After months of anticipation, over 80,000 people commenced on Donington Park to celebrate all that is good in the world of rock, metal and beyond. We landed on site two days before it all kicked off. We had a few drinks, watched a couple of films in the campsite cinema, and watched a bit of Progress wrestling but nothing prepared us for the momentous weekend that was Download 2015.
Friday June 12th
Our weekend starts off at the third tent where Canadian melodic hardcore band Counterparts give us a good kick in. From Brendan Murphy’s lively and combative vocals to Jesse Doreen’s stinging guitars to Kelly Bilan’s frenzied drumwork, Counterparts show they have enough in their arsenal to get things off to a bright start. New songs ‘Burn’ and ‘Collapse’ contain an enraged energy that fits alongside fan favourites such as ‘The Disconnect’ and ‘Ghost’. (3.5/5) (SR)
If you wanted something loud and heavy as fuck then Krokodil were at hand to do just that. Their ferocious and merciless style simply doesn’t hold back from the moment the “supergroup” step on stage. Simon Wright screams and growls throughout whilst his bandmates blast their way through with some of the heaviest riffs you’ll hear all weekend. Add to that some beastly basslines and you’re left with monstrous sound. However their sound does slightly become insistent yet their sheer musical force carries them through. (3/5) (SR)
Last time we saw Gnarwolves was on the main stage at Leeds Festival where the Brighton trio just didn’t sound right on such a big stage nor quite execute a fantastic set. However this time it’s completely different as they pull in a thriving set to a growing crowd. Their sound is raw and the three-piece tear up the Maverick tent with ease. Thom Weeks and Charlie Piper’s vocals soar throughout and have many singing back word for word. (3.5/5) (SR)
Next up Defeater provide us with another fix of melodic hardcore. The ever impassioned Derek Archambault howls his emotional tales alongside the bands crushing execution. Songs like ‘The Red, White and Blues’ and ‘Hopeless Again’ are invigorating whilst ‘Dear Father’ sees Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo appearing to add to Defeater’s intensity and ferocity. A welcome return to the UK. (3.5/5) (SR)
“Bang your head till it falls off your body” bawls Beartooth frontman Caleb Shomo and from the moment the screeching guitars of ‘Relapsing’ starts, this packed out crowd duly oblige. The Ohio band have gradually become an exceptional live force and today they show just why. Their rigorous energy soars and everyone eats it up with ease as Beartooth produce one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. Tracks like ‘In Between’ and ‘The Lines’ frankly sound HUGE and by the time they round things off ‘Body Bag’, we realise Caleb and company may have just kicked our arse and we love them for it! (4.5/5) (SR)
To catch our breath, we decided to take a walk over to Jake’s Stage where AllUsOnDrugs were showcasing their scuzzy, psychedelic brand of rock. Vocalist Jason Moules’ stage presence is rugged and frenzied whilst his band mates are equally raucous. Nevertheless despite their erratic behaviour they have musical charm and determination. (3.5/5) (SR)
With the amount of Five Finger Death Punch t-shirts we’ve seen walking around the arena, you’d think they were headlining but not and if they were, we’d be disappointed. Sure their sound is packed with a collective monstrous punch (no pun intended) but after hearing a few slices of macho US hard rock, you soon realise 5FDP have a winning formula. It’s one that quickly becomes uninteresting. Yet with their popularity ever-increasing, it’s only a matter of time they become festival headliners. (2/5) (SR)
We decided to recluse back to fourth stage tent to spend a bit of time with a more familiar face – Decade. The Bath group pull in a mostly curious crowd; blame the ‘British Weather’ (see what we did there), but nevertheless they make a good account of themselves with some old favourites alongside a new song which sees them heading in a more subtly groove direction. The evolution of Decade should be interesting to watch in the coming months, as they look to “abandon” their pop punk roots. Todays effective showing marks a crossroads for the quintet. (3.5/5) (SR)
By the time The One Hundred arrive, the fourth stage tent is packed out with many taking cover from the rain. Thankfully the London quartet provided them with plenty of warm with an explosive mix of rap and electro-infused rock. Frontman Jacob Field struts and bounces around the stage with confidence. Highlights come in the form ‘Downfall’ and ‘Unleashed’, both are executed tremendously with all in attendance eating up their nonstop energy. The One Hundred had a point to prove at Download but with this showing, it certainly isn’t going to be the last time you see the four-piece grace the ground of Donington. (4.5/5) (SR)
Making their return to Download after 5 years, Fightstar’s headline set on the Maverick stage is seemingly one of the most anticipated of the day as the tent is packed out from side to side. Charlie Simpson and company provide us with a stark reminder of how they were and still are. Their set is a ‘best of’ collection of towering alt-rock that is accomplished from start to finish. Whilst the enthusiastic crowd are in celebratory mode singing back with all their might. Welcome back Fightstar. We look forward to hearing new material soon. (4/5) (SR)
We said in our preview that Donington is like a second home to Slipknot and tonight just proves that point. From slow-burning intro of ‘XIX’, the masked band have this mass crowd on edge. Their career-stretching set is wild and frenzied to the point the pouring rain can’t dampen the ‘Knot and the thousands of “maggots” in attendance. ‘Before I Forget’ and ‘Duality’ are as ever chaotic whilst ‘Spit It Out’ sees the ground of Donington shake. Although not as monumental as previous Download showings, Slipknot close the first night of Download with a performance they can take pride in. (4/5) (SR)
Saturday June 13th
After Download became “Downpour” on Friday night, day two begins with us weighing through the mud to catch Download “veterans” Funeral For A Friend. The Welsh band treated us to a set celebrated their past and captured them in the present. Old favourites such as ‘Roses for the Dead’ and ‘Juneau’ still have the same urgency as the day they were released. Whilst the politically-charged ‘1%’ shows their more raw side. They may not used to playing to big stages these days, but FFAF show why they’re one of the most influential UK bands of recent times. (3/5) (SR)
For a band that has had it’s fair share of major success over the past 18 months, it may seem like Mallory Knox’s appearance on the main stage comes with a challenge. Nevertheless with a plethora of favourable songs, the Cambridge group looked at home on the big stage. Vocalist Mikey Chapman confidently leads the crowd through soaring numbers ‘Getaway’, ‘Shout at the Moon’ and ‘Lighthouse’. Although they struggled at times to win over the crowd, don’t be surprised to see Mallory Knox playing bigger stages in the future. (3/5) (SR)
Our first venture into Jake’s Stage tent of the day led us to seeing Creeper. Having just signed to Roadrunner Records, the Southampton group backed up why they’ve been getting plenty of attention. Frontman Will Gould towers above the packed out crowd as he and his bandmates blast their way through with brand of dark punk rock. It’s clear they won many over and prove their worth. Certainly ones to watch over the next 12 months. (4/5) (SR)
Next up is Roam. Having become one of the UK’s bright pop punk hopes, their appearance at a rock festival may not have pulled many people in but nevertheless they have a small, dedicated following here who eat up all what Roam have to offer. Their bouncy, fast-paced, vibrant sound is pleasing enough to hear but at times doesn’t sound unique enough compared to the dozens of other bands in the genre. (2.5/5) (SR)
Over at the main stage, Rise Against are out in full force with an abrasive and energetic display. From ‘Give It All’ to ‘Help Is on the Way’ to ‘Prayer of the Refugee’, frontman Tim Mcllrath and company wake up the Download crowd with a powerful, thriving set. The crowd respond with a circle pit flowing with passion and the odd crowd-surfer. Probably not one of the weekend’s most memorable sets but still one of the best. (3.5/5) (SR)
Over at the Maverick stage, we see Every Time I Die rip Download a new one as the Buffalo, New York bring complete and utter carnage. From the opening moments of ‘Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space’, Keith Buckley’s vocals attack whilst his band mates pound their way through with a tight and furious showing. It seems ETID get better every time we see them. The breakdowns are heavier and their overall hardcore rock and roll mayhem is taken to a whole other level. (4.5/5) (SR)
However in probably the worst clash of the weekend, we have to pull ourselves away from Every Time I Die to see if A Day To Remember have what it takes to conquer the Download main stage. Thankfully the answer is yes and then some. With a 50 minute set that packed a solid punch of hardcore pop punk, ADTR have somehow built a catalogue of effective songs. On one side you’ve got the huge choruses in ‘Right Back at it Again’ and ‘All I Want’, and on the other you’ve got chugging monsters like ‘2nd Sucks’ and closing number ‘The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle’. Add to that a bit of pyro and a mascot firing t-shirts from a cannon, and you’re re-assured ADTR on a band that will be playing arenas sooner rather than later. (4.5/5) (SR)
With their decked out in all white and with flowers, you’d think Faith No More were playing a wedding rather than one of the world’s biggest rock festivals. Nevertheless the veterans show why they’re one of metal’s most beloved and influential bands. Their set delves deep into the past but also shows their latest work in ‘Motherfucker’, ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Superhero’ adding a renewed purpose to their show. Yet it’s older numbers ‘Epic’ and ‘We Care A Lot’ that gain the best reaction. Whilst frontman Mike Patton is calm and confident during their well-known cover of ‘Easy’. Throughout he adds a sense of coolness to Faith No More’s show. (3.5/5) (SR)
There was never any doubt in the Maverick tent that Andrew WK would party hard. A constant stream of crowd surfers absorbing the party atmosphere added to Andrew’s unrelenting energy on stage. Party anthems ‘Ready To Die’ and ‘She Is Beautiful’ are delivered expertly via Andrew’s iconic pizza guitar and his conscientiously dedicated band, while closer ‘Party Hard’ gives the perfect opportunity for both band and crowd to cut loose and remember Donington is all about the party. (5/5) (AC)
Marilyn Manson’s second stage headliner allowed for a stage show packed with glitter, pyro, smoke screens and the inimitable pulpit of the Pale Emperor. Plugging his best covers ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’ alongside new hits ‘Deep Six’ and ‘Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge’ and classics ’Disposable Teens’ and ’Tourniquet’, Manson proved the enduring appeal of his menacing performance. Upon inviting Ice T on stage between songs, Manson further solved life’s greatest mystery – Ice T invented everything, including iced tea. (5/5) (AC)
Whist some may have been sceptic about Muse headlining Download are quickly proven wrong as the Devon embark on one of the most impressive festival sets you will ever see. Sure that’s a bold statement but for 2 hours Matt Bellamy and company deliver a triumphant display of fearless, festival-made rock. From the opening riff of ‘Psycho’ to the closing moments of ‘Knights of Cydonia’, Muse’s Download debut surpassed all expectations. Their move to include some of their harder and heavier numbers was a sensible choice, and when you add the weight of hits they have in their arsenal, Muse didn’t do anything wrong. Faultless and truly unforgettable. (5/5) (SR)
Sunday June 14th
Our final day of Download 2015 begins later than anticipated but we still managed to watch some of the more impressive sets of the weekend. First up is Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators who bring a precise display of true rock and roll. With a mix of original material and classic Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver numbers, Kennedy shows why he’s one of the most acclaimed vocals in modern day hard rock. Whilst Slash is ever the guitar hero he has known to be. Nonetheless despite original material being unfamiliar with a majority of the crowd, it’s clear many of here for the aforementioned classics, and Slash and company pull them off in a sensible, grandiose manner. (3.5/5) (SR)
Mere months after the release of their debut album, We Are Harlot are surprisingly effortless in their live performances already. Danny Worsnop’s charismatic frontmanship with a bandana-coated mic stand stands tall alongside the classic rock riffs of ‘The One’ and ‘Dancing On Nails’. Despite the rain, Harlot pulled an incredible audience for their first UK appearance, encouraging a heartfelt crowd response for ‘Someday’ and an indomitable cheer for their now traditional cover of Queen’s ‘Tie Your Mother Down’. (5/5) (AC)
After 35 years, Motley Crüe are set to call it a day at the end of the year (well so they say) and it’s clear with this final UK festival appearance that they don’t want you to forget about them too soon. The 80s metal legends delivered a spectacle that was nearly on par with tonight’s headliners; a bass-playing flame thrower, dozens of pyros, and dancing girls. Musically the quartet pull out all the favourites and the odd cover (The Sex Pistol’s ‘Anarchy In The UK’). For us younger folk, their brand of sleaze-filled L.A. rock comes off as repetitive yet you forgive them when they pull out anthems such as ‘Girls Girls Girls’. (3/5) (SR)
Given the excess of Starman and Demon makeup we’d seen over the weekend, KISS were quite possibly the most hotly anticipated act of the weekend. Bringing the timeless classics of ‘Love Gun’, ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ and ‘Calling Dr Love’ to Donington, it was clear to see the glam giants were on fantastic form, while Paul Stanley’s venture across a zipline to the sound tent coupled with Gene Simmons’ blood spitting made for a phenomenal stage show. Closing on breathtaking fireworks, KISS’ set brought a nostalgic warmth to the bitter chill of Sunday night’s swan song, but the evasion of fan favourites ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ and ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’ left their set a little wanting. (4/5) (AC)
Whilst most of the lower-billed bands pulled in good displays, Download belonged to the headliners. All of them justified their billing. Elsewhere a handful of emerging talent made themselves known with a lasting impression, serving their purpose well. It may have been muddy as hell, it had its high and lows but we wouldn’t want Download any other way. See you next year Donington.
View more of Already Heard’s coverage of Download Festival 2015 here.
Photos by Carrie-Anne Pollard.