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FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download Festival 2017 – Friday

Download Festival, a Goliath in the UK festival circuit is back for another year with a broad, varied and rather stellar lineup. The annual event at Donnington Park is like Mecca for rockers and this year was no different as thousands upon thousands of fans descended to the festival for a weekend of live music, and it did not rain! Distorted Sound attended this year’s festival and we saw countless bands over the festival weekend, so here is our coverage from the Friday at this year’s Download Festival!

NORTHLANE – Main Stage

Northlane live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ross Silcocks
Northlane live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ross Silcocks

Tasked with the mammoth task of opening the Main Stage at Download Festival is no easy feat but for Australian metallers NORTHLANE it proves testament to just how big the band are getting and, for the most part, they gave a performance that ignited the Download Festival weekend. Through a massive wall of sound backed by thick djent-esque guitar tones from Jon Deiley and Josh SmithNORTHLANE had a statement of intent and rocked the foundations of Download Festival‘s main stage with storming renditions of Rot and Quantum Flux easily being the highlights of the set. Frontman Marcus Bridge has a solid set of pipes with soaring cleans and thundering growls delivered effortlessly, and despite a few niggling sound issues dampening the band’s impact, NORTHLANE gave a solid performance which served as the best way to kick-start the weekend’s antics.

Rating: 7/10

Words: James Weaver

HOLDING ABSENCE – The Dogtooth Stage

Considering the fact that HOLDING ABSENCE have only existed for less than year, it was somewhat surprising just how professional their performance was on The Dogtooth Stage. Tight interchanging riffs from Feisal El-Khazragi and Giorgio Cantarutti kept the momentum swinging from delicate melodies to explosive power and frontman Lucas Woodland did a superb job of delivering his vocal lines. A rather short set that included stand-out singles Dream of Me and Permanent showcased that HOLDING ABSENCE have a bright future ahead of them.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

ASTROID BOYS – The Avalanche Stage

Astroid Boys live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ben Gibson
Astroid Boys live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ben Gibson

ASTROID BOYS are one of the few modern meldings of hip hop and rock that doesn’t sound dated as hell, mostly due to the fact that the three Cardiff lads draw more from the grime scene on our own shores rather than trying to sound like they’re from Compton. Their songs often with them by dropping decent bars over some thumping electronics that slowly turn into raging riffs, a recipe that is repeated often through their short set but one that works well especially with tunes like Fallback and the incredible Dusted.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Jack King

MOTIONLESS IN WHITE – Main Stage

Motionless In White live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Paulo Gonçalves
Motionless In White live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Paulo Gonçalves

It’s a big day for MOTIONLESS IN WHITE – they’ve successfully navigated their way to the Main Stage a mere four years after appearing inside the tent on the Avalanche Stage. Not one to back down from a big occasion, they give everything they’ve got for the half hour they have and come away having made plenty of friends in the process. The power of Devil’s Night and Abigail get heads banging across the field and the live debut of Unnecessary Evil from their latest album Graveyard Shift goes down an absolute treat. Their tour in January next year looks set to be something special.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Elliot Leaver

SABATON – Main Stage

Sabaton live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ross Silcocks
Sabaton live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ross Silcocks

When it comes to the ultimate party band for a festival, you’d be hard pushed to suggest a better act than SABATON. Bombastic and silly in equal measures, they’re always a huge amount of fun and are brilliant at getting everybody in the right mood with their high energy and general tomfoolery; subsequently, the sight of a tank drum kit and a significant amount of ammo in terms of pyro is a welcome addition. What lets them down today is the sound which is being blown around something horrible, meaning the levels are all over the place and the impact of songs like The Art of War and Carolus Rex are compromised despite the band’s efforts. Solid enough, but it could have been more.

Rating: 6/10

Words: Elliot Leaver

CODE ORANGE – The Avalanche Stage

Code Orange live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: James Weaver
Code Orange live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: James Weaver

No such problems for CODE ORANGE, who absolutely decimate The Avalanche Stage in front of a rabid, packed tent. From the minute that they kick into Forever there’s a sea of bodies from left to right moving as one, the quartet feeding off that energy and delivering it back with twice as much power; down in the pit, one punter (covered in blood from a stray limb) grins manically before diving back into the flailing arms and torsos. The fact that it took world-class performance from GOJIRA to stop CODE ORANGE taking them to school on the former’s UK tour this year (where the latter were opening) shows you exactly how good they are. A game changing band in every respect.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Elliot Leaver

MASTODON – Main Stage

Another band riding high are MASTODON, whose latest album Emperor of Sand is continuing to set the metal world on fire. As with SABATON, the wind that swirls around the Main Stage is a nuisance but it doesn’t affect them nearly as much as the Swedes, the mega riffs of The Wolf is Loose and Bladecatcher penetrating effectively and crushing everything in the way. There are six songs aired from the new record and the absolute highlight is Steambreather, which is by far and away the best song on the album, itself and sounds twice as good in a live setting. See them on tour in December, it’s an absolute must.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Elliot Leaver

FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – Main Stage

Five Finger Death Punch live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ben Gibson
Five Finger Death Punch live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ben Gibson

Following them are FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, who don’t look like a band on the verge of break-up after the highly publicised mental state of frontman Ivan Moody and the confusion surrounding his supposed departure. Indeed, the man is on great form, smiling from ear to ear and leading the crowd through some of the best metal songs of the last decade, including a significant amount of time on the barrier itself with guitarist Zoltan Bathory. From the might of Got Your Six and Jekyll and Hyde through to their well-known cover of Bad Company, it’s ludicrous to think that they’ve never headlined a stage at Download Festival yet; they could have taken the Zippo Encore stage by storm.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Elliot Leaver

SUICIDAL TENDENCIES – Zippo Encore Stage

The fact that SUICIDAL TENDENCIES as a band are 37 years old is absurd enough, but the fact that they play with more energy than all the acts on this stage combined is ludicrous. You look at frontman and living legend Mike Muir throwing all the old school hardcore dancing out on stage you know he’d still be doing the exact same moves with the same amount of passion in a bar in New York to 10 people if SUICIDAL TENDENCIES hadn’t made it. They truly play every show like it’s their last with Muir dropping some PMA knowledge in between songs and the band playing top form. It’s a chance to have a few beers and two step to some of the best crossover tunes ever written like You Can’t Bring Me Down and Subliminal, and if that doesn’t sound like fun then maybe festivals aren’t for you.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Jack King

VENOM PRISON – The Dogtooth Stage

Venom Prison live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: James Weaver
Venom Prison live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: James Weaver

After roaring onto the metal scene last year through Animus, momentum is at bursting point for VENOM PRISON and the band capitalised on such momentum to deliver an astounding performance on The Dogtooth Stage at this year’s Download Festival. Through a monolithic wall of sound through explosive blasts from Joe Sheehy keeping the pace at a frantic rate and the slick riffing from guitarists Ben Thomas and Ash Gray adding bite to the band’s sound, VENOM PRISON aimed to take no prisoners and they achieved just that. Frontwoman Larissa Stuppar owned the stage; as her guttural snarls raised the hairs on the back of your neck and the closing sequence on Desecration of Human Privilege being just one highlight into why VENOM PRISON are such a promising band in modern metal.

Rating: 9/10

Words: James Weaver

BARONESS – Zippo Encore Stage

After putting out an album as beautiful as 2015’s Purple there’s not a lot that BARONESS could do wrong. Fans have been dying to hear songs like Shock Me and If I Had To Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain?) shimmer in the summer sun as the band are close up the most successful album run in their career so far. The whole outfit is on form but it’s frontman John Dyer Baizley who is truly living it up, running around the stage flaunting the most excited expression on his face as he belts his mountain scaling melodies. He’s aware that are elements of magic in this set, like when the sun perfectly hits the stage in time for the climax of Chlorine & Wine. It’s both the stars aligning and the band playing some of the best songs (of any genre) written in recent years, the fact that BARONESS are clearly having the time of their lives doing pushes it over the edge to one of the best sets of the entire festival, don’t be surprised when BARONESS appear on the main stage in the next few years

Rating: 9/10

Words: Jack King

GOOD CHARLOTTE – Zippo Encore Stage

Good Charlotte live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ben Gibson
Good Charlotte live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Ben Gibson

GOOD CHARLOTTE have been a constant presence in the pop-punk scene since the 90s – if not through new albums, on party and nightclub playlists – with songs like Girls & Boys and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous that spiralled them into fame. The strong set kicked off with some of the hits, starting the party strong, including The Anthem and My Bloody Valentine, then added in The River. Frontman Joel Madden became emotional on stage as he discussed the importance of their fans and how, since much of the audience had been listening to them whilst growing up, it was like they’d all grown up together – a touching sentiment. They played before headliners SUM 41 which was a good pairing, complementing each other’s sound, not to mention sharing a fan base.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Dean Martin

PROPHETS OF RAGE – Main Stage

Prophets of Rage live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Matt Eachus
Prophets of Rage live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Matt Eachus

Back on the Main Stage, the UK bow of PROPHETS OF RAGE is well underway, and whilst it’s certainly weird seeing three members of one of the greatest rocks bands of all time accompanied by two rappers and a DJ, the fact of the matter is that you cannot mess with songs like Bullet in the Head and Know Your Enemy whatsoever. True, it doesn’t have the same firepower as it would with Zack de la Rocha at the helm, but both Chuck D of PUBLIC ENEMY and B Real of CYPRESS HILL are able to convey the anger and spite well, even if the latter appears half a beat off the pace and only just reaching the end of his lines before it’s time for the next one. The heaviest moment, however, is when messrs Morello, Commerford and Wilk pay tribute to fallen comrade Chris Cornell with an instrumental version of AUDIOSLAVE’s Like a Stone, a mic and stand left empty at the front of the stage out of respect. Then, they finish with the one-two of Bulls On Parade and a riotous Killing in the Name to huge applause, and despite trepidation it’s fair to say that this new outfit are still able to pull it out the bag as they always did. Once they settle further it’ll be even better.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Elliot Leaver

SUM 41 – Zippo Encore Stage

Sum 41 live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Sum 41 @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Paulo Gonçalves
Sum 41 live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Sum 41 @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Paulo Gonçalves

Anyone with the slightest interest in rock music will know of SUM 41 and their headlining performance on the Zippo Encore Stage may have just been purely a nostalgia fest for some, but that did not detract from the fact that SUM 41 delivered a masterstroke of a performance. With an arsenal of hits over their career, from the chugging rhythms of Motivation to the ballad-esque and moving PiecesSUM 41 delivered a performance that was gripping and utterly entertaining. It’s been no secret that frontman Deryck Whibley has struggled with demons throughout his career, but here, Whibley was on top form with both his vocals and stage persona excelling on all fronts. It was an utterly entertaining performance with a rendition of QUEEN‘s We Will Rock You enticing a mass sing-a-long and a double whammy of In Too Deep and Fat Lip rounding off a set that showcased why SUM 41 are so beloved in the rock community.

Rating: 9/10

Words: James Weaver

SYSTEM OF A DOWN – Main Stage

System of a Down live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Caitlin Mogridge
System of a Down live @ Download Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Caitlin Mogridge

And then, there’s SYSTEM OF A DOWN. It’s truly, truly unfair that a band can have so many brilliant tunes that they play a 31-song set and still don’t find room for songs like I-E-A-I-A-I-O. That said, every single song sends the Download Festival faithful into a frenzy, from the majesty of Aerials and Mr. Jack through to the timeless might of Chop Suey! and B.Y.O.B. There’s even an airing of DAM, one of the songs from their first ever demos, which precedes the triple attack of Cigaro, Toxicity and Sugar to close the set in style. On a musical front it’s 11/10 material and the stage show is just as impressive, but the members tell a different story. There’s barely any interaction between them over the course of their set and whilst there’s never been much anyway, they come across disinterested and just giving the fans what they want. With all the talk of a new album in the air, there will be the hope that this can inject some fire back into one of the greatest metal bands of the 21st century, but tonight it somewhat stifles the performance no matter how phenomenal they sound.

Rating: 8/10 

Words: Elliot Leaver

Be sure to keep your eye on Distorted Sound as we bring you the lowdown of the Saturday and Sunday of this year’s Download Festival in the coming days!

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