18 June 2018

Download Festival 2018

Collective review by: Yasmine Summan, Amber Neal and Phillipa White
Edited by: Yasmine Summan
All photos credited to Midlands Metalheads Official Photographer

Well folks, that time of the year has dawned upon where Metalheads flock to the fields of derby to get hot, sweaty, wet, bloody and pay £5.50 for pints; It’s Download Festival 2018 of course! Hailed “the UK’s best rock/metal music festival”, with an astounding array of talents across a spectrum of genres, and show-stopping performances with once in a lifetime experiences, all held in the breeding grounds for metal and rock music. Download Festival 2018 did not hold back, here are some of the shining talents of the weekend: 

WSTR
Review by Amber Neal

The up and coming pop punk band WSTR seemed to have cemented themselves as a serious band within this genre. They seem to be following the footsteps of similar band ‘Neck Deep’ with their classic British Pop Punk sound and vibe.

WSTR were the third band of the day on The Avalanche Stage on Saturday and after a few days of camping I was in need of a pick me up and WSTR were the perfect band to start the day off. WSTR opened with arguably their most successful songs to date ‘Lonely Smiles’ and then ‘Featherweight’, these were definitely the most popular songs amongst the crowd, with multiple crowd surfers and circle pits starting almost immediately, there was definitely a very high energy within the set. Throughout their performance, Vocalist Sammy Clifford was engaging with the crowd and encouraged us to keep jumping and really get lost in the music.

Although the main focus of their set was showcasing their debut album ‘Red, Green or In-Between’, they also performed a new song ‘Bad to the Bone’ from their upcoming album mid-way through the set, this song has a more mature sound to their previous album, it seems that they are transitioning from a new band trying to find their way in the pop punk scene to a band that have established themselves and exploring new genres, while also sticking to their pop punk roots. It was a very high energy and enthusiastic show and you could tell they were really enjoying themselves and feeding off the energy from the crowd.

WSTR really showcased their talent within this set, and with their new album ‘Identity Crisis’ coming out at the end of August, there is no doubt that this band will continue to become more successful and will return to Download Festival in the future.

Boston Manor
Review by Yasmine Summan

Pouncing onto the Main Stage as the first opening act for Download Festival 2018, rising pop-punk talents Boston Manor stunned audiences with their high energy performance and upbeat, catchy songs. The pressures of being an opening act can weigh heavy on bands, but Blackpool’s finest sprung to the occasion as they leapt onto the stage with exuberating heaves of excitement and a smartly tailored set list with an array of lively songs, such as “Lead Feet” and “Burn You Up” that bared well with the audience who bounced along with each track and were enthralling enough to attract all the newcomers flooding through the venue gates.

Boston Manor at Download Festival UK 2018

However, there were slight hinges to their performance, from out of breath vocals, to moments where they’d just lost track of the beat. While it was evident that lead vocalist, Henry Cox, had been pouring his soul into each word, they still didn’t manage to project as loudly as they could have. This resulted in some songs having a slightly offbeat rhythm and parts of songs not actually being projected prominently enough that words became lost near the further end of the audience, like Cox’s vocals were coming in and out of transmission. But I’d argue it’s just because they’re unfamiliar to pushing their sound further to an arena setting of Download’s proportions as they’re still fresh-faced to the music scene and have just began to storm their way through the charts. If anything, most people had admiration for their rapid growth as a band with only one full length album release, that yet has still helped pave their way their way through preforming on the Download Mainstage, to dominating other huge festival lineup’s.

Overall, whilst there were minor faults, they still pulled out a great performance and were a good opening act for the weekend.

 

Asking Alexandria
Review by Amber Neal

 Asking Alexandria were performing on the Zippo Encore Stage and as a band that have been around now for quite a while, I was interested to see how they have aged as a band. The performance immediately kicked off with smoke cannons and instantly got the crowd pumped. They opened with ‘Into The Fire’ which is a relatively new song from their latest self-titled album. They surprisingly started off with quite a slow-paced song, which not a lot of bands during the festival did. Although it was a surprising song to kick off the set with, it did showcase Lead Singer, Danny Worsnop soulful voice.

Crowd favorites included songs like ‘The Death of Me’ and ‘Where Did It Go?’, these songs also showed a heavier side to Worsnop’s voice, it was refreshing to see a Vocalist with so many different tones to their voice and he hit the notes perfectly. The set as a whole fit together nicely and the band had good chemistry with each other and the crowd.

To the surprise of myself and probably their hard-core fans, they did not sing their older music and primarily focused on their latest album that came out last year. As an older band, it was interesting to see them take this direction rather than performing the old classics that would get the fans excited. It seems that they are wanting to take their music into a new direction with their latest album. 

Black Veil Brides
Review by Amber Neal

With bands like Black Veil Brides, I’ve found that people either love them or hate them, despite this, there were still plenty of adoring fans across the field. The band started off the set with the song ‘Faithless’, using fire cannons throughout the song to get the crowd ready for the rest of the set. This song really showcased Vocalist Andy Biersack’s heavy side to his voice as he screamed through most of the song.


Lead Vocalist, Andy Biersack at Download Festival UK 2018

During the rest of their set, the crowd seemed to lose energy and seemed to slow down quite a bit. This may have been because of how hot it was on the Sunday or maybe because they were singing relatively newer songs that the crowd weren’t as familiar with. However, this changed when they performed their last two songs of the set ‘Fallen Angels’ and ‘In The End’. The crowd suddenly picked up their energy and were singing along to every word and of course there were quite a few crowd surfers and circle pits. I felt that this is the sort of energy that was missing from the rest of the set and it was a shame that the crowd did not get behind their newer songs as much.

Guitarist, Ashley Purdy, Download Festival UK 2018

 

The band brought a lot of energy to their set and alongside the smoke bombs and Biersack’s heavy screams, it was certainly worthy of the main stage spot despite it getting off to a slow start.

 

Baby Metal
Review by Phillipa White

The overall atmosphere at the Zippo stage was very energetic with hundreds of people waiting in anticipation for Baby metal to make their appearance. Their way or performing on stage is theatrical, the three lead singers tell a story, this is done though the clips played before and after the performance of the screens. It starts with an opening title sequence being played on the stage before they jump into their music. The opening sequence is a cinematic saying about … jumping with their upbeat unique metal style. As the performance went on they started engaging with the encouraging them to make circle pits. During some of their classics, like “Chocolate” and “Karate”, the whole crowd was jumping up and down and singing along it was clear the crowd were having a good time.

The one thing I noticed is that played a mix of their classic well-known songs and a couple of heaver songs that were not as recognisable. This mixture of their classics, with a couple of new songs, music kept fans of both their styles happy during the short 30-minute set. It would have been nice if they had a longer set as there wasn’t much interaction other than small sections within a couple of songs. It’s important to interact with the crowed as it creates a connection with the audience. This is comparing it to the last performance they did at download which was a longer set. The longer set time previous years was due to the fact they were on main stage, which has longer set times. It seems perhaps they were downgraded this year, this could be because they are not as popular. After watching their performance, I feel this may have been the right decision as other than the two new tracks it was the same set as last time and the crowd was not as exited either.

However, the songs all seemed to translate well live also, there was a lighting set up, there were bursts of flashing lights during the whole of their performance during the day so fancy lighting performance would have been wasted at this time. If you haven’t seen these girls perform yet, then I highly encourage that you do as they are very distinctive with both their music and performance style the reason why they are so different as they have heavy metal instrumentals and kawaii style pop choruses which you wouldn’t think would work together but it does surprisingly well.

Knocked Loose
Review by Yasmine Summan

Charging through the battlegrounds of Hardcore music to bring you phenomenal growls and off-the-wall insane breakdowns is Kentucky’s finest, Knocked Loose, who brought us the blood, sweat and tears of every hardcore show. What I admire most about this 5-piece gang is their ability to dive onto the stage and within minutes, completely rile up a crowd to the point where a moshpit has already open and crowd surfers are flooding through the barriers before the song has even began. Crafting a set list for a large arena show packed out with fans old and new can be a challenge, but each song was a hit and only further sent the crowd into a perfectly chaotic mess, with classics like “Counting Worms”, “Billy No Mates”, “Oblivions Peak” and “Deadringer” seeing fans collectively screaming with Lead Vocalist Bryan Garris, to the point that the crowd began to deafeningly sing over them.

Hitting every single note effortlessly, Garris transitioned perfectly between screams and growls, pacing himself correctly so he could still engage with the audience and bounce across the stage. As the thudding of Kevin “Pacsun” Kaine’s drums rumbled the Derby soils, absolute pandemonium rained over their show in the perfect way. With talents like Knocked Loose, you don’t just sit down and watch. They raise the bar so high with their explosive stage energy, high voltage songs that have a catchy riff and pounding beat to bang your head to and fans all around you who want to delve into insanity, it’s hard to fight the urge not to catapult yourself into the moshpit or fly sky high with the crowd surfers. Knocked Loose make their shows more than just standing on stage and singing, they make them an intense, raw experience that connects you with the band as you all scream along to their songs.

All in all, one of my favorite acts of the whole weekend.

Neck Deep
Review by Amber Neal

Neck Deep were the Saturday headliners of The Avalanche Stage, the band had the difficult slot of being on at the same time as Saturday Main Stage headliners, Guns N’ Roses, but this was hard to tell as the tent was filled with adoring fans.

The band started the set with the beginning tune of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, a classic Guns N’ Roses song, clearly poking fun at the fact they were both playing at the same time, it was funny to see the band have a sense of humour about the situation. This slowly transitioned into their first song ‘Citizens of Earth’, where the crowd turned into chaos, with crowd surfers and circle pits starting almost immediately. Fire cannons were also visible throughout the song and definitely got the crowd pumped for what was to come.

They mainly performed a mixture of songs from albums ‘Life Not Out to Get You’ and their latest album ‘The Peace and the Panic’, with crowd favourites ‘Happy Judgement Day’ and ‘In Bloom’ certainly gained the loudest cheers. Mid-way through the set, Vocalist Ben Barlow explained to the crowd that they are going to change the set list they originally had planned, Barlow then went on to explain that they only perform this song when the crowd is hyped enough. Guitarist Matt West then took to the mic while Ben Barlow picked up his guitar and belted out the song ‘All Hype, No Heart’, it was a shock to myself, and probably most of the crowd to see the guitarist in a new light and to see a much heavier side of Neck Deep. It was refreshing to see the band take this direction for their set and made it more exciting and intimate. 

This set was full of excitement and energy and Neck Deep have undoubtedly established themselves. Hopefully in the future, Download Festival will start to showcase the younger talent on the main stage because I have no doubt that this band would be highly successful on a bigger stage.

Cradle of Filth
Review by Yasmine Summan

Screaming “I am the reincarnation of Jimmy Hendrix”, Cradle of Filth took the Main Stage with a rattling performance that had insane guitar solos, great crowd rapport and an exciting show.

Evoking the best of extreme heavy metal with their nostalgic performance that highlighted the best of their lengthy career, Lead Vocalist Dani Filth screams crisply reached the furthest depths of the arena’s crevices with their scorching guitar riffs gnawing into the ground creating a sea of head bangers. Whilst they had an energetic set with raw instrumentals and confounding breakdowns, I do feel like Filth’s screaming got lost in translation. I appreciate they are heavy metal and Filth’s vocals may seem inaudible to those unfamiliar with that sound but I do feel like rather than his words following after one another, it sounded like a gargled mess. This was more noticeable with the older songs rather than the new and was only really evident with certain parts, for most of the time fans would still be singing along, diving over the crowds and pumping their fists in the air.

Growing into a somewhat historic band that sound draws back into the 90’s, their live performances highlight how refined their sound has become, with heavier riffs, sharper screams and catchier verses. But still the classics went off as hits, showing long-time fans that Cradle of Filth have still got it.

L7
Review by Yasmine Summan

Every festival has it’s hits and its misses, band’s that put on a show-stopping performance that could bring you to tears and band’s that fall short on that mark who just show up and do the bare minimum. Sadly, legendarily praised all-female band L7 fall into the latter, in what felt like a rushed, last minute roll of the dice where they’d just woke up and decided “hey, maybe we’ll play Download today?” that saw them walk on stage 15 minutes late, no astounding entrance where they emerged from the flames, or anything that can match the bar set by bands like In This Moment or Baby Metal who’d dedicated a whole 6 minutes of their performance to making a staged introduction with decorated costumes, swirling lights and smoke flooding the stage that astounded the humongous crowds of Download.

Like a domino effect, from then their performance just snowballed into a damming performance that left a taste of disappointment lingering amongst fans. Taking the stage, Vocalist Donita Spark’s microphone hadn’t been levelled correctly so for the first four songs she was practically inaudible. This left Guitarist Suzi Gardner to pick up her vocals, although this left their harmonies scathed with off-key singing that completely took away from the catchy riffs blaring out. Even then, just as the vocals eased out and they found their harmonies, I then began to notice that they were slightly off beat with each other and it almost felt like the rhythm was trying to catch up with itself which undermined their strong set list full of powerful, vigorous songs that could have sent the crowd energy to astonishing heights, but most of their songs just fell flat and crowd engagement was at the bare minimum of what it should have been.

Admitting that they’d been unable to even do sound check do to unforeseen circumstances with their drummer being in hospital, the girl group had to piece everything together last minute and to give them credit, at least they tried. With their drummer out, no time for sound check and almost completely unprepared for their performance in less than 23 hours they still pulled through and found someone last minute, rather than just cancelling like most bands would. Whilst praise and admiration should be hailed on them for that bold move, some would argue that it would have been better to just cancel their performance because for the most part, it wasn’t worth seeing. It’s sad to see rear end of their talents as L7 have been one of the dominating forces for female empowerment in the music industry, and helped aid the Riot Girl movement during the late 80’s, early 90’s. I’ll be classifying this show as a one off, as I know they can and will do better in future shows.

Bullet For My Valentine
Review by Phillipa White

The pre-headline act Bullet For My Valentine drew a large crowd to the main stage at download. The crowd cheered and clapped the minute they got on stage and the loud energy continued throughout the performance.

 Lead Vocalist Mathew Tuck, Download Festival UK 2018

They started by playing a couple of their new tracks before talking to the crowd and getting them involved with the performance. People within the pits were moshing hard and clearly loving the old tracks that they played, such as “waking the demon” and “last fight” as well as some new ones, such as “Letting you go”.

During their performance, the songs sounded just like the CD as the quality was the same as well as volume levels. They had some light displays for the older heavier songs as well which looked great as it was getting dark at the time. Some of the songs they played however were not as good live as they had some soft vocals in them which was inaudible unlike how it sounds on the CD. Regardless for the most part, the tracks were played very well and sounded good live. It was the way the vocals sounded, which for me shows if a track is good live, hat made the music sound as good as it did live as without clear vocals its difficult for the performance to be as good.

The main thing that made the performance great was the way that they interacted with the crowd which got them energised and made you feel part of the show. There was lots of people singing along and dancing to the music which clearly showed how much people enjoyed it.

 

Bullet For My Valentine at Download Festival UK 2018

 

THE HEADLINE ACTS

Avenged Sevenfold
Review by Phillipa White

The headline act on Friday was Avenged Sevenfold. The main stage was packed with fans waiting with high hope and excitement to see them play and was worth the wait.

M.Shadows, Download Festival UK 2018

They started playing some of their newer tracks which the crowd was loving it and went nuts dancing and jumping. Halfway through the act they made a very toughing memorial to James Owen Sullivan, commonly known by his stage name The Rev, and made a speech about suicide which everyone around was touched by. Following this they played some of their older tracks and the crowd went nuts for it as they screamed after each title was announced and moshed hard when they were played. All the tracks played well live as the vocals were clear and sounded very similar to their CDs which made the quality even better as was easier to enjoy when the music is clear.

Avenged Sevenfold at Download Festival UK 2018

They had a mix of lights and fire displayed going on throughout their performance which made everything come to life and was a very impressive display to watch. They had some massive sculptures on stage to fit with some of the songs, such as “Hail to the King”. These aspects gave the performance a better visual edge as there was more to see then just the singers and for the finale they had a fireworks display. With lots of crowd interaction and some touching moments it was a performance that won’t be forgotten by those who watched it.

Avenged Sevenfold at Download Festival UK 2018

 

Guns N’ Roses
Review by Amber Neal

No doubt the biggest and most anticipated band of the weekend were Guns N’ Roses, Axl Rose is often known for being late but this time the band came on a minute early, much to the crowd’s surprise. The atmosphere was electric; you could feel the excitement that we were going to be in the presence of one of the most legendary bands to ever live and with three of the original band members, Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan, it was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Guns N’ Roses at Download Festival UK 2018

The band opened their respectful three-hour set with some of their biggest hits ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Mr. Brownstone’ and ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ which really showcased Axl’s voice. There are doubts that Axl’s voice isn’t what it used to be and that is true to some extent but Axl still hits those high notes perfectly. The band then performed quite a few covers which is an interesting choice to make when the band has many songs of their own but that didn’t dampen the crowd’s energy as I think Guns N’ Roses could do pretty much anything they wanted on stage and the crowd would have been happy because it is Guns N’ Roses after all? It was a nice way for the band to pay their respects to other legendary bands like Pink Floyd and Soundgarden.

 Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Download Festival UK 2018

 

Of course, throughout the entirety of the set, Slash who is arguably one of the best guitarists in the world, performed many solos and rightly so. Slash was so effortless, his well-known solo during ‘November Rain’ was mesmerising and as Axl was playing on the piano, it all felt so special and the crowd were in total awe.

Guns N’ Roses at Download Festival UK 2018

The last song the band performed was ‘Paradise City’, which was of course the song that was going to end their epic three-hour set. Towards the end of the song fireworks were set off, it was truly spectacular. All doubts that Guns N’ Roses would not be what they used to were completely shut down and they truly proved themselves as one of the best bands of all time. I have never felt such an atmosphere like that at Download Festival before, and it was clear to see that no one will ever forget that night.

 

Ozzy Osbourne
By Yasmine Summan

In an emotional end to a revolutionary era for metal music that saw Osbourne take Black Sabbath by the reigns and push heavy metal music into the mainstream spotlight, the curtains closed on Download Festival 2018 with Ozzy Osbourne’s final performance before he reclines into retirement.

Ozzy Osbourne, Download Festival UK 2018

Fans spread themselves across the arena, planted as far backs at the entrance gate just to get a glimpse at one of Metal’s hailed legends. It was practically scenic standing at the back watching fans young and old gaze up in awe at Osbourne, whether this was their one hundredth time or first time seeing him, waves of nostalgic emotions flooded through the crowd. Audience members could be seen consoling in each other, crying, laughing and enjoying Osbourne’s final act.

Admittedly, going into the performance I was weary of what Osbourne could offer after the years of strain on his voice. Some had speculated he’d be unable to carry himself through the set, others were hopeful he’d put on one of the best shows of their entire life and surprisingly, it was the latter. With soothing vocals that boomed through the arena, Osbourne said his final hurrah with the best hits of his career. “Back To The Moon” “Mr Crowley” and “Crazy Train” made an appearance, as well some Black Sabbath tracks “Fairies Wear Boots” and “War Pigs.”

Ozzy Osbourne, Download Festival UK 2018

I’d argue this was his best performance in a while, he engaged with fans across the crowd and clapped along with them, hit every note perfectly and had a perfect set list that took everyone back to the classic days of Osbourne’s career. And with that, fans sang along to his last song “Changes”, fireworks shot into the air and Download Festival 2018 was over.

Check out our full Download Festival 2018 gallery:

Download Festival 2018

Download Festival Interview with bands like Knocked Loose, Less than Jake, L7 are coming soon, keep your eyes pealed!