Wednesday 13 June 2018

Festival Review: DOWNLOAD UK 2018 (Fri 8th June - Sun 10th June)

Download Festival is always a special event for me. My first ever gig was Monsters of Rock at Donington Park back in 1992. I was very young and my first real live Metal experience which featured Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P, Skid Row, Slayer, Thunder and The Almighty, left a lasting impression to the point where I went to every Metal festival held at Donington, whether branded as Monsters of Rock, Ozzfest, or later on, Download Festival. Donington has been the heart of Heavy Metal in the UK for nearly 40 years now, and there's still something truly magical about it.

Having said all that, last year was the first one I missed. For my personal tastes, 2017 had the weakest line-up to date, and most of the bands I was into I had already seen several times in recent years, so the excitement was just not there. I ended up going to Bloodstock instead (see my review here). However, Download roared back in 2018 with a bang, boasting one of its strongest line-ups in history. The announcement of Guns 'n' Roses alone was enough of a reason to buy a ticket!

So 2018 truly rekindled my love for Download. To avoid writing a massive essay, I've kept my reviews brief, and have included plenty of really shit photos taken on my phone for your viewing pleasure.


The first band I saw was Ded who played on the Avalanche stage. I'd never heard of them before, but I really enjoyed their set. Imagine a band who grew up loving Korn, Limp Bizkit and Deftones and wear those influences on their collective sleeve, but add a modern spin to their music. That's what they sounded like to me anyway. They went down very well and I can see them becoming a big deal in the future.

Ded at Download UK 2018

I checked out a bit of DragonForce on the main stage. They sounded great initially, but had some technical problems including vocal mics that stopped working, and Herman's guitar cut out altogether. They soldiered on and still made a difficult situation entertaining for the audience. My respect for the band definitely rose, and in fairness to them, when everything worked, they were pretty fucking awesome.
DragonForce at Download UK 2018

I rushed back to the Avalanche stage to see Stray From The Path. I really enjoyed their show in Manchester last year (see my review here) so I made sure I caught their entire set. The tent was packed and they were absolutely amazing, exuding rage, energy and positivity. They've really grown on me, and it's a pleasure seeing them get bigger and have such a successful Download performance.

Stray From The Path at Download UK 2018
Stray From The Path at Download UK 2018

Marmozets hit the main stage and were really impressive! After a killer second album (see my review here) they showed that their songs sound just as good live as they do on record. Musically, they're quite 'Indie' for the Download audience, but I'm really pleased they were booked and they seemed to go down well. It was the first time I'd seen them, so I'm very happy I finally got to do so, especially at a festival of this size.

Marmozets at Download UK 2018

I managed to catch the tail-end of Andrew W.K's set at the Zippo Encore stage. He's well into his positive messages these days, but let's be honest here. The majority of the crowd wanted to get pissed and go apeshit to 'Party Hard'. They got what they wanted and the set ended with a euphoric high.

Andrew W.K at Download UK 2018

Volbeat are a band I've had the fortune to see many times. I remember seeing them early at Sonisphere Festival a few years ago, and walking straight up to the front-barrier. Not many people knew them back then (in the UK anyway), now they're absolutely huge! As always, they put on a great show. Barney from Napalm Death joined them onstage to perform Evelyn which was awesome too.

Volbeat at Download UK 2018

Legendary Punks Bad Religion played a blinder of a set at the Avalanche stage, cramming in plenty of fan-favourites including 21st Century Digital Boy, Against The Grain, American Jesus and way more than I can remember. They're a classic band and one that every fan of the genre should make the effort to go and see at least once.

Bad Religion at Download UK 2018

Avenged Sevenfold returned to Download to headline the main stage for the second time. They were good, but I think they put on a better show in 2014. Quite a few of my favourite tracks were omitted in this year's set, and a couple from their disappointing latest album The Stage were thrown in instead. I like Avenged Sevenfold, but I've never loved them if that makes sense? At times, they've shamelessly ripped off Guns 'n ' Roses, Metallica, and Megadeth, but have never come close to rivalling those classic bands. They did play Shepherd of Fire which is possibly my favourite of their tracks, so that was pretty cool.

Avenged Sevenfold at Download UK 2018
Avenged Sevenfold at Download UK 2018
Avenged Sevenfold at Download UK 2018
Avenged Sevenfold (Photo by Rich Hargrave)


After their storming debut album (see my review here), I had to make the effort to get up early to see Powerflo open up the show on the Zippo Encore stage. Despite some technical issues delaying their set, they hit the stage and delivered one of the best performances of the weekend! When it comes to modern Rap Metal, Powerflo are as good as it gets.

Powerflo at Download UK 2018
Powerflo at Download UK 2018

2018 saw the return of Lawnmower Deth to Download, but this time on a much bigger stage, infecting a far wider audience with their silly Thrash Metal songs that sound like they were written when they were drunk over a couple of hours one weekend. They're still a lot of fun and great entertainment for a festival like this one. I doubt that they'll ever top the time they brought Kim Wilde on stage though! I have Lawnmower Deth's debut album on cassette somewhere. I'm blatantly going to dig it out later.

Lawnmower Deth at Download UK 2018

I've seen Corrosion of Conformity a couple of times at Donington before, the first being way back in 1995 when Metallica headlined. They've still got it! After opening with a track from their new record (see my review here), if my memory serves me correctly, the rest of their set was comprised of songs from their classic Deliverance album, which was absolutely fine by me! We were treated to Broken Man, Albatross, and an extended version of Clean My Wounds.

Corrosion of Conformity at Download UK 2018

Bury Tomorrow are a band that I'm not very familiar with, but judging from the crowds interaction, are really popular. They were crushingly heavy and had a mix of clean and growly vocals, a bit like Of Mice & Men. They have a new album coming out soon, so I'll definitely be giving it a listen, as I think I've been missing out!

Bury Tomorrow at Download UK 2018

I saw L7 at Download a few years ago, and today they played a similar set. Their new single I Came Back To Bitch is a little underwhelming, but the old stuff still sounds ace. All of my favourites including Fuel My Fire, Shitlist, Andres and Pretend We're Dead were included in the set, so I was happy enough with that. I'm still hoping that they pull some magic out of the bag for their next studio album.

L7 at Download UK 2018

Thunder hit the main-stage and they were fantastic. Their set consisted mostly of classics from their first three albums, which was a wise move in my opinion, as it reminded the crowd that they were one of the greatest Rock bands in the UK. Sure, there's something un-shakingly 'Dad Rock' about them now, but there's no denying that when they played Love Walked In, the entire crowd lit up like the Blackpool illuminations! Danny Bowes still has one of the most amazing voices in Rock and his performance was something truly special.

Thunder at Download UK 2018

I went to see Babymetal on the Zippo Encore stage and the area was absolutely packed. It was almost impossible to see a damn thing! Babymetal is one of the most divisive acts in Metal, but I think they're great. The musicianship is nothing short of incredible, and their stage show is really cool. Most of all, it's a lot of fun. The super-sized audience goes to show that there's a lot of love out there for them and Babymetal are likely to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Babymetal at Download UK 2018

Parkway Drive have become arguably the best Metalcore band in the world. I'll be reviewing their new album soon, so check back for that. Songs like The Void, Prey and Vice Grip were all brutal slabs of Metal goodness! The drummer had his kit in a giant metal hamster wheel too and played a drum solo upside-down at one point. I've seen them a few times before, but today I saw Parkway Drive step up to the big league with an absolutely stellar performance and stage show.

Parkway Drive at Download UK 2018

Headlining the main stage, and arguably the main attraction of the whole event, were Guns 'n' Roses. They played for a full three hours! Their set included a plethora of classics, the lesser known Shadow of Your Love, and a few covers, including an awesome rendition of Velvet Revolver's Slither. There were plenty of extended intros and jam sessions which I felt could have been cut back on a bit to allow more songs to be fitted in, but that's just a minor gripe. It was an amazing show and the ridiculous size of the crowd which dwarfed Avenged Sevenfold's the night before, showed how immensely popular they are with every generation. I read somewhere that the crowd was 110,000. I don't know if that's accurate but it wouldn't surprise me. I love this current line-up and really hope that they make a new studio album together at some point, as I still feel that Guns 'n' Roses still have a lot of miles left in them.

Guns 'n' Roses at Download UK 2018
Guns 'n' Roses at Download UK 2018
Guns 'n' Roses at Download UK 2018
Guns 'n' Roses (Photo by Rich Hargrave)


I managed to catch the last bit of Greta Van Fleet's set. I'd never heard of them before, but they sounded a lot like Led Zeppelin worshippers to me. What I heard was pretty cool anyway.

Greta Van Fleet at Download UK 2018

Next up was Turbonegro which is one of my all-time favourite bands! Aside from All My Friends Are Dead and the show closer I Got Erection, their set was comprised of songs from their awesome new album RockNRoll Machine (see my review here). Hot For Nietzsche, Special Education and Hurry Up & Die were some of the best songs played at Download all weekend. They're a lot of fun too making them the perfect band for any Rock festival.

Turbonegro at Download UK 2018

Hatebreed played a killer set over at the main stage! I saw them at Bloodstock last year, and once again they delivered the goods. It's easy to see why they're one of the most popular Hardcore Metal bands in the world right now, and their set was certainly cemented their place as kings of their genre. Live For This and closing tune I Will Be Heard were absolutely crushing.

Hatebreed at Download UK 2018

I first saw In This Moment at Download in 2009 when they were touring their second album The Dream. They've changed almost beyond recognition since then. I've seen them on their last few tours and they just get better and better. Today they had a really cool stage show and played a short but sweet set, which included plenty of fan favourites including Blood, Big Bad Wolf, Black Wedding and Whore.

In This Moment at Download UK 2018

I went back to an extremely busy Zippo Encore stage where Body Count were tearing things up! I love Body Count and have seen them a few times, so I was a little gutted that I didn't catch their full set. No Lives Matter from the new record Bloodlust (see my review here) was certainly a highlight. Talk Shit Get Shot and Cop Killer were also as incendiary as always, with the latter featuring a guest appearance from Hatebreed's Jamey Jasta.

Body Count at Download UK 2018
Body Count (Photo by Rich Hargrave)

I had every intention of seeing Black Veil Brides but I ended up sitting at the top of the hill eating ice-cream during their set. What I heard sounded alright, and they played Fallen Angels and In The End which I think are probably their best songs. I'm sure if I hadn't sat a million miles away I could tell you a bit more about them but, you know.... ice-cream!

Black Veil Brides at Download UK 2018

Shinedown were on top of their game today. They opened with Sound of Madness which is a personal favourite. Some of their songs are really good, but others are a bit too much like a socially acceptable Nickelback for my liking. Seriously though, they were very good and didn't play too many ballads, which pleased me greatly.

Shinedown at Download UK 2018

I headed back to the Avalanche stage to catch 90's Britrock legends A. They were excellent despite clearly being under no illusion that they're anything more than a nostalgia act. I'd like to hear a new album from them though, as I think they deserved way more recognition than they received in their heyday, and it'd be great to hear them have another crack at it! Hell, if Reef can still find a market, there's no reason that A can't. 

A at Download UK 2018

I saw a good chunk of Marilyn Manson's set on the main stage. I'm not sure if it was an act, but he seemed to be drunk, slurring his speech, missing his vocal cues, and assaulting speaker cabinets and microphones. His band were great, but Mr Manson's performance wasn't his best. What I saw was still entertaining though. Deep Six, This Is The New Shit and Kill4Me from his latest album Heaven Upside Down (read my review here) all still sounded pretty decent. I headed off during Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) though as I didn't want to miss Rise Against.

Marilyn Manson at Download UK 2018
Marilyn Manson at Download UK 2018

I've seen Rise Against many times and they've never failed to disappoint. I'd go as far as to say that they're the best Punk band in the world right now. They're currently touring their new album Wolves (read my review here) and played a few tracks from that, as well as a good mix of fan favourites such as Ready To Fall, Satellite, Give It All, Savior, and the magnificent set closer Prayer of the Refugee

Rise Against at Download UK 2018
Rise Against (Photo by Rich Hargrave)
Rise Against at Download UK 2018
Rise Against at Download UK 2018

I've seen headliner Ozzy Osbourne many times, both as a solo artist and fronting Black Sabbath. More often than not he hasn't been that great. I wasn't expecting any more from tonight other than watching a legend end his career. I've never been so happy to be wrong, as Ozzy was better than I've ever heard him before. Naturally his band were amazing to the point of being flawless. Zakk Wylde is probably still the best guitar player in the world and hearing him play alongside such magnificent musicians was a truly wonderful experience. Highlights for me included opener Bark at the Moon, Mr. Crowley, Suicide Solution, No More Tears, and the 80's-tastic Shot in the Dark. I'm still literally stunned as to how good Ozzy was. After the show ended with Paranoid, I was genuinely upset that this was probably the last time I'd ever see Ozzy and his band, but at the same time I was happy that he is ending his career on such a high. It was a truly fantastic ending to a brilliant festival.

Ozzy Osbourne at Download UK 2018
Ozzy Osbourne at Download UK 2018
Ozzy Osbourne at Download UK 2018
Ozzy Osbourne at Download UK 2018
Ozzy Osbourne at Download UK 2018
Ozzy Osbourne at Download UK 2018
Ozzy Osbourne at Download UK 2018

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