For many, the nineties would prove to be the end of heavy metal as we knew it. Bands who rose to greatness in the preceding decade suddenly found themselves either retreading old ground, out of their depth trying to explore new territories, or simply grinding to an unceremonious halt. Within just a couple of years, denim, leather and even the term “heavy metal” itself, were out. Continue reading
The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, founded in memory of the late rock music legend, commemorated the 10th anniversary of his passing and the formation of the charity with its 10th Anniversary Memorial Awards Gala held on February 20, 2020 at the Avalon Hollywood. Hosted Eddie Trunk (That Metal Show, SiriusXM Trunk Nation), the organization recognized honorees in eight categories—each named after songs written by Ronnie James Dio–who have played a role in either Dio’s legacy or that of the charity. Live entertainment was provided by Ronnie James Dio’s live band Dio, featuring vocalists Tim “Ripper” Owens and Oni Logan, and band members Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Scott Warren and Bjorn Englen, and highlighted by the vocals and visuals of Ronnie James Dio. Los Angeles comedian Brian Posehn, in addition, his comedic duties, performed a song from his upcoming GRANDPA METAL album accompanied by Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Fates Warning), while local rockers Sadie & the Tribe opened the festivities with their set. Check out these EXCLUSIVE photos by Tyler Kanode of Brilliant Reverie Photography. Continue reading
The final day of a festival is often filled with many emotions: a wonderful weekend sadly coming to an end; another day spent celebrating brilliant innovative and life affirming music; hours spent trying to dry your tent out… So it again proved with Sunday at Download.
Leaden skies greet the hordes either nursing hangovers of epic proportions or gathering their belongings for the trudge back to cars and the dreaded long trip home. It’s cold on the field so a bit of warming up is required. Bacon rolls and coffee do part of the job but Dead Daisies do the rest in a punchy late morning slot that has a much bigger crowd than perhaps even they were expecting. Dead Daisies inhabit that strange world where it is perpetually 1986, eternally sun-soaked California and every band is the last gang in town, riding steel horses into sunsets or the arms of star crossed maidens. As you have probably guessed, I thought it was terrific and an object lesson in how to warm up a crowd.
Sweden’s h.e.a.t. have gathered plenty of plaudits for their two albums of 80’s inspired rock and from this performance it’s easy to see why – they are pumped full of energy and chutzpah and have a genuine love of big tunes and even bigger riffs. It may not be the most original sound of the day but it does the job very nicely indeed. Finland’s Von Hertzen Brothers finish the morning off in predictably brilliant fashion with vocalist Mikko Von Hertzen channelling his best John Travolta via a natty white suit that he does well not to get covered in the ubiquitous festival mud. The VHB brand of rock is so packed full of intelligence and hummable tunes, particularly the peerless ‘Flowers and Rust’, it does make you scratch your head as to why these guys aren’t absolutely massive but their time will come…..Please make it so.
Backyard Babies’ raucous and efficient cock rock gives way to the studied and equally efficient metal of Mark Tremonti who does Alter Bridge without the tunes (if you’re not a convert) and Alter Bridge with added metal (if you are). I’m in the latter camp, as are most of an appreciative if slightly wet crowd on the main stage. The new songs from his second album, Cauterize seem to stand up equally well with the more familiar tunes from All I Was (both Fret12) too. Boxes ticked, job done.
Blackberry Smoke are the perfect band for a warm sunset, cold beers and a barbecue, so the presence of rain, wind, rain and some more rain probably didn’t help their cause but I found their performance compelling in an insouciant and entirely charming way. Billy Idol, by contrast, is a bit of a man for all seasons and you can tell why: he has an arsenal of hits that most bands would give their right arm for. You have to pinch yourself that this is 2015 and not 1985 but Idol turns in an effortless performance of crowd pleasers that you know and love- of course there’s ‘White Wedding’ and ‘Rebel Yell’ but it’s ‘Flesh for Fantasy’ and ‘Eyes Without a Face’ that are the standout tunes. Idol has this look of a man who won the lottery, the football pools and the EuroMillions over one weekend – he simply cannot quite believe that he is still the draw that he is – and, even more brilliant, no one in the crowd seems to begrudge him one iota of his considerable success. Bless him.
In much the same way that people gripe about Cavalera Conspiracy and how it’s not the REAL Sepultura (yawn, boring, get over it) so there is a similar constituency that seems to surround former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash and his latest incarnation with Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge. Honestly, I don’t know what the problem is: what’s not to love about an artist playing a blinding set of classic song after classic song peppered with huge tune after huge tune from his latest solo records? I tell you what’s not to love: nothing. Slash clearly writes mega tunes in his sleep and his set is one hour of aural bliss. The 55,000 or so on the main field lap it up like a horde of very thirsty Pavlovian dogs. And rightly so.
Likewise, the same old situation (song pun entirely intended) for LA’s Motley Crue. Crue, midway through a thoroughly deserved and valedictory world tour to say farewell are another act that many can’t seem to wait to sneer at. “It would be better if Vince Neil could sing better”- kids, Vince Neil hasn’t been able to sing since 1981. This isn’t the point at all. Crue are about the glamour, the sleaze, the rock, the roll, the girls, girls, girls. They bring a show that is part rock opera, part vaudeville, all fire and brimstone. Of course they are absurd and ridiculous- THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT. It is absolutely silly and absolutely brilliant- all at the same time.
And so we come, finally, inexorably, to the self-styled hottest band in the world, Kiss. Arriving on site in a fully badged up Kiss-copter, the New York quartet turn this corner of a foreign field into a veritable circus of pomp, circumstance and old style rock n roll. There are stadium rock shows and then there is a Kiss show. There isn’t one second that passes by in this blistering set where there isn’t something going on – fireworks, drum risers, zip wires, crowd singalongs, flame throwing, blood vomiting all in glorious technicolour and all set to a soundtrack that you know and love. As an end to the best music festival I know, it is both fitting and invigorating.
I’ve booked my place for next year already.
Download Fest, with its roots in the Monsters of Rock festivals that ran from 1980 until people decided rock was dead in 1996 (and Kiss and Ozzy’s shambolic co-headliner of that year pretty much proved that point) is the Grand-Daddy of Euro festivals. It’s a behemoth that dominates the rock landscape in the UK (note “rock”. This is a rock festival, with some metal, not a metal fest. Bloodstock, Temples, Damnation are metal fests). It suffered in the 90’s from bands putting on their own outdoor all-dayers (and nicking all the support bands, too), and from being a predominantly rock festival that suddenly seemed to lose all its headliners. However, since it’s rebirth and rebranding in 2003 it has seen off European juggernaut festival Sonisphere to stand as the UK fest of choice.
Having redesigned its layout a few times, and no longer held inside the iconic Donington Park racetrack but just to the south of it, Download seems to have settled into a format that, while works, is a little familiar and perhaps would benefit from a little spicing up next year. Enter the arena, and with the main stage resplendent in front of you, to your left the second stage, and in the far right corner lies the third stage, a huge blue marquee tent. With boobs on top. Tucked to the side of the “Maverick” third stage is the relatively quiet and chilled press and guest area.
History has seen the main stage opening slot at Castle Donington act as a kingmaker opportunity; Trivium for one owe their success to a scintillating opening set in 2005. It’s fair to say All That Remains will not be joining the list of legendary openers, particularly by including that dreadful wailing ballad halfway through a twenty-five minute set.
A pleasant stroll in the sun over to Krokodil in the tent results in seeing a band doing it right; great energy, big riffs and bludgeoning hooks winning over and gaining them plaudits, before hot-footing it via the bar (where the cashless system was working perfectly in pretty much eradicating queues) back over to the main stage for At The Gates, Lacuna Coil and Clutch, ATG and Clutch in particular delivering. If you’d have said twenty years that the main stage at a mainstream fest would be hosting those bands, going down to a slavering reaction, you’d have been laughed out-of-town. Instead, ATG and Clutch showed how diverse things are these days, and how influential they’ve both been on others over the years.
You’d have thought a choice of Corrosion of Conformity versus Five Finger Death Punch would have only had one winner (and spare a thought for Sylosis who were on #three at the same time), and you’d have been right. Five Finger Death Punch mauled, maimed, murdered and munched down on COC with a blinding headliner-worthy show full of big riffs, sing-a-longs and making a statement. Unfortunately, I was over at the second stage watching a rather tame COC limp through a set it didn’t seem they could really be bothered with themselves. Shame, cos they’ve got some great songs.
Judas Priest did exactly what you’d want of a main support, anthems to the left of me, anthems to the right and left you wanting more, with newer tracks ‘Valhalla’ standing toe to toe with ‘Hell Bent for Leather’, ‘Painkiller’ and a particularly joyous ‘Living After Midnight’.
A bite to eat, a quick dash round the corner to see the lacklustre continue over on stage two with Black Stone Cherry phoning it in, before heading back in time for Slipknot, whose 2009 show has gone down in Donington folklore alongside Iron Maiden in 1988 as one of the UK’s all-time best metal festival headline experiences.
I wasn’t there in 2009, but if it was better than 2015, then it must have been some set.
Opening with ‘Sarcastrophe’, what followed was an outpouring of whole-other-level excellence, as hit after bloody hit flew from the stage in an unbridled making of a fucking statement. That statement? There is no one better than Slipknot in metal right now. No one.
As all the hits followed, interspersed with a very cleverly chosen set including more reflective moments of darkness, such as ‘Killpop’ and ‘Vermillion’, their catalogue stood tall. And don’t even get me started on how fresh and violent ‘Eyeless’ was. As fellow GC scribe Mat Davies uttered “Shit the actual bed…”
With ‘Spit It Out’ seeing 80,000 people crouch in the mud, as the torrents of rain began to pour (rain that wouldn’t let up for 20 hours), before leaping to their feet to start one enormous mosh pit, Slipknot confirmed what we’re known for a while.
As I ran back to the tent, through the torrential downpour that marked the end of day one, as I dived into a tent, shedding sodden clothes (sorry for the image) and cursing the Peak Download of it chucking it down on the Friday night (after a sunny and hot day) I couldn’t help reflect that despite all that, I’d witnessed something above and beyond what most bands are capable of.
Surely, the list of standard bearers and true greats in metal now reads. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slipknot.
The Heretic Anthem
The Devil in I
Wait and Bleed
Before I Forget
Spit It Out
People = Shit