Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Download Festival Review part 3: Day 2 band reviews

Day 2

Dying Fetus

     Day 2 began with a full English breakfast, coffee and American Death Metal. Dying Fetus got things started with a bang on the Main Stage, with their over-the-top, cranked to 11, in your face style giving everyone a reason to wake the fuck up. I'm not much of a fan of DF, but they display incredible talent and it was just great to see a Death Metal band take the Main Stage, even if it was early in the day.

Quick Review: Loud, unapologetic and played with superb accuracy. A Great way to get the blood flowing and kick start Day 2.



     Chevelle has been one of my favorite bands since mid-way through High School, and quite possibly takes the cake as my favorite "rock" band. These American rockers bring a cross of post-grunge and Tool and blend it all together in a straight forward and memorable rock format. Chevelle took to the Second Stage in front of a mid sized crowd (mid-sized for a festival, the crowd was still larger than any venue could support). To my surprise I appeared to be BY FAR the biggest Chevelle fan in the audience. Most of the crowd still appeared to be waking up and attempting to cure their hangovers, while a very select few were pressed up against the barrier rocking out and singing along with full force. Chevelle's set was short but sweet, performing a well balanced mix of songs off their discography and their live sound was damn near album quality. I loved what I saw but found myself dying to see more.

Quick Review: Amazing live sound that left me begging for more. Apparently 99% England doesn't know who Chevelle are though.


The Black Dahlia Murder

More American Death Metal? Fuck Yea!
In all seriousness I'm not that big of a Death Metal fan, but when experiencing European music festivals, I wanted to push my own boundaries and explore some music I don't actively listen to. I arrived 5 minutes late (beer>being on time) and arrived to discover TBDM already tearing apart the Pepsi Max tent. Their sound was loud, fast, technical and 100% album quality. I began the set quietly nodding my head at the back of the tent and by the end of the set I wound up in the middle of the mosh pit covered in sweat and beer. TBDM had an uncontrollably and infectious live energy, it spread to everyone in ear shot and they experienced one of the fastest growing crowds of the day, with every passer by stopping to check out the madness. 

Quick Review: Incredible live energy, jaw dropping talent and an atmosphere that felt aggressive but strangely had you smiling the whole set


Bury Tomorrow

     Now that I was fully pumped up by two excelled side stage performances, it was back to the Main Stage to check out two of the hottest metalcore bands in Britain (Bury Tomorrow and While She Sleeps). Bury Tomorrow have always been in the shadow of American and Australian bands with similar styles, with their early albums sounding like Atreyu bonus material and their newer material being shrugged off as "Parkway Drive with Clean vocals". However make no mistake, Bury Tomorrow are a top tier metalcore act, bringing devastating low growls, great riffs, breakdowns and euphoric catchy clean vocals together in a polished mixed. BT took the Main stage to an audience who mostly seemed clueless of one their country's best modern metal bands. While the crowd was hesitant at first, Bury Tomorrow's riffs are infectious, and their breakdowns quickly sparked an explosion of mosh pits. Bury Tomorrow had possibly more pits than any non-headliner and had people jumping around and rocking out from back to front. Most people described them as the best surprise of Day 2, but I expected no less from BT. Their live sound was superb, with tight musicianship and two stellar live vocalists. 

Quick Review: Perfect metalcore style live show, with riffage that forced your head to nod, breakdowns that had everyone moving and wonderful clean vocal passages for everyone to sing along to.


While She Sleeps

     With the crowd all pumped up from Bury Tomorrow performance, it was now time for one of Britain's finest modern Hardcore acts to take the Main Stage by storm. WSS shirts were everywhere you looked; people had even brought homemade WSS flags! With While She Sleeps constantly writing about how amazing their fan base is, I was beyond excited to see one of my favorite hardcore bands performed in front of thousands of the fans they love so dearly. With the haunting intro guitar of their bonus track Death Toll, thousands upon thousands of fans all leaped off their feet and barely returned to the ground for the entire set. WSS style of relentless fast paced hardcore riffing was absolutely exhausting but the band themselves rocks out harder than anyone and inspires the crowd to push themselves harder. While mosh pits and circles pits were all around me I frequently found myself just basking in the experience of being there among that many fans. The band pretty clearly writes their music with the intention of the crowd joining in on many vocal lines and with a festival size crowd these crowd chants and sing-a-longs became a things of beauty. Seven Hills, one of their many odes to their early fans, gave me shivers so hard I'm not entirely sure it wasn't a full on orgasm. While She Sleeps ended their set by grabbing one of the flags the audience brought and planting it as high up on the tv tower as the vocalist could climb.

The Homemade WSS Flags

Quick Review: A stellar performance that brought the passion of small hardcore shows and delivered in on massive scale of festivals.



     India's premier djent/progressive metal act were at Download and there was no way I was going to miss it. While they unfortunately were playing at the same time as Killswitch Engage, I've seen KSE countless times and was more excited to see a band that may never make it to North America. Skyharbor's performance was atmospheric, loaded with harsh djent grooves and filled with stellar musicianship. There is however no doubt that Skyharbor's main attraction is their vocalist Dan Thomkins, who is better known for his work as TesseracT's vocal lead. Dan's vocals were jam droppingly good and he frequently had people applauding and cheering in the middle of songs as his challenging vocal parts were performed to absolute perfection. While Skyharbor writes some tasteful music, the only really memorable aspect of their performance was Dan's vocals

Quick Review: The best part of India's best metal band is their British singer


Twisted Sister

     I may not be big fan of Glam Metal, but given the chance there was no way I was going to miss Twisted Sister. The band is obviously aging and rely on front-man Dee Snider to be the entire source of live entertainment while the rest of the band stands in one place. Thankfully Dee is one of the best frontmen in the industry and still appears to have the vocal chops that got him famous back in the day. Dee is an obvious veteran of festival performances and had complete control of the crowd and had everyone laughing, cheering, chanting and jumping on command. Twisted Sister delivered everything you'd expect from a veteran stadium rock band, a great live show filled with crowd interactions to keep everyone entertained. Their live performance only had one hiccup, as the band was apparently one of the few performers who failed to realize that the festival grounds are right beside an international airport. Festival go-ers had become quite accustom to low flying planes soaring overhead, but Twisted Sister didn't get the memo and thought they were witnessing a plane crash, stopping mid-way through a song to point out the plane. The whole ordeal came off as quite hilarious and the band finished strong with I Want To Rock.

Quick Review: While the musicians in the band have evidently aged and don't seem to be the party animals they once were, Dee Snider is charismatic and talented enough to more than make up for it.


Bring Me The Horizon

     Now here's a band that I would normally pass on seeing live, as I'm both not a fan of the music and have seen studio videos that display exactly how atrocious Oli Sykes is at performing his own music. However with a "when in Britain" type of attitude I decided it could be a cool experience to witness the UK's most popular hardcore act in front of their home crowd. I was expecting a poor performance that would still manage to impress the hoards of scene girls, however I was pleasantly surprised by BMTH actually putting on a good live show. Through a combination of Oli handing off the mic when vocal lines he can't sing come up, an INSANE crowd, and Oli actually coming across as genuinely passionate performer (rather than an overly emotional scene kid), BMTH put on a thoroughly entertaining show.

Quick Review: Expected to hate it but ended up actually enjoying the performance. They definitely got the craziest crowd reaction out the festival


Linkin Park

     Speaking of nu-metal nostalgia, Linkin Park were headlining the Main Stage on Day 2, performing Hybrid Theory start-to-finish. Hybrid Theory was possibly the first remotely aggressive album I ever bought, so getting to witness it live 10+ years later was a wonderful nostalgic experience. Linkin Park performed their debut album as if it were brand new, sounding as excited to play these old songs again as the fans were excited to hear them. LP also brought what was easily the most impressive light show of the festival. I found myself in a state of pure nostalgic joy for the entire Hybrid Theory performance. The band played stellar, the choruses were magical with the tens of thousands of fans singing along, and the whole experience was a dream come true for my 12 year old self, but 22 year old me still enjoyed every minute of it. Linkin Park also played some new material and other hits once they finished Hybrid Theory but I had more important business to attend to and had to run off to the Red Bull stage to catch...

Quick Review: Nostalgic awesomeness



     The British progressive metal gods took the stage for the first time in almost 10 years at Download. As I said in part 1 of this review, Sikth was the main reason I was at Download, and after months of waiting for this moment, it was finally here. The crowd began chanting long before the band took to the stage, and were almost too loud as it took everyone a few seconds to realize the Bland Street Bloom intro had begun playing through the speakers. While I've used the expression "[insert band name] tore apart the stage" many times, Sikth fans did so quite literally. The entire Red Bull stage became one giant mosh pit and what was once a grass field became a concave dirt hole. Smiles never faded from faces of the crowd or the band, it was like re-uniting with a long lost friend; a crazy metal band re-uniting with their crazy fans. The crowd sung along to every word and even occasionally all sang along to guitar riffs (including a breakdown, imagine a festival crowd singing DUN DUN DUNDUNDUNDUN...). It was a special experience for the band and the fans, with the band taking pictures of the crowd as often as the crowd took pictures of the band. After Sikth left the stage the chants for "One More Song" didn't end for about 20 minutes, even after the band repeatedly said they can't. Unfortunately festival rules don't allow encores but it was a great display of how happy Sikth fans were to have their heros back and how eager they all were to see more.

Quick Review: A live experience as crazy as a Sikth reunion deserves


Day 3 band reviews coming Tomorrow,
Thanks for reading,

David I'll see you on Friday,


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