My Saturday at Download began over at the main stage where I caught the retro new wave of classic rock act Those Damn Crows, a band who have amassed a significant following in Wales thanks to appearances at the likes of Steelhouse Festival and other rock-oriented affairs. Possibly one of the smallest acts to perform on the main stage this year, the band spared no expense offering a fantastic wake-up call with some unremarkable if solid hard rock tunes. The day’s proceedings then continued firmly in the rocky territory with a southern, slightly heavier twang with Black Label Society, in their first festival appearance on UK soil since 2015, and with less of Zakk Wylde’s expectedly lengthy and tiresome soloing. Don’t get me wrong, Zakk was still doing his usual thing, but with a much-needed addition of percussion, making the moments of instrumental wankery much more palatable than usual.
After a prolonged absence from the British metal scene courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic (save for a scaled-back pilot event in 2021), Leicestershire’s iconic summer rock, punk, and metal weekender, Download Festival returned to Castle Donnington in a maximalist blaze of glory, packing in a full-scale 5-day experience with some familiar favorites, hotly tipped up-and-comers and some of the best international acts that rock and metal scene has to offer.
Following their massive headline set at last year’s Download Pilot event, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes will be joining this year’s Download festival, alongside four other new additions, including Napalm Death, PENGSHUi, and Aniilmalia. Download 2022 is the big reunion of the rock community, as the festival makes its highly anticipated return with the first full-scale Download in three years and a gargantuan line-up of the world’s most exciting bands in rock, pop punk, hardcore, metal and much more. The three-day festival takes place on 10-12 June 2022 at the spiritual home of rock in Donington Park, Leicestershire. Tickets are now on sale now at the4 link below.
Download Festival 2021 is postponed to summer 2022, but the fest has wasted little time stacking the bill. Already headlined by Iron Maiden, KISS, and Biffy Clyro, seventy new bands have been added including Deftones, Korn, Megadeth, Steel Panther, The Ghost Inside, Funeral For A Friend, Descendents, Electric Wizard, and Sepultura. Watch a video teaser with the updated poster and buy your tickets now!
Download Festival will return for 2021, featuring headliners KISS, Biffy Clyro, and System Of A Down and many more bands including A Day To Remember, Mastodon, Control The Storm, Gender Roles, Jamie Lenman, Myles Kennedy & Company, Deftones, Korn, The Distillers, Steel Panther, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, The Darkness, Black Veil Brides, Creeper, Alestorm and The Pretty Reckless. Seventy-three bands in all have been announced! Tickets go on sale on August 7th at 9 AM GMT. More bands have yet to be announced. The three-day festival takes place on 4-6 June 2021 at the spiritual home of rock in Donington Park, Leicestershire. Tickets will go on sale at this link here. Continue reading
A bunch of new bands have already been added to the bill on this year’s Download UK Festival. The new acts include Alter Bridge, Bowling For Soup, The Darkness, The Distillers, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Mastodon, Funeral For A Friend, The Menzingers, Employed To Serve, 3 Doors Down, Milk Teeth, Motionless In White, Holding Absence, Lacuna Coil, Loathe, Sepultura, Amaranthe, Cemetery Sun, Fire From The Gods, Gender Roles, Haken, Hatari, Heavy Lungs, Higher Power, JJ Wilde, Kill The Lights, Modern Error, Northlane, Press Club, Polyphia| The Raven Age, Renounced, Shvpes, Sleep Token, SULLII, The Glorious Sons, The Hara, The Skints, Tempt, Twin Temple, Thy Art Is Murder, Wage War, and Will Haven! Also announced are the Day And Stage Splits, WWE NXT UK returns, and Kerrang! Radio Hosts the Finding Fresh Blood contest for a chance to perform on The Avalanche Stage. 2020 Download headliners Iron Maiden (Legacy Of The Beast Tour), Kiss and System Of A Down this summer and takes place on 12 – 14 June 2020 at the spiritual home of rock in Donington Park, Leicestershire. Continue reading
Hailing from what is fast becoming the new metal hotbed of the UK, Southampton, come post-hardcore quintet I, The Mapmaker with their self-released E.P. Searching. Seeing that this was produced by Lewis Johns (Employed To Serve, Rolo Tomassi etc) I was already intrigued as to what the band would have to offer and knew that wasn’t going to be a generic by numbers band.Continue reading
I like being in early to an empty festival arena; the main stage with its welcoming wide arms enticing you down into big open area that later on will be filled by up to 80,000 pairs of feet. But at 10.30am, while taking it all in, there were pressing ablutions-related priorities while the facilities were still clean…
Having completed the exiting part of the cycle, it was time to begin filling up again. Running a ring round the perimeter of the whole arena is van after van of greasy and fast food vendors, and this is next port of call – though the stomach was not up for any of the kebab or burger related fare, fortunately there are a couple of recommended less greasy options – the ‘Vegan and Vegetarian’ stand doing a fine falafel and hummus and coffee (and I’m not even a veggie) to kickstart my heart (or at least brain). If you can be bothered to search off the beaten track as we did later in the day there are some decent food stalls in the “Kennels” by the acoustic stage, and right over by the far side of the second stage, where I picked up a very tasty and unsaturated teriyaki chicken noodle feast.
With all of the “main” three stages running simultaneously throughout the day, there are choices to be made… Heart of a Coward was, by all accounts, the right choice to “wake the fuck up” with. At 11 o clock, in front of only a hardy few in the rain (the opening of gates had been delayed to allow the site to be tidied and made safer by the laying down of straw following the previous nights’ downpour) you feared for the Milton Keynes boys, but by the time the set ended people were sprinting down the hill to catch them, hangovers forgotten as circle pits, choreographed headbanging and angsty shouts over slab-heavy grooves well and truly kicked things off.
With Funeral For A Friend completing their slide from the grace of being main support only a few years ago to the same slot they appeared in at the first Download with a performance as gray as the skies, it was time to wander away from the mainstage for another coffee and something different.
I had meant to see Malefice, but I benefitted from that most festival of experiences of accidentally seeing a new band. Stage three at Download is a good one for that; not only does it shelter from the rain by driving in hundreds of people out of the elements, it provides up and coming bands with a captive audience, and Stray From The Path won over some cold, wet new fans.
Saturday arvo was all about the second stage. Apocalyptica offered something different, and won over the inquisitive; Ace Frehely was, by all accounts, a surprising success that occurred while I got drawn into the unmitigated fun of Hollywood Undead instead, who had the main stage eating out of the palm of their hands. Brilliantly entertaining, which is, surely, what mainstage festival bands should be all about.
Back over second stage, Testament crushed with a consummate set of testicles and big fucking riffs, before Carcass continued the smackdown laying. Motionless In White drew the youngest crowd of the day (by the time we left to not be able to get in to see Dub War in the oversubscribed tent of the fourth stage, TeenFest 2015 was in full swing) as Chris and the boys delivered. While wandering to and from others, I caught the first and then later, the last songs of A Day To Remember (‘Downfall of Us All’ and ‘All I Want’), their best two, and all you really need to see, before taking up a good vantage point for Faith No More and Muse. I’d have liked to have seen Body Count, Marilyn Manson, Andrew W.K., and Black Veil Brides – all of whom played during Saturday’s Main Stage one-two knock-out blow, but from the first peals of the massively catch ‘Motherfucker’, to the dying Western-meets-Maiden/Queen of ‘Knights of Cydonia’ the main stage was where it was at.
During FNM we had lounge jams, 50,000 people singing to Lionel Ritchie song (‘Easy’, natch) casual abuse of one pissed-off looking bedraggled girl in the front row, a set list that held enough back for their upcoming headline show while still showing how far above most other bands they are, arrogance and a performance of excellence; Mike Patton note perfect and enticingly sardonic. It even stopped raining.
People in the UK get particular about their festival headliners, and Muse weren’t selected from the normal pot. However, they were absolutely the right choice. Matt Bellamy is a sickeningly talented individual, nailing Eddie Van Halen guitar techniques while simultaneously hitting falsetto notes that could crack glass, all to the back drop of videos, a stunning light show, pyro, fireworks, streamers, big bouncing black Prisoner balls and a cleverly tailored, dark, heavy set that saw them fire out rarities like ‘Dead Star’ and ‘Agitated’ and epics such as ‘Hysteria’, ‘Micro Cuts’ and ‘Citizen Erazed’, which had even the most sceptical won over even before a last forty-five minute hit-factory, with fervent reaction all the way back as far as the eye could see. Muse more than matched up to Slipknot, the first two days at Download further proving that there are bands, and there are “bands”. And then there are bands. And then there are BANDS.
With things a lot dryer , even the walk back to the tent was alright, though I’m far too old to be lying in a field kept up until 4am by a bunch of young pissheads blasting out Slipknot. Hotel next year for me, methinks!
Supermassive Black Hole
Time Is Running Out
Plug In Baby
Knights of Cydonia
Much like some stretched and requiring-a-suspension-of-disbelief set of circumstances in ‘Swords and Sorcery’ Fantasy films that bring about the fulfilment of the prophecy of the chosen one(s), so every now and then in the rock and metal world it is exactly the right time for the right band to make “the right record” and catapult themselves not just several rungs up the ladder, but crashing through the glass ceiling to establish themselves as the major players in the scene. Trivium did it with Ascendancy, Killswitch Engage did it with Alive or Just Breathing (both Roadrunner) and now While She Sleeps have done it with Brainwashed (Search and Destroy).
Not just the album they “needed” to make, like The Black Album (Vertigo) was the culmination and definition of heavy metal and the birth of “new” metal, so Brainwashed is the defining statement of what “modern/metallic hardcore” actually is. Throughout the forty-five minutes on display, While She Sleeps destroy any connotation that the genre is creatively redundant as ‘New World Torture’ seethes and slams before opening up, paving the way for a vibrant title track that ends in savage thrashery before ‘Our Legacy’ and its gang vocals and melodic leads provide an alternative anthem.
And “anthem” is the right word to describe damn near every track on display, as each song takes on that larger than life feel and you can already picture packed festival fields baying, swirling and shouting every word of songs like ‘No Sides, No Enemies’. In an album packed full modern hymns, ‘Four Walls’ manages to stand even taller, a song more than worthy of carrying the band to the next level and heading rock channel playlists for years to come. ‘Life In Tension’ is another highlight, rattling along, before hitting a half-time call to arms; one that will ignite live performances with massive pits and a sea of arms and voices aloft, before its melodic guitar lead spirals and wah’s off into arena filling glory.
Considering the genres have been smooshed together for over a decade, Brainwashed is the perfect combination of metal and hardcore, and the Sleeps deserve credit for not cutting their nose off to spite their faces and actively encouraging catchiness in the right places. Alongside that Brainwashed has all those clever touches the truly great albums have, little guitar licks, drum inflections that enhance grooves and an excellent thick, warm production that captures and reflects the energy of a band on creative fire, rather than stifling (and it’s no surprise to see the name of the legendary Colin Richardson among the credits).
Vocalist “Loz” Taylor has overcome serious throat surgery to produce the ideal modern hardcore performance – aggressive in the shouts, versatile in vocal, and melodic and tuneful when required, without losing intensity, and projecting a credible emotion that you can believe in. These aren’t empty songs; from the rising chatter of opener ‘The Divide’ to the dying strains of ‘Modern Minds’, this is an album that matters both to its protagonists and to its fans.
And ultimately that is key. Not only is Brainwashed a collection of excellent modern heavy songs, but it is dripping with conviction; more than just an assembly of songs, it delivers and is a real album, connecting on a level that so few do. The hardcore attitude that is often missing from the bigger albums these days is vibrantly present as While She Sleeps take their roots from metal, from Machine Head, from hardcore, from artists like Funeral For A Friend, and from the best bands of the last twenty years, to produce an album that stands not just as a genre marker for others to be measured by, but as a statement of intent and a challenge to their peers.
For the bar has now well and truly been raised.
Forget the arguments and discussions about who the next Metallica will be, about who will be the next festival headliner, because right here, right now, is the right band with the right album at the right time to be not just the future, but the now.
Funeral For A Friend is releasing their seventh studio album titled Chapter and Verse in the US on January 27, 2015 via Distiller Records. Check out “You’ve Got A Bad Case of The Religions” here.