When the alarm went off on Sunday morning it was a struggle to drag myself out of bed. After two days of rocking I was suffering from a bad case of metal fatigue (sorry!) but soon rallied at the thought of another great day on the field of screams.
First foray of the day was to buy some sun cream as I was beginning to resemble the Singing Detective, balding head plus sun not being a good combination. By the time we got to the arena a few bands had already been and gone but the best were yet to come. Andy Nathan was once again in the thick of things kicking off in the Pepsi Max Tent …
‘Sunday was a chill out day for me as there were far fewer bands of personal interest: ‘shouty’ bands predominated on the main stage while headliners Rammstein do not musically appeal, and I already sampled their spectacular show a few years ago at Sonisphere.
Arriving lunchtime, my first appointment was with Little Caesar, who had a couple of albums at the end of the eighties, since when the full sleeve tattoos that once made singer Ron Young stand out from the crowd have spread to every Tom Dick and Harry.
Not in the first flush of youth they looked like a biker band playing one of the great rallies such as Sturgis, and had a meaty, not particularly original yet always listenable sound, topped off by his gravel toned voice. The likes of ‘Down to the Wire’, ‘Drive It Home’ and ‘Rum and Coke’ were thoroughly enjoyable, traditional fare.
I then headed to the acoustic stage to catch Night by Night, the youngsters who are building a name for themselves in the melodic rock world and will be supporting Y and T this autumn.
All the raw ingredients were there- the right image and vocal harmonies topped off by the soaring tones of ex-Voodoo Six singer Henry Rundell, but, possibly due to sound problems, they sounded a bit flat to me and I left concluding they are far from the finished article.
However, chilling out on the grass with a pizza and beer, I was bowled over by the quality of the next band and their vocalist in particular on a mixture of originals and covers – Bruce Dickinson’s ‘Tears of the Dragon’, never an easy one to pull off, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and ‘Every Rose Has its Thorn’. Announcing themselves as IAMI and performing electrically later, I added them to my schedule.’
First on my list for today was a trip to the main stage to catch Five Finger Death Punch who put in one of the performances of the weekend. The band were pulled from the stage a few years back after frontman Ivan L Moody incited a near riot by encouraging everyone to crowd surf down to meet him. This year though he was warned not to do the same so instead he said that if anyone wanted to come down and say hi that was fine by him, cue the flying bodies!
Opening with ‘Under And Over It’ the band put in a brutal set. Ivan stalked the stage goading the crowd who reacted accordingly. During ‘Way Of The Fist’ Ivan spotted some younger rock fans near the stage and invited a few up on stage to join the band where they stayed for the next three numbers.
Seeing a group of 10-14 year olds on stage, most of them word perfect, was a great moment and one I’m sure they will never forget, they even indulged in a game of ‘Ivan Says’ which, as he pointed out, was the same as ‘Simon Says’ but his mother had called him Ivan!
Rounding off the set with ‘Lift Me Up’ and ‘The Bleeding’, again with Ivan in amongst the crowd, the band left the stage to massive cheers. As festival performances go this was one of the best I have witnessed, what a way to start the day.
What could possibly follow that, only a bunch of long haired Viking warriors sailing in on a longboat and as luck would have it Amon Amarth were up next on the second stage. Whoever gave Amon Amarth a measly 30 minute slot should have received a swift blow from a broadsword.
Things were further compounded by technical issues with the drumkit which meant that the band only played 4 numbers. However with their full ‘Longboat’ stage set in place the guys put on a great show.
Old favourites ‘War Of The Gods’, ‘The Pursuit Of Vikings’ and ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’ got a great reaction from the large crowd as did the title track of their new album ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’. It was all over too soon though as the ship sailed stage left once more.
Following Amon Amarth would have been hard for anyone but for Rival Sons it was a step too far. Filling a very similar slot to last year the band once again underwhelmed. I have seen them four times in the last year and whilst they are a good band who suit a small club environment, on a Download bill they just don’t cut it. It didn’t help that Jay Buchanan pulled off the biggest fashion faux pas of the weekend by sporting a white lace blouse, it made the all white outfits of Young Guns on Saturday look positively butch in comparison.
One band you couldn’t accuse of looking soft and non-metal are Ghost. A large crowd had gathered once again to witness the Ghost phenomenon, most through curiosity I think, but I am sure they left afterwards vowing to catch them again at some point.
With a sinister choral backing track belting out from the PA the band took to the stage and kicked into ‘Infestissumam’ whilst frontman Papa Emeritus II walked on blessing the crowd.
The surprising thing about Ghost is how their music is at odds with the imagery, melodic, almost pop like in places, it is highly catchy. The guy next to me said at one point they reminded him of 80’s popsters A-ha which is perhaps a little unfair but I see his point. Papa’s between song dead pan banter was also amusing and by the end of their set they had won a lot of new disciples to worship at their rock altar.
Whilst I was being blessed at the second stage Andy was back at the main stage with some American upstarts…
‘Back on the main stage were one of my favourites from the newer generation of bands, the Gaslight Anthem, but their classic Americana and rather brittle guitar sound felt rather out of place in such a metallic environment, especially as they move away from their punk origins.
Indeed laidback singer Brian Fallon seemed to admit as such, before trying to enter into conversation on metal bands with guitarist Alex Rosamilia who seemed less than up for such banter. The reception seemed quite muted, even for bona fide classics like ‘The 59 Sound’ and ‘American Slang’, although ’45′, which had been played several times over the PA during the weekend, had girls perched on shoulders and boys singing ‘turn the record over, see you on the flipside’.
I enjoyed the more spacious sounds of newer songs such as ‘Queen of Lower Chelsea’ and ‘Too Much Blood’, and fan favourite ‘Backseat’ went down well as a closer, but maybe this was proof that a band – now so appealing to the music literati that Nick Hornby penned the sleeve notes to their last album – are now better suited to a more mainstream music festival than Download.’
Back at the second stage a huge crowd had now gathered to see Aussie rockers Airbourne who proceeded to rip Donington apart. The band had gone the whole hog with pyro and flames and played as if their lives depended on it.
Joel O’Keeffe hit the stage running and never stopped for the whole set. Opening with new track ‘Ready To Rock’ they had the crowd in the palm of their collective hands from the off. At one point during the set Joel leapt from the stage with his guitar, jumped the barrier ran through the crowd, jumped into the central security area, slapped as many hands as he could before jumping the barrier again and heading back to the stage to huge cheers, impressive stuff.
The music also impressed with ‘Raise The Flag’, ‘ Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ and closer ‘Running Wild’ being the highlights. Airbourne’s performance was a Download classic and will have done the band’s reputation no harm at all.
It was time to search out some quality noodles after that, I can highly recommend the chicken curry ones, whilst Andy rounded off his Download experience with another couple of sets…
‘I watched the first half hour or so of 30 Seconds to Mars, fronted by actor Jared Leto and on this evidence the USA’s answer to Muse. They produced a big show with elaborate video screens and giant balloons released, though it felt as if we were extras in a DVD shoot at the expense of an authentic rock experience, and was also puzzled that a bass player should be hidden backstage. They announced a tour of major arenas during the show but I am afraid that they were simply not my musical cup of tea.
Finally I witnessed IAMI’s electric set on the Red Bull stage and from the moment they opened with ‘Let The Truth Be Known’ was blown away by a powerful but melodic Euro metal sound with crunching riffs and solos topped off by perfectly pitched, soaring vocals from their long-haired singer who I later discovered was ex Dragonforce frontman ZP Theart.
Whether on more melodic numbers like ‘Stay Awhile’ and ‘Pave the Way’ or the set closer ‘Silent Genocide’ which verged on power metal, they hit the mark, but the most surreal sight was a circle pit forming as they did a rocked up cover of ‘You’re the Voice’. Moshing to John Farnham? By the end of a great Download I felt I had seen it all.’
That only left one more band to round off the weekend so it was back to the main stage for the mighty Rammstein. What a performance it proved to be, for an hour and forty minutes Rammstein pulled out all the stops. Huge flames, massive explosions, large appendages spewing foam, keyboard players being cooked in pots, we had it all. The band played a greatest hits set to accompany the mayhem on stage and as festival performances go they don’t get much better.
Opening with ‘Ich Tu Dir Weh’ the sound was spot on. Till Lindemann appeared in a large fluffy pink jacket and stalked the stage looking as crazed and as scary as ever. His vocals add a menacing edge to the band’s bombastic industrial sound which pounded across the arena.
Each song was accompanied by either an amazing lightshow or one of the many set pieces, this band really know how to put on a show! One of the most memorable numbers was the first encore which was a version of ‘Mein Herz Brennt’ with just Till on vocals and Christian Lorenz on piano which added another dimension to the show. This was my first encounter with Rammstein live and it certainly won’t be my last. What a way to round off the weekend!
Download 2013 proved to be a great event with great bands, fantastic performances and excellent organisation throughout the three days. The weather even behaved itself for the most part and I am sure it restored the faith of anyone who wavered after the 2012 mudbath.
The big question now is will the rocking duo of Wilson and Nathan reform for 2014??
Review and Photos by David Wilson and Andy Nathan
Day 1 (14 June 2013)
Day 2 (15 June 2013)
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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)
GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)
Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)
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