Live review of Download 2013

Download 2013, a daring, explosive, loud and (arguably most importantly) heavy line up, that the late Maurice Jones would be proud of. From classic 'Monsters of Rock' favourites Iron Maiden and Uriah Heap to (fairly) new artists Slipknot and Rammstein, 2013 has something for everybody* willing to rock out with their hair (and, in the majority of cases, beards) down.

Download Festival

What's unique about Download Festival is that it's all about the music. Sure, there are zip lines spanning the diameter of the arena and late night beach parties but, as Black Stone Cherry are proud to point out, festival promoter Andy Copping and festival director John Probyn listen to the passionate music fans! Throughout the year the rock and metal community voice their strong and often aggressive opinions on the Download Festival forums, suggesting and, in some cases, ordering Andy Copping who to book for the next approaching festival. This has created an intimate relationship between the organiser and the ticket buyer, resulting in a line-up revolving around the fans who, in turn, all share the same appreciation and respect for the artists on stage, as well as for one another. 

Despite the aggressive lyrical content and the circular vortex of people smashing into one another (often referred to as 'moshing') everybody shares a mutual respect for one another's music tastes, as they combat the commercial, pop chart genres resulting in a friendly, non-threatening atmosphere which contrasts the aggressive music style. 

The festival kicks off on Friday. The main stage is brought to a dramatic, 1pm opening as London based metal band, Rise to Remain blast through their aggressive vocal style and distorted guitars, forcing anybody still asleep to wake up with a headache, even if they hadn't been drinking the night/morning before. Austin Dickinson (son of headlining band, Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson) knows how to interact with a crowd, causing the dominate members of the audience to display their love for the music by slamming their bodies into one another before caringly picking one another back up and repeating the process. With every mention of "Download" the crowd raise the horns and cheers in unity. 

The Zippo Encore stage caters a similar audience as Japanese metal band, Dir En Grey perform sounds never heard by anybody who hasn't attended one of their concerts before. The language barrier does not seem to be a problem as the crowd reacts to the music rather than the band's intimate interaction with the audience. 

1982's Monsters of Rock hit Uriah Heep take to the stage shortly after, seemingly performing with the same vocal clarity and passion as Peter Goalby did with the band 31 years ago. Dragonforce manage to fit as many musical notes into their 40 minute time slot as most bands do in a headline set, yet the band only perform 5 hits due to the extended songs' lengths, often consisting of a dual guitar solo. The crowd appreciate the talent and watch in dismay as each member successfully pulls off (literally) each note with a clarity which can only be matched by recent vocalist Marc Hudson. 

Swedish rockers Europe finally made their appearance at Download Festival after having to cancel last year due to travelling difficulties. They had a lot to make up for but excelled themselves with worldwide hit 'The Final Countdown' as the crowd burst into a succession of bouncing and chanting.

Danish Elvis-metal band Volbeat who had just announced their second UK tour performed a single riff from 'Hallelujah Goat' before jokingly stating "Thank you and goodnight" whilst pretending to leave the stage. Unfortunately, their set was not much longer than that, attempting to fit five albums into 40 minutes whilst still dedicating a riff to the late Jeff Hanneman by playing the Raining Blood introductory riff. The band performed with such energy and passion that it was sure to achieve them similar recognition to what they've already received in mainland Europe, headlining festivals with the likes of KISS and Def Leppard in France. 

3 Doors Down performed a slower set aimed at those 'softer rock' fans, giving those tired of moshing a deserved rest, whilst still managing to restore their hard rock/metal status with a Megadeth's, Symphony of Destruction cover. Gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello swiftly followed and rocked the stage with such energy and unique likability that even those who swear to only enjoy the hardest of satanic black metal had a little jig to their most commercial hit 'Start Wearing Purple'. 

The Zippo Encore stage came to an emotional close as Black Stone Cherry performed a heartfelt performance, praising their UK fans as they declared they were the reason they were there. It can't be easy performing at the same time as the biggest, modern metal band at the moment (Slipknot), however Black Stone Cherry managed to draw a notable sized crowd with their ballad hits and catchy riffs that were sure to make some people question why they weren't headlining the festival's main stage! 

In 2009 Slipknot performed one of the most memorable performances Donnington had ever seen, however a lot has changed since that iconic time. With the death of bassist Paul Gray, the future of Slipknot has seemed unknown and shaky, but the band came together once again headline Download Festival. Corey Taylor is arguably the best front man of all time taunting and owning the crowd whilst still having the modesty to honour the other band members. The set finished with a #2 displayed on the backdrop in memory and respects of Paul Gray.  

Those who wake early enough (11am) were able to catch classic rockers, UFO open the main stage on Saturday morning. Front man Phil Mogg joked about being dressed in formal attire as lead guitarist Vinnie Moore continued to play multiple guitar solos seemingly without even trying. 

Up and coming UK rockers Heaven's Basement played the Zippo Encore stage, putting on a performance worthy of classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Their ability to engage and interact with a large festival turnout was worthy of praise and the crowd were more than pleased to catch and lift recent front man Aaron Buchanan as he crowd surfed through audience. 

Welsh rock band Buffalo Summer sounded like a Nashville Country hit playing on the Jagermeister Acoustic Stage as the fresh crowd chanted along with 'Down to the River'. The crowd attempted to relax after a hard day of rocking as the rain splashed down on them forcing them to pull out the unfashionable ponchos which for some was the first time they had changed any form of clothing over the extended weekend. The band promised an equally as thrilling full electric set performance the following day in the Red Bull Studio Stag.

Motorhead enjoyed an hour set on the main stage as did the crowd watching them. Lemmy performed his iconic vocals and praised band mates before reluctantly playing Ace of Spades which he has stated 'I didn't think it was any better than any of my other songs and I still don't'. 

Jimmy Eat World performed in front of a new demographic as the typically older, bearded 'metal heads' bobbed their heads to the catchy choruses and simple riffs. The younger fans safely gathered to the front of the stage for the first time and sang each lyric back to front man Jim Adkins. It is fair to say they may not be as heavy as other bands on the line up but that does not suggest they are any less pleasing to the crowd. The band performed an array of hits including: Bleed American, The Middle and new track I Will Win You Back off their new album Damages. 

Queens of the Stone Age opened for Saturday headliners Iron Maiden, a position any band would be nervous for, even those as highly acknowledged and respected as QOTSA. The band played a succession of hits including No One Knows for which the crowd chanted along: "Duh, duh, duh, du, duh, duh, du, duh, duhh" warming their vocal chords for Iron Maiden. 

Even those who have witnessed an Iron Maiden live spectacle did not expect a World War 2 Spitfire to fly over the top of the main stage sending the crowd into applause and raising the horns in salutation. UFO blasted through the speakers for the second time that day before Iron Maiden opened with Moonchild. The band expressed shameless self-promotion (which only Iron Maiden can get away with) as each member takes a drink from the new 'Trooper beer'. Fans got the chance to taste the beer at the festival (which they apparently enjoyed by the amount of empty bottles scattered on the arena floor). The sound of Life of Bryan blasting through the speakers stating it's the end of the theatrical performance made it hard to not look on the 'bright side of life'.

If Sacred Mother Tongue wasn't enough to wake everybody up on Sunday morning, Cancer Bat's cover of Beasty Boy's Sabotage definitely was. Performing on the main stage in the early morning hours rather than in a tent at the end of the night allowed Cancer Bats to play in front of a larger crowd, blasting out fan hits including 'Hail Destroyer'. Recently reformed Coal Chamber expressed their joy to be performing together once again as they interacted with the crowd encouraging them to go as me[n]tal as possible.  

Five Finger Death Punch returned to Download after criticism from organisers and health and safety officers over their encouraging individuals to crowd surf. This didn't stop the band encouraging the audience to create the biggest 'mosh pits' possible, abusing the fans who weren't getting involved. Front man Ivan Moody was keen to get himself back into the good books of the health and safety officers taking the young children out of the mosh pit and bringing them up onto the stage where he continually swore, most probably getting him in the bad books of the kids' parents and getting the children grounded in the process. 

Corey Taylor returned to the Download main stage (they say it isn't Download Festival without Corey Taylor) with more recent band Stone Sour. The personal chants for "Corey!" emphasised him as the powerful front man he is as he performs an array of tracks from the bands multiple albums. Corey made special mention to track 'Get Inside' which was performed at Download Festival in 2007. 

Gaslight Anthem followed Stone Sour and despite not being classified as Metal, Andy Copping has always declared that Download Festival is a rock festival that also has metal acts. Despite the crowd only knowing limited words the band performed professionally, playing a cover of Misfits Astro Zombies. 

Sunday headliners Rammstein make it feel as though it's the world cup, Germany vs. England in a rock off, and if it the pyrotechnics represented the penalties then Germany definitely won. Fire blazed from every possible area of the stage as German rockers performed their electronic metal songs making it surprising that they didn't burst into flames themselves. A mesmerising firework display closes the jaw dropping festival and by the end of the night, it is difficult to tell if your face has been burnt from the sun or Rammstein's pyrotechnics! 

Download Festival closes its gates on the eleventh triumphant year proving Donnington Park will remain an iconic and symbolic place in the world of heavy metal. It continues to prove that despite the aggressive lyrics and negative press that the metal community often receive there is still a strong (referred to as by Corey Taylor) "family" who share admiration for one another and their music.

Download 2013 was a diverse, original yet nostalgic line-up that the rock and metal fans can appreciate and love. Download Festival is one of those rare occasions that bring a group of people together no matter who they are or how old they are. There is a sense of connectivity and unity through the shared admiration for music that everybody shares, allowing everybody to come together and stand as one with the horns raised in the air waiting for 2014. 

*Anyone who enjoys the sound of rhythmic guitars, powerful vocals and aggressive drumming.

Harry Hawcroft

Official Site -