moment I thought a band member was miming during ‘Undead’ (the vocal level just sounded so perfect with the backing tape every time), but that aside, they had a great set. After they finished, I popped over to the 3rd stage to watch Upon A Burning Body (7). I’ll be honest, I went to see them hoping Ice T would come out with them for ‘Turn Down For What’. They did the song with Ice T’s parts on a tape – shame. The rest of their set was decent though. I took the long walk back to second for thrash metal legends Testament (9). They only had 30 mins so blasted through 6 of their songs, including a back to back old school offering of ‘Practice What You Preach’ and ‘Into The Pit’. They are another band that would be much better with a longer set but they made the very best of what they had and then some. Carcass (7) were up next and although I didn’t see their whole set, I really liked what I did see. I missed the end of their set as the remainder of the day on the main stage was one of the main reasons I bought a weekend ticket as opposed to just a Sunday ticket.

I think I missed the first song of Rise Against (8), but saw the rest of the set and they were great. I think they look completely comfortable on that big festival stage. I was hoping, like at Reading 2011, they might cover The Clash’s ‘White Riot’ as they do a blinding job of that, but not to be. After them followed my non-headliner set of the weekend – A Day To Remember (10). Hell, it was just nice to see them without someone throwing themselves off a balcony this time (I had my eye on the cider house occasionally, just in case) (Should probably point out, I was at the Portsmouth gig that got cut short because someone jumped off the balcony). They were just fantastic. They have the songs, they have the stage presence and are putting together a bit of a stage show as well. As they announced their last song, there were quite a lot of people down the front chanting “10 more songs” – if they continue their trajectory (which is only heading up), they could well headline Download one day. I’d like to see that happen. A very close joint second in terms of non-headliner sets of the weekend were the next band on after ADTR and that is Faith No More (10). Look, if you read my BST review you will see I wrote off their poor sound that day to it being an open air gig. This was an open air gig, and the sound was top notch – so basically I am now retracting that. I enjoyed the shit out of this set, and loved the stuff from the new album. Mike Patton is just brilliant when you give him a microphone and let him talk. If they had been the headliner of the Saturday, I would have been fine with that. However, they weren’t. The headliner was Muse (10), headlining at Donington for the first time, and what a first time it was! My band of the weekend was Muse, and that was because they just smashed it. When discussing the set afterwards, the phrase I said more than once was “fucking hell….that was good!”. I’m not sure Muse are capable of having a bad show in all honesty. The new album songs sounded brilliant live and the classics were…well, classic! I had hoped to hear Feeling Good in the set list but I can completely understand why they dropped it (Download may not be a metal festival, but there are a lot of people that think it is). I was blown away by how good they were anyway when they went off for the encore. I had seen the encore for a previous gig was Uprising, Starlight and Knights of Cydonia – which is a damn fine encore. However, for Download, they dropped Starlight and replaced it with Plug In Baby – I was ecstatic with that as it is one of my favourite Muse songs. I could sit here and gush more about how good Muse were…and it is a little bit tempting. But I will leave it there. Muse fucking rocked!


I made it to the arena on time! I wanted to be there on time to catch Sirens In The Delta (8) who were on first on the 4th stage and they had a great set. I can highly recommend them. After them, I headed over to the second stage to watch H.E.A.T (7) who I thought had a decent set. They reminded me a bit of Edguy at times, which is never a bad thing. Following them I caught the first 3 songs of the Von-Hertzen Brothers (7) who I really like live. Helpfully, in those 3 songs, they played two of my favourites which made me happy. I would have stuck around for the whole set but I wanted to watch Evil Scarecrow (9) on the third stage. Leaving early to go and see them was a great call as their set was excellent. Synchronised robot dancing, throwing grass/hay/mud etc in the air to make up for a lack of pyro and several thousand crab hands in the air for Crabulon were the best parts of their set. They were just a lot of fun.

I headed off to the main stage where I spent pretty much the rest of the day. Kicking off that run was Tremonti (6). They had a good set. I had meant to check them out before the festival, but I didn’t (don’t remember why now). As a result, I only knew the last song they played but no matter. They were good regardless of me not knowing what was going on. Blackberry Smoke (6) were up next and they also had a good set. I think I would have enjoyed them more and got into their set more had the sun been out, but it wasn’t and I didn’t. They were good, and their score not being higher than 6 is purely because I couldn’t get into it more. Up next after them was Billy Idol (8) who had a really good set. It stopped raining for his set which was nice (apparently when he last played, just as he came out on stage, it absolutely battered it down). It was great to hear some of his bigger hits live as I’d not seen him before. There were quite a few good sing-alongs in his set, and it was good to hear a couple of nods to his Generation X days. After Idol, it was Slash (9). Slash and his band had an excellent set. It was just over half original material and the rest covers of some of Slash’s previous work. I like hearing GNR material live, and it is cool to see Slash playing on them, but Axl Rose has a distinct voice, and no-one I have seen cover their stuff comes close to seeing Axl sing them (seeing GNR in 2012 was just amazing because Axl was just on near perfect form that night). Anyway, I don’t want to take away from what Myles Kennedy did, as he did an excellent job, and it was cool to see him in the undisputed front man role, as opposed to with Alter Bridge when he is limited by what he can do because he has a guitar with him.

After Slash, I popped over to the second stage for the last time to watch a bit of In Flames (7). I wasn’t there for the whole set as I wanted to get back to the main stage again, but what I saw was really good and I reckon I would have given them a higher score had I watched the whole thing. On reflection, I wish I had. After them I headed back to the main stage for Motley Crue (5). I had my doubts going into this set after being disappointed at Sonisphere 2010. Now, I feel like I should explain that score. The stage show was ace, a lot of pyro, explosions, fireworks etc. Motley Crue know how to do a stage show right. The instrumentals were really good. I would have given them a much higher score had it not been for Vince Neil. Much like at Sonisphere 2010, his voice was not great. Motley Crue are splitting up at the end of the year and I can’t help but wonder if it is because he has been past his best for some time. I am pleased I got to see Motley Crue in 2007 when they had a phenomenal set at Download, but this was not close to that. I couldn’t get past how bad he sounded on some of those songs. It was a real shame as I had hoped I could come away from the set saying how much I enjoyed it, but not to be. The main event of the day was up next, and I have to say that KISS (10) did not disappoint. I would say Paul Stanley’s voice is starting to lose some of its power and that was obvious on a few of the songs, but it wasn’t awful and didn’t take away too much from the set for me. The show was really cool I thought and overall, I would say it was just brilliant. Paul Stanley getting on a harness and flying out over the crowd was ace. The end of their set was met with a massive fireworks show which signed off Download for another year. It really was a great festival.

Bands of the festival in alphabetical order – A Day To Remember, Clutch, Faith No More, Judas Priest, Muse, Slipknot.

Until next time Donington! When that will be, I don’t know. Last year I said no festivals in 2015 and that didn’t pan out, obviously. So for now, it is a wait and see.