Download – 11 June 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson and Jonni D   
Sunday, 25 June 2017 04:30

With two days’ worth of blazing sunshine and hard rocking bands behind us, it’d make sense for the third and final day of Download Festival 2017 to be a gentle wind-down for the weekend… No chance. With two hugely iconic and respected acts playing (ostensibly) their last ever shows in England, it’s fair to say that the Sunday of Download Festival held some of the biggest draws of the weekend. What better way then, to celebrate this superstar phenomena than by having Jonathan Davidson seek out Fozzy, the American alt rock band fronted by wrestling superstar Chris Jericho?


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There’s something to be said for a band with a healthy amount of self-awareness. Fozzy’s brand of heavy hard rock isn’t particularly cool or clever, but they know how to start a party atmosphere. ‘Sandpaper’, ‘Enemy’ and new single ‘Judas’ reflect the stronger end of radio rock, bolstered by Chris Jericho’s stage persona as a harder-edged Jon Bon Jovi, and the emergence of pyro-dancers halfway through the set. It’s not likely to be the highlight for many people, but in terms of what they do, Fozzy are a hell of a lot of fun. (JD)


Next up on the mainstage are Orange Goblin, a band similarly fuelled on good vibes and better riffs. Orange Goblin have been a mainstay of the British metal scene for over twenty years, yet the band has been overlooked for just how consistently strong they have been during their career. Bearing this in mind, it’s heartening that recent years have seen the Londoners experience something of a creative resurgence, and an elevated respect from the underground scene. It’s all the more exciting to see them on the Main Stage, and they command the platform with aplomb.


Ben Ward is on notably savage form, conducting the band through great performances of ‘The Devil’s Whip’ and ‘Cities Of Frost.’ The band clearly feel at home on such a big stage, their stoner/doom metal sounding in no way dwarfed or compromised by the sheer scale of their surroundings. Buoyed by an eager audience, the band clearly appreciates the opportunity, and they do an exemplary job of representing good old fashioned British heavy metal. (JD)


Blazing sunshine, great riffs and a cheeky beer or six go together like pancakes and syrup, so we decide to make the most of it as we head over to the Zippo to catch some rays with Red Fang. A taste sensation, Red Fang are almost too perfect as an early-afternoon pick me up, their stoner rock groove guaranteed to create instant good vibes. Playing just about enough material to fit onto a single (spectacular) EP, the band tread a happy line between easy-going stoner rhythms and pounding, long-distance drive drumbeats as they tick all the right boxes for a great stoner rock discovery. (RH)


Less excellent is the so-so performance by Gothenburg metal stalwarts In Flames over on Main. While their experiences touring with Avenged Sevenfold might have endeared the band to a whole new metal audience, the fact is the day is stacked against them in Donnington. Jon Davidson has more thoughts on this…


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The decision to place In Flames on the Main Stage in 2017 is a perplexing one. Arguably, the band hasn’t released a genuinely great album since 2006’s ‘Come Clarity,’ (I don’t know about that! – Rich) each successive release cynically attempting – and failing – to reflect current trends. The slight turnout proves that the band isn’t the powerhouse draw they once were, and unfortunately the band seems just as disinterested as the crowd. Bizarrely deciding to fill the majority of the set with material from last year’s anaemic ‘Battles’, there’s a progressing sense of malaise throughout the performance. Anders Fridén’s rambling inter-song chatter becomes so unbearably cringe-worthy, it would put Alan Partridge to shame. Things only really start to get going with the inclusion of ‘Cloud Connected’ and closer ‘Take This Life’, but it’s a case of too little, too late. A far cry from the seminal and influential band they were in the nineties, In Flames are a fading shadow of their former selves. A disappointing, but entirely predictable, outcome. All is not lost though, as Touché Amoré over on the Avalanche Stage prove themselves as a band with the right fire in their bellies to tread right and leap the gorge that consumed In Flames… (JD)


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Last year, Touché Amoré released the astonishingly powerful ‘Stage Four’, garnering considerably more exposure than any of their previous releases. This is likely the reason for the increasing throng surrounding the Avalanche tent quite some time before the band’s scheduled set. It turns out that the hype has been justified: in the live setting, Touché Amoré deliver an intense performance which, while ferociously driven, highlights an emotional vulnerability beneath the fierce exterior.


A good portion of the set is dedicated to ‘Stage Four’ material, with ‘Rapture’ and ‘Benediction’ being particularly spine-tingling new additions to their live repertoire. There’s an augmented rawness to the instrumentation when compared to the studio recordings, and a lamenting desperation to frontman Jeremy Bolm’s performance. It’s all adds up to a mesmerizing display, so quite why this crowd reacts so lethargically is baffling. Despite this tepid response, the band remain thoroughly engaging, Jeremy leaping off the stage and into the crowd for closing number, ‘Honest Sleep.’ Although lacking appreciation, Touché Amoré deliver a stunning and deeply emotional performance. (JD)


Suitably lifted by the energetic display of Touché Amoré, it’s off to the big draw of the day as I hit the Zippo Stage just in time to see legendary industrial metal freaks Ministry take to the stage. Undeniably one of the greatest and most under-appreciated metal bands on the planet, the fact remains that Ministry never, ever fail to put on a thoroughly impressive and (usually metaphorical, sometimes literal) explosive show.


The apocalyptic overtones of opener ‘Psalm 69’ ring out as somewhat dissonant in the blazing sunshine of a Sunday afternoon, yet Ministry have never dealt in anything less than the most hellish, grotesque visage of the human condition and this show is no exception. A bounding, militaristic beat signals the true start to the set and Uncle Al is on fiery form as our afternoon’s prophet of doom, snarling his way through a song so vitriolic and vital that it feels inconceivable that it is now just shy of its 25th birthday.


Taking to subtlety like a Great White to a baby seal, follow up ‘Punch in the Face’ does everything it promises, the band sounding utterly monolithic as they wring the coffers dry of every drop of venom they can find. New song ‘Antifa’ keeps up the grand traditional of politicised lyrical content, the chorus ‘We’re Not Snowflakes/We Are The Antifa’ a roared anthem for the SJW contingent. Followed by spittle-flecked beastie ‘LiesLiesLies’, there’s no question which side of the political toast Ministry spread their butter on.


Sounding every bit as huge and monolithic as any metal band ever has, Ministry are somewhat wasted on the shorter, earlier spot in the day, but still represent a stellar booking. Anthems like ‘Just One Fix’ and ‘NWO’ (both from the 1992 album ‘Psalm 69’) could easily go toe-to-toe with any brutal metal tune you could name, and if any frontman had a tenth of the manic energy of Al Jourgensen the metal scene would be a much more dangerous (and interesting) place. The only thing missing from the show is the band’s iconic visual stagecraft; but they can always bring that along next time. And there most definitely needs to be a next time. (RH)


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Speaking of ‘next time’, this is by no means my first Steel Panther gig. Perhaps then that goes a long way to explain why I feel like I’ve heard it all before, as the band plow through the same old jokes and routines that they pass off as banter. More scripted than your average episode of Two and a Half Men (and about a tenth as witty), the band don’t achieve much in the way of originality, creating the distinct impression that they’d be better served by letting the music do the talking. In truth, that’s where Steel Panther’s strongest suit lies – their ability to translate off-colour humour and sledgehammer-to-the-face pastiches of 80s glam tropes into something that can make a few thousand people lost their minds.


And “a few thousand” is being extremely stingy, the band conjuring a seemingly endless throng of adoring fans, the entire field filling up as though the band are the second coming (of Van Halen, Bon Jovi and their ilk) for easily the biggest crowd of the festival. It might not be clever, but its definitely fucking massive and sing-alongs aren’t in short supply for the likes of ‘Fat Girl, Thar She Blows’, ‘Death to all but Metal’ and ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’ (see, the band can be topical too).


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While 100,000,000 Bon Jovi fans can’t be wrong, it feels like 80,000 Steel Panther fans definitely can, but the band manage to by-pass all of the serious issues that are tackled in the modern music scene and still come out the other side as revered rock gods. In a world where Kerrang! can attract massive controversy for tackling politics and supposedly progressive bands can have their entire careers snuffed out before they’ve even truly begun thanks to inappropriate behaviour, Steel Panther act as an anti-magnet for scorn – and perhaps that’s a big part of what makes them successful. After all, why worry about the impending Trumpocalypse when you can fuck all night and party all day? (RH)


Following some hiccups with his guitar tone, Clutch frontman Neil Fallon jokingly announces, “Hi , we’re Clutch. We’re professional musicians.” It sets the tone for the band’s entire performance; uncomplicated and a little ramshackle, but wildly entertaining. With a simple onstage set-up, Clutch play a flawless set of their bluesy garage rock. As usual, Neil is by turns manically charismatic and suavely sweet-talking as he leads the band through rollicking performances of ‘Burning Beard’, ‘Your Love Is Incarceration’ and ‘The Mob Goes Wild.’


The appeal of Clutch has always been heightened by how they just seem like four geezers you could meet down your local pub, and this blue collar charm does a lot to win over any curious bystanders today. With their crowd growing steadily throughout the set, Clutch once again prove themselves to be one of the most reliable stalwarts in rock music. Seeing Neil Fallon strut around the stage with a cowbell is simply an added bonus. (JD)


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Over on the main stage Alter Bridge, the most reliable band in hard rock, prepares to dazzle Download with a set full of certifiably anthemic stompers following the tomfoolery of Steel Panther. With a perfect balance of metallic crunch and melodic accessibility, Alter Bridge are able to draw in the Slayer contingent just as easily as the AOR crowd, rewarding them with a sizable audience. Songs like ‘Come To Life’, ‘’Ghosts Of Days Gone By’ and ‘Show Me A Leader’ boast tailor-made choruses for a scenario such as this, while ‘Ties That Bind’, ‘Isolation’ and show-stopping ‘Metalingus’ provide the requisite heaviness. Myles Kennedy remains one of the genre’s most talented vocalists, backed by the searing virtuosity of guitarist Mark Tremonti. A future no-brainer for headliner status, Alter Bridge reliably demonstrate just why they are so beloved within the rock community. (JD)


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Speaking of beloved bands, Opeth’s appointment as the kings of modern prog is perfectly justified when you consider how few progressively-minded bands could possibly attract such a fervent and large audience. Sub-headlining the Zippo Encore stage, you might think that Opeth’s lengthy progressive odysseys into the bowels of cosmic-minded musical landscapes don’t adapt well to a sunny field in the East Midlands. You’d also be completely and utterly wrong.


Opening with the title-track from their latest album, Opeth opt in for an all-out psychedelic jam feel as they draw the crowd right in. Whether you’ve followed Opeth for the past twenty years or just got into them last year, one thing that cannot be denied about the band is that the boys really can play, conjuring up some impressively twisted riffs and melodies that marry the band’s metallic past with their more recent prog-sploration.


The band haven’t entirely foregone their death metal past just yet though, and while frontman Mikael Akerfeldt has been unabashed in his reluctance to explore the death growl in future material, the band still blast out roary classic ‘Ghost of Perdition’. Strange though it is, to consider that the ‘Ghost Reveries’ album is now over a decade old, Opeth still sound huge as they blast through the song, the set piping as clear as if it was being played from on your lap. Akerfeldt’s growl might not translate to an outdoor setting too well (after all, the inescapable claustrophobia of his snarl is a large part of what makes Akerfeldt a unqiue DM vocalist) but the song remains an imperious monument to the band’s creativity. Follow-ups ‘Cusp of Eternity’ and ‘Era’ seem to fly by in comparative seconds and Akerfeldt is quick to deadpan a complaint about how few songs they can play in a festival setting. Despite this, when the band leave following closer ‘Deliverance’, there is no grumble that we haven’t got our money’s worth – Opeth’s cup of brilliance overfloweth. (RH)


Rumours of Slayer’s demise have been overstated, based on today’s headline set from the legacy thrashers. Last studio album ‘Repentless’ met with mixed criticism and recent live performances have seemed tame by the band’s previous standards – add to this gripes from some fans regarding their objection to anything but the original line-up using the moniker and it amounts to a fair deal of criticism to contend with.


Thankfully though, Slayer blitz through a greatest hits set at full throttle from start to finish. It’s a relatively predictable set list, title track to ‘Repentless’ aside, but performed with a vigour and ferocity that has been lacking from the band in recent times. ‘Disciple’ and ‘Post-mortem’ are blistering highlights, with the old reliables ‘South Of Heaven’, ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel Of Death’ inciting the most riotous responses. Tom Araya is in particularly jovial form between songs, even chuckling incessantly during ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ at something going on in the crowd. Hopefully this heralds a return to form for the band, because when at their best, there’s no one quite like Slayer. (JD)


And then, it’s time for the big boys. Aerosmith have enjoyed a dazzling and turbulent career over the past four decades, creating some of the greatest hits in the rock canon. We can think of no better way then, to celebrate the band with a twofer review. First up, Jon Davidson…


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If this does indeed prove to be the supposedly final UK show for Aerosmith, then it ought to be remembered as a predominantly fitting farewell, mired by a few questionable deviations into self-indulgence. Beginning with a celebratory montage which pays homage to each of their studio albums, the band emerge leading off with ‘Let The Music Do The Talking.’ It’s quickly apparent that Steven Tyler isn’t quite in sync with the rest of the band, delivering his vocals noticeably out of rhythm with the instrumentation. It’s a problem which persists during ‘Young Lust’ and ‘Cryin’’, but once rectified, it doesn’t become an issue for the rest of the set.


Something of a false start then, but it’s soon forgotten by the opening riff to ‘Livin’ On The Edge.’ When Aerosmith stick to the hits, it makes for impeccable entertainment; beer-induced singalongs almost overpowering the band during ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’, ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ and the obligatory ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.’ Unfortunately, somewhere towards the middle of their set, the band meanders with the inclusion of a couple of Fleetwood Mac covers and later, a version of James Brown’s ’Mother Popcorn’ as part of their encore. Given that this is a celebration of the band’s history, it seems like a gross misstep to focus so heavily on the work of other artists, excluding their famously splendid version of ‘Come Together.’


It’s in these moments that considerable portions of the audience lose interest and leave after one bluesy interlude too many. Despite this, the band manages to bring things back into their favour for the latter part of their set, ending with victorious renditions of ‘Dream On’ and ‘Walk This Way.’ While it’s always thrilling to see the Toxic Twins stood back to back performing ‘Mama Kin’ in all its glory, due to some unrestrained rambling this isn’t quite the headline show it could have been. More to the point, it’s not the UK farewell show that it should have been, with so many notable and egregious exclusions in the setlist. That being said, there’s no denying that in spite of their years, Aerosmith are still perfectly capable of creating quite the spectacle. (JD)


While the saying goes ‘third time’s a charm’, Aerosmith’s third time gracing the Main Stage of Download Festival feels somewhat oddly paced compared to the band’s previous UK appearances over the past decade. Undeniably celebratory of the band’s illustrious career, as mentioned above the setlist leaves something to desire, especially when it omits so many stone-cold classics in favour of near-obligatory blues jams.


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The band are undeniably firing on all cylinders performance-wise though, Perry slinging riffs like there’s no tomorrow (which, incidentally…), Tyler stomping the boards twice as hard as any other band that weekend. A beautiful piano intro turns ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ into an enormous, arm-linking singalong, while ‘Young Lust’ rolls back the clock to when the band were thirty years younger – not that you could tell by the sheer grandstanding onstage.


While perhaps not as hard-hitting as the curtain-drop, ‘Love in an Elevator’ opener in 2010, nor as momentous as pulling DMC onstage for a live ‘Walk This Way’ crossover at Hyde Park in 2007 (something desperately hoped for by eagle-eyed fans who noticed that Run-DMC were playing Isle of Wight the same weekend), Aerosmith still prove that they are one of the greatest rock bands on the planet. The odd-pacing of the set somewhat dampens what could have been an incredibly bombastic event, but even with these limitations there is no denying that, just like their opening number said, with Aerosmith the music does the talking. (RH)


And thus concludes Download Festival 2017. With an immense mix of legendary acts, set-for-glory heroes and choice cuts from the rock and metal canon, it’s fair to say that the festival still retains its status as the premier rock festival in the UK, if not the world. Bold bookings make it still the freshest game in town, even as the festival fast approaches its own commemorative anniversaries. (Cowboy) Hats off to Andy Copping and the Download team!


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


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