Anthony Longstaff reports on a wet and wild weekend at heavy rock and metal extravaganza Download 2016
It’s a wet start for Download 2016.
From yesterday’s 25 degree heat pitching up the tent, it’s now a quagmire of paper cups and ankle breaking plastic bottles – and the subdued sounds of squelching mud.
But we’re cheered by the music on offer nonetheless. Headlined by Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, Download is pushing out a treat of classic rock and metal for this year’s festival goers, with over 90 bands playing across five stages.
Swedish rockers Royal Republic are the first band on stage, and it’s a crowd busting start to the weekend with a performance which is exceptionally lively.
This is where Mother Nature turns on her charms once more and saturates thousands of people in seconds with rain of biblical proportions. Still, it doesn’t deter Japanese metal pop sensations Baby Metal from entertaining a dripping wet crowd.
A very fitting and heart warming tribute to late Motörhead frontman Lemmy follows later in the day, with thousands watching Download’s personal appreciation of the rock legend on the main stage screen.
Further outstanding performances follow from Korn and The Wildhearts, leading up to Friday’s headliners Rammstein.
Cue German industrial rock at its absolute finest, but with a somewhat subdued performance I feel.
Later in the set classics ‘Du Hast’ and ‘Sonne’ help pick up the dampened crowd however, along with some stunning pyro burst to end a relentlessly wet first day at rock’s UK temple.
After hanging our wet clothes over Donnington race circuit’s crash barriers, it’s a relatively early start – and the novelty festival sun has popped out too.
First on the agenda is relatively newly formed UK blues rock band, Inglorious. The thick gravel tones in Nathan James’ voice have helped push this band to the attention of many in a very short space of time.
While hovering around the second stage we then catch steam punk band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. Think Justin Hawkins/The Darkness meets John Lydon/PiL in some kind of strange science experiment.
As terrible as it may sound, for me these guys are my favourite of the day; a very light hearted and comedic element in an industry which can sometimes take itself a little too seriously.
The day continues with some outstanding performances from the fantastic Rival Sons, Gloucester punks Milk Teeth, hardcore rockers Bury Tomorrow and metal legends Megadeth.
Headlining on the main stage are a band that helped build the foundations of heavy metal: Black Sabbath.
In all honesty Sabbath can be taken in two ways; a novelty celebrity led band full of nostalgia and the odd famous song from the ‘Guitar Hero’ video game, or a conceptually created softer blues rock band whose dabblings with occult themes created some of the most potent and influential tunes of the modern age – cementing the way for a new genre in popular music.
Either way, Ozzy and the band raise some heartily dampened spirits from a cold, tired and quite probably hungover crowd with a tried and tested set including ‘War Pigs’, ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’, rounding off a day of fine music.
The final day is unfortunately here – and it’s still raining.
I don’t even know if it’s classed as actual rain now, or whether there is another word for sheer continuous water pouring from the sky. It doesn’t seem to have killed off the festival enjoyment anyway, as people are eagerly heading off to the arena oblivious of the tides of mud – or that they once owned a pair of pristine white converses which are now decidedly rear-end brown.
It’s a hectic day of bands to catch, with many clashes, but first up for us are Canadians Monster Truck. The winners of the Juno Breakthrough artist of 2013 have had a manic few years touring across the globe and this is the second time they’ve brought their Southern blues rock to the many thousands waiting at the main stage at Download.
With the mud and water mixture now at ankle level it’s a treacherous walk from stage to stage, so we reside at the main stage and catch Amon Amarth, The Temperance Movement and Halestorm.
Just as we were setting off to catch the next band, we then hear that Swedish doom metal/monster rock band Ghost have cancelled due to lead singer Papa Ermeritus III coming down with a severe case of Laryngitis.
A true disappointment they didn’t play for me – and for the many we fans we spoke to.
Disturbed are the penultimate band on the main stage, and everyone is awaiting their haunting cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’, which has stormed the music consciousness since its release earlier this year. They don’t disappoint – and add a medley of other cover songs in their set too.
But the main band of the evening are British metal stalwarts Iron Maiden. Some 85,000 people are in attendance tonight, with their gaze fixed to see one of the world’s biggest bands.
It’s their sixth time at Donnington, yet for most of the younger crowd it’s their first time of seeing this spectacle of a stage show. What follows is a blazing performance, complete with inflatable ‘Eddies’ and a Myan backdrop.
As much as I’ve seen the mighty Maiden I’ll never tire of their neatly crafted work, nor cease appreciating just how much effort they put into the whole show from initial conception through to the conclusion.
As the set ends they announce a nationwide tour in the UK next year, a reveal met with rapturous applause.
[All images by Anthony Longstaff]