Photo credit: Ross Silcocks
Opening the main stage on the first day of a festival of this magnitude is no easy feat, but Northlane look like they could still absolutely smash it blindfolded. Their gargantuan slabs of progressive metalcore sound like they could shift tectonic plates on a stage of this size, while vocalist commands the ever-expanding congregation before him with a spine tingling performance. If anyone was ever in doubt that these Aussies weren’t up to the occasion, this is the sort of dominating set that will have both silenced and converted them. (4/5) (JR)
When a band pack out a tent early on the first day it suggests they’re something a bit special. Especially when you factor in that additional security was understandably making getting into the arena take an eternity. Despite that, by the time AH arrives at the Avalanche Stage, its already full and getting distinctly rowdy as Cardiff’s Astroid Boys have the place rocking. When the beat and riffs of ’Dusted’ drop, its as hard hitting, heavy and intense as any metal act on the bill. (3.5/5) (DW)
Photo credit: Ben Gibson
Though they still only have two songs available to listen to, the piercing buzz surrounding Holding Absence continues to get louder and louder. Bringing a icy cold atmosphere on a scorching hot day, the Cardiff five-piece deliver their heartbreaking anthems with an intensity that is hard to match and, thanks to vocalist Lucas Woodland’s crystal vocal chords, a crippling honesty that feels like a lump in the back of your throat. With the tent fit to burst by the time the last melancholy chord rings out, you feel as though this is still only the beginning of something monumental. (4.5/5) (JR)
Pittsburgh’s Code Orange are here for one thing and one thing only, and that is to destroy the Avalanche stage. With an undoubtedly fierce and intense set, the quintet live up to expectations with a ferocious display that sees them playing a majority of the outstanding ’Forever’ LP. Drummer Jami Morgan’s screams resonate through the tent as his band mates stomp around the stage, adding to the sheer energy they have to offer. While ’Bleeding in the Blur’ soars as big as we’d hope for. Witnessing Code Orange is a spectacle; heavy, harsh and unrelenting. They demand your attention and following this outing, they’ve sure have left a lasting impact on everyone who witnessed them. (4.5/5) (SR)
While Code Orange leave us in a wreck, we soon have to get up and dust ourselves off for Mastodon. Playing to a gigantic crowd on the main stage, the quartet know how to play to big crowds providing an unrelenting array of riffs with Brann Dailor and Troy Sanders leading the way through a stringent rhythm section. However, with the swirling wind affecting the band’s sound, songs such as old cuts ’Black Tongue’ and ’Bladecatcher’ don’t prove to be as effective. Nevertheless, ’Emperor of Sand’ highlight ’Steambreather’, somewhat, redeems their set. Having been touted by some as outsiders in the future headliners, Mastodon don’t quite justify their potential. (3/5) (SR)
One of the great things about the Donnington experience is the opportunity to see bona fide rock legends and seminal acts rubbing shoulders with the hottest younger acts in punk and metal. And you don’t get many hardcore punk or thrash bands as legendary as Suicidal Tendencies. They may have been around for the better part of four decades, but the band have lost none of their intensity or socio-political vigour. A blistering set is hammered out at breakneck pace with only brief pauses for Mike Muir to deliver a series of rallying cries for the thousands present to stand up for themselves, their individuality and to stand up to various unspecified powers that be. The likes of ’Subliminal’ and ’Cyco Vision’ hit their mark best with the older crowd members, but you can’t help but admire the throwback to a more un-sanitised, brasher approach to playing punk rock that young bands could learn plenty from. (3/5) (DW)
With their crunching hardcore riffs and enthusing pop-punk inspired chorus hooks, Four Year Strong are basically the perfect band to really kick your Download experience into high gear. As we squeeze into the tent it’s clear we aren’t the only ones to have realised this. ’Go Down In History’ gets fists waving ecstatically in unison, while its impossible not to get fired up by the sound of hundreds of voices roaring the refrain of ’Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die’. This was a bruising celebration of a band that have been around longer than most people probably realise. (3.5/5) (DW)
Photo credit: Caitlin Mogridge
Slowly but surely becoming everybody’s favourite pop punk band on both sides of the Atlantic, State Champs continue their campaign of positivity on the Avalanche Stage to an absolutely rampant crowd. New song ‘Slowburn’ gets a nice run out and slots nicely against the more heavy hitting staples in the band’s arsenal, while old cuts ‘Remedy’ and ‘Elevated’ have the roof of the tent taking a battering thanks to the volume of the sing-alongs. If you needed proof that pop-punk deserves a rightful place at Download, this flawless performance should do just nicely. (5/5) (JR)
Photo credit: Matt Eachus
Before the festival, the opinion on Prophets of Rage was split. But this a band consisting members of one of the greatest rock bands of the past 30 years, and two rappers from two influential hip-hop groups. Prophets of Rage’s debut UK show was a resounding success as they pull from their collective back catalogue of songs. Although dominated by Rage Against The Machine classics such as ’Guerrilla Radio’, ’Bombtrack’, and ’Killing in the Name,’ the decision to slice in Cypress Hill’s ’How I Could Just Kill a Man’ and Public Enemy’s ’Fight the Power’ alongside a medley of old school hip-hop classics (’Harder Than You Think’ / ’Insane in the Brain’ / ’Bring the Noise’ / ’Jump Around’) bought a feel-good factor to their set.
Despite this, the poignant instrumental play through of Audioslave’s ’Like A Stone’ is one of the compelling and beautiful moments of the weekend, as they paid tribute to former bandmate to Chris Cornell. With a pocket of the Donington crowd singing along, it is one of the rawest and most emotional moments we’ve experienced at a festival.
While the opinion might be split on POR’s original material so far, as a live band. They’re a must-see force that exceeds expectations. (5/5) (SR)
Photo credit: Ben Gibson
Veterans. Innovators. Influencers. Legends. Good Charlotte are all of these words and so much more. Their place within the scene may have shifted over the years but that doesn’t stop them from pulling off a professional and powerful performance on the Zippo Stage to crowd that stretches as far back as the noodle and fried chicken stands. From ‘The Anthem’ to ‘The River’, ‘Predictable’ to ‘My Old Man’, the band deal out hit after hit like it’s second nature, and even newer cut ‘Life Changes’ gets a rousing reception. 20 years in the game and looking like they are nowhere near stopping, this is a firm reminder of why Good Charlotte remain as vital as ever. (3.5/5) (JR)
While Sum 41 might not have the same acclaim and influence as their fellow second stage headliners, Rob Zombie and Slayer, they’re still capable of producing a stellar show. The Canadian band have always had a bit of metal in their arsenal and although it’s wrapped around by a punk rock exterior, they bring a solid display. However early on you get the feeling the majority of this crowd are waiting for the hits. Thankfully ’Motivation’ quickly arrives to fill the void. Guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh brings the metal through a quick blast Iron Maiden’s ’Wasted Years’ and Metallica’s ’Master of Puppets’ before the band launch into ’All To Blame’.
Frontman Deryck Whibley is charismatic throughout with his vocal on par too, and when your set is rounded off by a hat-trick of standout catchy punk rock songs; ’Still Waiting’, ’In Too Deep’ and ’Fat Lip’, you can’t fault Sum 41’s place on the bill. Entertaining with hints of nostalgia, it’s the perfect antidote to what’s on offer elsewhere. (3.5/5) (SR)
Photo credit: Caitlin Mogridge
No rock festival on this side of the Atlantic ever manages to stack the deck quite as heavily with their headliners as Download. This year was absolutely no exception, with everyone’s favourite hard-rocking Armenian-American’s System of A Down getting the task of throwing down the gauntlet for the other two. As the evening drew on and dusk gathered there was a palpable sense of excitement for what the quartet might have instore.
In the event it was a set heavy on hits, immaculate in its delivery but ever so slightly lacking that certain sense of occasion and drama that marks a festival headline slot truly great. Die-hard fans were clearly loving every second, while the big guns in the quartet’s arsenal were evenly spaced enough to hold most casual observer’s attention throughout. ’Aerials’ and ’Lonely Day’ help add a near reverential ambience to the air, but it’s later airings of ’BYOB’ and ’Toxicity’ that really carry the set, albeit briefly, to the heights it needed to reach to be considered a success. (3/5) (DW)
View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Download Festival 2017 here.
Words by Sêan Reid (SW), Dane Wright (DW) and Jack Rogers (JR).