LIVE: Download Festival 2018 – Sunday

By Penny Bennett

Download Festival is arguably the biggest and best heavy metal festival in the UK. The hallowed grounds of Donnington have seen just about every band ever grace it over the years. And this year was no different from some huge headliners to debut performances, and to top it all off the sun was out in force!

The Punktastic team headed up to the Donnington Castle site to check it out.

Images: Penny Bennett, Words: Mark Johnson [MJ] / Chris Lee [CL]

Those willing to get up early on day three and trek over to the third stage are rewarded with a superb wake-up performance courtesy of Dream State. The post hardcore crew put on a fantastic show at Slam Dunk a couple of weeks ago and look completely unfazed by the upgrade to Download’s expansive Avalanche tent. The band’s latest EP ‘Recovery’ is an indicator of what they’re capable of, but they really come alive on the stage, injecting huge amounts of energy to go with their flawless execution. Charlotte Gilpin projects her vocals with power and precision, leading the band through a faultless performance that shows the potential lurking within this quintet. Expect big things from Dream State in the future. [MJ]

Sunday sees one of the most unique sounds to be heard across the whole weekend is Ecca Vandal who’s rip roaring yet beautiful vocals take centre stage to a back drop of various genres from an almost pop vibe all the way through to the sharp riffs of ‘Battle Royal’. It’s a welcome change of pace and a delight to behold as the colourful Vandal takes the Download crowd in her stride and on this viewing it’s easy to see why she’s supported bands such as Incubus and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. [CL]

The sun penetrates the clouds and bathes the Download arena in bright light as preparations get under way for Cradle of Filth’s Main Stage performance. As they enter the stage, the hot daytime sun is hardly the setting you’d associate with the extreme metal veterans, but while their face paint and stage costumes might look out of place, there’s no doubting their musical prowess. Drummer Martin Škaroupka plays with phenomenal precision despite the speed of the material, while guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek Šmerda make their technically rich playing seem like child’s play while they whip their hair into whirlwinds and crunch their vertebrae with non-stop head banging. Dani Filth puts his full range on show, using all his years of experience to switch from low growls to ear piercing squeals. It’s great to see so many genres of the alternative world on display at Download and who better to champion extreme metal than Cradle of Filth? [MJ]

With standards so high at the Avalanche Stage over the weekend, Puppy’s somewhat pedestrian set leaves a smile, but nothing too memorable. Whenever the trio break into a meaty riff, heads start to bob and feet begin to move, but these moments don’t come often enough and with the band not doing much to stir the crowd, the reception is more tepid than it could’ve been. The have good songs and they execute them well, so with better management of a festival crowd, they could go down well in future. [MJ]

Manchester duo The Hyena Kill might be playing the smallest stage at this years Download festival but for a two piece they manage to produce one of the biggest sounds heard all weekend. You could even close your eyes and we’re sure you’d imagine there’s at least 4 or 5 people up on that stage. Their brand of complex, groovy riffs and huge drum beats have a way of wandering over a multitude of genres from alt rock to metalcore like a musical story. These guys are well on their way to becoming the new White Stripes, and then some. [CL]

Ice T brings his band Body Count to the UK for only the second time in 12 years. And they absolutely lay waste to the Zippo Encore Stage. Tracks like ‘Talk Shit, Get Shot’ cause a god damn riot in the crowd causing multiple circle pits that at one point merge into the biggest pit we saw all weekend. Ice T’s ferocity up front is matched by the bands tightness behind him. The riffs, the drums, the bass are all perfect and provide one of the most technically brilliant sets of the festival. [CL]

Thrice have the unenviable job of following Body Count and after such a riotous, fist in the air performance before them, their set falls a little flat at first. Standing somewhat motionless and leading with the mid-tempo ‘Hurricane’, Thrice don’t start with a bang, but fortunately they’ve amassed an arsenal of great songs since their inception in 1998 and when they call upon old favourite ‘The Artist in the Ambulance’ it ignites some passion and gets things moving. The band finally warm up enough to let loose with closing track ‘The Earth Will Shake’ which ends the set on a high. Their execution is as tight as ever, but for a festival crowd, it lacks the energy needed to leave a lasting impression. [MJ]

Sunday was full of brilliant acts across all the festival’s stages but we headed back over to the Avalanche stage to catch former Reuben frontman Jamie Lenman make the boldest statement we heard all weekend. “Now I know there’s been a lot of heavy music played this weekend but I genuinely think we’re about to play the heaviest song of the weekend” Lenman proclaims. Luckily for him he delivers with a rendition of ‘Personal’ that obliterates most of the songs heard over the weekend but maybe not all, just! [CL]

Mesuggah bring Viking power to the Zippo Stage; the Swedish, iconic tech metal giants blast the speakers to smithereens with their low tuned, heavy riffs. The pioneers of djent lay down 40 minutes of pure groove, making even idle passers-by stop to nod their heads. As this legendary band expertly and precisely carve their way through a neck crunching set, it’s clear why they’re still held in such high regard. “We haven’t been to Download since 2005, when we were younger and fitter” proclaims vocalist Jens Kidman, however this performance defies any claim that they’re past their best. No other band has managed to sound as heavy on this stage, no matter how many years younger they may be, thanks to their unbelievably low and heavy signature sound and its perfectly audible tone. [MJ]

When Alexisonfire announced their hiatus back in 2011, we feared occasions like this would never happen again. It’s still not clear what the status of the band really is, with no word of any new material being created and shows such as this still being rather sporadic, but no matter: Alexisonfire are here and they mean business. From the moment they leap into opener ‘Young Cardinals’, waves of nostalgia hit hard and we’re reminded of the myriad reasons we love this Canadian quintet. From the impeccable voice of Dallas Green, to the swagger of Wade MacNeil and George Petit, right down to the dance moves of bassist Chris Steele, it’s a pleasure to see the band back on stage together and as they churn out wave after wave of timeless songs, it’s easily one of the highlights of the day. ‘This Could Be Anywhere In The World’ gets arguably the biggest singalong of the weekend, until closing track ‘Accidents’ kicks in and the crowd eagerly takes their last opportunity to participate with the band before they leave. During the performance, the band make no mention of any new material, however this reception will remind them of their fans’ continual, unwavering support. As the band say themselves “we are not the kids we used to be”; maybe not, but they’re still one of the best in the business. [MJ]

The penultimate act on the famous main stage lands in the form of the iconic dark prince of goth Marilyn Manson, drawing in a huge crowd full of anticipation. However this time around he has the unfortunate title of being by far the most disappointing act of the whole weekend. His vocals are off key, his stage presence is next to nothing and between disappearing off stage sporadically, the hits he does play are sung louder by his fans than they are by the man himself. It’s almost painful to watch in places and is at best a million miles from Manson’s best and trust us, that’s hard to write. [CL]

Canadian punk heroes Rise Against return the Zippo Encore stage at Download for the second in 3 years and prove that their message is more relevant now than it ever has been. This band have always used their platform to promote togetherness and this set was no different. In between the perfect riffs and choruses that induce lung bursting sing-a-longs Rise Against make sure that we are all comfortable in being true to ourselves while we all have the best time. And more importantly we are all together both as fans of heavy music but also as human beings. [CL]

Swedish rockers The Hives are the last band to hit any of the festival’s stages before Ozzy brings down the curtain on another year and as usual they don’t disappoint. They may not be the heaviest band on the line up, far from it in fact. But with tracks as catchy as ‘Tick Tick Boom’ and ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ those that have decided to come down to the Avalanche Stage are treated to an hour of pure fun. As frontman Pelle Almqvist conducts one of the best performances seen all weekend, and proves just why The Hives have been an institution for over 20 years. [CL]

Ozzy Osbourne has a long standing history with Donington Park. Back in the ‘80s at Monsters of Rock he performed several times with Black Sabbath and his solo project and even had his very own Ozzfest at the site in the early 2000s. Though he’s played centre stage at Download with Black Sabbath before, Ozzy has never headlined the festival with his solo project; until now. The set opens with a nostalgic video that tells a brief history of Ozzy’s musical triumphs, which provides a touching reminder of the influence he’s had on British alternative music through the years. As the legend himself makes his way onto the stage, it’s obvious that his movement isn’t what it used to be, but surprisingly his voice is as powerful and clear as it’s ever been. Big hitters ‘Bark at the Moon’ and ‘Mr Crowley’ get the crowd on side early and the choice Black Sabbath cuts of ‘Fairies Wear Boots’, ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Paranoid’ get the singalongs in full swing. Friday saw Sysynster gates throwing down his guitar skills and Saturday had the iconinc Slash, but Zakk Wylde may just have outplayed them all this evening, his flawless tone and execution making the entire set sound superb. Wylde quietly and unceremoniously goes about his business, smashing out riff after riff and alongside Mr Osborne, they make a formidable pairing. You can argue that it’s time for the old guard to stand aside and allow younger acts to take their place, but when they’re still putting in performances like this, and keeping the crowd entertained for hours on end, what’s the rush? [MJ]