Thursday, October 9, 2014

Download Festival Review part 4: Day 3 Bands

Day 3

Thy Art is Murder

     Day 3 began with a mighty hangover and a series of mediocre performances. Thankfully it wasn't too long until Australian Deathcore band Thy Art is Murder were set to perform on the Pepsi Max stage, so I cured my hangover with the good old fashion strategy of just getting right back to drinking and headed over to the stage. While as a genre Deathcore became rather stale after only about a year in the spotlight, Thy Art is Murder have managed to breathe new life into the genre with a hilariously hateful album titled "Hate". Thy Art hit the stage with power, furious energy and a stage presence that perfectly matched their extreme and hateful lyrics. The crowd were spot on with every hook line, the most comical of them all being the classic: "ERADICATION OF THEM ALL, WHORE TO A CHAINSAW", which left onlookers terrified and confused. I had heard some negative reviews of TAIM's live show, but at Download they were spot on, with deadly accuracy on guitars and drums, and devastating vocals. If you're a deathcore fan, Thy Art is Murder bring everything to a live show you could possibly hope for, a few things you wouldn't expect.

Quick Review: Amazing live sound and an endless slew of hook line breakdown combos create one of the best live deathcore experiences you could imagine



    The middle of Day 3 was a little lacking in excitement so I decided to head over and check out a few bands that I wasn't particularity fond of but was interested in how they would perform live. The first of these performances was American rock band Skillet, best known for having an incredibly attractive female drummer. While I didn't have any knowledge of studio recordings to compare the live sound to, Skillet's bassist and lead vocalist had a powerful and dead-on vocal delivery, while both backing female vocalists weren't nearly as impressive. Probably the most interesting element of the performance was the use of string instruments, as the band brought out a cellist and violinist to accompany the band on a handful of songs. Unfortunately in a moment of poor judgement the band decided to also add synth string effects, which drowned out any live strings and rendered the additional musicians as nothing more than something to look at while listening to digital string sounds.

Quick Review: Skillet were an average rock band with a great vocalist and poor judgement on what produces a good live sound



     I also decided to randomly go see Emmure live. I had heard some people insist that if you shut off your brain and just jump into the pits with the intention of having a good time that Emmure can be a great live experience, so I decided to test the theory myself. I managed to get through the set without passing any judgement on the excessive use of opens notes, but I still found myself feeling rather bored by Emmure's live show. It was the same repeated breakdown frenzy for 30 minutes, and when compared to Thy Art is Murder's breakdown frenzy earlier in the day, Emmure had absolutely nothing to get excited about. I've never understood the appeal to Emmure's vocal delivery and live it was even worse than on record. The vocals had me cringing more than they had me feeling any kind of aggression. I tried so hard to shut my brain off and enjoy but I still ended up bored out of my mind.


Memphis May Fire

    So my experiment to check out bands I wasn't fond of didn't produce anything great, so I was back to the Pepsi Max stage to check out a band I knew for sure I liked. I've been a Memphis May Fire band since their debut EP, and had even been one of the few fans who liked Matty Mullins when he first joined (believe it or not, he was quite hated by old school fans before the scene girls made him the face of the band). This was my first time catching MMF live and I was stoked to finally get to hear how the band captures their sound on the live stage. The band took to the stage to a piercing cry from the hundreds of 14 year old girls swooning over Matty and opened with their new single Unconditional. To my surprise rather than hearing the punchy accurate rhythms and wonderful vocal lines I was expecting I was struck with weak energy, a live mix that only left drums audible and an off-key Matty Mullins. I spent the entire set attempting to comprehend exactly what was so bad about their live sound, but regardless of the cause, MMF put on what was quite possibly the most disappointing live show I've ever seen. The barely audible guitars were only noticeable when they made mistakes, played when they should have cut out and had feedback issues during quiet sections. While in many venues a poor live mix would be excusable and blamed on a bad sound guy, Download had consistently had incredible sound for every band over the last two days. It became clear that the band attempts to make up for their awful live sound by simply cranking the kick drum as loud as it can go, and attempting to drown out everything else in the process. I expected BMTH to be the band with bad live sound that still manages to impress scene girls, but MMF took their place.

Quick Review: While a few bands had been boring and mediocre at Download, MMF was the only actually BAD live performance and were by far the most disappointing band of my entire trip


Against Me!

     While the reviews of Day 3 might make it seem like this was a bad day, the afternoon was simply a dull point in what was otherwise a great day. The night filled with great performances began with American punk band Against Me! taking the stage. While I wasn't particularity fond of AM!'s newer material, I had loved some of their old albums and was very intrigued to see how their vocalist changing genders would influence their live presence. Against Me! performed to a mid sized, but very enthusiastic crowd and played a mix of songs of their new album and New Wave (because apparently even the band is aware the album in between those two was rather bland). Laura did a stellar job as a front-woman and came across as passionate and energetic in every song and very appreciative for the support in speeches between songs. Black Me Out live was absolutely incredible live as the amount of emphasis Laura pushed into the line "I want to piss on the walls of your house" gave the song an energy live that is just simply not there on the record. As much as I wish they'd play old material again, I was happy to hear a strong presence of songs off New Wave and the new songs sounded fantastic live.

Quick Review: Against Me! turned things around on Day 3 and put on a wonderful passionate punk rock performance


Suicide Silence

     In an odd combination of bands, immediately following Against Me on the Pepsi Max stage was American Deathcore kings Suicide Silence, featuring their new vocalist Eddy Hermida. Since I had already been close to the front for AM, I was able to get right up the barrier for Suicide Silence. Suicide Silence opened with Unanswered and the crowd exploded, squishing me to the point where I was struggling to breathe. I squeezed back a bit in the crowd and found a more comfortable spot to witness the madness, and when I say madness, I mean all hell breaking loose. The mosh pit was at least 20 meters across, packed full of people. There were crowd surfers on top of other crowd surfers, with hundreds of people climbing up to all simultaneously attempt to make their way to the front. There were moments when I genuinely feared for my safety and had to use every ounce of energy in my body to support the endless stream of crowd surfers. There was a moment when someone was frantically trying to make some floor space for something, and as a logical conclusion based off the craziness of the show, me and several others all concluded someone had fallen and been knocked unconscious. It turned out to just be someone looking for a lost phone, but the immediate logical jump to someone loosing consciousness rather than someone simply losing a possession brilliantly displays the insanity that took place during this set. Somehow this element of a genuinely scary live show seemed perfectly suited for Suicide Silence. I'd seen SS live before and knew the band would be stellar, the real question on everyone's mind was how would Eddy perform as their new front-man (especially since this was prior to the release of the new album). It took only about 3 songs for the crowd to begin chanting "EDDY! EDDY! EDDY!" as Mr. Hermida was unquestionably killing it. I'd even go as far as saying Eddy sounded better live than when I saw Mitch years back. This was a performance I felt thankful to have just survived, but I'd be more than happy to do it all over again if given the chance. 

Quick Review: Devastatingly heavy performance with Eddy doing a fantastic job as their new vocalist


The Dillinger Escape Plan

     Headlining the side stage on the final day were Mathcore legends, who are frequently described as the best live band in the world: The Dillinger Escape Plan. TDEP are among my favorite bands, with their new album being the best album of 2013 in my books. I had heard so many stories of the madness that takes place at their live shows and was barely able to contain my excitement. I'm very pleased to say that TDEP did not disappoint at all, and are definitely deserving of their reputation as one of the best live bands out there. As much as this might be a cheap cop-out for a review, I have to say that TDEP's live show can't be described in words, there's too much going on, too much chaos, improvisation and madness to put into words. I will however take this moment to brag about a small but amazing moment that happened during the song Room Full of Eyes. Most of the crowd were losing their minds but didn't know the words to many songs other than the occasional chorus, so when it came to the slow part in Room Full of Eyes, I was essentially a one man crowd, belting the lyrics as loud as I could (I absolutely destroyed my voice right then and there). Greg was busy climbing the rafters, so he wasn't even singing the vocals at that point, but apparently I was loud enough to that Greg took notice, looked right at me, said "well I guess I don't need this" and tossed the mic to me (from about 40 feet up in the air). Unfortunately he slightly missed and the mic ended up in someone else's hands but to have one of my favorite vocalists single me out like that was insane. In classic Dillinger style, they ended their set with Sunshine the Werewolf and brought out Thy Art is Murder's vocalist CJ to join in on guest vocals, which added a whole new level of brutality to that song. TDEP were a perfect final set to end an insane first festival experience.

Getting a non-blurry photo of TDEP is damn near impossible

Quick Review: There are no words for how good The Dillinger Escape Plan are live



     I stumbled out of the Pepsi Max to find out that Aerosmith still had a handful of songs left, so I decided to see if the classic rock band still had the chops to pull off a great festival closing set. Within 5 seconds of me deciding to go watch Aerosmith they broke into their classic ballad Don't Wanna Miss a Thing. To my pleasant surprise, despite looking terrible, Steven Tyler still has a great voice. I ended up being extremely happy that I stayed and watched Aerosmith, as simply looking at the size of the crowd was something incredible. Witnessing 60 000 fans all packed into one field was a big part of the reason I wanted to attend these European festivals and it was a beautiful sight to behold in person. Aerosmith continued to play all the hits you'd expect them to save for the end of the set and encored with Dream On. They sounded great, had a lot of energy for their age and were a well suited final band for the festival. 

Quick Review: Despite Steven Tyler looking like his face has been run over by a truck, Aerosmith still manage to put on a great live show


Thus ends the list of memorable performances from Download 2014. Next Tuesday I'll post one final summary that reviews the campsite, facilities and other aspects of the festival experience.

Thanks for reading!
David, I'll see you tomorrow.


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