Download – 10 June 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson and Jonni D   
Saturday, 24 June 2017 04:30

With the first day of Download Festival 2017 coming off a huge success with the comeback of one of modern metal’s biggest names, it was eyes on the prize for day two. This fact is all the more apparent when you consider that after over a decade of playing at Donington Park, Biffy Clyro finally got their shot at (arguably) the biggest slot of the weekend, headlining the Main Stage.


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While much ado is made about the festival headliners of yesterday heading off into the sunset for a final time, it feels vital that bands like Biffy be given their chance to shine, especially when (like Biffy) they’re able to pull in arena crowds for entire UK tours and nab Number 1 spots in the UK album charts. But, while Biffy might be the big story of the day, first up for Über Rock is Hacktivist, giving Download a howling rappy tech-metal wake up call…


Despite the 11am opening slot, by the time Hacktivist take to the Main Stage there’s a decent sized crowd ready for their hybrid style of rap and tech metal. And it continues to grow throughout the set. It’s easy to see why the passers-by are drawn in; songs like ‘Over-Throne’ and ‘False Idols’ sound huge thanks to a great sound mix, a miracle for such an early start time. Hacktivist are also simply incredibly fun to watch – new vocalist Jot Maxi styled to the nü metal max, and guitarist Timfy looking gloriously ridiculous in matching Donald Duck shirt and shorts combo.


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Rapper Jermaine Hurley’s interactions with the crowd bears just the right level of political charge regarding recent events, as would be expected from a band whose lyrics are so thematically steeped in issues of social justice. It works surprisingly well given the more eccentric aspects of their onstage image. Based on the strength of the performance and the vociferous crowd approval, it seems likely that Hacktivist earned a significant number of followers that day. (JD)


Across the field, Tax The Heat are providing a heavy rock wake-up call of their very own. Clearly in their element in the glorious morning sun, the band ply a vein of classic rock torn right from the teat of acts like Black Crowes. Equally comfortable to watch as a gentle warm-up or as the first party band of the day, there’s no denying that bands like Tax The Heat live for stages and shows like this. The only thing holding the band back at this point is a lack of true-blue anthems, but there’s still plenty of time. Their music brimming with southern sunshine groove and smooth rock styling, Tax The Heat offer a pleasing soundtrack to kick off the day. (RH)


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Next up are the first bona fide make or break band of the weekend, the mighty Creeper taking up a prime slot at mid-day on Main Stage. Having earned some massive hype over the past 12 months in the build-up to the release of their debut album, ‘Eternity In our Arms’, the band seem to have struck the perfect balance between gothic imagery and punk aesthetics for an pleasingly ear-tingling sensation – a fact which clearly hasn’t been lost on the amassed crowd.


Playing to a sizable audience, Creeper pull out all the stops as they blast through enormous tunes like ‘Suzanne’, ‘Hiding With Boys’ and ‘Black Rain’. A complete oppositional force to the relatively dry performance by System of a Down the night before, Creeper put on a show worthy of a much higher slot – something they’ll likely easily achieve if anyone is taking note of the enormous crowd passionately singing along and roaring throughout. Well versed in the art of performance, the band bounce around the stage buoyantly, clearly feeding on the energy of the crowd.


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Download Festival has long had a history of offering make or break moments for many a band, yet I can think of no performance that feels more vital and like a lightning bolt of achievement than what Creeper have attained in 2017. Closing on the ballad ‘I Choose To Live’, Creeper receive an enormous boost in atmosphere as the crowd belt out the chorus, creating a truly beautiful moment that is hard to top all weekend (ruined only slightly by an obnoxious group singing happy birthday down the phone as the crowd and band go quiet – some people just don’t have a fucking clue). As one of the hottest new names in the UK music scene, it stands to reason that Creeper are set on a path for success, with this set hopefully being the first in a series of career defining moments. (RH)


Despite being one of the most divisive acts in metal, Alestorm are awarded a mighty reception from a substantial crowd. They are something of a novelty on today’s line-up; a day which largely reflects the more alternative and, for want of a better word, poppier side of the rock scene. For some, they will stick out like a sore thumb - for others, their brand of pirate/folk metal shenanigans will be a refreshing representative of the more traditional style of metal on today’s line-up.


Things look like they’re off to a shaky start due to a woeful mix for frontman/keytarist Christopher Bowes’ vocals. However, the gung-ho audience are more than happy to do the heavy lifting, bellowing out the tunes to ‘Shipwrecked’ and ‘Drink’ at such a volume that it does a lot to distract from the technical issues. Judging by the response, the cheekily profane ‘Fucked With An Anchor’ is exactly what this slightly inebriated crowd is looking for from the band, while the cover of Taio Cruz’s ‘Hangover’ is a surprisingly fitting closer. What they do isn’t clever, but there’s no denying that a festival set Alestorm is a lot of big, dumb fun. (JD)


While Alestorm may have suffered from terrible sound issues throughout their set, their crowd prove that if you put enough in you can beat even the worst performance snafus by doubling down on your own antics. But, there’s no time to mull over sets unfulfilled as IDLES are due on over on The Dogtooth Stage. A furious band with an unbeatable hardworking ethic, IDLES have certainly put the hours in this year since releasing debut album ‘Brutalism’, with a full calendar of dates likely to see them appearing across the breadth and width of the mainland UK for the rest of this year.


There’s absolutely no sense of fatigue in the band as we walk up to the distinctive apocalyptic howl of ‘Divide & Conquer’ however, the band in full swing as they show just how beastly a raucous punk act can be set up in the tent. While the previous day’s election results might have made some feel elated as the Tories took a kicking, there’s no sense of “Mission Accomplished” as IDLES tear their way through bruiser tunes ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ and ‘Well Done’.


As is often the nature of these things, the band’s set feels over just as it has begun, but IDLES make full use of their performance time by shredding their way through the eardrums of everyone present, cementing their status as one of the UK’s most venomous and vital new acts. Similarly uncompromising in their pursuit of furious sounds, Suicide Silence take to the stage almost immediately after the end of IDLES set, already in full swing by the time we rock up.


Suicide Silence have unfairly taken a critical beating and fan-bashing for the decision to pursue new sounds on their latest, self-titled effort. Despite this, the band draw an impressive crowd and waste absolutely no time in showing just how hard they can hit back. Single ‘Doris’ makes an early appearance in the set to remind everyone that the band have a new album out (a good, bold one at that) but otherwise heavier-than-thou tunes rule the airwaves for the majority of the band’s 40 minute set.


If the roars of approval are anything to go by, Suicide Silence have soon got the metal masses back on board (if they were even off properly in the first place) as they lunge headfirst through ‘No Pity For A Coward’ and ‘Fuck Everything’. Breakdowns come in plentiful supply and vocalist Hernan Hermida can snarl with the best of them, but the band double down on their bold choices by closing with the very tongue-in-cheek ‘Conformity’, arguably the band’s softest song. There are no prizes for guessing exactly why the band chose that song, but Hermida still finds time to explicitly thank the crowd for supporting the band and for supporting their decision to take creative new turns with their music. And when the resultant set is this good, who can blame them? (RH)


With some incredible performances preceding them, Pierce The Veil can’t help but feel like pretenders to the throne as their set wears on. Their post-hardcore/pop-punk/emo sound is enjoyable in small doses but ultimately ineffectual in the face of true, blistering talent. This feeling is perfectly accentuated by the fact that legendary brother duo Max and Igor Cavalera are setting up on the second stage shortly after the end of PTV’s set, making the band sound more redundant with every passing second. (RH)


Playing through the seminal ‘Roots’ album, the Cavaleras have a clear goal in mind for the day’s set, carefully cutting songs to fit comfortably into 50 minutes of earth-shaking thrash-via-groove metal. Right from the off, bona fide metal anthem ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ sees the crowd erupt into an enormous roar-along, the atmosphere quickly turning into a baking heavy metal furnace of crashing, writhing bodies.


An enormous crowd amasses to hear the highlights of one of metal’s most seminal releases and the Cavaleras are more than happy to oblige as they hammer out thrashy firestorms like ‘Attitude’, ‘Cut-Throat’ and ‘Ratamahatta’. Making use of energetic and exotic beats from their native Brazil, the Cavaleras prove that they are much more than your average nostalgia focused metal band, their sound enormous and powerful. The intensity of the set is undeniable, the crowd erupting into a sweaty mass of mosh-pits, growling metalheads, manly hugs and rampaging circle pits.


So hot is the show that I literally have to strip my trousers off at the side of the pit and change into some shorts, setting up just in time to catch the gutturally brutal bass-line intro to ‘Spit’. The mosh pit once again swallows up an enormous section of the crowd as bodies crash and heads bang furiously. 21 years have passed since Max left Sepultura and a full decade has passed since the brothers finally reunited for Cavalera Conspiracy. If there’s one thing that this set proves, it’s that the appetite for Cavalera intensity hasn’t waned one iota in over two decades.


Closing with a tribute to Lemmy (after all, Sepultura took their name for the Brazilian translation for ‘Dancing On Your Grave’, or so the story goes), the band opt to not play their iconic cover of ‘Orgasmatron’ but instead go for the universally-recognised ‘Ace of Spades’. With Motorhead now gone for coming up to 18 months, its fair to say the chance to have one last mosh to the rampaging anthem is one that cannot be missed. (RH)


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Aside from acting as main support for Deftones on several dates in May, AFI have been largely absent from the UK for the best part of seven years. Unfortunately, but not all that surprisingly, this explains why their crowd is so under populated by the time they take the stage. While their genre heirs, Creeper, received a heroes' welcome earlier on this same platform, the amassed audience for AFI is not only considerably lesser in number, but also in enthusiasm. It’s a shame, as things do look promising to start; the intro to ‘Girl’s Not Grey’ heralding some praise from the crowd, with Davey Havok stomping around with the poise of a punk rock Freddy Mercury.


New cuts ‘Aurelia’ and ‘Snow Cats’ blend seamlessly with older favourites ‘Silver and Cold’ and ‘I Hope You Suffer’, the set list appears foolproof. And yet, despite the band’s energy and swagger, not a great deal of people seem all that bothered. Crowd interaction is bare minimum, with Davey growing more visibly disgruntled as the set goes on. The closing ‘Miss Murder’ is afforded the one passable sing-along from the crowd, before Davey throws down the mic and hastily exits the stage. What should have been a victorious return for AFI instead becomes a reminder of the dangers of overlooking an overseas fan base for so long. It’s all the more disheartening given the strength of the band’s actual performance, which could easily have been a highlight of the entire weekend. (JD)


Post-Cavaleras, there’s no time for a breather so instead its decided to grab an ice cold slush, a glass of prosecco (no, really) and hide from the brutal sun on The Avalanche Stage for the first time this weekend for Every Time I Die. An iconic act in the hardcore/metalcore crossover scene, ETID are a very different proposition to the general pop-punk/post-hardcore flavoured bookings frequenting this year’s third stage, but goddamn if they don’t quickly utilize every inch of available space.


As one of the genre’s most formidable names, Every Time I Die are a sensation to behold, combining enormous, arena-worthy riffs with throat shredding howls that have influenced everyone from Cancer Bats to Heck. Don’t be fooled though – ETID don’t rely entirely on the usual metal-tinged agonized cookie monster vocal and actually make use of legible lyrics, impassioned punk-like intonations and honest-to-god melodics to give the listener a fully realized listening experience that’ll have you roaring along in no time.


Heads are once again banging and bodies are once again a-crashing in The Avalanche. But, by some small miracle, nobody seems to be trying to beat off an army of invisible ninjas, the atmosphere generally convivial and respectful as the band blast out some real belters. You can be sure these are going on the “must check out immediately” pile. (RH)


There’s no time to do that right now, however; heading back up to second for a massive change of pace in prog icons Coheed and Cambria. Opening with the definitive Coheed anthem ‘Welcome Home’ the band waste absolutely no time in getting stuck in for the set ahead, bringing about a prog renaissance with their hugely talented arsenal of melodic, technically awe-inspiring anthems. The choice to play through the band’s iconic ‘Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness’ abridged (playing as much as their set will allow) is a bold one, not least because the album title requires a PHD in prog to even memorize.


Bizarre though it is (after all, the band would be playing the album again in London not a month after their Download performance), it’s hard to argue with the choice when you remember just how many great tunes are on the album. It might not be as instantly gratifying as the sequel ‘No World For Tomorrow’ (to give it it’s shortened title), nor as important to the band’s career development as ‘In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth’, but ‘Good Apollo…’ is a brilliant demonstration of Coheed at their most ambitious.


This ambition seems to fall somewhat flat on a mostly bemused crowd, sadly, but the band still pull off a fantastic performance which is bolstered through songs like ‘Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood & Burial)’ and ‘Wake Up’ which show just how great the band can be. Chuck in massive single ‘The Suffering’ and you have a hint of how fun a greatest hits setlist by Coheed can be, but for now we content ourselves with seeing the band exercise their full prog might to a sun-baked Donnington crowd. (RH)


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The anticipation among the crowd before A Day To Remember’s set is palpable: a predominantly younger crowd, this is clearly a band that are a main draw for many of the folk here today. Their steady rise, which can be attributed to an unquestionable work ethic and a consistently strong output of material, has been gradual for well over a decade, so much so that it’s easy to forget just how big they have become. If there ever had been any question of their validity to be placed so high on the bill, they quash all doubt from the get-go. Opening with ‘All I Want’, ADTR immediately incite numerous circle pits and a steady stream of crowd surfing. From here on, songs like ‘I’m Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of?’, ‘The Plot To Bomb The Panhandle’ and ‘Right Back At It Again’ maintain the ridiculously high level of energy from the crowd. It’s largely due to just how heavy the band’s hardcore-influenced material is in a live setting, each breakdown causing new little pockets of chaos to emerge within the audience.


The more anthemic songs all prove to be winners as well; the choruses of ‘We Got This’, ‘Naivety’ and ‘All Signs Point To Lauderdale’ reaching unparalleled magnitudes on this stage so far today. Jeremy McKinnon proves himself to be a bona fide star, seamlessly weaving from harsh to clean vocals without ever having one style diminish the power of the other. Material from 2016’s ‘Bad Vibrations’ clearly points towards this band reaching for headline status, and based on this performance, it’s only a matter of time. ADTR have transcended the scene which bred them, and if they follow their current trajectory then domination appears to be inevitable. (JD)


After grabbing a bite to eat, we head over to The Dogtooth again to catch the headline set by horrorcore legend Wednesday 13. There’s only one problem; the tent is absolutely rammed to the rafters, the crowd spilling out and obstructing nearly all view of the band beyond a fleeting glimpse of a blazing stage-show. Even so, we stick around long enough to hear him belt out a few punked-up metal-tinged beasts.


Now onto his seventh album with his solo band (the latest, Condolences, released just a week ago), it’s fair to say that the modern Wednesday 13 set almost completely does away with references to his past bands, preferring instead to explore the rich back catalogue he has built as a solo artist. Wednesday has always had a gift for creating great atmospheres for his live shows, it feels as though this set at Download Festival has been a long time in the making (and could easily have been transported onto the second stage, judging on second-hand accounts of the stageshow/production).


On record, ‘Condolences’ opener ‘Last Rites’ plays out as a screaming “skip me” before the good stuff begins. Live, however, it serves to signal the arrival of the master himself. Launching right into ‘What The Night Brings’, Wednesday and co. sound enormous and imperious, their chugging riffs unleashing a tangible irresistible force that demands heads to bop and toes to tap as it lumbers along. Followed by the similarly chuggy ‘Scream Baby Scream’, tis set proves that Wednesday’s sound has evolved immensely over the past twelve years, going from shlocky Misfits-style punk rock to something decidedly heavier and more riff-oriented, his sets certainly not suffering for it. (RH)


We stick around long enough to hear a couple more songs (leaving to the marching beat of ‘Keep Watching The Skies’) but unable to properly watch the set or hear the songs in all their glory, a decision is made to head over to second and enjoy The Devin Townsend Project over at the Zippo Encore. Immensely respected and revered in the metal scene, Devin has garnered quite a reputation as he reinvented the spectrum of heaviness with Strapping Young Lad, made a brief appearance with The Wildhearts and generally cemented himself as one of the most eclectic and prolific names in rock and metal.


Unfamiliar with his music though I might be, it’s not hard to see why Devin is so revered, the ambitious scope of his sound identifying him as one of the most unique sounding artists in the metal canon. Prog with none of the self-indulgence, Devin wastes no time in creating some incredible soundscapes that fully utilise his status as sub-headliner this evening. Ambition is the key word to this set, but while the ambitious nature of Mastodon and Coheed’s sets had limited pay-offs, Devin spins this ambition into pure gold.


A thoroughly engaging and entertaining figure, Devin is chatty between songs and his personality goes a long way to creating a buzz of enjoyable atmosphere between the crowd and band. Between lampooning his own band and musical history to insisting everybody in the crowd hug, Devin sets himself up as a consummate frontman, the ringleader to a show of mind-warping sensibilities. (RH)


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Speaking of mind-warping sensibility, next up on the Zippo is the horror imagery master himself, Rob Zombie. As one of only two European shows to feature the full US production (the other being Hellfest) and possessed of a predisposition which rewards a) bands that make an effort with their stage production and b) bands that have a great back catalogue of bona fide anthems, it’s safe to say that Rob Zombie is a huge draw for the Saturday evening spot – reflected in the endless wave of faces gathered over at second stage.


Right from the off, Zombie’s backdrop illuminates the crowd as it displays a litany of images both old and new to compliment the entire set. Taking the art of performance to a whole new level, Rob and the band come out with a full intro, an all-singing, all-dancing spectacle that promises to leave the competition in the dust. Opener ‘Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown’ might be a mouthful to say, but as a song it perfectly sets up what Rob does best – massive riffs, bigger choruses.


This is heavy metal at its most universal, aimed at stadiums and asking for nothing less than a total roar of approval – which it gets by the bucket thanks to an early anthemic singalong to ‘Superbeast’. While that song may have a nitro-fuelled motor for a heart, it’s the dance-beat heavy sexiness of ‘Living Dead Girl’ that shows Rob’s true forte, the music quickly getting bodies shifting and grins widening as each riff convulses in snakelike fashion.


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Even the new songs feel like long-time favourites, ‘Everybody’s Fucking In A UFO’ chanted with gusto by a crowd that couldn’t ask for anything more. Zombie dances hard across the stage, dressed every inch the 70s rock god without the fragile ego – after all, he’s Rob fucking Zombie. A couple of bright green inflatable ET’s are sent out into the crowd as the song progresses, Rob demanding that they make it all the way back to the food stands at the back of the field.


Rob wastes absolutely no time in whipping the crowd up into an interactive frenzy and certainly hasn’t skimped on the budget for the show. Whether its well-hung aliens creeping across the screen, Sherri Moon glaring through demonic contacts or a dancing silhouette grooving to the beats, you can be sure that Rob has an image to accompany every song. Running through a well-stacked set which includes White Zombie’s ‘More Human Than Human’, ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ (complete with images from the movie) and the ultra-bass groove of ‘Never Gonna Stop (Red, Red Kroovy)’ to get bodies up and moving.


In fact, it feels as though the only hiccup throughout the set is an elongated solo from legendary guitarist Johnny 5, which eats into the run-time and limits the amount of songs which the band can play in 50 minutes. Truth be told, Rob could probably have got away with a two hour setlist, especially where the expansive selection of White Zombie and Rob Zombie discography is up for grabs. Shortened though it is, Zombie’s set still feels enormous as he launches into ‘Thunder Kiss ‘65’, a song which soon turns into a trip through rock n roll history including ‘School’s Out’ and ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’.


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Rob Zombie’s performance skills, stage set-up, costume and personality prove to be a winning combination for the Download crowd and by the time we revisit ‘Thunder Kiss ‘65’ before the encore it is very apparent that all other bands could learn a lesson from his example. Closing on the roaring ‘Dragula’, Zombie is sure to leave the crowd braying for more as he shuns the likes of ‘Super Charger Heaven’, ‘Foxy Foxy’ and ‘American Witch’. While Zombie might not be the draw that Biffy is, the truth is that a well stacked line-up today can make all the difference in creating an unforgettable festival experience. Question is – how does the Zombie show compare to the big boys over on Main? Jonathan found out… (RH)


It was a contentious booking from the off, instigating the ire of many an internet troll. Despite having been a staple booking of Download for years, there was considerable doubt as to whether Biffy Clyro were a suitable headliner act for the festival. Unfortunately, many of the detractors will feel vindicated in light of the comparatively meagre crowd that has turned out to watch the band.


However, this doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the trio at all, kicking off with an explosive ‘Wolves Of Winter’ which receives rabid approval from the crowd. If anything, the frequency and ferocity of the circle pit action is reflective of the frenetic adrenaline laced throughout much of their material, which ought to silence many of the critics. That being said, it appears that the band is largely preaching to the converted tonight, but that shouldn’t take away from the sonic power of songs such as ‘In The Name Of The Wee Man’, ‘That Golden Rule’ or ‘9/15ths.’


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Of course, many argued that Biffy’s rise to widespread mainstream acceptance makes them undeserving of top-billing at Download. The set list does reflect a heavy reliance on the more radio friendly singles, with ‘The Captain’, ‘Many Of Horror’ and ‘Mountains’ initiating the kind of boozy sing-alongs which would be just at home at less alternative-styled festivals. And yet, is this not what we’re also to expect from a portion of Aerosmith’s headline performance on Sunday? The truth is, Biffy Clyro are an exemplary live rock act, with a phenomenal light show adding the requisite spectacle for such an event as tonight. Just as important, they clearly thrive on being on that stage.


With a charming gratitude, Simon Neill reflects on previous icons who have graced the same platform, doing so with humility, and yet a justifying confidence. Closing with an appropriately raucous ‘Stingin’ Belle’, there is a sense of triumph in the air, albeit some disquiet that more were not here to witness this victory. Whether or not the band will headline this stage again is moot, but there is one certainty; for tonight at least, Biffy Clyro were exactly where they deserved to be. (JD)


PHOTO CREDIT:  All photos © Darren Griffiths. Check out our full Download gallery HERE.


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