Download Festival 2015 words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
You know what the worst thing about the Download festival is? No, it’s not the toilets or the unseasonably shitty weather; although those do rank highly on the list. The worst thing about Download is the choice. With four stages and over one hundred bands, there is always going to be an agonizing dilemma of who to see. It’s a good complaint, of course, and no matter which stage you choose, you will be assured a great show (unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the afore-mentioned toilets). The big names this year include legends that have been performing for over four decades like Judas Priest and Kiss, the comparatively youthful, but equally legendary Slipknot and the surprise Saturday main stage headliners, Muse. Having finally dried off, and scraped the Donington mud from everything, we present our Download Diary complete with exclusive photos from Olga Kuzmenko.
The weekend officially starts at 1pm on a sunny Friday afternoon with Festival-openers All That Remains on the main stage. The Massachusetts melodic metalcore quintet get the fresh-faced fans into an early frenzy; even spawning the occasional circle pit. Singer Philip Labonte knows his set is short and wastes little time on chit-chat, instead saving his growls for a handful of heavy tracks including two from their 2015 album The Order of Things.
Next on the main stage is so-called supergroup HellYeah from Dallas Texas. For the title track ‘Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood)’ from their fourth and latest studio release, frontman Chad Gray smears his face with fake blood, which nicely complements his already dyed-red hair and goatee. Hellyeah apparently continuing to attract a mix of old-school Pantera fans, eager to see Vinnie Paul behind the drums, and dedicated fans of the now well-established entity that formed almost a decade ago.
Leaving the main stage before HellYeah have wrapped up, we are witness to several large inflatable alligators bouncing over the heads of the considerable gathering in the Maverick stage. Wait… those aren’t alligators; they’re crocodiles. Of course; we’re here to see Krokodil; another “supergroup”, based in the UK, who made their debut appearance here at Download in 2013. The big blue tent isn’t full, but there’s still plenty of people watching from outside; possibly making the best of the blue skies while they still can.
It’s time to get some festival food for lunch, and again there is plenty of choice; play it safe with a cheese toastie? Or go for a curry and take your chances in the lavatory lottery later. Prices are as extortionate as ever, but this year they can take your money even quicker than before, thanks to the new cashless dog-tag system. There are a few horror stories of punters loading up their tags with their hard-saved festival fund, only to find a zero balance upon arrival, and a few cases where network or power failures prevented transactions. But overall, the cashless system seemed to work well, with shorter queuing times, and always knowing exactly how much money you have left thanks to a balance display after every transaction.
So after lunch, it’s off to the Zippo Encore stage. En Route, we catch a few minutes of At The Gates doing their thing on the main stage. The Swedish death metal group released their first album in 19 years at the end of 2014 after briefly reforming, disbanding, and then reuniting again since originally calling it quits in 1996. Their renewed vigour is apparent, and the fans seem to be enjoying the show as if they had never left the scene. Over on the Zippo stage, their fellow country folk Blues Pills are mid way through their set, jamming on extended bluesy rock tracks in front of a very respectable crowd. Vocalist Elin Larsson’s impressively powerful voice surely piqued the interest of many visitors to the nearby beer tent, and her vibrant dancing and tambourine tapping undoubtedly hold their attention long enough to make some new fans.
From one powerful female vocalist to another, Christina Scabbia is dominating the main stage as she and fellow singer Andrea Ferro lead Lacuna Coil in a typically emotive performance. Scabbia frequents the stage side wings and centre ramp into the crowd and is met wherever she goes with cheers of adoration from dedicated front-row fans, male and female alike. Their Depeche Mode cover of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ unsurprisingly gets the biggest sing-along of their set, prompting those unfamiliar with the Italians’ music to join in with their twist on the familiar synth-pop hit. With the crowd in the mood to participate, Scabbia easily encourages them to chant the line “We Fear Nothing” during ‘Nothing Stands in Our Way’ from their 2014 album Broken Crown Halo.
Already tiring of running from stage to stage, we are glad to stay put at the main stage to see straight-up American rock quartet Clutch and their part-mellow, part-mental performance. They focus mostly on tracks from their highly acclaimed 2013 release Earth Rocker with frontman Neil Fallon pounding around the stage in his usual defiant manner. A brand new track from their upcoming album Psychic Warfare due for release in September is ‘X-Ray Visions’ and seems to go down quite well with the audience. Of course, the familiar opening riff of ‘Electric Worry’ scores them the biggest reaction of their set, and the Maryland rockers are loving every minute of it.
Our next stop is the Maverick tent, but to get there we must cross what seems like a never-ending, almost single-file queue from the Kerrang! signing tent half way up the arena hill. They’re waiting for Corey Taylor who is apparently prepared to sign only his new book “You’re Making Me Hate You”; a disappointment for those hoping to get their Slipknot memorabilia autographed. At the blue big top, local lads Sylosis have attracted a decent crowd and elicit a huge cheer as they take to the stage. It’s great to see relatively young bands like these kicking ass with such ferocity and getting such an enthusiastic response from a tent full of metal lovers. Download is as much about bands like these as it is about big name acts who have been headlining festival main stages for decades.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to enjoy Sylosis for long, because sludge metal maestros, and personal favourite, Corrosion Of Conformity are clashing, way over on the Zippo stage. The smell of herbal cigarettes is particularly pungent approaching the massive crowd that have gathered to see the Deliverance/Wiseblood lineup reunion. Pepper Keenan’s voice sounds as good as it did twenty years ago as they belt out COC gems like ‘King Of The Rotten’ and ‘Clean My Wounds’. By this time, the short-lived sunshine has faded, and the mist turns to drizzle, and then to downright downpour. It’s time to get some grub, and a couple of beers, and psych up for tonight’s headliners.
Despite the persistent rain, nine iconic masked figures are warmly welcomed by tens of thousands of drenched revelers as Slipknot launch their highly-anticipated set. It’s the fifth time Slipknot have performed at the Download festival, but the first without Joey Jordison behind the drums. Frontman Corey Taylor expresses his appreciation for the friends, nay, family, that have endured the rainy conditions reminiscent of their last Download headline show two years ago. Their set is a non-stop barrage of tracks that have put them at the top of so many must-see lists; songs like ‘Psychosocial’, ‘The Devil in I’, ‘Before I Forget’, ‘Duality’; the list goes on. As ever, Slipknot exceed expectations and set the bar high for the other headliners this weekend, if not this Summer.