By Howard Keogh – our lycra-clad ligger
As the time draws near for the metal legions to descend on Donington Park the spiritual home of rock, for the annual bash, there may be some trepidation in the ranks after last year’s unprecedented weather. Those in the know estimate that 70 million gallons of water fell over the course of the weekend making it challenging for those revellers who were lucky enough not to be completely washed out. Apparently that quantity of water is enough to fill 106 Olympic size swimming pools. But fear not because while you were scraping the mud from your boots Download dog has been busy. This year sees the addition of 3000m of new drainage, effectively quadrupling the existing set up. Also 1115m of new ditches have been added to direct water away from the site. Other improvements include the relocation of the Avalanche stage and the disabled campsite. Extra free shuttle busses have been added for the main campsite and a 400 strong group of festival helpers aptly named "The Dog squad" have been recruited to assist punters.
The other noticeable change this year is the heightened level of security at the festival, due to recent events in both Manchester and London. There are a number of delays incurred by the added security but as usual the good natured spirits of the Download crowd prevail and everyone gets on with the job of having a good time. So it looks like we can cross the Ark off this year’s list of Download essentials and get down to the serious business of rocking out.
Day 1 – Friday
Motionless in white bring their brand of gothic metal-core to Download’s main stage this year, having previously played the second stage in 2015 and 3rd stage in 2013. This fact does not go unnoticed by the band who thank the crowd for their support. Formed in 2005 and hailing from Scranton, Pennsylvania, they are currently touring in support of their fourth album "Graveyard shift" Lead vocalist Chris “Motionless” Cerulli tells the crowd they are in for a treat as they are debuting the song “Necessary Evil” their set also includes "Loud (f*** it)” from their new album which is a very appropriate choice for the Download crowd who lap it up.
Sabaton are next up on the main stage beginning proceedings with “Night Witches” from their “Heroes” album. During the set we are introduced to their pet tank Walther. Their set also includes "Sparta" and "Shiroyma" both from their latest album "The last stand". The band last played Download in 2014 when they played the second stage. Sabaton are no strangers to the road, they completed a European tour early this year with Teutonic terrors Accept. The rest of this year sees them playing other major festivals like Hellfest and Graspop.
Mastadon bring their seventh album “Emperor of Sand” to Download opening with “Sultan’s Curse” and including the songs “Andromeda”, “Show Yourself” and “Steambreather” in their set. The album explores themes of survival and death which are close to the hearts of the band following recent events when family and friends were diagnosed with cancer. The assembled crowd enjoy the show, however the band suffer with patchy sound that does not reflect their true technical abilities. We take a hike now up the hill to the Dogtooth stage where Krokodil are in full flight. This British band who previously played Download in 2013 and supported Marilyn Manson in 2015 plan to return to writing their new album after their appearance at Download. This brief glimpse of proceedings is enough to convince me that, when the new album is released, there will be a big queue to get it hot off the presses.
Time for a beer stop on the way cross country to the Zippo Encore stage where a huge crowd has assembled for Good Charlotte This is the band’s debut at Download and they open with “The Anthem” which immediately turns into a huge sing-along. Despite a hiatus between the years 2011 and 2015 this band don’t seem to have lost any of their appeal. They returned with their “Youth Authority” album in 2016 and vocalist Joel Madden recounts how the album was self-funded before launching into it’s opening song “Life Changes”. The band seem genuinely surprised at the size of the assembled crowd openly admitting they did not know if anyone would come to see them, however nothing could be further from the truth with the crowd revelling in it.
Prophets of Rage are second headliner on Friday’s main stage line-up and a sense of anticipation fills the air before they come onstage. These guys could easily headline and and for those who don’t already know, are an explosive mix of Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy. Their set includes everything from classic hip hop tracks such as “Fight The Power” to the naked aggression of Rage’s “Know Your Enemy” (used on the soundtrack of The Matrix), Bombtrack, and ‘Killing in the Name of”.
They also manage to pay tribute to the late Chris Cornell in the form of an instrumental version of “the classic Audioslave track “Like a Stone”.which is warmly received by today’s crowd. Lets hope we see these guys back to the UK soon.
Finally on the main stage, System of a down bring proceedings to a close with a high tempo set to finish an uncharacteristically bright and sunny day at Download. The band last played Download in 2011 when they also headlined the main stage. This really is a fitting end to a perfect day as the band delight fans with a set that includes old favourites like “Violent Pornography”, “Chop Suey”, “Toxicity” and “BYOB”.
Day 2 – Saturday
After a night of overindulgence Saturday morning dawns, and fans are happy, as following a little overnight rain the weather is fine. We make the journey over to the Avalanche stage where British band Trash boat are in the process of shaking the cobwebs off fans with their own brand of Pop Punk. Formed in St. Albans they independently released their first EP “Look Alive” in June 2014 following this up with another EP on Hopeless records called “Brainwork”. Their first album “Nothing I write you can Change what you’ve been through” was also released on Hopeless records in June 2016. The band recently toured in the U.S. and are set to tour the U.K. in September with Broadside and Homebound.
Our next stop is the Zippo encore stage where we catch Alestorm, a demented band of would be pirates, originally from Perth in Scotland. These guys could potentially make Frank Zappa seem like the most normal bloke. Playing in front of a backdrop of two one legged bananas with geese’s head…..what? Yes that’s what I said. Their drum kit is adorned with adverts for Fray Bentos meat pies. Their set is a lively mix of what has become affectionately termed Pirate metal including songs like “Alestorm”, “Magnetic North” and “Shipwrecked” which according to the singer was inspired by Tom Hanks amorous advances on the volleyball in the film Castaway. The band are set to play a later show on the Firestone stage…..if they are still capable as they openly admit in their own words “We are Alestorm and we like drinking”. The band released their fifth album entitled “No grave but the sea” two weeks ago from which they play “Mexico” and the live debut of “F**ked with an Anchor”. They may be mad, but they are the original party band, and the crowd are love it.
Kvelertak take to the Zippo encore stage to play Download UK, fresh from playing Download Paris the day before, as a part of their gruelling summer schedule, which also sees them play Graspop and Download Madrid. These Norwegian metallers released their latest album “Nattesferd” on Roadrunner records in May 2016. The band have attracted significant interest from James Hetfield and he posted a video of himself watching the band on his Instagram account, describing their front man as “savage”. All this has culminated in a support slot for Kvelertak with Metallica on their World Wired tour 2017-2018. This band have earned their place, so if your catching Metallica don’t be late and take in the Kvelertak experience for yourself!
After a quick beer stop it’s back to the Zippo encore stage for Max and Iggor Cavalera’s Return to Roots. While it may bring many back to the heyday, this is essentially old ground but nevertheless ground many are more than willing to tread once again. They play “Roots Bloody Roots” , “Attitude” “Rattamahatta” among others finishing with a rousing tribute to Lemmy in “Ace of Spades”
The Zippo Encore stage is the place to be today with The Devin Townsend Project taking to the boards playing an extensive collection of songs from the latest release “Transcendence”. Hevy Devy tells us that it is a “collection of romantically inclined progressive heavy metal” that is delivered expertly with soaring guitars fronting a wall of thunderous guitar and drums that gives it the impact of a ground to air missile. We are treated to a flawless set including “Stormbending”, “Deadhead”, after which Devin comments “A smattering of applause, the crowd go mild” then it’s straight into “SuperCrush”. Mr Townsend’s wit is always part of the shows and, as an inflatable doll passes by in the crowd, Devvy comments “an inflatable lady, desperation personified!” Devy then proceeds to simulate hand relief on an unfortunate security guard who I’ll bet wishes he had not been in the wrong place, at the wrong time! The Devin Townsend project are on tour across Europe over the next few months and are truly an experience not to be missed.
The final act on the Zippo encore stage are Rob Zombie who open with “Dead city radio and the new gods of Supertown” the backdrop is a time lapse movie of the drummer, interspersed with scary movie clips, which is almost mind bending! We are also treated to the classic “Living dead girl” and Rob calls for his aliens both of whom he sends crowd surfing as he challenges the audience to see which alien can get to the back of the crowd first. Rob Zombie is obviously as fit as an Olympic athlete and as flexible as the rubber aliens he keeps in his closet. Tonight’s set is closed with the inimitable “Dragula” to the delight of the crowd.
The final act on the Main Stage for tonight is Biffy Clyro. It is fair to say that there was a lot of criticism at this choice of headliner with the band having headlined before and their music being a little left-field of the usual Download fare. Critics however are proved wrong tonight with a storming set which includes “Friends & Enemies”, “57”, “There’s No Such Thing as a Jaggy Snake”, and “Many of Horror”. The large crowd tonight reflects Biffy’s popularity and the fantastic stage production and firework display finish the night perfectly and indeed spectacularly. The stark reality is that Download needs to embrace newer acts if it is to survive since many of the obvious headliners are now hanging up their spandex.
Day 3 – Sunday
On the final day of the festival, which has so many acts on offer, we are under pressure to decide who to watch and finally decide to make a start on the Zippo encore stage where The Dead Daisies are strutting their stuff. The history of the band members reads like a who’s who of Rock with members cutting their teeth in bands like Thin Lizzy, Motley Crue, and Whitesnake to mention but a few. The band have recently released the album “Live and Louder” and they play the single “With You and I”. The band are set to perform at further European Festivals including Hellfest & Graspop and it doesn’t end there a headline tour in Europe is followed by dates in Japan, South America and the U.S. This band are definitely worth catching live, so if they are coming to your town, get your tickets as they are selling fast!
Anathema have only just released their 11th album “The Optimist” and today we get to hear the track “Springfield”. There are 3 drum kits at work on the stage, and the rhythm is electrifying it is so tight. The band announce an extensive upcoming tour that runs until February 2018 with dates in the UK in September. The haunting voice of Lee Douglas captivates the audience and adds to the ethereal good vibrations their music generates.
A quick trek through the trees brings us out in the direction of the Main stage where Airbourne are in full flight. These Aussie rockers got in a little hot water when they played Download 2010 as guitarist Joel O’Keeffe scaled the rigging to add extra excitement to his guitar solo. Today is a much tamer affair only involving him being carried out a gangway into the crowd on the shoulders of a guy dressed as a fox. Fair dinkum boys!…..Mr. Fox then produces a can of beer which Joel busts open with his head before spraying it everywhere and chucking it in the crowd. The set is delivered at breakneck speed as always with old favorites like “Girls in Black” and “Breakin’ outta Hell” before bringing the curtain down with “Runnin’ wild”
Back through the trees again to the Zippo Encore stage, where we are treated to one of the performances of the weekend courtesy of Ministry, who seem to have been around forever, but certainly are none the worse for wear. Formed in 1981 by Al Jourgensen the bands driving sound described by some as industrial or alternative has the crowd rocking. Opening up with Psalm 69 the title track of the 1992 album it only seems a shame that the track “Jesus built my hot rod” does not get an airing. However the remaining songs more than compensate for this. Jourgensen blasts out the tunes from behind a microphone stand adorned with 3 skulls, setting the tone as dry ice smoke billows across the stage.
After an extended visit to the bar we return for Opeth who are no strangers to Download. They open with the title track to their latest album “Sorcoress” which has a quite progressive slant, they follow this up by bringing us back to earth with “Ghosts of Perdition”. Michael Ackerfeldt is in fine form and has lost none of his dry wit, on being signalled from the side of the stage to keep the set moving, he announces they are going to play “Deliverance” and that fortunately for fans the song only lasts 3 days. As usual the Opeth sound is pitch perfect and crystal clear and the crowd can only stand in awe and marvel.
Slayer top the bill tonight on the Zippo encore stage opening with “Repentless” from their 2015 album of the same name. Their set is like a well-oiled machine and we are treated to gems like “Mandatory Suicide”, “War Ensemble”, “Dead skin mask” and the classic “Seasons in the abyss”.
It may be a while since “Repentless” however in an interview with Ultimate Guitar Gary Holt revealed that he will be involved with the song writing on the next Slayer album so watch this space!
Final band on the final day of the Download on their final tour Aerovederchi…or is it? Aerosmith take to the boards of the main stage opening up with “Let the music do the talking” a tune originally recorded by Joe Perry and rerecorded by Aerosmith The hits keep coming with “Living on the edge”, “Janie’s got a gun” and the old Fleetwood mac classics “Stop messing around” and “Oh Well” The crowd can’t get enough and we get treated to the acoustic vibe of the deep south on “Hangman jury”. Steve Tyler shakes his Maracas as only he can while Tom Hamilton lays down the base line on “Sweet Emotion”. The obligatory “Don’t want to miss a thing” makes an appearance with outstanding performances on “Rag Doll” and “Dude looks like a Lady”. The encore comprises “Dream on “ and a brief digression with a cover of James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn and no Aerosmith show would be complete without their masterpiece of genre crossovers “Walk this way”. As of now all we do is wonder as there are rumblings of another album but this was supposed to be a farewell tour……wasn’t it?
The night sky is illuminated magnificently with fireworks and fans turn to head home wondering …..is that the last UK show for Aerosmith and in the words of Steve Tyler “Thank you and Good night”.
Download festival is always great fun and this year is no exception. Many people go the extra mile and dress for the occasion. This weekend we have met amongst others, Hansel and Gretel, a group of penguins, Superman in a skirt, and a group of travelling troubadours pulling a wagon that is being pushed by 3 apes in costume. All of this adds to the surreal atmosphere of fun, happiness and good humour that Download is famous for. If you’ve not been to Download yet, make sure 2018 is the year you put that right. We’ve been going since 1986 and it only gets better…
Until next year!
by Howard G. Keogh – Chief Correspondent and Resident Historian
All right Punters, let’s start with a little history lesson before we delve into this year’s soiree. In 1979, promoters Paul Loasby, and Maurice Jones, planned a one-day festival aimed specifically at bands within the hard rock and heavy metal genre. Loasby was an established and successful promoter working that year on the Rainbow UK tour and the festival was set to be the final show of the tour with Rainbow as headliners. The first Monsters of Rock line-up consisted of a mix of British and international bands and was a success with an attendance of 35,000. After its fledgling success the festival became an annual event and continued for the next 15 years.
Over the years, the attendance continued to grow, reaching 107,000 in 1988, when sadly two fans died during Guns ‘N’ Roses set. As a result, the festival was cancelled the following year, returning in 1990 with a crowd restriction of 75,000. The Monsters of Rock festival was the premier hard rock event in Great Britain in the 1990s but fell upon hard times as heavy metal became less popular, with another cancellation in 1993 due to the lack of a strong enough headliner. In 1995 the festival found itself in a similar situation until Metallica agreed to play, on condition the band had control over the event renaming it "Escape from the Studio". In 1996 Ozzy Osbourne and KISS co-headlined the festival and although there were plans to extend the festival into a two-day event in 1997, the promoters once again found themselves in a struggle for headliners and the event was cancelled and discontinued.
Download Festival was conceived as a follow up to the Monsters of Rock festivals which had been held at the Donington Park circuit between 1980 and 1996. The first Download Festival was created at the same location in 2003 by Stuart Galbraith, Tom Pyke and Andy Copping. Rather than run as a single day event, Download was initially a two-day event, expanding to three days in 2005 the festival is now in its 14th year and here we are once again on hallowed turf in 2016.
Day 1 – Friday
The business of day one starts at the main stage, which has been named this year in honour of Lemmy, Motorhead’s inimitable front man who departed this earth, bound for the great gig in the sky at the end of last year.
Our first band of the weekend is Massachusetts metallers, Killswitch Engage who open their set with "Strength of mind" from their recently released "Incarnate" album. The band has reunited with former vocalist Jesse Leach. Their set is well received by the audience however, an expletive rant by Leach midway through their set is hardly necessary to impress anyone. One would think, for a band with their pedigree, this was a little juvenile and could have been omitted.
Weather is always a consideration when attending an outdoor festival, and Download has seen a mixed bag of weather over the years. As usual the rain is not far away and it starts early this year with Armageddon type downpour wreaking havoc on proceedings. Many unlucky punters are forced to abandon campsites and car parks as the weather takes its toll on what some are calling “Drownload”.
A short trip from the main stage allows us to take in the last few songs of the "Fort Hope" set on The Maverick stage. Formed in 2013, this band generated a lot of interest when their single "Plans" was voted track of the day on BBC radio 1. The band were also nominated best British newcomer at this year’s relentless Kerrang awards.
The next act on the Maverick stage is Kadavar from Berlin in Germany and they are in fine form. This band have had a few twists and turns in their career so far including the departure of their bassist, and having their car burst into flames on their first U.S outing. Their drummer is a powerhouse in their doom laden set and at times you could be listening to an early Black Sabbath. This is particularly evident on the track "Doomsday machine".
This year sees a new type of event for Download. Gutterdammerung is a production which combines movie, theatre, and live performance. It comes highly recommended, and, without giving away the plot, involves the eternal battle between good and evil. The action takes in themes from the wild-west, World War 1, and the Spanish Inquisition. It has an all-star cast, including the likes of Henry Rollins, Slash, Iggy Pop and even Lemmy. This production which was the brainchild of Bjorn Tagemose is well worth catching if you get the opportunity.
The build up to our first headliner Rammstein is a one minute countdown displayed on the video screens, the last ten seconds of which is also projected onto the curtain. At zero the curtain falls to the ground, a cloud of pink smoke billows out from behind the stage, and all hell breaks loose onstage as the band open with new song "Ramm 4". The set list tonight includes classics like "Feuer frei" and "Du hast". These boys were never shrinking violets or ones to shy away from controversy, and tonight is no exception. During “Zerstoren” Till Lindemann opens his jacket to reveal a suicide belt which proceeds to blow one stick of dynamite at a time. The encore comprises "Sonne" and an acoustic version of "Ohne dich" and "Engel" during which Till Lindemann takes to the air above the stage on his Firework fueled angel wings.
Day Two – Saturday
Day two starts off fine but as usual rain is never too far away. First stop today is the main stage for Nikki Sixx’s solo band Sixx AM. They receive a rapturous reception from the crowd and deliver a great set from their album "Prayers for the damned". Vocalist James Michael who also produced albums by Halestorm, Meatloaf, and Alanis Morrisette gives a standout performance.
Rival sons from Long beach California commiserate with the crowd on the inclement weather which has eased slightly for their set. They have just released a new album entitled "Hollow bones" and are currently enjoying the fruits of their labours as support to Black Sabbath for their final tour.
Megadeth are back at Download this year opening their set with" Hangar 18" and we are also treated to classics like "Sweating bullets" and "She wolf". Later in the set the band welcome Nikki Sixx once more onstage for a rousing performance of the old Sex pistols track "Anarchy in the U.K.". The band also play the title track from their new album "Dystopia" Their set concludes with a visit from their Mascot Vic during "Peace sells" and the final track "Holy wars".
We make the trek over to the Zippo encore stage for “Skindred” who, thanks to their Charismatic front man Benji, whip up the crowd to fever pitch, culminating in what is known in Skindred circles as the Newport Helicopter. Along the way we are treated to a roller coaster ride with stalwart tunes like “Pressure” and “Kill the Power”. Benji also advises the crowd to never waste an opportunity to tell a friend you love them as he laments the loss of one of his own friends to cancer on acoustic track “Saying it now”.
Today could be described as a type of homecoming for Black Sabbath on their final tour dubbed The End. The real homecoming however, is the very last show on their home turf of Birmingham on Feb 17 2017, but for now this will do. As the expectant crowd gathered in a field, which looks something akin to the trenches of the Somme, the familiar band logo appears on the screens at either side of the stage. Then the eerie sound of rain and a tolling bell the Prelude to the bands self-titled song “Black Sabbath”. This is followed by “Fairies wear Boots”, “After Forever” and “Snow blind”. Ozzy seems to be having “A bad day at the office” and it is not until “War Pigs” that things settle down. Ozzy asks why does it always have to be pissing down and thanks the assembled crowd for their support over the years, saying “Without you guys we wouldn’t be here”. Next is “Behind the wall of sleep”, followed by that familiar Bass solo which marks the start of “N.I.B.” Other classics include the likes of “Iron Man” and “Children of the grave”. Finally we come to the trademark final song “Paranoid” and if there are any teary eyes in the arena they can’t be seen because everything else is wet too! As the final chords are struck the finality becomes evident as THE END appears on the screens and that’s it. The last hurrah is over. The band who started it all are finally about to hang up their boots, but what a ride it’s been Thanks guys!
Day Three – Sunday
Sunday morning starts for us with the second act on the Lemmy stage, Amon Amarth. These guys must have decided when they were kids, “I Know when I grow up I will be a Viking” They open with “In pursuit of Vikings” then “First Kill” from their 2016 album Jomsviking. Vocalist Johan Hegg tells us to ignore the weather he goes on to say “Nothing breaks a Metal head, if you’re tired Drink Beer” proceeding to raise a horn of ale to toast the crowd. He may indeed have a point here, as the inclement weather may have washed out some people but for those that remain has led to the Metal Olympics. The mischievous streak in the metal head with a twinkle in their eye, devising new sports such as Mud Wrestling, and Airbed tobogganing. It is this spirit of fun that encapsulates the Download event, laughing in the face of adversity but with respect to all those who were forced to leave due to the weather.
We visit the Maverick stage next for “The Dirty Youth”. Unfortunately the Maverick tent now has a moat around it, but the packed tent is testament to the appeal of this feisty lot from south Wales. Singer Danni Monroe salutes her friend Benji from fellow Welsh band Skindred. Later in the set she thanks Andy Copping “The man in the Hat” for inviting them back to play at Download for this their fourth visit. Looks like this band are doing everything right and are riding on the crest of a wave after the release of their second album “Gold Dust” at the end of last year. With a slightly revised direction fusing hard rock riffs, pop hooks and techno breaks on occasion, we still cant figure out why these guys aren’t huge. Go see them in smaller venues while you still can.
Delain play two sets this weekend the first was an acoustic set on the Firestone stage on Friday, and now they play the Zippo encore stage. This Dutch symphonic metal band was formed in 2002 by former Within Temptation keyboardist, Martijn Westerholt and Charlotte Wessels. Two performances in one weekend is a good start for the band’s first visit to the Download festival. New guitarist Merel Bechtold looks as if she is savouring every energetic moment and is a great fit with her new bandmates.
They run through an energetic set which includes the single “We are the others” which they also played in their acoustic set. Other gems include “Don’t let go” which Charlotte tells us can warm you up after standing in the rain. I remember being handed a demo CD of this band a number of years ago while working at Download and obviously this type of commitment pays off with the band playing second stage today.
Halestorm are the next act on the Lemmy stage and this band are no strangers to Download. They open with “Apocalyptic” followed by their huge hit “Love Bites (and so do I)” Lizzy Hale is in fine form today and blasts it out, dedicating “I am the Fire” to all who came out in the mud to see them. The atmosphere builds steadily throughout their set but Lizzy gives a sterling performance on their final song “I miss the Misery”.
Nightwish are the penultimate band on the Lemmy stage this year but they put on a rousing performance managing to lift the spirits of a crowd who have been at the mercy of the elements for three days. The band open with “Shudder before the Beautiful” also playing hits like “Storytime” ”Elan” and “Nemo”. They close their set with “Last ride of the day”. One fan in particular certainly enjoyed the show as he danced alone with his wellies in the middle of a lake of mud, and why not? Look it up online…you’ll love it.
Finally it is time for Iron Maiden, the last performance of the weekend, and Iron Maiden’s sixth showing at Donington, another hugely popular choice. Just recently landed at the nearby East midlands airport stands Ed Force One the Boeing 747 (400 series) flown in courtesy of front man Bruce Dickinson. The band burst onto stage opening with two tracks from the recent Book of souls album “If eternity should fail” and “Speed of light” before dragging us all the way back to 1982’s The number of the beast album for “Children of the damned”. Bruce is running around the stage like a man possessed and his voice appears to be unscathed by his recent illness. The stage has been converted into the ruin of an old Mayan temple and the music continues with “The red and the Black” showing well. We also get “The Trooper”, “Powerslave”, “Hallowed be thy name” and “Fear of the dark”. During the encore Bruce give a touching speech recalling recent events in both Paris and Orlando before breaking into “Blood brothers” saying “Life, Love, Laughter and Music will go on” and proceedings are brought to a close with “Wasted years”…. Up the Irons!
Once again that’s all folks…but don’t throw away the wellies just yet. Andy Copping has issued an open invitation to Guns ‘N’ Roses for next year. Bring on 2017! We can’t wait…
By Howard Keogh – Our Intrepid Reporter / Purveyor of Fine Wine
It’s that time of year again. Midsummer is nearly upon us and Liggers, Loggers, Bloggers, Blaggers and a good smattering of Daft Buggers congregate on the hallowed turf of Donington Park for the annual metal bash that is the Download festival 2013. This year there are again 5 stages and the addition of a zip wire that spans from one side of the main Arena to the other for all those Adrenaline junkies who need more excitement than the 150 plus bands scheduled to defile our ear drums over the next three days.
After a stiff drink to “get the creative juices flowing” we are off, first stop the Red Bull Studios stage to see Hammer of the Gods a U.K. band (not to be confused with the Led Zeppelin tribute band of the same name formed by Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy) who released their first 3 track EP in 2011.These guys gained a reputation while touring in support of Crowbar and have all adopted their names from Greek mythology. They bring down the hammer on the audience in their own particular style, clad in Black robes and masks, while interlacing a menacing guitar with a screaming vocal line.
Rise to Remain, who have played before but last year had their slot cancelled due to the abysmal weather conditions. This year the weather so far is better than last but as any seasoned Donington pilgrim will tell you anything can happen. The 5 piece metalcore band who today show off a new rhythm section was formed by Ben Tovey, Will Homer, and Austin Dickinson (son of Iron Maiden front man Bruce) One could be forgiven for thinking it was Bruce when Austin speaks to the crowd, however this all changes once the music begins. The band finish their set with the vocalist making a visit down into the crowd for an “Up close and personal” finale.
Another British hardcore band Palm Reader who have just released their debut album “Bad Weather” are the second band on the Pepsi max stage. This band whose promise on their website “We play loud, we play heavy, we play hard, we play fast” is true to their word as even the air in the tent vibrates with the excruciating volume.
A change of tempo then as we visit Zippo encore stage for elder Statesmen of Prog Rock Uriah Heep, who have been treading the boards for more years than many a punter here today can remember, having formed in 1969. The weather has been interfering with proceedings again but Heep claim they are loud enough to “Blow away the clouds” as the rain has stopped for their set. The years have been kind to them and today we are treated to outstanding performances on both drums and Keyboards. They treat us to a collection from their 23 album career that includes “Gypsy” and they finish up with the classic “Easy living”.
Its afternoon, it’s raining, however this does nothing to dampen the spirits of an eager crowd as Dragonforce take to the boards of the second stage. From the off singer Marc Hudson has the crowd onside as he urges the crowd to clap while guitarist and Keyboard player duel it out in an aural assault of speed and power metal. This London based band is obviously enjoying their return to home turf after a US tour. We are treated to 2 tunes from their 2012 album “The Power within” in the shape of “Cry Thunder” and “Seasons”. With a new album due in early 2014 the band finishes their set with their best known tune “Through the fire and flames”. One can’t help feeling the band is a little short changed here as the audience seem to have run out of steam at the end of this great performance.
Next we come to one of the gems of the weekend In this Moment. The stage is decorated with a pair of macabre garden arches, bedecked with skulls, as vocalist Maria Brink enters clad in a red cloak and mask. The band launch into a set list comprised totally from last years album “Blood” opening with “Rise with me” as smoke bombs go off and the stage is almost engulfed. The band work their magic on the crowd, and today’s performance is likely to have won over some more fans. Their live show is slick, as they have cut their teeth in the live environment with tours in support of Shinedown, Halestorm, and Papa Roach.
Volbeat are the next band playing on the Zippo encore stage, and these Danes are creating quite a storm with their unique blend of country, rockabilly, metal, and rock n roll. They taunt the crowd by starting a chant to an infectious bass and guitar groove before saying “Thank you and goodnight”….. and then “you want More?” And that’s it the band rattle out a diverse selection of songs one better than the last. Amongst this menagerie are covers of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of fire” and Judas Priest’s “Breakin’ the law”. We are also given a taste of “Raining Blood” as a dedication to the late Jeff Hanneman. These guys are a band to watch, check out their new album “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies”.
Bullet for my Valentine arrive on the main stage to the strains of a high speed “Carmina Burana “ by Carl Orff and get into stride as a battery of Pyros explode with the opener “Breaking point” from their new album “Temper Temper”. The band play an impressive set from their 4 albums with extensive use of pyros and front man, Matt Tuck tells the huge assembled crowd this festival is a celebration of heavy metal. Obviously a large number of punters picked Bullet as the act they wanted to watch from the choice of 5 stages. This is a problem that besets any visitor to Download as the sheer number of acts performing simultaneously is bound to lead to difficult decisions.
An emotional return to Download for Slipknot as last time they played here in 2009 was in the company of their bassist Paul Gray who died in 2010. The strains of Billy Jo Spears “Get behind me Satan and push” ring out across a dismal and dreary field full of expectant metal heads, then the record seems to get stuck, the curtain drops, pyros explode creating clouds of smoke and the band launch into “Disasterpiece”. Front man Corey Taylor asks “90,000 people here, glad to see us?” to a rapturous response and tells us that Donington is like home to them. The band has never made a secret of the fact they are bigger in the U.K than in the states. Problems with the Barricades force them to stop twice during their set to allow for running repairs. Their set includes classics like “Psychosocial” and “Dead memories” and as they finish their set Corey Taylor tells us “you will see us again sooner than you think”.
It’s Saturday morning and after very little sleep and enough beer to start a small pub, its straight back into it with rock veterans UFO who open the main stage with the Classic “Lights Out”. Phil Mogg tells us that he is surprised anyone is up and launches into “Wonderland” followed by “Burn your house down” from their latest album “Seven Deadly” The sun comes out and Phil Mogg who is wearing sun glasses tells us he lost his guitarist earlier backstage because he was looking for him in the wrong dressing room. The set today is short but the quality is still there, these guys are not content to sit back on their laurels and finish their set in style with the classics “Rockbottom” and “Doctor Doctor”.
The Main stage next plays host to Young Guns who hail from Buckinghamshire. Band members stream onto stage all dressed completely in white, not very rock n roll……don’t speak too soon, this is like an invasion of the staff outing of a psych ward with attendants rampaging about on stage. This band are on the rise with 2 albums to their credit “All our Kings are dead” from 2010 and “Bones” from 2012. They tell us it is good to be home after extensive touring in the US and that they had been looking forward to their slot at Download. Looks like they were not the only ones as a big crowd has assembled by the time they finish with the title track from their last album “Bones”
Black star Riders who are the Irish band Thin Lizzy in their latest guise, are next on the main stage. Ricky Warwick (formerly of The Almighty has taken up duties at the microphone, and the band have released their first new material since the death of their infamous front man Phil Lynott 27 years ago. The album “All Hell Breaks Loose” was released in May and their set comprises a selection that includes music from the new album interspersed with classics like “Jailbreak” and the Bob Seger cover “Rosalie”. Mr. Warwick then politely asks “Is it too early for Whiskey?” before launching into a blistering version of “Whiskey in the Jar”. Proceedings are brought to a close with the signature tune “The boys are back in town”……..so get your knickers down!!!
Katatonia are a metal band from Sweden and they begin their set with “Dead Letters” from their 2012 album “Dead End Kings”. The remainder of their set is tunes taken from each of their recent albums. Their sound is a clever blend of light and shade similar to Anathema. Oh and by the way ….it’s raining again, however the audience are enjoying this capable band’s set.
Next up on the Zippo encore stage are Karnivool a band from Perth on the west coast of Australia and one of three Aussie bands playing Download. Vocalist Ian Kenny proclaims “Lucky us we got the sun” as the weather has improved after the rain during Katatonia’s set. This progressive band play a great set taken from their 3 albums. This band is something special in the weekends festivities…..watch this space! Karnivool complete their set with “Themata” from their 2005 album of the same name.
Now it’s time to make the cross country hike from Stage 2 to the main stage for “Alice in Chains”. The site for the weekend is large and fancy dress has always been one of the most enjoyable and fun aspects of the festivities. On the way to the main stage I meet a gentleman in tweeds and cap accompanied by a lady in skirt, jacket, Headscarf, and sensible shoes…..it is the Queen and Prince Philip. I have already run into a Teenage mutant Ninja turtle, Wonder Woman, Eddie of Iron Maiden fame, Bo Peep and her 3 sheep, a Giraffe, a tiger, and a Dinosaur in one piece suits. Later on my journey I meet some gentlemen dressed in French Maid outfits. Back to the music however, Alice in Chains come on stage and launch into “Them bones” and “Dam that River” both from the album “Dirt” Disappointingly we are only treated to one tune ”Hollow” from the new album entitled “the Devil put Dinosaurs here” Ironically the guys have a false start on “Again” and have to do a second take. This was the only blip in an otherwise flawless execution by the band who finish their set with “Rooster”
Stage 2 again and Thunder are about to take the stage and as we wait we can hear the strains of “Damage case” as Motorhead bang out the hits. Thunder announced their intention to split before their performance at Download 2009. Since then there have been a number of reunions, this one announced in April this year but the boys are back in business, and as good as ever. They open with “Dirty love” to a large crowd who lap it up. Their set includes favourites like “Higher ground”, “River of Pain” and “Love walked in”. Danny Bowes does however looks a little more like the Father of the bride than a singer in a Rock band. Notwithstanding this Thunder is still a great band and deserve the rousing response received from the Download crowd.
On the Jagermeister stage Devin Townsend has his work cut out for him as he has to struggle against the assault of bands on other stages. In his inimitable style he quips “they asked me to bring my band but I said no, I wanted to play acoustic guitar to a backdrop of bands playing metal on other stages…..that’s real action” as he prompts his sound man to turn it up! Devin steam rolls through with a set that includes “Deadhead” and “Storm” from his “Accelerated Evolution” album. As always this performer is incredibly entertaining with his clever sense of humour and quick wit. The set comes to a close with “Bad Devil” from the 1998 Infinity album.
Headliner time again as Saturday sun begins to set and the Download crowd has swelled as it always does at the prospect of witnessing the well oiled machine that is the amazing Iron Maiden. The anticipation is palpable that something special is about to happen. We are not disappointed as the intro involves a real World War 2 spitfire flying over the crowd at low altitude followed by an elaborate build up to the opener “Moonchild”. This is a return to the Maiden England show and Bruce welcomes us to 1988 when this show was unleashed in Donington to 107,000 eager fans. I am proud to say I was one of them. Bruce gives a speech where he remembers the Battle of Britain, and thanks the RAF for the use of the Spitfire. He goes on to mention the possibility of another date in the U.K. at the end of the tour. He goes on to mention that England send troops out into the desert and expect them to do the right thing by way of an introduction to “Afraid to shoot strangers” Bruce was all set to cycle the last leg of a 3 day cycle from London to Donington in support of three children’s charities. Unfortunately Bruce had to cancel as he had been suffering from a virus and was advised to rest up by doctors. This might also be the reason for the trade mark scream on “Number of the beast “being cut short. The remainder of the set leans heavily on the “Seventh son of a Seventh son” album and includes some rare pearls from the past like “Phantom of the opera” The encore for this evening comprises Churchill’s speech followed by “Aces High”, “The evil that men do” and old staple “Running free”. Another day down and it’s back to our Teepee for a few beers to round off the evening. Rammstein it’s going to be hard to top this show!
Sunday morning comes around way too soon as we definitely had much more beer than was required to round off the evening. So what’s the best cure for a hangover, well it’s a dose of Five finger Death Punch of course. The sun is shining and FFDP ask “you want to get crazy?” Front man Ivan Moody introduces “Burn it down” and after the song proceeds to blow off steam about being shut down last time they played Download. He goes on to say that this time he won’t ask the fans to crowd surf but says he’d ‘love to meet them’ instead! This won’t have gone down well with security who are of course responsible for crowd safety. The highlight of their set is a cover of the song Bad Company. Moody attempts to redeem himself later in the set by fishing children from the front of the crowd to remove them from the crush. He then uses the opportunity for some banter before finishing their set with “White knuckles”, “Lift me up” and “The Bleeding”.
Second stage next and Sweden’s Amon Amarth are due onstage however unfortunately technical difficulties mean their set is reduced as they are ten minutes late coming on. As the intro plays the sail rises on a full size longboat on stage. The band open with “War of the Gods” but the technical difficulties are still evident at the start of this song. They only play 4 songs due to scheduling which include the title track from their album “Deceiver of the gods” which was recorded in the U.K
Next act on the 2nd stage are California’s Rival Sons who are currently blazing a trail. Vocalist Jay Buchanan is flawless in his execution and with the infectious grooves provided by his band mates it doesn’t get much better than this. Their whole set bar one tune is lifted off their 2012 album “Head Down” which is well worth checking out.
Ghost are next to play this afternoon and this band are an unlikely melting pot of Black metal, pop, and Doom, and they are rising fast. They open with the title track from their 2013 album “Infestissumam” which debuted at number 1 in Sweden. During the intro the Ghouls assemble in their black hooded robes while their front man Papa Emeritus follows in the guise of a demented cardinal with a skull mask. Their set comprises songs from both their albums, and is well received by the crowd. Beware the dark side!
Australian wild boys Airbourne literally explode onto stage with “Ready to rock” followed by “Cheap Wine and Cheaper women” then “Black dog barking” from the latest album during which front man Joel O’Keeffe goes on his traditional Australian walkabout through the crowd. There is a huge crowd here and it takes quite a while for him to return to stage. These guys really can rock and the crowd loves it. Their latest single “Live it up” from the new album gets an airing before they finish up with the rocker “Runnin’ Wild”.
Finally the last band Rammstein are ready to take to the stage and behind the honeycomb curtain Fireworks start to erupt, the curtain falls and we career headlong into “Ich tu dir weh”. Till Lindemann sporting a pink Fur coat is lowered on a blazing platform as fire burns all around. Rammstein are intent on keeping us warm tonight as any chill is staved off by the use of pyros while the band storm their way through a set that includes “Keine Lust”, “Sehensucht” and “”Feuer Frei”. Then it’s time for a little theatre as we come to “Mein Teil” during which keyboard player Christian “Flake” Lorenz is wheeled onto stage in a huge cauldron. Lindemann dressed as a butcher and wielding a huge knife then proceeds to cook him using a flame thrower, but not content that he is cooked he swaps the flame thrower for an even bigger one and engulfs the cauldron in flames. After which Lorenz runs across the stage with fire crackers flying from his half cooked rear end. Later in the show the band perform “Benzin” during which Mr. Lindemann blasts flame from the nozzle of a giant old petrol pump. ”Du Hast” is another fiesta of flame after which keyboard player Lorenz again comes in for a hard time during “Buch dich” being led about on all fours with collar and chain by Lindemann who appears to sodomise him before spraying the crowd with the emissions from his plastic phallus. After “Ich will” the band leaves the stage only to return for an encore of 3 songs. The first of these is a beautifully eerie version of “Mein Herz Brennt” with just Lindemann with the backing of a piano, followed by “Sonne” and the ridiculously flamboyant “Pussy” during which Lindemann rides a giant Phallus from side to side of the stage spraying the crowd with foam. Finally as this amazing show comes to an end huge quantities of confetti are unleashed from the stage and Rammstein thank the crowd take a bow and depart.
What a way for Download 2013 to end and what a weekend. Roll on Download 2014!
Today we need your help.
Kerrang magazine in the UK are looking for a brand new band (!) for their front cover next week and we of course think that this accolade should naturally go to the best new band in the UK. For our money, there is no better band for the bill than Wales’ finest, The Dirty Youth. These guys are the best of breed and deserve a shot at the big time. As many of you may know, we have been supporters of these guys since the early days and they are pretty hot right now after just coming off a European tour with The Rasmus.
Take our word for it. When they hit the USA, they will be huge! You heard it here first.
Please help us out massively by tweeting
@jamesjammcmahon Put @DirtyYouth on the cover.
Please help us out massively by tweeting
@jamesjammcmahon Put @DirtyYouth on the cover.
Check out The Dirty Youth website here…
Photo: Rob McGlade
Who can believe its 2013 already?
We are once more at the beginning of a new year with all the resolutions and goals that this time of year brings. I hope all of you get everything you wish for this year. For me, it is time to get back to updating this site and using it to showcase some of my work and some of the best bands around. Over the next days and weeks I will catch up with some old shoots (I have hundreds of really great unpublished shoots) and maybe a few new ones too. Here’s to 2013.
It’s good to be back…
First of all – Thank You
Thanks to all of you for all the kind words, comments, calls, visits, flowers & gifts we have received over the past few days. Our world has been turned upside down since last week and we are still devastated at the loss of our lovely little baby Laura.
Summary of Events
Laura was born on Friday 20th April and seemed perfectly normal. We all spent a few wonderful hours bonding and Laura was transferred to the ward where she had the first little blip where she occasionally struggled to breathe. As the day progressed, the breathing difficulties increased in frequency and progressed to choking incidents which became more and more frightening. A doctor was called to see her and it was decided to move her to the Special Care Baby Unit where they carried out some tests. Very quickly she was diagnosed with OA/TOF – a condition that affected her oesophagus:
Oesophageal Atresia (OA)
In oesophageal atresia there is a break in the continuity of the oesophagus. The end nearest the mouth is not attached to the end which enters the stomach, the gap usually occurring high up in the chest. The presence of a blind-ending pouch in the upper oesophagus means that food is unable to reach the stomach; any swallowed milk or saliva instead returns to the mouth.
Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula (TOF)
A fistula, from the Latin meaning ‘a pipe,’ is an abnormal connection running either between two tubes or between a tube and a surface. In tracheo-oesophageal fistula it runs between the trachea and the oesophagus. This connection may or may not have a central cavity; if it does, then food within the oesophagus may pass into the trachea (and on to the lungs) or alternatively, air in the trachea may cross into the oesophagus.
Laura was transferred to Chelsea & Westminster Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on Saturday morning and was scheduled for surgery the following day . We said goodbye to her at 12:30pm outside the Operating Theatre and waited while the operation commenced. Just before 6pm we were advised that all was not going well with the operation and that Laura had been resuscitated a number of times but was not responding. We rushed to the operating theatre in a state of shock and disbelief and stood outside while the life of our little baby hung in the balance. Sadly, she did not survive despite the surgeons best efforts. It seems that the operation was far more complicated than originally thought and just after 6pm, Laura was pronounced dead.
It is the most awful feeling to be completely helpless when your child is in a grave situation. We had not even considered that she might not live through the operation but sometimes life can be cruel. The staff at the NICU at Chelsea & Westminster hospital were absolutely fantastic – they offered Laura incredible care in her short time there and all the staff were visibly affected by her death. They showed incredible compassion for us when Laura died and they bent over backwards to make us comfortable.in the aftermath. They made our difficult time so much easier and we thank them very much for that.
The one silver lining in all of this is the overwhelming amount of support and love that has come our way since Laura’s untimely death. People have been so kind… we’ve had meals, gifts & flowers dropped off to us & support has come from friends and family in London, Ireland, Manchester & the rest of the UK, Abu Dhabi, Croatia, Greece & New Zealand amongst others. Thanks to everyone who showed they care for us. Support really has been overwhelming and a joy to behold.
Funeral This Friday 4th May 2012
We don’t want anyone to feel under any pressure whatsoever to attend, but everyone is of course welcome to come and celebrate Laura’s life with us. It will be nice to see anyone who can make it.
The funeral service is this coming Friday 4th May at St. Edmund of Canterbury Catholic Church, St. Edmund’s Lane, 213 Nelson Road, Whitton, Twickenham, TW2 7BB at 1pm. There is some parking available in the car park, otherwise you can park along Nelson Road.
Following the service we will travel to Borough Cemetery, Powder Mill Lane, Twickenham, TW2 6EJ for the burial at approximately 2pm
After the burial we shall make our way to the Duke of York Pub at 672 Hanworth Road, Hounslow, TW4 5NP where we will celebrate baby Laura’s short life.
We would ask for family flowers only please, to be delivered to Lodge Brothers Funeral Directors, 108 High Street, Feltham, Middlesex, TW13 4EX by 9:30am on the day of the funeral. If anyone would like to make a donation in lieu of flowers, this may be given via Lodge Brothers and will go directly to the charity that benefits the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital where Laura was cared for in her final hours. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Chelsea & Westminster Health Charity – Neonatal Unit Fund 137’ – with your name and address on the back of the cheques.
Thanks once again for all your kind wishes & thoughts. Your love has been amazing.
It is with great sadness that we announce the news that Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi has been diagnosed with cancer.The recently reunited band’s statement on the current situation is as follows:
“With the news that Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi has been diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma, his bandmates would like everyone to send positive vibes to the guitarist at this time. Iommi is currently working with his doctors to establish the best treatment plan–the “IRON MAN” of Rock & Roll remains upbeat and determined to make a full and successful recovery.
This comes as Black Sabbath…–Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums)–are writing and recording their first album in 33 years in Los Angeles (still set for release this fall) with producer Rick Rubin. They will now go to the UK to continue to work with Tony. Further information will be released as it becomes available.”
We all wish the iron man a speedy recovery.
Gotthard…’”Remember It’s Me”
New Singer Announced
Gotthard’s new singer has been confirmed. The successor to Steve Lee, who was killed in a tragic accident last year, is Nic Maeder and is Swiss-born. Nic was born in 1971 in Lausanne, lived in Melbourne, Australia and grew up between Switzerland and "Down Under".
Dear GOTTHARD Fans – it gives us great pleasure to announce that we have found a new singer. The successor is Nic Maeder.
"Nic not only has a great voice and is a fantastic musician, but we also have a great person in our midst", says Leo. "We can rock again at last".
During the months after the decision to carry on was taken, we received a huge amount of applications from all over the world; it was really overwhelming! At this point we would really like to thank everyone, especially the candidates, to whom we were not able to send a personal message. Thank you for your understanding and we wish all of you lots of luck and success in the future!
"The search took a long time but it was clear to all of us when we met Nic that he was the right guy. With him we can enjoy the music again and celebrate new success," states Hena. "I’m really happy that we are continuing".
The final decision for Nic Maeder was unanimous. "We noticed straight away that the chemistry, both musically and personally, was right. For us, he is the new member of the family", says Freddy.
Nic Maeder, who besides his singing position also plays guitar and piano, is a very talented and creative person. His songwriting ability also means he fits perfectly into the Gotthard family. He is the missing piece in the puzzle.
"Music has been my companion all my life and always was an important part of it. It is a great feeling to be able to share in the birth of a song and to see how it keeps growing. I can experience that with GOTTHARD and it makes me happy. I am making music with friends," says Nic Maeder.
Of course you can write a lot about a new singer, but in the end there is nothing better than seeing and hearing him sing. We therefore decided to produce a song plus video as a thank you to our fans, which can be downloaded free of charge. It is dedicated to all our Fans who didn’t lose their faith and trust in GOTTHARD. You have supported us with all your strength during the past months. Thank you so much!
Marc "With Nic, we have taken the right decision for GOTTHARD. A lot of courage is needed to step into the footsteps of such a great singer. For that, Nic has earned our respect. Let’s never forget this and make Nic welcome in the family.
We are in the studio at the moment and are working with renewed energy and enthusiasm on songs for a new album, which will be released in the spring of 2012… keep on rocking!!!
"Remember it’s me" can be downloaded free at www.gotthard.com
‘Red Light Fix’ finally hits the stores
Hot on the heels of their recent appearances at Sweden Rock and Download Festival, Wales’ finest, The Dirty Youth have finally released their long awaited new album – ‘Red Light Fix’. The album was mixed by Martyn ‘Ginge’ Ford and Colin Richardson, both of whom who have recently worked with such bands as Slipknot, Trivium and Bullet for my Valentine. The album was mastered at the famous Sterling Sound in New York. Heady stuff indeed for a band that six months ago were drawing huge crowds at sell-out gigs but incredibly remained unsigned. All that has changed now with fresh management and major label backing.
Early reviews have been amazing with HMV selecting the album as their ‘Recommended New Release’ for the week. The video for their new single ‘Fight’ is also getting heavy rotation on Kerrang and Scuzz TV channels. The band are about to go out on a 15-date UK-wide tour and are also set to tour with Adam Ant. Catch them in the smaller venues while you still can because take my word for it – these guys are going to be huge!
Order your Fix here:
Preview Tracks and Order ‘Red Light Fix’ at HMV