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Gig Review : Download Festival, Day 3

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Review by Sheri Bicheno for MPM

Another scorching day, I headed straight to the Apex stage where Australian Metalcore lads Polaris were about to kick off.

One thing that I have loved so far about this years Download is that there seems to be a lot more of an olive branch to sub genres to be given a space to be heard at a large festival instead of keeping mainstream genres in the spotlight.

As it was already busy, getting the stage today was a battle in itself, by the time I’d got there, Polaris were already in full swing for first track Landmine.

Hear me out, this track was heavy as hell. More Deathcore elements rather than Metalcore – though the anthemic rhythms were very present. Duo vocalists Jamie Hails and Jake Steinhauser already made waves on this track when released, but in its life setting Polaris deliver a dark, heavy energy that talks to us of self realization and runs alongside a striking instrumental, riff fuelled solo, and aggressive drum pounding.

Masochist enters as an ambient and deep rhythm from Rick Schneider that spirals into a heavy guitar melodics that sink to your core. Jamie reflects this song beautifully in his vocals and compliment the gut wrenching visceral screams from Jake.

The contrast comes slightly where The Remedy comes crashing into the audience. This song is more upbeat and though has the anthemic vibes vocally, the guitaring to this song run over eachother to deliver a full impact of levels of brutal tones and gritting basswork from Jake.


Sadly I couldn’t get to see Lake Malice as I’d have liked at the Avalanche Stage as I had somewhat caught the sun and needed to get to Welfare for Sunscreen (the joys of being a redhead), however I could hear them by the time I reached the Avalanche and could hear their delivery of Stop The Party through the crowd.

I saw these Brightonians support Bloodywood some weeks ago in Birmingham and they were nothing short of amazing.

Their sound here at Download was super tight. Tech infused guitars and subtle drum and bass edged drumming in this track lace through this track. Vocalist Alice Guala explores the realms of depression and anxiety and relays this with varied vocals of rap esque styles that flirts with supreme screams and clean beautiful singsong vocals.

Blossom annihilates the stage with huge tech progressive riffs and subtle synths. Alice demonstrates another range of vocals with heavy as slabs gutturals with her beautiful clean vocals. Guitarist Blake Cornwall has a diversity of different guitaring techniques in this tracks live settings. From huge chords to almost djent elements of riffs to deliver a core crunching emotion behind the song.

Time to head back over to the Apex stage. American Metalcore leviathans Ice Nine Kills took to the stage and I was surprised to see that upon entering the stage, they were donning full tuxedos!

These guys are known for their theatrics and it being the first time watching them live, I can see plainly why they are so popular amongst the younger generation of metalcore lovers.

Funeral Derangements enters as a pure sonic assault. One thing that stood out to me was the outstanding skills by drummer Patrick Galante. The guy has got to be one of the best drummers in modern Metal. 

His skills are a plethora of hard hitting, tempo changing and blast beating concoctions – his kitwork is tight as anything and although isn’t overpowering to the rest of Ice Nine Kills, he completely commands the powerful pace to this first track.

This is backed by Ricky Armellino and Dan Sugerman to churn out some of the days most filthiest riffs and melodics, some of the techy chords drop the tempo change whilst the riffs alongside the chords offer the twists of rhythm here and there. Evil. Pure evil.

“It’s a horror and a pleasure to be here” vocalist Spencer Charnas addresses the crowd before splitting the stage apart with Ex-Mørtis that serves as an upbeat and horror themed fun house. 

There are some absolutely brutal breakdowns in this track and Spencer demonstrates his cleaner singing here that comes across anthemic, yet elements of creepy tones are present in his beautiful vocals.

Rainy Day comes as Resident Evil inspired and gives dark, fast paced vibes before we are really taken into the realms of horror with Stephen King’s I.T inspired track IT is the End. 

Spencer uses his different range of vocals to introduce himself as a narrative of Pennywise the Dancing Clown talking to Georgie.

He uses menacingly sweet clean vocals amongst a circus inspired background until he repeats the famous line used by Pennywise when he delivers the attack.

His screams are fully immersive and the use of gutturals with playful clean singsong bridges that melt into stunning melodics make this track absolutely an experience in its live setting.

The American Nightmare pays a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street and exhibits some subtle but none the less stunning bass work from Joe Occhiuti – the chugging tones provide some sinister backbones to the track that support the rhythms and breakdowns to create a worrisome mood amongst the atmosphere.

Whilst in the middle of a tour, Liverpool Death / Grind Metal legends Carcass had a slot on the Opus Stage. I wasn’t gonna miss this… so off I trotted. I positively cooked in the merciless sun but my gods this was worth the skin graft and vat of aloe vera I’m gonna need.

Buried Dreams opening riffs are infectious with a blend of furious, hypnotic guitar melodies and granite smashing grinds. This track serves as a dose of welcome nostalgia. It was released in 1993, however, vocalist Jeff Walker’s signature rasps subsist to be raw and crisp.

Although Kelly’s Meat Emporium is one from off of the most recent album Torn Arteries, it serves as a more Grind-esque track that brings Carcass a little more back to their roots than their newer more Death infused material. In it’s live setting, the atmosphere is chaotically fast. 

Drummer Daniel Wilding exhumes his renowned structure changing kitwork here with some blastbeating that moulds into groove laden thundering that commands the pace of the track with Jeffs grinding bass.

The pace is taken down a notch for a moment when we hear filthy elements of blackened Grind notes that opens up Ruptured in Purulence.

Opening with suspended cymbal work wielded on the drums, Bill Steer works some exceptional suspense inducing yet filthy as f*ck riffing alongside the kit pedals. 

Some false sense of security happens here… breakdowns THAT AREN’T breakdowns. I’ve only known one other musician who masters this… and it hypes the hell out of you before the riffs and drumming rains down on you in a frenzied attack led by Jeffs snarling vocals.

This is meshed into a blend with Heartwork and cleverly so. 

The older (some almost 30 years!) vibes of Heartwork serve as a buffer to Ruptured‘s chaotic and more Blackened Grind textures. Heartwork is gnarly and invites some stunning melodic harmonies amongst the rot of dark ambience in its live performance.

One of my favourite artists of the day.

Staying at the Opus stage, the crowd around me on stage left were getting supremely hyped. 

Starting off with a music box style opener, the stage lights in hues of purple and black and Chris Motionless steps out on the stage dressed in black with a black cap on.


Motionless In White shine pure energy from the outset. As Chris jumps his energy around the stage, bassist Justin Morrow, donning a theatrical make up and green leopard print hair, follows with back up vocals that range perfectly to Chris.

This is a highly emotionally charged song. The lyrics talk to us about struggles to hide the true mentality and emotions, having to be someone that you’re not.

Werewolf starts as punchy, dripping in 80’s style synth bass notes and thundering high tones from drummer Vinny Mauro. Which makes this quite experimental amongst the harder hitters such as Slaughterhouse.

Chris addresses the crowd and tells us it’s the 1 year anniversary of last released album Scoring the End of the World.

“You wanna hear some heavier shit?”

Of course.

“I’m gonna say One mutilation and you’re gonna scream under god!”

This interaction gets the crowd involved in the opening of the next song … the field blows up! 

Slaughterhouse is filthy and sees a circle pit form in the middle of the crowd.

The scratching riffs from Ryan Sitkowski provide a tech element to the delivery of this track that is absorbed on the more Metalcore side of Motionless In White. 

Chris commands that the now two circle pits grow and then launches into a vocal super sonic assault to raise the atmosphere. 

The slower and heavy slabs of riffs and drum beats that roll towards the end are menacing and end the song in suspense.

Reincarnate gets through crowd jumping and sees guitarist Ricky Olson strike out here amongst the other strings to time perfectly with the drums which calls for a chaos before next track Another Life hits us.

Something i adore about music is that you can feel it. And that is especially the case here. I see a girl standing a few feet away from me absolutely absorbed in this song. She is in tears, she relates to exactly how she interprets this song and… I think that sadly, a lot more people can relate to heartbreak on their own way more than we realise.

Music is a healer in many ways, even if it reminds us of trauma, missed ones or how we are all our own worst enemies.

Another Life is a beautiful but deep cutting song that shares and talks to us about insecurities creating toxic relationships and the casualties of that. 

Motionless in White know how to reach their audience.

Turning to the Apex stage, it’s my first real glance at Canadian Post hardcore outfit Alex Is On Fire which serves their intro track Dogs Blood as slightly atmospheric but extremely hard hitting… though not as much as Sweet Dreams of Otherness. 

Dallas Green and Wade McNeil’s winding intro riffs are hypnotic and create a sludgy atmospheric vibe before George Petit folds his stunning vocals into the mix with Dallas. He has a tone that sings clean but wailing with echoing screams to push thr song to its edges. 

Blue Spade serves a slice of diversity with a somewhat doomy entrance. The riffs that entwine with the chuggy bass notes from Chris Steele give off a suspense that leads to a crashing and emotion fuelled chorus. The contrast between the chorus and verses in this song are beautifully executed – the high and commanding vocals balance eachother out with a striking aftertaste just before a hauntingly gorgeous solo steals the light for a while.

My younger nu metal loving days would be nothing without Chicago Metal giants Disturbed.

A band I’ve grown with, no matter my love for more extreme music, I have always put Disturbed on that pedestal – they saw me through tough times as the young, bullied and misunderstood teenager at school, my development into college and still playing them in my ears in class, road trips, metal nights out with my best ones and through some rough relationships with some pretty bad choice of people in life in my adult moments … you get the jist… 

Taking to the stage, David Draiman spins across the stage and rips right into newer track Hey You from last years release of Divisive. Straight into it, it’s not dissimilar to the earlier eras of Disturbed but the signature scratchy riffs have a slight more tech infused edge to them. 

Speaking of earlier eras, we are treated to an absolute adornment of Disturbed bangers, starting with Stupify and blending into energy fuelling Ten Thousand Fists.

Watching this live is a sight to behold. David interacts with the crowd, everyone around me, jumps with him punching the air to Mike Wengren’s iconic beats and the body surfers make their way to the barriers one after the other. 

“SPEAK TO MEEEEEEE” David echoes out and his audience oblige heavily with a massive cheer before the choppy riffs boulder in for Prayer.

Here are some wonderful examples of David’s melodic singing vocals to encase some highly emotionally charged moods alongside the grinding style of basswork from John Moyer.

David addresses the crowd for a moment:

“Demons known as addiction and depression are very real. I don’t know about you guys, but I am sick and tired of losing friends to these demons. I miss Chris, I miss Chester.

Everybody raise your hands if you have ever struggled with these demons.”

There are a vast majority of the crowd that have their hands raised at this point. A striking moment…

“Look around you… please use this moment to make you realise that in these struggles… you are not alone.”

Dan’s familiar riffs bang out and there’s a sense of unity going around the audience as soon as Genesis’ Land of Confusion echoes from the stage.

Love it or not, the metal version of this song still has an impact to its audience, live. Everyone around me were positively shouting the lyrics back to David by this point in their set and overall, the message is powerful. It resonates with many people and therein lies part of the beauty of music.

Still sticking with covers, the stage quietens down and piano keys ring out.

David’s voice lowers to a sombre and sorrowful tone “Hello darkness, my old friend…”

This has the audience absorbing such an emotional and spellbinding energy. The contrast between this song and the rest of the set makes a wonderful pause to really immerse the atmosphere that Disturbed create for The Sound of Silence. It was never a song that was meant for metal and personally, I love the rendition that Disturbed have done as they have managed to keep it intense enough for metal lovers of these guys but doesn’t take away from the true essence left by Simon and Garfunkel.

Truly stunning as a live song.

The time has come for the second night of Heavy Metal lords Metallica.

The grounds of Download are almost breathing, absolutely packed full of people from the barriers of the stage to the very back of the field.

Another AC/DC favourite It’s a Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock n Roll blares from the speakers to prepare for what’s about to come before a Western intro of Ennio Morricone Ecstasy Of Gold oversees the entrance of Metallica on stage.

Whiplash being it’s first time played on the tour, serves as the opener and what a start!

Going back to the old school thrashier routes to kick things off gives the here and now a taste of the darker 80’s vibe of Metallica.

Metallica Photo by Download Festival

The bell rings out and James Hetfield stands amongst the crowd with a monster riff that is unmistakable. Going back to some older routes as a start to the 2 hour set see’s the crowd down the front in waves of pits and body surfers already.

Old school favourite For Whom The Bell Tolls showcases some vocals from James that go back to that older nostalgic style of Metallica where the release of 72 seasons see’s a more matured and evolved side of the band. It’s good to see that James still keeps true to early vocalised Metallica where warranted.

The double pedals of Lars Ulrich is still also as ever, iconic and keeps the glue together in this track to deliver the same hard hitting beats into Ride The Lightning.

Metallica Photo by Download Festival

The more intricate structures of this track are present – it’s not all thrash but more deeper with monster riffs from both James and Kirk Hammett that blend elements of thrash and more defined prog techniques with James’ down picking creating a firmer sound than that of Whiplash.

The stage plunges into darkness and here is one of my favourite Metallica tracks in all its live glory. Until It Sleeps is a more melodic side to Metallica and gives their signature sound more atmosphere. Fuelled with emotion and some beautifully low ebbed bass tones from Robert Trujillo that entwine with the winding guitar chords, Until It Sleeps gives a new texture to Metallica and makes for an intoxicating, almost bluesy in places, listening.

Amongst the delivery of songs, there is a lot of banter that goes on, particularly between James and Lars.

“It’s our now 10th time playing at Download!

Well… Lars’s 9th but he will be playing with every band tomorrow to catch up to us.” And makes jokes about the Lars’ snare breaking before an ambient and catchy riff takes us straight into new track 72 Seasons.

I feel here that the band are stripped back a little and that makes for a more raw delivery. There are definite injections of speed thrash but with some old school vocals to rake in the audience.

The same however cannot be said for next new track If Darkness Had A Son.

This is a great example of the evolved Metallica I was talking about earlier. The intro of Lars’ drums are tight but have a more progressive edge to them this time.

The riffs are heavy and monstrous as you’d expect, though there is such a diverse air to the guitars in this track. There’s less thrash, less speed, more of a doomy chords effect and some scratching gunshot riffs that underlay the chords. The solo is stunning here and quips back to the realms of old school Metallica that we love.

It wouldn’t be a Metallica show without (Welcome Home) Sanitarium with it’s beautifully melodic beginning and later dripping in threatening riffs. However, what caught me off guard was the absolutely stunning instrumental of Call of the Ktulu.

I have never seen this live before and it is one of my most favourite instrumental songs in history. Nearly ten minutes of beautifully melodic submersion.

This is where Lars and Kirk play so well together. Blending streams of extreme but old school drums into menacing winding solos that run alongside James’ signature down picking techniques that emit a more scratchy dangerous riff. Robert’s bass notes are low and subtle however they completely blend the glue together to deliver this track – one of the best instrumentals I’ve witnessed. Straight into the chimes and sombre strings of The Unforgiven.

We have been given a pure treat. This is a power ballad as it’s finest and gives the crowd it’s atmospheric but heavy dynamics of what made a huge part of Metallica (The Black Album).

Stunning pyro displays reach to the rafters of the stage and the fun starts for their rendition of Whiskey In A Jar.

I adore this track. It’s always been part of my growth as a child and is attached to so many happy memories of my mum blaring this through this house in the Summer, all doors are open, the fields behind us bring in the smells of crops and the woodland nearby and my mum dancing around the kitchen and garden belting this at the top of her lungs.

Metallica Photo by Download Festival

Not much changes, she still does this and the apple never falls far from the tree…

The fun and chuggy riffs make this track into an anthemic vibe amongst the crowd. The mosh pits are brimful with activity, bodies and beer flying everywhere and James’ iconic vocals call out for inclusion over almost 100,000 people.

Jaw dropping.

We are left by Metallica with a striking delivery of One with pyro flames bursting from the stage and the energy levels raised to offer up very last track Enter Sandman which sees the crowd positively charged and screaming the lyrics back to James.

This finale leaves us with a spectacular fireworks display for a few moments before Metallica having completed 2 hours of a crushing set, bid farewell and see you next time…

Polaris Photos by Hayley – Tour Photographer

Ice Nine Kills Photos – Download Festival

Disturbed Photos by Cindy Frey – Tour Photographer

Metallica Feature Photo by Download Festival

Gallery Photos by Pete Key for MPM

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