Download Festival: Day One!

download system of a down caitlin mogridge
Photo by Caitlin Mogridge

The Friday morning for the throng of campers is usually met with seasoned hesitance and a reluctant outlook for what the weather intends for the metal-induced weekend ahead. For the first time in a number of annual cycled line-ups however, the clouds unenthusiastically gave way and offered the throng of music enthusiasts a glorious (and welcomed) blanket of sunshine to cook barbeques under, drink Somersby cider and Carlsberg beer concoctions and of course, thoroughly enjoy the first day of music at Donington’s renowned Download Festival.

Opening the main stage in the early afternoon was the Australian metalcore outfit Northlane who released their latest album in March of this year, drawing in a mass of patrons all eager to catch extracts of Mesmer. The pulsating wraith introduction of Paragon eventually led into the beefed-up open F guitar strings being beaten by John Deiley and Josh Smith as Marcus Bridge eloquently demonstrated his skills as a singer and screamer in the foot-stomping anthem Citizen. Also playing material from Node and Discoveries, they ended their powerful performance on Quantum Flux with the opening line sparking off some of the first mosh pits of the day (with countless more ready to take form).

Making a short walk up towards the blue and white striped tent, five musicians stood embracing a serious demeanour as they sank into the smoke of the dark dogtooth stage. Frontman Lucas Woodland however, was unable to keep conduct and broke out in a smile or ten as Holding Absence’s presence attracted a hefty crowd that offered them a cascade of appreciation and adoration from the opening notes of choice tracks Permanent and Dream Of Me. With each passing month, the impressive progression that they continue to challenge has not gone unnoticed, justifying all the attention they are currently gathering with their fresh wave of ethereal rock.

Although the Avalanche stage’s location had altered and been relocated farther afield to the previous year, there was still ample time to wander over and find a decent spot that had a good field of view (as well as being relatively safe from the predictable onslaught of adrenaline-fuelled fans). Code Orange’s unpredictable tempo changes, deadly hardcore beat downs and punk so dark its practically basted in aggression.

Consistent in their stage charisma of stomping, slashing and swiping at anything that moves (or doesn’t), Reba Meyers long brown hair whipped through the sweaty air as she plugged big and brash guitar riffs accompanied by Drummer Jami Morgan’s combination of big beats and throat-mashing screeches/snarls. With huge hardcore pits opening to unleash chaos and the group unwilling to let up in the atmosphere, one thing you can be sure of is that Code Orange’s Forever will be found in satans playlist, blasting through the deafening barbed speakers as your dragged through the gates of hell.

Leaving the Avalanche’s occupants to recover and tend to the colourful bruises issued out, a backdrop with a wild-haired troll fell down to signal an incoming dosage of jazz-fusion metal. Issues stepped out and immediately revved up their crowd with R&B rock favourites from their latest album Headspace including Coma, Blue Wall and The Realest that had half their audience shuffling their feet, while watching the other half return to bludgeoning one another with whatever limb they could swing.

prophets of rage matt eachus
Photo by Matt Eachus

The late afternoon had tested the resilience of the suns attendance with cold winds combing the midlands field in an attempt to bring the traditional downpour back to the grounds. Luckily it continued to shine down just in time for the super group known as Prophets Of Rage to make their European debut.

Members of Audioslave, Cyprus Hill, Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine walked out in front of the vast arena space to be greeted by a roaring reception of admirers. The highlights of their show were difficult to keep count of and their talent seemed limitless. It was not long before the relationship between artist and audience was as thick as the mud under their feet, with Chuck D and B-Real pacing the platform and going down to the barrier with a popular hip-hop compilation of Harder Than You Think, Insane in the Brain, Bring the Noise and Jump Around.

Tom Morello is undoubtedly one of the most revered guitarists of our time with his experimentation of six to twelve string effects, appearing live as effortless as it was to listen to. The Nightwatchman’s alternative, rhythmic reputation has been respected and evident since the early years of American band Lock Up but in this particular scene, what warmed the hearts of many was his touching and emotional homage to his recently deceased band colleague (and friend) Chris Cornell. He, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk remained for an instrumental version of Audioslave’s Like A Stone, featuring over a thousand lead singers as the vast flock of followers chanted the words with a distressing sentimentality wrapped around each lyric.

Instantaneously rekindling the fire in everyone’s hearts with Sleep Now In The Fire and Killing In The Name Of before exiting, the last act of the main stage had the occupants congregating in droves at the centre of the metal extravaganza to catch a glimpse of the men who revolutionised heavy metal music with progressively metrical riffs, political surveillance and a beautifully bizarre development of distorted, psychoneurotic anarchy.

A blue haze washed over the darkened platform as the sun set before their eyes, eventually erupting in light after the delicate plucks of Soldier Side were eventually met by grand middle section without delay. Serj Tankian’s silence was short-lived as he was quick to address that his voice had all but left him but decided to join his comrades regardless to relive the five album nostalgia that would lead to eccentrically influence of generation of musicians to experiment.

Suite-Pee, its sweep harmonics and beefy guitar riffs were brutally scrutinized and enjoyed as their production fired cascades of light out over the front few rows who mosh pitted and crowd surfed to their hearts content, leaving even larger shades of black and blue on random limbs once Violent Pornography and Prison Song had commenced.

Their elephantine hits all made appearances at the English festival including Aerials, Chop Suey!, Lonely Day, B.Y.O.B, Sugar and Toxicity, all delving their spectators into a deep reminiscence of sitting in bedrooms, claiming it as the vicinity of obscenity, cranking up volume dials and driving composed parents all over the planet hysterical. The mighty conclusion came and brought with it a despondent sigh to see them leave and a hurried rush of excitement for the next two days to follow.

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