On the Friday of Download Festival, the first day of the arena being open, we were initially treated to some nice weather! Festival goers were preparing for the day in t-shirts and shorts and slapping on the sun cream ready to watch a full day of bands.
Alien Ant Farm – Main Stage
The first main stage band we caught at the weekend was Alien Ant Farm, who had never played the festival before now. The alt-rockers opened with their popular hit, ‘Wish’, which was then followed up with ‘Forgive & Forget’. Early on into the set the crowd was happy to clap along to the beat and cheer loudly between each song. Though it felt like it wasn’t out of admiration of the band or the performance, which in itself felt rusty. Frontman Dryden Mitchell did say, “I’ll be forty in five days. I’m an old fuck.” This could point out that the band hasn’t quite aged as well as their songs which are cult favourites.
You could tell that a lot of the crowd was there for the novelty of watching a band that hasn’t really been relevant since the early 2000s and figured they will probably not see the band at any other point. Mitchell did still thank the crowd for coming down early and being enthusiastic. The highlights of the set were when the quartet performed their two most popular tracks, ‘Movies’ and their cover of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Smooth Criminal’. ‘Movies’ was thrown into the set early and the nostalgia flowed strongly, but ‘Smooth Criminal’ finished off the set in fine fashion as everyone sang and danced to the classic. (Makky) 6/10
Zoax – Maverick Stage
“Who’s here for a boogie? Have a boogie or we’ll fucking kill you.” Vocalist Adam Carroll was on fine form from the get go with his opening comments. Zoax were on a mission to get heavy with this Download crowd, but of course the typical charm we’re all used to flowed. The quintet played a set dominated by tracks from their recently released debut self-titled album. In reaction, the crowd cheered and clapped between each song and mosh pits opened early.
We’ve known Zoax to be rather silly during sets, but on this occasion the musicianship was left to shine with little distractions. Of course, Carroll still showed off with amusing mannerisms, funny faces and dancing around with jazz hands. It fit well with the music and the crowd was highly entertained. Zoax unleashed their epic slow burner ‘The Wave’ before Carroll came out into the crowd during ‘Dancing With The Devil’. The frontman made people around him crouch down mid-song and then jump up and down. This received a great reaction from the crowd and the set finished on a high, with more singing and dancing to ‘Bad Blood‘. (Makky) 8/10
Shortly after the band’s set we experienced the first lot of heavy rain for the weekend; ten minutes of torrential downpour drenched anybody that wasn’t under shelter. The rain led to a delay in bands hitting the stage, with Baby Metal being twenty minutes late.
Baby Metal – Main Stage
The Japanese metal outfit felt like another novelty act, but their popularity with this Download crowd was hard to ignore as there were constant claps and a great crowd reaction throughout the set. Baby Metal were highly entertaining to watch with their choreographed dance routines and their singing was nowhere near as annoying as it is on record. The music was heavy and the vocals were cheerful – it was a fun mix.
Watching them live gives off the impression that they are like a manufactured pop group that plays metal – the dance routines looked like they took a long time to learn. Apart from the recognisable three singers, the musicians all looked ghostly, like something out of The Grudge and they unleashed heavy riffs and lots of energy that emulated the dancing during favourites like ‘Gimme Chocolate’ and ‘KARATE’. Looking up the hill, you could see fans fist pumping and being enthusiastic as they stuck it out in the crappy weather. (Makky) 7/10
Killswitch Engage – Main Stage
The weather was still grim, but the genre innovators kicked off with ‘Strength Of Mind’ from their most recent album ‘Incarnate’ and straight away the pits opened hard and fast. Vocalist Jesse Leach‘s vocals were as vicious as you’d expect. He screamed at the top of his lungs, and his singing voice was as sublime as it is on the album. The riffs thrived and Killswitch did what they do best in delivering anthem after anthem. Old favourites like ‘This Is Absolution’ and the even older ‘Fixation On The Darkness’ were performed in a set which was laced with KsE greatest hits and a mixture of new tracks.
Jokes from guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz kicked off early and he even dedicated a track to urinary tract infection – you know, as you do – and then crowd pleasers such as ‘My Last Serenade‘, ‘The End of Heartache‘ and ‘The Rose of Sharyn‘ kept the crowd incredibly enthusiastic and kicking the crap out of each other in the mud. This was always going to be one of the most dominant sets of the day. (Makky) 7/10
Counting Days – Dogtooth Stage
We caught the back end of Counting Days‘ set over on the much smaller Dogtooth stage. The tent was absolutely rammed, yet fans still found room to go crazy; moshing, jumping around and sing back the words of the songs. It was awesome to watch such a great reaction from the crowd as Counting Days unleashed a barrage of metallic hardcore and intense energy. Smoke filled the stage, creating a darker atmosphere that matched the heavy anthems. The supergroup finished off their set with ‘Prison of Misery‘, the song the band used for their latest video release. The tent continued to go off until the very end. (Makky) 7/10
Korn – Main Stage
Korn are no strangers to Download Festival and on Friday, they performed their seventh set at Donington. This was business as usual for the nu metal pioneers as they kicked off with firm favourite ‘Right Now’. Korn played a set made up mostly from greatest hits with a couple of rarities, we were even treated to a snippet of their cover of Metallica‘s ‘One’. The atmosphere was rather relaxed, and somewhat more fun that previous sets and this helped the mood as the rain started to get a little heavier again.
Korn‘s heavyweight tracks such as ‘Here To Stay’ had everyone singing along and they sounded just as important to metal now as they did in the 90s. Frontman Jonathan Davies was on fine form in keeping the mood light and entertaining, trundling along with bagpipes for ‘Shoots and Ladders’, along with some rather amusing dad dancing.
Nothing was a surprise and it was all enjoyable to watch the festival veterans have fun with the large crowd that turned up to watch them, even in the miserable weather. It’s quite therapeutic to headbang in the rain anyway. Korn finished off their set with arguably the most popular song in their catalogue, ‘Freak On A Leash’. The anthem caused carnage, the pits were as chaotic as they had been for the whole show. It was the perfect end to a brilliant set. Maybe one day we might get to see Korn headline – they could certainly pull it off. (Makky) 8/10
Rammstein – Main Stage Headliners
Rammstein know how to entertain, and the Germans knew exactly how to please this Donington crowd. There was a long countdown for the band to hit the stage, with some fans counting the whole way. From 8 seconds to go the screen in front of the stage started to flash and then it dropped to reveal the impressive stage set that looked like a factory. Keyboardist Christian Lorenz and drummer Christoph Schneider hit the stage first, playing fiddly synths and bouncy beats.
Guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul Landers were then lowered down on ramps from the rafters as they played the riffs to new song ‘Ramm 4’ with explosives popping either side of them.The music then dropped for frontman Till Lindemann to hit the stage and tap dance to the beat before chucking his top hat away for it to explode. Talk about starting with a bang.
The crowd loved every minute of it. The 80,000 plus crowd chanted along and cheered loudly, it was deafening. Popular tracks ‘Reise, Reise‘ and ‘Keine Lust’ swiftly followed. We were treated to massive, pounding riffs and a hell of a lot of explosions and fire, as you’d expect. ‘Feuer Frei!’ certainly got things heated as massive flames rose up at the front. Lindemann, Kruspe and Landers all wore the iconic flame throwing masks, shooting fire as they performed. The show that the Germans put on was entertaining from beginning to end, unveiling all sorts of unique ways to show off their pyrotechnic skills.
Lindemann wore a firework bomber jacket and he spun an exploding bow and arrow frame around. The frontman even humiliated the poor keys man during ‘Mein Herz Brennt’ and shoved him in a box that then exploded. Moments later Lorenz came back out looking all sparkly and ready to perform ‘Link-2-3-4‘ on a treadmill.
The stand out moment of the set came from the delivery of ‘Du Hast’ alone. The way the song was performed to the visual aspects. There was a wire that led from the stage to the sound booth in which fireworks travelled down and back, triggering a huge flame to explode at the top of the sound booth. Fans near the front had heat coming from both directions. And thousands of people chanted the chorus like it was their national anthem. Rammstein then played a Depeche Mode cover of ‘Stripped’ before going off for an encore.
The Germans came back on for ‘Sonne’, a song that most of us discovered the band by in the early 2000s. Again, flames erupted on stage from every direction. From the sides to the backdrop and the cannons at the front. You just didn’t know which way to look. That iconic riff had everyone banging their heads, and the epic chorus had everyone singing along in unison. The flames at the sound booth triggered again. It was another spectacle that continued to amaze. Afterwards, Lindemann went offstage and the rest of the band sat at the front of the stage to perform an acoustic rendition of ‘Ohne Dich’.
To finish off the night, Rammstein performed ‘Engel’ and the frontman appeared back onstage and had wings on his back. Any fan that had seen images or footage of the band before knew what was coming. After more pyro to entertain the crowd, Lindemann was elevated into the air to perform vocals with explosives sporadically popping on each wing for the big finale, with massive fireworks exploding at the top of the stage. Rammstein set a massive standard for the rest of the headliners to follow. (Makky) 9/10