Download Festival 2018
Photo - Sarah Koury
Download Festival 2018 was an absolute blast!
We tried with all our might to get around as many bands as humanly possible over the two days we spent on site, next year we will definitely be sending more than one member of the team. It may look easy on paper but the sheer scale of the festival can only truly be comprehended when you're actually there. So with that in mind, here is our thoughts on the bands we were lucky enough to see.
FRIDAY JUNE 8TH
Miss May I - Zippo Encore Stage 1.50pm - 2.15pm Photo - John Hayhurst
I had the pleasure of seeing Miss May I, live for the first time at Download Festival in 2014. They were, like today playing an early afternoon slot. 4 years down the line I would of thought their position would of been slightly higher in the day. Apart from a slight blip with the sound in the first song the band tear through an incredibly impressive 25 minute set and reinforce my belief that they deserve a higher slot. With their blend of melody and brutality that the Metalcore genre caters to so beautifully, the bands energy is relentless. Their time on stage is sadly short lived and feels to be as over as quickly as it began.
Avatar - Main Stage 1.55pm - 2.25pm Photo - Paulo Gonçalves
The first time Avatar were brought to my attention was in support of Avenged Sevenfold on their headline UK tour in 2013. With unified head banging and some of the tastiest riffs I had heard in a long time, intertwined with the unique voice of lead singer Johannes Eckerström, I was hooked. So fast forward 5 years and I am incredibly excited to see what the band have in store for Download.
The band have just released their new album 'Avatar Country' which focuses on the theme of Avatar countries King and his legacy. With that in mind todays stage set up reflects the imagery incorporated with the King and his throne and it honestly looks epic. Theatrically Avatar have evolved tenfold and musically too. I am still listening through the new album so some of the newer songs don't quite resonate with with me live as the more notable songs in the set like 'Let it Burn' and 'Smells Like A Freakshow' (one of my personal favourites). Avatar do right by the immense early afternoon crowd that has gathered to see them and ensure pure entertainment for their 30 minute set. With the promise of their return to the UK soon, their set feels criminally short. I can't wait to see the theatrics that a full headline slot will bring. Their initial promise in 2013 has stood the test of time and after todays performance I believe we are looking at a future festival headliner.
DragonForce - Main Stage 2.55pm - 3.35pm Photo - Matt Eachus
Having never seen the mighty Dragonforce live it felt like a must to check them out at one of the biggest Metal/Rock festivals in the world. Taking to the main stage they took little time to make it their own. From the off there is no denying the sheer technical ability on display, most notably from Herman Li and Sam Totman who riff off each other throughout the set. Marc Hudson's vocals are sounding stronger than ever and has long removed the 'new singer' badge (it has been 11 years!) that even after so many years singers can often never shake. As a unit they are indestructible.
My only real criticism of the set is the feeling that it is all a bit repetitive. I have all the Dragonforce albums in my collection and love each release for different reasons, but I have found the songs are listened to best when found on shuffle. A song here and a song there. As their half hour set reaches its fruition I find myself feeling a bit of Power Metal fatigue and feeling a little fed up of guitar solos (no matter how utterly epic they may be). With that said it was still a great set, with a set list cherry picking some great songs. It was always going to be incredible seeing 'Through The Fire And Flames' (Guitar Hero flashbacks throughout).
I just feel that I should probably of moved on to another stage a little earlier to retain the initial feeling of euphoria the start of their set gave me.
Gold Key - The Dogtooth Stage 3.30pm - 3.55pm
As I had 10 minutes to kill before CKY over on the Zippo Encore Stage, I wanted to make a point of checking out a band I had never heard of before. So Gold Key it was and whilst 10 minutes might not be enough time to form a full opinion of a band, the 10 minutes I granted the Watford outfit was returned to me in full. They are now added to my ever growing lists of bands I need to properly listen too. With new album 'Hello Phantom' out now it is safe to say I shall make a purchase very soon.
CKY - Zippo Encore Stage 3.40pm - 4.15pm Photo - Kyle Mcloughlin
CKY are another band that I have always wanted to see live and I am so glad I finally have. Few 3 piece bands have ever sounded this huge. Scuzzy Alternative Rock played with bright beaming smiles throughout. With a back catalogue of absolute bangers the set list was never going to struggle to be entertaining. Chad I Ginsburg has had the role of frontman for about 2 years now and it does take me a moment to adapt to his voice over the more familiar vocals of Deron Miller. This admittedly takes all of about 5 minutes though as Ginsburg completely owns his position of being front and centre and his vocals are certainly on point. Their energy is relentless, even in the wake of Ginsburg cracking his forehead open with the rear of his guitar resulting in it pissing blood, they just don't let up. I don't get to see the set to the end though as Marmozets are calling me from the Main Stage, but one thing is for certain, CKY owned Download.
Marmozets - Main Stage 4.05pm - 4.50pm Photo - John Hayhurst
I was beyond excited to see Marmozets playing the Main Stage. The 5 Piece from Bingley have come a long way in their short time as a band. It wasn't all that long ago we were covering their slightly more intimate show at The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham. Today they take to the stage in front of thousands. But they don't let that daunt them in the slightest. Instead they play their hearts out to an audience that hangs onto lead singer Becca's every word.
There is a fleeting moment where the emotion of what they are today achieving nearly brings Becca to tears as she thanks the crowd and you can feel every ounce of emotion and gratitude in that thank you. Today Marmozets not only proved they were ones to watch but I very much believe they have cemented their future as headliners of this festival.
Andrew W.K - Zippo Encore Stage 4.40pm - 5.20pm Photo - John Hayhurst
I am ashamed to say that I go into Andrew W.K's set rather blind to his other songs beyond 'Party Hard'. I had always deemed him one of Rock's 'one hit wonders'. How fucking wrong I was. When making note of the fact that 'Party Hard' came out in 2001 and from then he has released 6 more albums, I feel like I have let the man himself down as he has an incredibly rich catalogue of songs that until today I had never taken the time to listen to. I can thankfully say now that has all changed. (Mass iTunes purchases have ensued).
Andrew is one of the nicest dudes in Rock and this shows throughout his set today, eternally grateful and constantly smiling, I am so glad that he has stood the test of time. His 40 minute set is simply put rather awesome and most importantly fun. He is a ball of pure energy and really does live up to the idea of life being one big party. The energy in the crowd is electric and incredibly contagious. Mr W.K defiantly takes away the award for being the most fun this weekend.
Volbeat - Main Stage 5.20pm - 6.20pm Photo - Caitlin Mogridge
Volbeat were on our recommended list courtesy of one of our team members, so it felt like a must to check out their set.
Did I enjoy them? They were ok. Will I listen to them beyond Download? Honestly probably not.
Whilst they are undeniably legends of Rock, there just wasn't enough for me to take away from the set. I found lead singers Michael Poulsen's voice sounded strained throughout the songs. Speaking to a group of friends, the point was raised that in a festival setting Volbeat can sound a little lost and they truly shine in more intimate surroundings. Something I will have to take their word for.
I took a time out and grabbed some extortionately priced food while their set continued but decided to take a pew for the remainder and really try to take it in. Musically they didn't really resonate with me, true you can't help but tap along but in the end I was left feeling indifferent. So I decided to go and check out Jonathan Davis instead. Sorry guys.
Jonathan Davis - Zippo Encore Stage 5.50pm - 6.30pm Photo - Kyle Mcloughlin
It was only last week we were experiencing the surreal intimate gig of Jonathan Davis at the Club Academy in Manchester. Which was a massively undersold gig for such an icon of Metal. One thing that continued to cross my mind throughout the night was how shy Jonathan came across whilst on the smaller stage. Today no such shyness shows. I think he feels more at home on larger stages, maybe because there is more to take in so it doesn't feel like all eyes are on you. Or maybe it's because Korn have owned the arena stages for so long now that anything else just feels alien. Either way the Jonathan Davis I witness today is far removed from the one I saw a week ago.
Focusing on songs from his recent solo effort 'Black Labyrinth' Jonathan commands the vast crowd as his incredibly unique vocals echo throughout the field. Everything from the strength of the lyrics to his undeniable presence shines and works as a great showcase for his solo release. There is even a great throw back to his Queen Of The Damned track 'Forsaken'.
The Bronx - The Avalanche Stage 6.30pm - 7.10pm Photo - Kyle Mcloughlin
My time with The Bronx was overall brief as I wanted to grab a prime spot for Bullet For My Valentine but these guys never fail to give it their all. The tent was quite empty when the band took to the stage but that didn't last for long. I really wish I could of stayed with the guys longer but the main stage beckoned. I just needed to add these guys in my review as they are always worth the mention. They hit the ground running and I have no doubt they delivered for the remainder of their set.
Bullet For My Valentine - Main Stage 6.50pm - 8.00pm Photo - Sarah Koury
It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Bullet For My Valentine, it also no secret that I have shouted from the rooftops how I believe they are ready to headline a festival the size of Download. Their performance tonight just reinforced that ideal. Not all that long ago the future of Bullet was in question with members leaving and lead singer Matt Tuck feeling like continuing on in a band wasn't a future he wanted. Everything seemed to be in limbo. But they're back and they're quite simply better than ever.
Taking to the stage and giving it everything from the get go, they command that stage and the audience with ease. With what is now a vast catalogue of songs there is no shortage of hits played this evening, covering everything from their earlier albums 'The Poison' and 'Scream Aim Fire' to 'Temper Temper and 'Venom' up to forthcoming release 'Gravity'. Their song scape is huge as is their overall sound and while they may not be the headliners of Downloads Friday night, for me at least they are the perfect conclusion to my first day at the festival.
Having seen the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and You Me At Six several times before, I made the conscious choice to end my day there and head back home to prepare for Saturday.
SATURDAY JUNE 9TH
The Struts - Main Stage 1.40pm - 2.15pm Photo - Jennifer McCord
If you told me that Mike Jagger of The Rolling Stones had found a way to transfer his energy and soul into a new body I would believe you because Luke Spille, lead singer of The Struts embodies Jagger in every way but still manages to bring his own flare and uniqueness to the table as well. The Struts are incredible, to quite simply put it.
Having attempted to remember my route to the festival from the previous day and ignoring my trusted sat-nav I arrived later to the arena that I would of liked. Which meant not only did I miss most of the days earlier band that I wanted to see but only grabbed a few minutes of The Struts before I had to bail to check out The Faim. But my god what a great few minutes it was. The swagger and confidence of the band never comes across as arrogant, they hold themselves well whilst still conveying a sense of humbleness.
If there are any headline shows in your area coming up I implore you to get on down and enjoy this band. They were made for the stage and are only going to continue to rank up those festival bills.
The Faim - The Avalanche Stage 1.50pm - 2.20pm Photo - Caitlin Mogridge
The Faim are relatively new to the game, hailing from Australia the band have flown over and travelled several hours to be here for their half hour set. Showing no sign of jet lag or fatigue the band cruise through their set to a sea of adoring fans. It would appear their short life as a band hasn't hindered them and are already making a name for themselves. Not all to long ago they were on UK shores supporting Lower Than Atlantis on their intimate tour dates. Today their are The Faim t-shirts scattered around the tent and all those in attendance are hanging onto lead singer Josh Raven's every word. His silky smooth vocals are complimented by the beautiful melodies played out by the rest of the band. But sadly these stage clashes mean I am back on the move.
Bury Tomorrow - Zippo Encore Stage 2.00pm - 2.30pm Photo - Paulo Gonçalves
Bury Tomorrow are always a highlight of my day. Everytime I have had the pleasure of seeing these guys live they are delivered tenfold. A collection of some of the nicest guys in Metal, that when on stage perform like the possessed. Lead singer Daniel controls the crowd and encourages mayhem in the form of crowd surfers and mosh pits (it is always fun to count how many go over the barrier). Long hailed as the future of Metal there is no denying those claims and with every headline show and festival slot they continue to reinforce that fact.
In years gone by the Zippo Stage's attendance can vary from thin on the ground to packed. Today you can barely move. Wether the audience was made up of fans or if it was those who just wanted to check out the hype, it doesn't really matter. Because Bury Tomorrow without a doubt blew the minds of everyone here and with a newly announced headline tour set for later this year, you can guarantee either myself or one of the team will be there for the beautifully constructed mayhem that will ensue.
So as there was a slight gap in my schedule where none of the bands really took my fancy, I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet up with some of the 3 Songs & Out team.
3 Songs & Out has become a bit of family over the past 3 years. Reviewing and photographing music brought us all together online but in reality we all live in different parts of the country. Our awesome team is now about 35 strong but only a few of us have met face to face. Thankfully the power of a private group keeps us all actively in touch. But thanks to Download Festival I got to meet up with photographer Dave Shipley and reviewer Jake Williams for the first time which was amazing. Also on site was one of our reviewers Vikki who was busy enjoying herself with friends so couldn't make the meet and one of our photographers Ben who was working his ass off interviewing and reviewing for Soundsphere Magazine. So while we didn't quite get the full gang together, it was still great to finally get that face to face and left me buzzing and ready for the next act.
Asking Alexandria - Zippo Encore Stage - 3.40pm - 4.20pm Photo - Sarah Koury
Before their recent self titled fifth album, I had never really given Asking Alexandria much notice but I could never really say why.
After getting hooked on the new album and making a point of playing catch up they are now one of my favourite bands and they were easily my most anticipated must see's of the weekend. Thankfully they lived up to my expectations in every way. Danny's voice is incredible, I had long feared that live it wouldn't live up to the strength of his studio offerings but he put that fear to rest. Even in-spite of the fact he managed to misjudge his step a few seconds in and slice his shin open which subsequently left him with limited movement throughout the set, he just didn't skip a beat.
With my catch up on the history of the band, it is clear they have not been without their critics and controversy. Proving to be a bit of a marmite band for many, they have been criticised from everything to their musical style changing over the years to the leaving and returning of Danny and everything in between. But the absolutely rammed field of fans singling along to every word suggest that here today, everybody loves a bit of marmite.
Babymetal - Zippo Encore Stage 4.45pm - 5.30pm Photo - John Hayhurst
I just don't get it...
But I love it!
Being As An Ocean - The Avalanche Stage 5.00pm - 5.30
At this point the sun had taken its toll on me a little bit and I needed to find shelter. The tent of The Avalanche Stage was closest so I grabbed a drink and just found a place to sit. I had no intention of checking out Being As An Ocean, but by pure happenstance I am so glad they became a part of my day. Melodic, beautifully crafted Post Hardcore that was just the right amount of kick to get me back on point.
Black Stone Cherry - Main Stage 5.20pm - 6.30pm Photo - Matt Eachus
Having recovered somewhat I headed over to the main stage to check out the mighty Black Stone Cherry.
It had become very apparent over the course of the day that the attendance this year was astronomical compared to previous years. Was it due to the fact Guns 'N Roses were playing that evening, I don't know. But Black Stone Cherry were greeted with a tremendous roar when taking to the stage and everybody remained captivated through out as Download were treated to some beautiful Southern Rock 'N' Roll.
I have often maintained that a band as good as they may, can be pushed to give a greater performance if the audience gives as much as they take and today proved just that. Black Stone Cherry rode high on the energy before them and while I know I have said this about quite a few of the bands on this years line up (I am going to say it more time, for the next band) but there was no doubt we were witnessing the rise of a future headliner.
Parkway Drive - Zippo Encore Stage 6.00pm - 7.10pm Photo - Kyle Mcloughlin
Holy Shit! Where have Parkway Drive been all my life?!
Shall I get it out of the way now and say that you will defiantly see them headlining this festival one day.
The area around the stage was absolutely rammed so I opted to step back and take a seat at the top of the field and just take it all in. If you take out the pyro and the 360-degree spinning drum kit you are still in for an absolute spectacle when you see Parkway live. As much as I was overwhelmed by their performance, it was clear that lead singer Ben Gordon was overwhelmed by the sea of adoring fans before him. Taking it all in, his smile was infectious.
As I sit here now and reflect on their set I'm struggling to put into words exactly what I witnessed, how I felt. Parkway owned every second of their set and gave us what may be a career defining moment. I can comfortably say that their performance will of opened doors for them here in the UK and all they have to do now is walk through them. I don't hope I will see more of these guys, I KNOW I will and I can't fucking wait.
Guns N' Roses - Main Stage 7.20pm - 10.50pm Photo - James Bridle
There are people everywhere! Finding a spot to set up my chair was near impossible so I accepted that this was going to be an audio based show rather than the visual spectacle as the stage felt like a speck on the landscape. But hey ho, I was about to witness the closest thing possible to a classic Guns N' Roses lineup and not only that but for the next 3 hours.
After Parkway Drive I was absolutely buzzing but that sadly didn't last long...
Are you ready for the controversial opinion?
Guns N' Roses weren't all that good, in fact they were incredibly disappointing.
If you ignore Axl's historical melt downs, late stage arrivals and even his no shows, he is still one of the greatest frontman in the history of Rock. Or at least that's what I thought, the very real and harsh truth is he just doesn't have it anymore. Now don't forget this is the opinion of one person and I have no doubt there will be masses who disagree with me but Axl's voice just hasn't stood the test of time.
Can he still sing?
Sure he can. Better than I will ever be able to, but does it have the same bark it used to?
No it doesn't and it even sounded strained in points. So if you're able to put that aside you've got a 3 hour show that was full of spectacle, which is great and all.
But could they have put on the same performance in half the time?
Of course they could of and we could of have an extra band play before them as well. You only have to cut down Slash's self indulgent solos, that lets be honest few people rarely enjoy after a few minutes and you've already shaved time off the overall set.
Reading the above make me sound super bitter and I know this. I don't even know exactly what I was expecting from the band. I know for some if not most this was everything they needed. Some brought tickets and travelled down just for their set. But after seeing what the future of music holds playing over the various stages today and yesterday, witnessing the rising stars and future headliners, I was left feeling so underwhelmed by a band that I have always adored.
There is no doubt a place for them here, you only have to witness the sea of bodies that occupied the arena to understand this but I do feel it is time to let the next generation of music make their mark.
So with that, Download 2018 for me at least, was complete. A family trip to the zoo on Sunday meant my time here was done and overall it was once again an amazing couple of days. Download isn't going anywhere and the future is looking very bright indeed. You can't and won't love all of the bands on the line-up but the beauty of this well crafted festival is that there is something for everyone.
See you next year!
Review - Sean Friswell