Friday 25 June 2021

Festival Review: DOWNLOAD PILOT (18-20 June 2021)


What a weekend! If you've been living under a rock and didn't know about this, The legendary Download Festival sprung a pilot version to provide some statistics to help live music come back. You don't need me to tell you about Coronavirus, how long we've all been without real gigs etc. When I saw the chance to go to this, I took it straight away. 

The pilot had a capacity of 10,000 people. Normally it's about ten times that, so this was a different experience to a regular Download, and felt more like being at Bloodstock or 2000 Trees (but with different music obviously). It was nice not having to walk a million miles each day and negotiate my way through thousands of piss-heads just to go from one stage to another. More like a manageable few hundred piss-heads instead, which was fine. 

Obviously, due to the pandemic, the line-up consisted of just British bands, and many new acts that have never played a festival like this before. Personally, I love discovering new bands at festivals, so this was a real treat. It's also worth mentioning that even the more established bands on the bill have released new music over the last eighteen months, but this was their first opportunity to play any of it live. All that added to the fresh and exciting vibe this special version of Download had to offer. 

With only two stages, there were no clashes. I saw as many acts as I realistically could, but I'm only going to write about a few selected ones. I can't write much about bands that sounded pretty good in the background while I was stuffing my face with pizza. I'm also knackered and a bit lazy. Fortunately, I took lots of piss-poor photos on my phone for you all to enjoy.

Friday pissed it down, so I didn't wander in to check out the bands until a bit later. I only saw three bands that evening. Some people are way more hardy than I am in adverse weather conditions. I spent the first chunk of the evening sitting in my tent eating chocolate listening to the rain lashing against the roof. Lame, I know.

Sleep Token were a wonderful surprise for me. Dressed in black robes and wearing masks with their logo on, they gave off vibes like Ghost or Batushka, but musically, they were very different. They had a Prog-Metal, ambient thing going on. I loved the imagery and the music, and they put on a powerful live show. Great stuff!

Sleep Token

I like Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, especially their first album, Blossom. This was my first time seeing this band (I've seen Frank before with Gallows), and I was totally blown away. This is an act that thrives in the festival environment and is arguably better live than on record. The band was completely on fire and the audience lapped it up. It's easy to see why they were chosen to headline the first night. 

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

On Saturday, the weather was fortunately a lot better. After a refreshing one hour sleep (thanks cunts bellowing at 5am, and also to those fucking planes flying over the campsite as soon as the aforementioned cunts finally crashed out), it was time to get back in the arena and soak it all in again.

I caught openers Lotus Eater on the second stage. They were brutally heavy, sludgy, doom-laden filth. I liked them a lot, and thought they were an excellent alarm clock for everyone still nursing hangovers.

Lotus Eater


I'm still not sure why Glasgow's melodic-Metalcore monsters Bleed From Within were on so early? They have five records out and are on Century Media. Anyway, it didn't matter. They were awesome and tore the place up. The finished their set with The End Of all We Know, which is one of the best songs anyone would hear all weekend. 

Bleed From Within

Bleed From Within

Bleed From Within

The Hara are a strange band. I checked out their music videos before the festival and they have some decent tunes. Their image seems to be in a constant state of flux, and it's not easy to explain who they are or what they're doing (you read that in Nigel from Spinal Tap's voice, didn't you?). but today, they did what mattered and put on a great show. Their singer has a fantastic voice, but I did notice some obvious and very loud backing tapes. I don't normally have a problem with that sort of thing, especially if they enhance the show, but it sounded like the lead vocals were on the tape and the singer was singing along to a louder pre-recording. Careful now, young man. There's no need to go too Milli Vanilli on us. 

The Hara

Wargasm were one of the festival's highlights for me. I recently discovered them on YouTube and they have some absolute bangers. I love their energy and their attitude, and I knew that this was going to be a fun set. Rage all Over was a great choice of opener, setting the tone perfectly. Their cover of N.E.R.D's Lapdance was fantastic too, and was a great ice-breaker for people in the audience who weren't familiar with their original material. There is a huge buzz about this band right now, and I'm sure this won't be their last Download.



A have played Download many times. They're fun and always go down well. Let's face it, who doesn't love their hit singles Nothing and Starbucks



Those Damn Crows are one of those 'New Wave of British Classic Rock' bands. They're a tight band and their singer is awesome. Their music reminded me of Thunder, but heavier and without any annoying 'Na-Na's', if that makes any sense? This kind of music has been done to death, but in fairness, Those Damn Crows are very good at it.

Those Damn Crows

Twin Atlantic

Stone Broken, like Those Damn Crows, also fit into that 'New wave of British Classic Rock' category. Heavy Blues-based riffage with soulful vocals and plenty of punch. The wild success of bands like Shinedown and Black Stone Cherry has spawned a whole new generation of bands doing this kind of thing. Stone Broken are a tight machine and absolutely delivered the goods. There's a massive market for what they're doing, and I'm sure they'll do well.

Stone Broken

I've seen While She Sleeps many times and they've never been less than incredible. Today, they were absolutely on top of their game with a truly blistering performance. At this point, they were hands-down the best band of the festival. Their empowering anthems aligned with the spirit of this pilot festival, creating a euphoric atmosphere, charged with hope, defiance, and solidarity. It was a passionate, high-energy, heavy set that will no doubt be remembered by both the band and the fans for years to come.

While She Sleeps

While She Sleeps

While She Sleeps

While She Sleeps

While She Sleeps

Just when I thought While She Sleeps were going to be the best band of the festival, Creeper put on the best show I've ever seen them play. Their second album came out over a year ago (incidentally, it was my album of 2020 CLICK HERE), and this was the first time most of this new material had ever been played, making this a truly special gig for both the band and the fans. I can't get over how good they were. Their performance was flawless, and the set-list was on-point. The crowd seemed to know every word of every song and the atmosphere was electric. 




I've never been a massive Enter Shikari fan. They have a handful of songs I quite like, but that's as far as it goes. However, I can appreciate that they were on top form tonight, and they were warmly received by the Download crowd, delivering an impassioned set that clearly connected with a lot of people. For the record, they played Destabilise, which for me is their best tune, so I was happy. 

Enter Shikari

Enter Shikari

Sunday was supposed to rain, but the Gods of Rock n' Roll spared us with just a few occasional lashes of spit and drizzle.

First up for me was Saint Agnes on the main stage. I'm a big fan of this band, and this was my first time seeing them live. They didn't disappoint, and gave us Goth-Punk savagery we all need on a Sunday morning. It was a tight set, full of bangers, however I thought it was a little odd that they didn't play Vampire. Minor quibble aside, they played a killer set and no doubt won themselves a load of new fans. I have tickets to see them in Manchester later in the year, so I'm psyched for that!

Cassyette gave a decent set of Pop Rock with a few bursts of screams and general heaviness. This was my first time checking out her music. She certainly has some decent tunes so I'll have to give her studio work a proper listen sometime. My only niggle with her set was the over-use of backing tapes. They played as a three piece, but the majority of what we were listening to was pre-recorded. There seemed to be both backing and lead vocals on the tape that were even louder than her live performance. I get that the tapes beef things up, but I think it would have been cooler to have some additional musicians onstage instead. 



I wasn't familiar with Employed To Serve before the show. They were super-heavy and seemed to go down well with the crowd. Hardcore mixed with Extreme Metal is always a welcome cocktail, and they certainly played a crushing set, leaving me eager to hear what they sound like on record.

A lot of people have been talking about Loathe. I had a listen to a couple of their songs on YouTube before the show and they sound a hell of a lot like Deftones to my ears. Nothing wrong with that! I enjoyed their set, but the sound wasn't great, with a lot of those low frequencies overpowering everything else. They're one of those bands that I'd have probably been more into if I was more familiar with their studio material. 


Ex-Reuben front-man Jamie Lenman put on a heavy-as-fuck show of fierce Rock n' Roll. He has a set up where he can play bass and guitar at the same time, so there was just him and a drummer (except when Wargasm jumped on for a tune). I'm not massively familiar with his work, but he has some badass songs for sure. I remember one called Popeye being particularly cool. He finished up with the Reuben classic, Stuck In My Throat, which went down a storm.

Jamie Lenman

Jamie Lenman & Wargasm

Elvana are an Elvis-meets-Nirvana tribute band. It's utterly ridiculous and the kind of great fun that gets lapped up at a festival. Mad as a box of frogs.


The Wildhearts are one of my favourite bands on the planet. I've lost count of how many times I've seen them over the years and I never get bored of them as they're still very relevant, releasing consistently fantastic albums. Unfortunately, today they had some problems with the monitors, and front-man, Ginger, apologised to the audience and walked off 15 minutes early. It was a huge shame, especially given the importance of the gig. Shit happens. 

Skindred were an unstoppable force as usual. I've seen them many times and it's impossible not to have a smile on your face when they're on. They're great fun and masters at audience participation. The audience was awash with crowd-surfers, and the Newport helicopter was back with a vengeance. They were the perfect choice for a show like this, and provided yet another reminder of how we've all missed this so much.




I hadn't seen Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls live before, but I knew a few of his songs. Frank's brand of sing-a-long electro-folk music seemed a bit of a wild card for the Download crowd, but tonight it made perfect sense, with his powerful, intelligent lyrics tapping into our emotions, frustrations, and bringing a sense of unity and optimism. What was also impressive was how ludicrously tight the band were. They could have recorded the show and released it as an album without any overdubs whatsoever. Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls were an absolute machine and an utterly superb live act. Top marks!

The final band of the weekend was Bullet For My Valentine and unfortunately I missed them. My girlfriend wasn't feeling too well and we were both burnt out after such an amazing couple of days. I suck, I know. 

Anyway, I had an amazing time at the Download Pilot. No social distancing, real mosh pits, mud, awesome was as though Coronavirus had never happened. Let's hope that the industry can re-open as soon as possible so we can get back to normality. 

Thursday 17 June 2021

Album Review: WHILE SHE SLEEPS - Sleeps Society


01. Enlightenment(?)
02. You Are All You Need
03. Systemtic
04. Nervous
05. PYAI
06. Know Your Worth (Somebody)
07. No Defeat For The Brave
08. Division Street
09. Sleeps Society
10. Call Of The Void
11. DN3 3HT


Sunday 13 June 2021

Album Review: EVANESCENCE - The Bitter Truth


01. Artifact/The Turn
02. Broken Pieces Shine
03. The Game Is Over
04. Yeah Right
05. Feeding The Dark
06. Wasted On You
07. Better Without You
08. Use My Voice
09. Take Cover
10. Far From Heaven
11. Part Of Me
12. Blind Belief


Saturday 12 June 2021

Album Review: KISS - Off The Soundboard - Tokyo 2001


01. Detroit Rock City
02. Deuce
03. Shout It Out Loud
04. Talk To Me
05. I Love It Loud
06. Firehouse
07. Do You Love Me
08. Calling Dr. Love
09. Heaven's On Fire
10. Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll
11. Shock Me / Guitar Solo
12. Psycho Circus

01. Lick It Up / Bass Solo
02. God Of Thunder / Drum Solo
03. Cold Gin
04. 100,000 Years
05. Love Gun
06. I Still Love You
07. Black Diamond
08. I Was Made For Lovin' You
09. Rock And Roll All Nite


Wednesday 2 June 2021

Album Review: BURNING WITCHES - The Witch Of The North

01. Winter's Wrath
02. The Witch Of The North
03. Tainted Ritual
04. We Stand As One
05. Flight Of The Valkyries
06. The Circle Of Five
07. Lady Of The Woods
08. Thrall
09. Omen
10. Nine Worlds
11. For Eternity
12. Dragon's Dream
13. Eternal Frost
14. Hall Of The Mountain King (Savatage cover)


Tuesday 1 June 2021

Album Review: ROYAL BLOOD - Typhoons


01. Trouble's Coming
02. Oblivion
03. Typhoons
04. Who Needs Friends
05. Million And One
06. Limbo
07. Either You Want It
08. Boilermaker
09. Mad Visions
10. Hold On
11. All We Have Is Now
12. Space (Bonus Track)
13. King (Bonus track)

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