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Gig Review : Download Festival, Day 4

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Review by Sheri Bicheno for MPM

The last day of Download is here – the weekend has whizzed by in a flash. It is still insanely hot and sunny, so what better way to start the day than to kick off the day with one of the most stunning bands that the last few years have had to offer…

All the way from New Delhi, India, I remember coming across Bloodywood as a local Indian band on YouTube with their metal version of Ed Sheeran’s The Shape Of You. It remains one of my favourite covers to this day.
Then some time later to my surprise, they re-appeared with their YouTube video for Ari Ari which created quite the stir for metal fans. Needless to say, it blew up and Bloodywood have since been crafting their way to where they stand today – and all through their journey, they have remained humble, interactive and loving – treating everyone as friend and family and continue to create the most inclusive, welcoming and safe atmosphere for their fanbase.

There is no one more deserving to be here than these guys.

The Apex stage is full from front to back already, I take a place down the front and soak in the atmosphere of the intro music on stage – a stunning instrumental blend of wood pipes and beautiful, ambient Acapella ethnic humming.

Vishesh Singh takes his place at the kit whilst Sarthak Pahwa stands on stage and thumps the Dhol – one, two, three and repeats… creating a suspense for the entrance of the others.

With a rush of crushing riffs, Karan Katiyar whirlwinds across the stage and kicks off the brutally upbeat sonic assault of Gaddar.

Gaddar showcases the musicianship of Bloodywood, displaying the heavier side of them with groove driven riffing and two times the percussion.

Drummer Vishesh is a beast behind the kit and provides the catchy and headbanging pace with the intensity and air of ethnicity from Sarthak’s Dohl giving the extra boost to the height of sound that emits from their stage.

Vocalist Jayant Bhadula also displays a stunning range of his vocal skills with his growls that reach every corner of the Apex space. He uses techniques that roar and echo his vocals that offer a stunning addition to the brutal and sometimes melodic infusion to Bloodywood, switching between bilingual Hindi and English spoken words and styles to deliver their message.

Next track BDSK.exe offers up a stunning blend of huge melodic chords and striking Indian instrumentals to deliver an immersive rap number that talks to us of lies and propaganda spread by mainstream journalists and media that ultimately, feeds the machine of the oppression and war.

Raoul Kerr is an exceptional rapper, he has the ability to match the predominately extreme metal energy and injects the hip hop and rap styles that puts diversity into the band.

This track is also a great example of where bassist Roshan Roy uses different paces of tempos to command the energy along with Vishesh’s kit. The bassnotes are deep gritting and groove fuelled with twists of progressive notes that give that pretty filthy rounded and sharp sound to the track.

Sometimes in order to address sensitive and serious subjects, it’s a comfort to have people who can use their position to create a voice, or to speak in aid of those who feel can’t use theirs.

Jayant talks to the crowd and acknowledges that there are predators in humanity who inflict upon others in the world that hide amongst us to prey on both weak and strong. He refers to sexual assault and encourages the mindset to eliminate it amongst humanity. Raoul states that enough is enough and encourages support and unity to those who have had to endure such treatment.

Dana Dan serves as an extremely powerful message with an equally huge sound to be sure to be heard, expressing violent rage and brutal notes through the lyrics and crushing percussion.

One thing I adore about Bloodywood is their infectious and wonderful attitude, their empathy towards others. Raoul talks to us about the fight against depression and acknowledges that it feels like an eternal curse. But “With every dark winter comes an invincible Summer.

Jayant explains that this next song “Doesn’t fight your battles but it helps unlock the power within.”

Jee Veerey chimes in with beautiful wind instruments and crashes in with some upbeat and skilful drumming that’s fronted by Raoul’s unifying rap versing, relating to the feeling of darkness and using words of encouragement to keep fighting with determination to see the light.

This turns into an anthemic piece with Jayant crafting the unity between band and audience, encouraging them to join in.

There’s a lad next to me with a giant Panda bear on his shoulders, jumping up and down to the vibe from the stage.

I cannot emphasize enough how stunning Bloodywood are. When they return after writing the new album, go and experience them.

Staying at the Apex, American giants Lorna Shore have continually earned the pedestal for some of the best Deathcore bands around today and they showcase why with their pure quality, tight delivery and pure filthy skills.
Choral synths and almost angelic keys chime outwards from the stage before a crushing moment rains down filled with brutal blastbeating and Andrew O’Connor’s intense riffs. Sun/Eater brings on punishing drums to melt faces, but Will Ramos’ ungodly vocals take centre stage throughout.

I’ve mentioned before about the video of the camera down his throat, looking at his vocal cords that make some of the most inhuman guttural grunts and piercing shrieks.

Cursed to Die is epic yet brutal, its message talks to us about the creation of life and perhaps that what we view as God isn’t do far from what we are. And this is cleverly placed before the viral track To The Hellfire bursts into play.

Starting with a dreamlike acoustic setting, the dynamics stay with the uplifting melody throughout the track pretty much, which gives more depth to Austin Archey’s outstanding blastbeating and chaos entwined breakdowns. This allows for Michael Yager’s bassnotes to support the pace of this track with some filthy and wonderful low and melodic strings.

This track is also one of the best to example Will Ramos’ vocals.
They are dimension changing totally inhumane, which work to unlock the finishing touches to the bands sound.
His gutturals are well known and for good reason… they are absolutely gruesome in this track.
The guitaring of Adam De Micco is also used as an outstanding example here.

Where the choral melodies stand in the midst of the track, there are some absolutely gorgeous and heavy as hell riffs that tighten up what makes Lorna Shore one of the heaviest and most experimental deathcore bands around.

Next on the Apex, I was happy to see that Mongolian folk metal band The Hu had been given a main stage spot.
Where they are quite unique, combining Mongolian traditional music with metal elements to create ‘hunnu rock’, it’s refreshing to see such a change with a bit more of a spotlight.

I’ve not seen The Hu before but I was absolutely mesmerised by them.

The use of their throat singing techniques amongst jaw harp, fiddle playing and Mongolian guitars is nothing short of fascinating and adds stunning effects to give authentic ethnic musicianship to storytelling in their songs.

Playing through their well known tracks, Yvue Yvue Yue and Wolf Totem had the crowd dancing to the beats and singing along to the known words. Their instrumentals are absolutely stunning and with the touch of throat singing, delivered an exceptional set.

A little while ago, when The Hu were approached about their view on their impact in music, they had said that they want to inspire the younger generation: “we want to inspire them with courage, we want them to feel our energy, be strong and unite together and to do something good for the world.”

Their rhythmic and intoxicating sound feel ethereal, it doesn’t matter if you dont understand the lyrics as such as generally you understand the atmosphere they create in front of you.

With a Mongolian cover of Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’ we can understand how the The Hu can create such diversity in their music – the basic foundations of the beloved Metallica song were there, yet they made it unto a completely different experience.

A white sheet conceals the background of the Apex stage and soon after, it floats to the floor to unveil Polish blackened death giants Behemoth in their set up, with a winding riff that signals the evil tones to start their set.
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer kicks off the atmosphere. The chuggy basstones from Orion are stunning here. He completely takes hold of the channeling paces of this first offering alongside the brutal blaatbeating administered by Inferno.
Nergal known for his vocals, also wields the guitar with devastating riffs and ambient injections of solos.

The Deathless Sun is another epic composition, donning stunningly tight groove filled guitars alongside choral effects, summoning an apocalyptic atmosphere full of majestical energy.
Abhorrent riffing and technical and filthy drum techniques give this track its different textures.
Vocalist Nergal has a range that is larger than life and uses blackened death style growls to put in powerful effects.

I like that his voice can be diverse in his vocal delivery, they’re not all high shrieks that you’d find present in a lot of black metal element fronted bands. By the time (my favourite) Ov Fire and the Void is offered up, his vocals are melodic and take on a seriously brutal depth for maximum effect to match the energy of this track.

Whilst playing within the realms of blackened doom textures, Seth’s guitaring is what commands the mood of this track. The riffs are terrifying and bring a total sense of impending danger whilst Nergal fires scratching shotgun riffs alongside him to blow devastating effects throughout the track.
This song also shows the foundations of how Behemoth work together on stage so tightly.
They are tuned into each other and deliver a high calibre, powerful performance between them by working together to deliver in time guitar swinging, neck breaking headbanging and theatrics to their themes.
Pyrotechnics are a huge part of a Behemoth show and this time is no exception. Flames shoot to the rafters of the stage during some relentless pummeling of the pedals by Inferno.

Their set concludes with the striking Chant for Eschaton 2000. The snares here swim out amidst the powerful thundering of drums as the guitars deliver melodic blows amongst Nergal’s threatening growls.
Stunning!

Next on the Apex came Michigan’s answer to metalcore, I Prevail.
From the offset, the pure amount of energy and emotion that these guys set is a bar so high, it’s somewhere in space.
This combination of technical and stunning riffs with tightly formed drum beats cover the introduction to the set, bursting the stage open with Bow Down.

The vocals that Brian Burkheiser and Eric Vanlerberghe entwine together create a stunning and immersive platform with both clean and unclean outlets working together to deliver a contrast of vicious energy and heartfelt emotion.

There are soothing and heart crippling melodic moments in this that balance this track out beautifully.

Bad Things introduces A beautiful synth voice to the song that melts into Brian’s beautiful clean vocals and elevates into a rap style metalcore number. The two talk to us about how their minds carry an influx of emotions and trying to keep going through the emotional whirlwind.

Come and Get It however, is the complete opposite. Fuelled by venomous lyrics towards those that run their mouth and bad mouth others. Steve Menoian turns out some threatening riffs and jagged bursts of guitar chords that allow the room for Dylan Bowman’s gliding melodies to weave the magic they both craft. Incredible breakdowns are offered up by Gabe Helguera to deliver a vicious performance before we are treated to a rendition of System of a Down’s Chop Suey which has the crowd eating from the palm of their hands.

Hurricane serves as another of I Prevail’s stunning abilities to create a more gentle and emotional vibe amongst the anger and visceral moments that they deliver. The sound here isn’t so furious at first, Gabe’s drumming is tight as anything however he gives way to some stunning basswork that provides a deep ocean of atmosphere waiting below the screams of Eric.

Australia’s Parkway Drive need no introduction. I’ve reviewed these spectacular guys once before and I expected their set to absolutely blow the scale at Download.

Vocalist Winston McCall is once again, all in white and approaches the stage with the biggest smile to welcome the crowd amongst flamed torches that are carried out on stage.

As opener Glitch creeps up to maddening riffs and huge drum beats, he absolutely storms across the stage with vicious energy and launches into his signature commanding vocals that set the mood for what we’re about to be let in for.

This track talks about the dealings of sleep paralysis and night terrors with the mind altering affects it can have on someone.

Jeff Ling’s winding guitars provide the atmospheric effects to this track to lace through the power riffs from Luke Kilpatrick that work to the commanding pace of Ben Gordon’s absolutely astonishing kitwork.

As usual, visually, Parkway Drive have pulled out all the stops. The pyrotechnics emerging from the stage create a stunning display amongst the band’s energy.

Prey has the crowd moving – the pits are absolutely feral and Jeff’s melodies ring out to connect to the crowd, crafting an anthem style singsong that the crowd reverberates back to the band.

Vice Grip see’s some growls coming from Winston that are only enhanced by what I think is a fantastic example of Jia O’Connor’s stunning bass notes, conjuring a deep leviathan to give Winston’s vocals space to command the upbeat mood of the song.

A perfect example of how vocals and basswork can mold together to use contrasting tempos to deliver a devastating and brutal sound. The guitaring ranges from scratchy and winding riffs to powerful solo work to balance everything out.

Ben puts on a stunning drum display accompanied by a pyrotechnics to his blast beating and then…

“Gimme that riff, brother…”
Winston launches himself into the crowd and has the hands of dozens of fans float him around the front of the barriers whilst he effortlessly belts out his stunning screams.

The maddening riffs from Jeff only spurs his energy on and there Winston is… in the abyss of nearly 100,000 people to float him around. He then sits upright and a huge circle pit forms around him to the melodics of Luke that entwine with the stunning pedal work from Ben.

WHAT a sight.

Darker Still is still one of my favourite Parkway Drive songs even though it’s relatively new.
The beautiful acoustic intro and the sweet song of whistles instill a very deep connection to the crowd, everyone is still, everyone totally entranced by these wonderful guys…
Ben introduces slower and somber beats and laces through the more somber and gentler lyrics that Winston has to offer –
The whole song encapsulates softer tones of sorrow melting into beautiful, heartfelt solos and drums that tell a story of darkness within.
I will always love this song in it’s live setting. Truly a wonderful and emotionally charged moment.

Turning my attention now to the Dogtooth stage for the first time today, it seems somewhat unreal that Hatebreed had one of the smaller stages as that tent was absolutely rammed. Almost impossible to find somewhere to listen, however I managed to eventually find a spot that gave the sound it’s full oomph.
Looking Down The Barrel of Today provided an absolutely monstrous riff to start a sonic assault. Wayne Lozinak and Frank Novinek are a masters at their crafts – the slamming of strings with power induced chord work, technical and skippy riffing fused with the tight kitwork of Matt Byrne absolutely showcases why Hatebreed continue to be one of the best metal bands of the last three decades.

Driven by Suffering is although short, a bludgeoning track that gives us some downright evil and technical riffs whilst Dead Man Breathing gives off some elements of thrash induced beatdowns that are underlined by the stunning grindy bassnotes of Chris Beattie.
Vocalist Jamie Jasta emits his tormented shouts and when he’s backed by chanting roars, he leans more towards straight-up hardcore punk in an anthemic chorus.

One of the few bands to repeatedly promote an ethos of self-positivity and self-knowledge Hatebreed have always been a band to turn to for a rush of enery when needed.

Although metal leviathans Slipknot have graced the main stage headliner slot at Download for 5 years throughout, it was simply fitting that they would end the 20 year celebration with a bang. The curtain with the S that we all see symbolising the start of a brutal show was raised following the intro of Simple Mind’s Don’t You Forget About Me… and BAM – kicking off, The Blister Exists hurled us straight into the set.
This being purely guitar showcasing in my opinion, the granite riffs from Jim Root and hurling licks of Mick Thomson gave that old school feel of Slipknot right off the cuff – a killer beginning

Having it been recently reported that Clown was unavailable to join the tour with Slipknot across the dates around Download sadly due to family health commitments, vocalist Corey Taylor tells us that he’s joined for this one show to share a moment in Download Festival history.
A fantastic surprise!!

A new track opens with an menacing harmonized melody sung in Slipknot’s more cleaner style.
Though it creates a false sense of security, The Dying Song immediately transforms to a verse of Corey’s most ripping vocals.

This tempo change is forceful in transforming the brutality of the verse, going back to the roots of Corey’s more raw and old style vocals. The percussions are also totally unhinged – this is some of the newer offerings of Slipknot totally embracing their original roots and it is fantastic. As bands always evolve over time and occasionally, where they apply that evolution to their older catalogue, Slipknot bear no such thing here, it’s literally as if I’ve stepped back into the mid nineties – raw and powerful.

The much loved lunacy of their sets are renowned with some of Slipknot’s most iconic songs such as Psychosocial and The Devil In I making the setlist, which see’s a wonderful unity of Slipknot fans both young and… a bit older… moving and screaming the lyrics back to the stage.

I love the showmanship they all bestow. Corey talks to the crowd all the time, interacting non stop with us.
“If you’re 555 then I’m…”

SIX SIX SIX.

It has to be an absolutely euphoric feeling to hear near 100,000 people chant your own lyrics back to you.

Corey tells us that his voice isn’t at it’s best at the moment but honestly – I could not detect this whatsoever. He powers through and delivers all he’s got.
“This is our fifth time headlining fcking Download, dude! A lot of bands never even get to headline this thing once, so first of all, thank you – thank you so fcking much.”

Right before we are spin kicked into some stunners, Corey tells us that he’s lost a £20 bet that Download’s crowd wouldn’t deliver a wild reception. He counts 12 circle pits and proudly commends the crowd for their energy and love.

“Clown is back! Scream for his family so they can hear you all the way back in America!”

The roars are almost deafening and we are treated to some nostalgia that Slipknot haven’t played in a long, long time…

Jim’s riff winds out and we are catapulted straight back to 1999 with Left Behind and Wait and Bleed respectively.

From there, chaos ensues: Slipknot purely go feral, bouncing and thumping around the stage, jumping off platforms – completely annihilating the place… a keg gets purely abused with a flaming baseball bat and the crowd see’s bodies flying absolutely everywhere, in any and every direction.

Absolute CARNAGE.

It’s almost unreal that once this energy is out, the most beautiful and sombre song follows.
Snuff is iconic, for it’s relatable and heartshattering energy – it turns me into a jelly.

But you cannot deny the stunning atmosphere it creates. Another moment of unity for Download and you know – that is also a testament to the musicianship of every member of Slipknot.
How you can have the power to control so many emotions in one place, one moment after the other, is beyond astounding.

With the end of Download now looming, Slipknot inject the weekends last burst of energy with Duality, People = Shit ­and Custer before one last time, Corey commands the energy of Download.

Ripping into a stunning offering of Spit It Out, he addresses the crowd right before that phenomenal verse…

“Make history with me Download…”

He gets almost 100,000 people to get down as low as they can – and Download obliges.
The sight of so many people crouching to the suspense of beats is something to behold…
“When I say, jump the fuck up, I want each and every one of you to jump. But not yet, Download… not yet…”

Mick and Jim’s guitar create the suspending riffs to ease everyone into the crouch and we wait on Corey’s cue…

“’Bout time I set this record straight…
All the needle-nose punchin’ is makin’ me irate,
Sick o’ my bitchin’ fallin’ on deaf ears,
Where you gonna be in the next five years?
The crew and all the fools and all the politics
Get your lips ready, gonna gag, gonna make you sick,
You got dick when they passed out the good stuff,
Bam, are you sick of me? Good enough, had enough… JUMP THE FUCK UP!”

My. Gods.

The grounds shook. Flames erupted to the skies and Slipknot delivered the most powerful end to finish a colossal weekend.

I don’t know how the bar could be raised any further for the coming years – but I am excited to find out.

Slipknot – Download Festival – Photographer

Lorna Shore – Tour Photographer – @lucaroman_

The Hu – Download Festival – Photographer

Parkway Drive – Download Festival – Photographer

Gallery Below – Pete Key for MPM

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