As always, the weekend flew by and before we knew it Sunday was upon us. Featuring such a strong line-up that three mammoth returns were on the cards, it seemed unanimous this was going to be the big day. Even if that prediction proved incorrect, the sun was out, the ground was dry and Sunday simply felt how Download is supposed to – you could be lazy, you could sunbathe and all the while you could be watching countless brilliant bands.
Kicking off our day were the masters of the pit DEVILDRIVER. Dez Fafara may have requested them to open it up, but the crowd had already parted before the band ever started their first song. You go to see DevilDriver and you just know what the deal is. With a high calibre set and pits to match, the band kicked off the day in fantastic style. Again, we’d have seen them a little higher up the bill, but that’s just personal preference.
With such a packed bill, it’s unsurprising that some mammoth bands were quite early in the day. Prime example, ANTRHAX. Fantastic. It’s just hard to fault because it was so good: good songs, great performance, brilliant atmosphere. We could launch into more specifics, but even with each smaller factor, the compliment is still the same: AWESOME.
Similarly, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY killed it. With banging guitar skills and a more than ample stack of equipment to help flaunt it, the crowd were in the palm of their hands through each track, raucously appreciating the countless solo flaunts. Much like we said Machine Head could have used a few more songs, Zakk Wylde could have cut some solo time and slipped another track or two in there. The solos were killer, there’s no disputing that, but we wanted more tracks!
Sadly we missed Lamb of God, although we heard the whole set and it sounded brilliant (not surprising, is it?) but we made it back in time to catch MEGADETH. With those surrounding them on the bill, it’s unsurprising that the band fit right in and deliver a seemingly flawless set. The masses were treated to the natural classics, as well as the likes of ‘Public Enemy No. 1′ from their most recent offering. Today was a day of metal and those excited to see Megadeth got their money’s worth.
Maneuvering up to second stage was quite a challenge since a high majority of the crowd were already positioned for Sabbath. Shame, because they missed out on an absolutely blazing set from REFUSED. For a band who vowed never to play together again, going between dingy venues and feeling unsatisfied enough to give it all up, it’s a truly humbling moment to see them not only return, but return to such an adoring audience. The turnout is surprisingly low, but they are unfazed. The band were aggressive and anarchic, so much so the crowd couldn’t help but reciprocate the enthusiasm. This set was powerful, it was brilliant and it was sincere – proven by Dennis Lyxen speaking so honestly about his feelings on being able to perform again and on such a scale. Many missed this set because of Sabbath pending and, fuck, they really missed out on something great.
Returning to main stage, yet another welcome return takes place. The mammoth SOUNDGARDEN played their first UK show in over 15 years to a completely packed arena and it proved an absolute joy to watch. Greeted like heroes, the true and often haunting classics of their repertoire go over best, such as ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Fell On Black Days’. The band are tight and Chris Cornell’s vocals are superb and pitch perfect, the likes of earlier number ‘Outshined’ really riled the vocals of the audience. Fans had travelled from all over the world to witness this set, understanding that seeing Soundgarden live is proving a rare opportunity nowadays, and holy crap was it brilliant. Few were surprised by the brilliance before them, yet it’s still worth mentioning time and time again: Soundgarden were fantastic.
Nipping up to second, Boston’s finest DROPKICK MURPHYS made their Donington debut. Much like those before them, the crowd seemed a little thin – it proved that no one could compete with the anticipation surrounding Sabbath – but it didn’t stop the band putting on their usual calibre of a performance: brilliant. Highlights included their cover of AC/DC’s ‘TNT’ and absolute classic ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’, but throughout the entire set people danced without a care in the world. The Murphys aren’t a definitive festival band, because though they were really good it’s clear at certain moments they’d be more suited to a more intimate setting. Having said that, their set was fun, it was packed with quality and it was well worth seeing.
Hovering around second, the crowd didn’t seem to grow whatsoever for the Zippo Stage headliners RISE AGAINST. Those who have seen them before are well aware of the sheer power the band possess in a live setting and this proves no different. While those in attendance were far lower than expected, everyone threw themselves into it wholeheartedly, both fans and band alike. We’d assume the rest of their set went down with just as much energy and brilliance as the first half did, but since Sabbath was calling our name we sadly had to leave before we could find out…
Headliners tend to pack the arena to capacity – fact – but this is something different. It feels that there isn’t a soul at Download who hasn’t turned up to see the return of BLACK SABBATH. Just shy of their stage time, Ozzy taunted from back stage with his maniacal laughter and calls of “I can’t fucking hear you!” Needless to say, the voice of the Prince of Darkness was enough to sent Donington into a mass of cheers. The video that preceded their set cause tremors of excitement, but as the band descended onto the stage, though without Bill Ward, the response was unfathomable.
Each member was on top form. Ozzy did at times seem a bit lost as he ran aimlessly around the stage, but it was quite charming; furthermore his countless declarations of Tony Iommi being the strongest and bravest man he knew never got old. Tony was greeted like a hero; he smiled throughout the set, though every now and then he’d truly beam at the audience. Though Geezer, Ozzy and Tony were all there, there was the obvious pressure on Tony Clufetos. It didn’t take much time to warm to him, especially as he took centre stage for a drum solo that caused many adoring roars – brilliant.
The classics were all there, ‘Paranoid’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Iron Man’… It was just one of those sets that you simply had to be there for. There was an electric atmosphere, the band put on a fantastic performance and it proved a truly iconic moment in the festival’s history and one we were more than happy to witness. This has been the most built-up return of the year and it lived up to every expectation.
Download Festival’s 10th year wasn’t without its hitches, but it ended with an almighty bang. Absolutely fantastic. Bring on 2013! Although, how they can top this – we simply do not know.