Download 2017 - The big review (Day 3)
Day three at Download, and in spite of weariness and hangovers, the good people of Download proved to be out in force bright and early for what proved to be a phenomenal day of music from some of rock and metal’s finest. Personally, I opted to give the ever-terrible Fozzy a miss and instead hit the arena in time for one of the UK’s most under-appreciated bands getting their shot on the big stage. Few bands have paid their dues to quite the extent that Orange Goblin (7) have. Decades of relentless touring and constant grind has built up quite the cult following and it really did show with a much busier Main Stage than on the previous day. As for the band themselves, Orange Goblin are somewhat of an old reliable hit at Download. Always packing massive riffs and enrapturing vocal hooks to match, there was no chance that this was going to be anything but a very strong showing from the Stoner Metal icons. Goblin will always be at their very best in small rooms where the volume can be cranked up high and the intimacy required for their music to really hit home is present, however, they were far from out of their depth on the Main Stage and looked to be thoroughly enjoying their opportunity to win over a new fan base. All in all, a strong showing from a band that all those in the know would expect nothing less from.
From one personification of consistent brilliance in the face of under appreciation to another. Red Fang (8) are one of America’s finest untapped gems, with 2016 album Only Ghosts proving to be another excellent effort from the hard rock four-piece. And in the twenty minutes that they had on the Zippo Encore Stage they proved their worth as a band as captivating and brilliant as any of their peers. With a penchant for memorable choruses and hulking riffs that draw comparisons to Metallica, Mastodon and Baroness alike, Red Fang are definitely a really great find for anyone searching for fresh, underground rock music of the highest order. Anyone out there doubting the song writing credentials of modern rock bands could do a lot worse than to look at lead single off of Red Fang’s aforementioned 2016 album, Cut it Short, as proof that no matter how many times Gene Simmons says it; rock is not dead, you just need to know where to look.
Continuing on the Zippo Encore Stage, next up was a band that have become a part of the furniture at Download Festival, the circle pit kings themselves Devildriver (7). For anyone looking for a band reinventing the wheel, this is not the place to look. More often than not, every step that Devildriver have taken is a step that has previously been taken by another band, more often than not that band is Lamb of God. However, with that said it is hard to be cynical when watching Dez Fafara and co belt out Clouds Over California to the eager masses. For a middle of the day headbang one could do a hell of a lot worse than Devildriver, and even if you don’t leave having discovered something unique and awe inspiring, chances are you’ll leave one of their shows with a smile on your face if Groove Metal is your jam.
Away from the Zippo Encore Stage for the time being, we had the small matter of the hottest property in Post-Hardcore music to attend to on the Avalanche Stage. Touché Amoré (8) are a band of real outstanding quality, having upped the stakes even further with last year’s latest album Stage Four; a heart-breaking account of the passing of vocalist Jeremy Bohm’s mother due to cancer. There are few bands that work from such raw emotion as Touché Amoré, and this is more present than ever in the live setting. A truly captivating live band with the ability to hold the viewer in the palms of their hands, they are not as energetic as Every Time I Die nor are they as heavy as Code Orange, but with that said they carry every bit the weight at their live shows thanks to the journey their music takes you on as a fan. If, like me, you were not part of the generation that was blessed with Brand New’s run of shows off the back of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me then this is your band. Touché Amoré are the flagbearers for the new generation of emo bands.
Back to the Zippo Encore Stage, on what has to be the best single-day line up I’ve seen on this stage in my time of going to Download, there was the small matter of hard rock legends Clutch (9) to attend to. While they may not have drawn the numbers that Steel Panther could on the Main Stage, those that decided to opt for Clutch over the comedy rock titans were in for an absolute treat. Neil Fallon is one of the greatest presences in rock music, he’s charming, funny and, most importantly, a sensational vocalist. Bringing a vocal style made up of influences from Blues, Country and Hard Rock, there are few singers out there that carry quite as unique and captivating a voice as Fallon. On top of that, take a pool of cult classic songs so large that Clutch can essentially play a different set list at every single show and still leave a huge impression and you have yourself a recipe for a great show. As expected, the band were on point, the set list was remarkable and aside from a small amplifier failure at the start of proceedings, the technical gremlins had stayed far away from the stage. Clutch are the best in the game at what they do, and those that took the time to see them at Download were reminded all too clearly of just how good they still are after two decades of relentless touring.
As the evening began to descend over Download’s last hurrah, Alter Bridge (6) took to the stage. Now Alter Bridge are by no means a bad band, Miles Kennedy is an incredible vocalist and Mark Tremonti is a very respectable guitar player, however, I’d be lying if I said they did a great deal to captivate me. To give them their dues, big hitters Blackbird and Cry of Achilles sounded great, as for the rest of the set; I have to say it left me counting down the minutes until Slayer started on the Zippo Encore Stage. There is no point in me slating Alter Bridge because they did absolutely nothing wrong, they were very proficient technically and did not put a foot wrong throughout the set, however, they have and more than likely always will do little to inspire me. If Alter Bridge are a band that you really love, then this set would have left you more than satisfied, as for me, I got something better than big screen adverts while I waited for Sunday’s Zippo Encore Stage headliners.
Onto the previously mentioned Zippo Encore Stage headliners now. Slayer (8) are always a band that will inspire a lot of devotion from me, even though I was only able to catch around half an hour of the because I had to be elsewhere for the last UK outing of one of my favourite ever bands; more on that later. As for what I caught of Slayer, well they were on inspired form. Long gone are the memories of a laboured and uninspiring set at Sonisphere 2014, Slayer were out with the bit between their teeth. Tom Arraya wailed the ‘God hates us all!!!’ chorus of Disciple like his life depended on it, and as I walked away as Thrash Metal classic War Ensemble belted out its closing notes, we were all given a timely reminder of just how good this band can be. Slayer are absolutely still a force to be reckoned with and should not be underestimated by anyone.
Before we get to the grand closing ceremony of the weekend’s festivities, it’s time to talk about what will more than likely be the last ever UK outing from one of the best bands to ever play extreme music. It’s not as though anyone expected The Dillinger Escape Plan (10) to go out with a whimper, right? This is the band that pioneered Metalcore and set the formula for technical hardcore bands in years to come, and they are still one of the best in the business. Had it not been for THAT Code Orange set, nothing would have even come close to this headline performance on the Avalanche Stage. Greg Puciato, Ben Weinman and co have ensured that they will be remembered as the most viscerally energetic and powerful live band of their generation. However, don’t think for a second that this is a band that is more style than substance, Dillinger are master craftsmen of extreme music and lay claim to some of heavy music’s finest ever songs; from the towering Farewell, Mona Lisa to the savage 43% Burnt. There will never be another band quite like The Dillinger Escape Plan, and their legacy will outshine any pretenders to their throne.
And now we come to the end of the festival and another final UK outing for one of the all-time greats, the iconic Aerosmith (8). Last year we had two older bands headlining Download and they were both creaky to say the very least, so I was cautious going into this Aerosmith performance. That caution flew out the window right around the time Boston’s finest delivered a stunning rendition of Livin’ On the Edge as I made my way to the Main Stage. This was a triumphant swansong on these shores for a band that has always had somewhat of a love affair with Donington Park. With footage from old shows played out on the video screens at regular intervals, it was easy to see that playing at this venue really did mean a lot to Aerosmith and that they wanted to bid farewell to it in style. If I was to have one gripe, I do feel like the midpoint of the set was a bit of a lull; I don’t think anyone would have left Download saying that Joe Perry singing Fleetwood Mac covers was the highlight of their weekend. However, this was ultimately a victorious farewell for a band who have inspired more devotion and love than most bands could ever dream of inspiring. While Aerosmith’s last UK show was far from perfect, it was a very pleasant and enjoyable way for the UK’s last chance to see the great legacy of this band in all its glory.