Download Festival, one of the premier British festivals running since 2003 in Donnington Park, made its Australian debut with a lineup including 29 bands across 4 stages the past Saturday, March 23 at Flemington Racecourse.
Despite the gloomy morning and severe rain the festival kicked off energetically with a bunch of local acts. Cast Down, High Tension, Clowns and Ocean Grove delighted the early punters to a mix of genres and musical styles.
Up next followed Sydney’s metal core quintet Northlane, LA feminist punk-rockers Bad Cop / Bad Cop with their bold political messages, and Tassie celebrated masters of Death metal Psycroptic.
The crowds kept filling Flemington racecourse as the weather cleared and Swedish war machine Sabaton took us on a battle “To Hell and Back” and made clear that the evening was just getting started. Frenchmen Gojira amidst columns of fire reminded us about suffering and pain with their obscure heavy melodics and triggered the biggest moshpit of the day so far one that included at least 30 people sitting on the ground evoking an imaginary boat and rowing powerful to chant the last chords before Swedish Death metal legends Amon Amarth appeared onstage. Vocalist Johan Hegg drank from a horn and cheered “Skol” as the crowd —in one of the best moments of the festival— held up high one of the fans in a wheelchair. Tales of Asgard and Viking mythology continued as Thor’s Hammer was wielded to please the fans.
Mastodon blasted our ears straight away with “Sultan’s Curse” from their last album “Emperor of Sand” —widely acclaimed and considered best metal album of 2017 by Metal Hammer. With tracks like “Show yourself” The band displayed once again their versatility and impressive blend of metal styles which makes it hard to classify them. Troy Sanders requests the crowd to chant ‘Happy birthday” to guitarist Bill Kelliher before closing with Leviathan’s masterpiece “Blood and Thunder”
Good Charlotte’s “”The Anthem” divides the crowd as some of the younger people dance and sing while others head to the Avalanche stage to watch Venice beach thrash skater punk legends Sucidal Tendencies perform.
It’s been already a long, weather changing and intense day. Time for a quick bite, drinks and a much needed stop at the festival’s inflatable church to clear the mind and try to decide which of the upcoming clashing bands is best to witness. Heading back to the Black stage Wes Borland matches in perfection, all clad and painted in Black. Limp Bizkit is in the house and after a few minutes Fred Durst is held up in the middle of the jumping crowd chanting to the beat of “Hot Dog”. “Rollin” and “My Way” continue to widen the moshpit before their rendition of “Smells like teen spirits prepares the audience for the climax of the set with “Break Stuff”
As the nigh falls upon Download, excitement arises as sirens wail and members of the USA supergroup Prophets of Rage stand in line with their fists high in the air. Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, Tim C, B-Real, Chuck D and DJ Lord light fire on the Red Stage with their homonymous track. “Testify”, “”Take the Power Back” and “Bullet in the head” transport us back to RATM’s glorious days; “Bring the noise” —Public Enemy and Anthrax great collaboration across genres back in the day—, “Insane in the Brain” and “Jump around” get everyone to raise up and down and dance their arses off. A few minutes later Tom Morello gives a speech about the lost friends along the way and encourages everybody to sing in memory of the late Chris Cornell. “Like a stone” delayed riffs are the backdrop to a shining light on a lone microphone stand. A perfect yet sad metaphor of the void in the world of music and all our hearts that will never be filled.
After the most emotive moment of the night “Bulls on Parade” followed by B-Real statement “Violent times call for violent songs” seem a perfect fit in today’s world politics “Killing in the name of” caps an outstanding and powerful performance that leaves everybody ecstatic. A woman in her 60’s high fives the crowd and claps vigorously, another man approaches me and my mates and says “How good was that? I am a father of 4 kids and could die right now!
That’s the power of music
And talking about power, Arch Enemy’s front woman Alissa White-Gluz shreds the remains of the Dogtooth Stage with her impressive growling, while NOFX’s Fat Mike delights the audience by wishing malaria to Melania (Trump) and makes sure the Avalanche Stage is closed in due manner as “Linoleum” and “Stickin’in my Eye” get the last crowdsurfing action of the night.
Back to the main stage, festival headliners Korn close the evening with an hour and a half of tracks from their 25 year career. Jonathan Davis, Fieldy, Munky and Head deliver pure Nu Metal anthems to keep the multitude going for a little more. “Y’All Want a Single” bass slaping makes for perfect headbanging while “Shoots and Ladders “bagpipes are the perfect lead to the erratic “Twist”.
Back from the encore “Blind” and “Freak on the Leash” are chanted loudly by the crowd who knows the festival is close to an end. “Da boom na da noom na namena. Go!” makes everyone jump to the last verses of the song as the first Aussie edition of hopefully many more Download festivals comes to an end.
Behind the lens Nicole Matthews
Words by Gus Morainslie