Download Festival: Day Three!

aerosmith ben gibson
Photo by Ben Gibson

Fozzy is one of few bands that not only went on to progress into more than just a tribute act but definitely one of very few to draft in an actual wrestling legend. Chris Jericho is a multi-talented character who also happens to be an ample and gifted singer, stepping out to receive a warm welcome from the eager and rejuvenated supporters.

Not many are so lucky to start their tour at such a prestigious event but those involved in the Judas Rising Tour had been waiting a long time to finally share their music with the world. Judas was the opening song that acted as a mantra for what was to come, big choruses, blunt guitar riffs and a commanding vocal front. Sandpaper and a Krokus cover of Eat The Rich were accompanied by scantily-clad fire dancers (unnecessary for such a large venue but entertaining all the same) that went on to review a dated form of rock n’ roll that was greeted by a warm and boisterous reception.

Jumping forward in time from the 1980’s to modern day metal, the hardcore punk powerhouse known as Blood Youth seemed to have erupted from the scorching fury of rigorous custom related heavily with daily routine. Hurtled into the public eye from what seems like nowhere and recently releasing their debut album Beyond Repair, they appeared to be the centre of attention for everyone within the vicinity. The irate Dead Space came into play with Kaya Tarsus and his colleagues encouraging the on-lookers to become as active as possible. 24-7 and Reason To Stay left those same men and women ravenously stimulated and although the front man may have regretted jumping down to the barrier (with an unexpectedly high platform to climb back up on to), it was without doubt the only mistake made during their savage set.

Quickly manoeuvring elsewhere, The Cadillac Three were subject specialists that have grafted their Deep South sound since 2012 and have blessed the British Isles with their company and classic tracks for years. The groove-ridden rhythm of Slide had multiple rows shuffling feet and nodding heads while they sarcastically mocked the nation by stating “we love how y’all talk over here”. The cool undertone this trio possessed was practically palpable as Peace, Love & Dixie exemplified elements of their style which melted over their audience like butter over bread. Surprising their fans with a new song titled Tennessee and ending their concert on The South, a patriotic number that embodies their passion for not only music but the state they call home.

Making their return to Download festival and gaining a large congregation to deliver their punk rock-loaded sermon to, the five members of Dead! walked out with little to no symmetry in their attire but all linked with a shared intention of on-stage anarchy. Highlights were generous and included a fantastic (if not unforeseen) cover of The Who’s My Generation which included an extraordinary power slide, a feat not often seen in modern day music. There was something different about their stage presence from previous dates that demonstrated their development in leaps and bounds, marking a memorable milestone in what could be the next level of Dead!

in flames matt eachus
Photo by Matt Eachus

Over twenty five years in the making and twelve studio albums of meticulous modifications, In Flames have certainly earned a metal mantle to rest on but it is clearly evident that the breaks of this Swedish motivating force wore out years ago, with no signs of stopping. Hauling out some of their big guns from the offset with Battles‘ decorative Wallflower and the illustrious Deliver Us, rocking heads and necks to and fro with Niclas and Bjorn’s chunky chord clusters reverberating over Donington Park. They are not without their sense of humour as Anders brought on a beer cooler that may have been the perfect bulk for a munchkin but for your normal-sized human, it put the Swedish beer-lovers to shame. Joe Rickard’s double pedal work monstrously beat down on the speakers and their electronic synth element proved profoundly bold in its existence during the performance, with The Truth and Cloud Connected creating thick, sandwiched layers that produce the epic heavy metal that they have achieved. Finishing on the fierce Take This Life, the last date of this blockbuster weekend was shaping up to be a flawless conclusion.

Not many musicians can conquer the joviality component that most attempt to bring to the environment in between music but for the absurdly bad-mannered Steel Panther, their ostentatious behaviour and libidinous outbursts kept the laughs flowing and enough dildos floating around to scar any youngster for life. Calling out the desk for slightly messing up the band’s sound levels on Eye of the Panther, it was extremely amusing to watch the parents sprint from the main stage with their children after the band had begun their sexually-fuelled onslaught.

Failed high-five attempts, general teammate bullying and endless siren calls for tops to be removed were summed up as comedy gold rammed into the metal-horned anus of impregnable glam rock and heavy metal. For those unaware of their repertoire, Just Like Tiger Woods demonstrated cleverly crude lyrics masqueraded by Satchel’s scrupulous guitar solos and Michael Starr’s tessitura range knowing no limitations. The main stage was later swarmed by invitation for 17 Girls in a Row, with roughly sixty women bombarding the musicians with selfies, kisses and a fair share of grinding, eventually turning into a stressful security endeavour to pry them from the enthusiastic musicians.

Encouraging the festival-goers to stick around for their friends in the next band, the blackbird flew swiftly into play as the mighty Alter Bridge were in the sidelines ready to play after performing at the French edition of the celebrations. Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti are an iconic pair to say the least but without Brian Marshall’s meaty bass plucks and Scott Phillips’s drumming foundation, the band would inevitably lose its razor-edged atmosphere. Come To Life was the ideal opener with its thirst-quenching verses escalating into chorus climaxes that caused splintered outbreaks of exhilaration among the accumulated audience.

The sound board seemed to be suffering more technical difficulties with microphone and guitar levels which luckily did not phase the artist’s motivation or technique as they cycled through knock-out material including Ties That Bind, Isolation and the celebrated Blackbird. Releasing The Last Hero in October last year, the feedback received was justifiably and insurmountably positive and with such a renowned reputation of producing nothing but strong album work, you could expect nothing less from these four men. Crows on a Wire and Show Me a Leader had Tremonti pulling the most maniacal guitar expressions and Kennedy smiling from ear to ear as the strength and pure talent they exhumed on their six strings was tantamount to ecstasy.

slayer matt eachus
Photo by Matt Eachus

Now although twelve years as one musical unit is an extraordinary feat, approaching forty years as the precursor figureheads of thrash metal is something else entirely. Slayer are still snapping necks, cashing cheques and smashing sets as their headline show closed the Zippo Encore stage with sheer shredding animosity and a mosh pit that toppled any competition in terms of beat down injury. Gary Holt’s Blood-infused guitar reflected sunlight out over his minions before retracting it all using the wicked riffs of Repentless, surfaced from the fathoms of the eternal dark. Tom Araya’s sparkling set of chompers were almost as remarkable as the vocal volume magnification that he still seizes with each vital breath. Twelve LPs of tainted thrash debauchery had once again drawn in the die-hard veterans that owned everything and anything adorned with their title, exploding the moment they heard the commencement of their beloved favourite, whether that was the soaring singing key of Angel of Death or the proverbial sinister notes of Raining Blood.

The unrestrained genre variation that had filtered through the exceedingly pleasing few days were to be commended for such a diverse line-up but it was now time to witness the closing of a vast chapter in 1970’s American rock and wish “the bad boys of Boston” a fond ‘Aero-vederci’.

Spanning a near fifty year career under their unforgettable identity, Aerosmith lay in wait to perform to the UK in a festival they have graced many times before, retiring and hanging up their incalculable spandex trouser collection for the last time. It was quite disheartening to see the test of time had taken its toll on the icons but like so many from their era, they emerged from the stage corners unperturbed in moral and dedication to their roles with wild-eyed Steve Tyler climbing the runway steps and standing tall in front of an array of already weeping faces.

Although a few brief problems may have muted the performance slightly for those further back such as distracting flame projections over the jumbo screens, the music itself came at no surprise to be greatly praised. Modern time classics such as Janie’s Got A Gun, Crazy and Love In An Elevator were complemented with a bright orange sunset breaking through the clouds as Tyler (in clothing that gave off a pirate lord theme) wrapped his arm around Joe Perry in a loving brotherly manner.

It was a questionable decision to add in four cover songs considering the enormity of their back-catalogue but it was their prevalent gold-plated numbers that achieved the most notice. The gut-wrenching tone of I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing and stimulation of boogie ballad Dude (Looks Like A Lady) was enough to knock emotions to their heights while Tyler lived and breathed his harmonica every opportunity he could find.

Concluding their musical cache inspection on Walk This Way, the park was swallowed in a hurricane of confetti that fell to rest as the group waved their goodbyes and left everyone with tears streaming down cheeks and wide grins infectiously beaming, pondering the measure of love the start of June always seems to bring to the British music community and all those that travel far and wide to come together and live the overwhelmingly untethered life of rock n’ roll.

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