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.