Download 2015

author BL date 22/06/15

Download Festival is a mainstay of the UK festival circuit and a Mecca for rock fans and metalheads from across Europe. 2015 marks the first time that Rockfreaks.net made the arrangements to cover the festival, yet some last minute events meant that EL was prevented from attending, hence we pulled trusty old Botong "BL" Li out of retirement, and sent him along with our regular photographer Lauren Harris to report on the experience. What follows is their description of the weekend at the festival, with initials at the end of each section indicating who wrote what. TL

INTRO

Getting to the festival site proves simple enough, with easy access from the motorway and a short shuttle bus journey from the local train station (although this was slightly steep, at 5 pounds for a single journey). After arriving and setting up tent in the guest camp, I set off to explore the site and was immediately struck by the unique atmosphere of the festival. Everyone was in good spirits and there was a noticeable sense of community and acceptance on the site.

Crowd with food court and fairground in the background - Photo credit: Lauren Harris

The site itself was well laid out, with the main campsites providing easy access to the arena, and there was an area called 'The Village' that contained shops, a fairground and a wide range of food outlets tailoring to most dietary needs. Toilets were well maintained throughout the festival although there was often long queues, a common flaw with most large festivals. Upon arrival, the site was very dusty, thanks to the hot weather and breeze (although in hindsight this would have been preferable to the onslaught of rain and mud that was to come).

This year was the first year that Downloads cashless system was put into place, and despite hearing of a number of problems with the system I personally encountered no issues with it and feel that it is a great way to keep loss or theft down just as I have seen at other festivals like Groezrock & The Fest. I also heard that after a day or so of initial teething problems with the system it was up and running successfully for the remainder of the festival so Download should be commended on dealing with the situation. LH

FULL LINEUP

One of Download's main strengths has always been its lineups, and this year was no different with such a wide variety of acts meaning there was something for everyone, whatever your particular preference of heavy music. LH

Click to enlarge poster!

REVIEWS

FRIDAY

All That Remains - Photo credit: Derek Bremner

All That Remains @ 13:00-13:25 on Main Stage

Opening Download’s main stage for the weekend are US metallers All That Remains. Having been on the scene for over ten years, it's no surprise that singer Phil Labonte interacts with the initially disinterested crowd like a seasoned pro, and has them eating out of his hand within a few songs. Despite being a usually reliable live act, today did not see them on their top form instrumentally, and the occasional sloppy moment dampened the overall effect of the performance. Despite the occasional flaws throughout their set though, All That Remains provided a perfectly adequate opening to the festival. [6] LH

Counterparts @ 13:00-13:30 on The Maverick Stage

Opening The Maverick stage, the largest of the tent stages, are Canadian band Counterparts. The band play very typical modern melodic hardcore, with an abundance of rhythmic, chugging riffs, a mix of clean and harsh singing and ample breakdowns. This being said they are very good at what they do, and their performance demands your attention thanks to impressive stage presence from all members, tight musicality and a great amount of crowd interaction. This is all enhanced by the much clearer sound in the confined space of the tent, as opposed to the larger Main Stage. Overall Counterparts deliver a solid, enjoyable performance despite bringing nothing new to the table. [7½] LH

Gnarwolves @ 14:50-15:20 on The Maverick Stage

Brighton based punk rock band Gnarwolves are the next band I catch on The Maverick Stage. They are obviously a favourite with the Download crowd as the large tent was filled to the brim, and the three-piece are visibly humbled to be greeted with such a great reaction. Gnarwolves create an admirable sound for only three musicians, with “Party Jams"’ catchy pop-punk stylings coming across very well. They do however fall prey to one of the inherent flaws of being a three piece with two singers, and that is the lack of movement on stage making the performance less engaging than it could have been. This, unfortunately, lead to a portion of the audience becoming seemingly disinterested midway through the set, although their musically solid performance meant that prior fans of the band were not disappointed. [6] LH

Lacuna Coil - Photo credit: Andrew Whitton

Lacuna Coil @ 15:30-16:15 on The Mainstage

Lacuna Coil's recent recorded output has been fairly pedestrian and this festival appearance suffers the same fate, it is not bad yet in no way memorable. The main issue throughout the set was the large abundance of mid-paced material, with a lack of dynamic variation creating a very monotonous performance with nothing leaping out at the listener. It is telling when the best reaction a band gets is for a cover song, and that is the case here thanks to their celebrated version of Depeche Mode's 'Enjoy The Silence' going down very well amidst an otherwise mundane set. Cristina Scabbia's clean vocals and Andrea Ferro's harsher contributions are both executed well with the rest of the band backing them up ably, although the sound suffered due to a poor mix and windy conditions. Overall, Lacuna Coil provide a technically proficient set let down by the mix and by a lack of memorable material. [4] LH

Defeater - Photo credit: Jenna Foxton

Defeater @ 15:45-16:15 on The Maverick Stage

US melodic hardcore band Defeater open their Maverick Stage appearance with “Bastards", taken from their latest album “Letters Home". The crowd was smaller than I expected, and there was a number of sing along opportunities that went to waste during the first half of the set as audience members seemed reluctant to interact with the band. Defeater’s great stage presence, coupled with the passionate performance of vocalist Derek Archambault soon had them back on their side however, and the crowd participation grew throughout the performance. Musically the band are tight throughout their set, and do an admirable job of winning a crowd over thanks to their overflowing energy and a collection of great songs. [8] LH

Beartooth - Photo credit: Scott Salt

Beartooth @ 16:45-17:15 on The Maverick Stage

US metalcore band Beartooth pull an impressive crowd for their first festival appearance on these shores, with the tent overflowing long before the band hit the stage. Within seconds of exploding into set opener 'Relapse' it is clear to see why, with incredible energy from band and audience alike transforming The Maverick tent into a heaving mass of bodies. It is almost hard to believe that vocalist Caleb Shomo was once a member of controversial 'crab-core' group Attack! Attack!, as he delivers a mature vocal performance, a million miles from his time in that particular band. The rest of the band are also impressive musicians, and they play with a conviction seemingly beyond their three years as a band. One of the standout performances of the weekend for me personally, and Beartooth are definitely a band with an exciting future ahead of them. [9] LH

Five Finger Death Punch - Photo credit: Scott Salt

Five Finger Death Punch @ 17:50-18.35 on Main Stage

Next up on the Main Stage are Las Vegas metallers Five Finger Death Punch. Frontman Ivan Moody had full command of the crowd and was backed up solidly by the rest of the band, and they definitely came across as seasoned festival performers prompting mass sing alongs and enthusiastic headbanging. The main issue I had with this set was in the songs themselves, as I found them lacking in any real depth and many were instantly forgettable. This did not seem to be a sentiment shared by the crowd though, and I must give props for a solid performance that most of their large audience seemed to enjoy. [6½] LH

Judas Priest - Photo credit: Andrew Whitton

Judas Priest @ 19:20-20:20 on Main Stage

During the setup for Main Stage sub headliners Judas Priest the tone of the whole festival changed dramatically, as the oppressive threat of large black clouds that had loomed over the site finally broke into torrential rain. Within minutes the assembled crowd awaiting an old school heavy metal fix were soaked through and the ground was quickly turning to mud. Conditions like these make a band’s job a hell of a lot harder and it is admirable that ‘Priest managed to make the crowds seemingly ignore the rain thanks to a slick, polished performance with numerous outfit changes for frontman Rob Halford and plenty of the trademark twin guitar harmonies of guitarists Glenn Tipton and newest addition Richie Faulkner. This being said the band occasionally slip into autopilot and not every song is as well received as their standout hits, however a closing salvo of 'Painkiller' and 'Living After Midnight' mean the crowd are definitely left on a high note. [7½] LH

Fightstar @ 20:05-20:50 on The Maverick Stage

With the rain pouring down outside the Maverick tent Fightstar were fortunate in some ways to still have a ridiculously packed tent. Considering how long Fightstar have been out of the live scene and as a band after five years, fewer may have also expected them to have such a tight, cohesive sound still. The big, dashing frontman Charlie Simpson looks far older now than in his once rebellious youth, still hitting the wickedly high notes and croons as well as the beastial screams that have earned the band a place in so many hearts of the crowd tonight. Big anthemic hits like "Grand Unification", "War Machine" and "99" made for gloriously enthused crowd sing-alongs whilst the fury at which the band played "Deathcar" reminded many of the hope that the upcoming new record may live up to their promise of sounding truly 'heavy'. Overall though, it's all the elements of Fightstar coming together that perhaps we've all missed so much all these years, and whilst the set ended somewhat prematurely with only nine songs, "Palahniuk's Laughter" is one fine nostalgia-rending send off. Cannot wait to see what is yet to come, it's ever so good to see them back in action. [8½] BL

Slipknot - Photo credit: Gobinder Jhitta

Slipknot @ 21:20-22:50 on Main Stage

Slipknot do not so much simply play a live show as they give a stage performance more worthy of a live phenomenon for those yet to witness it. Stage props as well as the band's costume aesthetics set the scene vividly. The spewing flames roaring all around add an impressive theatrical dimension. Having recently read excerpts from lead vocalist and main masked member Corey Taylor's new book, it was an interesting experience to behold the opinionated man's veteran demeanor on the large main stage in the flesh. Moving around aplenty and rousing the crowd to participate back with his inspiring chants and stage talk certainly befit him as the main man to focus on. An interesting experience indeed, and increasingly difficult as the British rain continued it's unending assault on Donnington Park and the many eyes of those present (at least if you were unfortunate not to have adequate rain defence you may as well have ended up blind).

In terms of ground covered, at least every album including the new recent release number five "The Gray Chapter" had a say in the setlist though it was of note that there was only time for "Psychosocial" from their further previous album "All Hope Is Gone". Nonetheless the new songs, including the devilish "Killpop", had a great reception despite sporting a very modern new kind of sound for Slipknot. Meanwhile banging classics like "Wait and Bleed" and "Duality" got the park feet romping and stomping like no tomorrow, the mud flying up into the air, as people quite literally got down and dirty. After an intense three song encore including the classic "People = Shit" finally gracing any still remaining innocent (and clean), it became frankly as clear as the sky- wait nevermind- as if it wasn't already obvious, that Slipknot are an unmissable a band to see if you enjoy heavy music of any kind - brilliant. [9] BL

SATURDAY

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! - Photo credit: Andrew Whitton

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! @ 11:55-12:25 on The Maverick Stage

Who doesn't enjoy easycore on a Saturday morning lunch? When the weather is this shockingly terrible you need something to put a smile on your face right? There's nothing better for that indeed than sickeningly catchy pop punk infused with ferociously (excuse the writing) 'brootal' breakdowns. No, with all seriousness Chunk! gave as good as they could for being on so early, and the energy was irresistible even if frontman Bert struggled initially to get the crowd to all jump and pump fists to both the very new songs from their latest album "Get Lost, Find Yourself" as well as solid numbers from their sophomore record "Pardon My French". Memorable and unique songs about finding yourself, finding meaning, and finding your friends (of course) with whom you wish to leave/take over/burn down some town somewhere or another. Instrumentally the band were solid, though the sound crackled slightly under the hampered conditions and weather reports from one's eyes suggested things may get worse before they would have gotten better. All in all, a respectable, if slightly safe performance. [7½] BL

Malefice @ 12:40-13:05 on The Zippo Encore Stage

Malefice, an experienced band though somewhat less well known but no less impressive are best described as meaty, thrashy metalcore - the all thrill no frills kind. That was to say, 'pop choruses' or '000-111-000' breakdowns are not to be found here thankfully, and instead there are tons and tons of cool riffage and nod-along grooves to shake to. Again it seems like a lot of what should have been an even bigger crowd were initially rather passive and tame, thin in numbers probably due to sheltering from the wet - those cowards! Though the audience greatly picked up their reciprocation as the band were able to turn more and more over thanks to their bombastic and frenetic performance from a technical standpoint. At no point did the vocals let up, and the guitar and drums would have been firing and shredding all afternoon had they not ran their time on stage up fairly quickly. The only notable downside at least from a spectacle perspective was that the band didn't employ so much of a choreographed performance with overwhelming presence or personality, as what a lot of modern bands now have up their sleeves, even if they can look contrived or kind of silly. [7] BL

Hands Like Houses @ 13:45-14:15 on The Maverick Stage

It would be remiss not to point out that Hands Like Houses at least on record, are one of the more impressive and original bands on the Rise Records roster. Which made their lasting impression here at Download that their performance just didn't live up to their potential all the more bewildering. For one thing the sound mix was about as good as the weather and conditions, which were most definitely not good in either aspect. Subtleties and complexities the band should excel at were drowned out by a garguantuanly rumbling bass and deafeningly loud guitars that made it impossible to discern even the main melodies of great songs like "Lion Skin" and the normally unforgettably catchy "Shapeshifters" and "Developments". Things were marred further by the baffling fact that when singer Trenton Woodley was actually audible (somehow), he kept going off-key on crucial hooks or the central vocal melodies time and time again. Baffling because he ought to be a more than capable singer at least from the recorded evidence, though one could argue that the poor mixing may have contributed to creating the issue rather than simply him not being good enough. Still, a big disappointment. [5] BL

Parkway Drive - Photo credit: Derek Bremner

Parkway Drive @ 15:10-15:55 on Main Stage

Parkway Drive, unsurprisingly, received a pretty roaring reception as they made their way to the stage in a fairly non-descript manner, and the first thing anybody ought to have noticed is just how frigging happy, chuffed, ecstatic main man Winston McCall looked. It was a terrific sight really to see just how much the guy was all smiles, loving every minute on the stage, and throwing some sympathy to the dirty and muddy pit before them. Clearly the band are in a good place having been working on their forthcoming new album due later this year. The song roster Parkway actually played featured mostly from their last two (and arguably weaker two) records from their discography, "Wild Eyes" has a pretty memorable lead guitar ringing throughout the entire song which is always a pleasant experience but when comparing how much louder the crowd screamed to "Carrion" and "Idols and Anchors" compared to "Karma" and "Dark Days" really says a lot. And we didn't even get a "Boneyards" or "Romance is Dead" for the more long time fans, which added some bitter tinged disappointment. [7] BL

Northlane - Photo credit: Joe Okpako

Northlane @ 15:35-16:05 on The Maverick Stage

Australian metalcore band Northlane are next up in the Maverick tent . New vocalist Marcus Bridge works the stage well, although vocally his cleans are weak in comparison to his powerful screams, which is disappointing considering the quality of the recorded versions. The band’s heavier material works best today because of this, and “Disposition" crashes in like a bull in a china shop, with the heavier sound and meaty riffs better suiting Marcus's voice. A real power-house of a song! Despite this the crowd seemed to favour the old material and “Quantum Flux" in particular really get's the audience moving. Overall a mixed set, with the positives ultimately outweighing the vocal issues. [6] LH

Rise Against - Photo credit: Scott Salt

Rise Against @ 16:25-17:15 on Main stage

US punk mainstays Rise Against tear onto the main stage with a powerful version of “The Good Left Undone", setting the tone for the whole of their set. Guitarist Zach Blair traverses the whole stage with more than enough energy to keep the soaking crowds entertained, whilst frontman Tim Mcilrath ably interacts with the masses, urging each side of the audience to outdo the other. Once again the poor weather conditions unfortunately affect more than the dryness of the crowd, with the wind and rain causing the mix to suffer with the vocals somewhat lost amidst instruments that are just too loud. A set full of crowd-pleasers such as “Re- Education (Through Labor)" and “Prayer Of The Refugee" go some way to make up for the faults in the sound though. [7] LH

Crown The Empire @ 16:35-17:05 on The Maverick Stage

Crown The Empire's notions of their fans being "Runaways" of the "Resistance" (to what exactly who knows) aside, the band would have been empty promises to their young adoring fans if they couldn't perform half decently, and at least for the most part they didn't reallly disappoint. Having two vocalists is always a balancing act in a live environment, in terms of stage movement, co-ordination, and getting each person involved with the crowd. For Crown The Empire, Andy and David seem to handle themselves pretty well, and technically they complement each other smoothly with each song requiring constant clean vocal/scream interplay. Though while both can do both styles of vocals, Andy is by far the better singer and barely misses any tough notes whilst David's voice sound a lot stronger when he's the one screaming. Song choice was fairly safe and routine if you like the band with the likes of "Makeshift Chemistry" and the stadium-rousing "Machines" being notable highlights to even get the unfamiliar nodding and bopping their feet under the tent, away from the rain. [7] BL

A Day To Remember - Photo credit: Justine Trickett

A Day To Remember @ 17:45-18:35 on Main Stage

A Day To Remember have seemingly (and some may argue rightly) elevated themselves to holding mainstage credentials given how their popularity have continued to grow year on year, clearly in no way unhinged by the messy legal battle they had to endure to put out their last album "Common Courtesy". Barely wasting any time we jumped right into the chanting of "The Downfall of Us All" which had the entire park shouting a cacophony of "Duh duh duh duh, duh. duh."s, the band let rip with perhaps the best sounding guitar mix of the day thus far with some thundering palm mutes punctuating the air through the dodgy weather. That said, the mix also gave very little for frontman Jeremy Mckinnon to hide behind today as it quickly became clear how inadequate and lacking his vocals were. For one thing, either he had a delayed click track or he must have been drunk because he was a good half-to-full second behind the instrumentals in timing consistently. For another, it was like he decided he wasn't going to bother even attempting any high notes on songs either like "Right Back at it Again" and "I'm Made of Wax, Larry..." and leave the crowd to do their part and fill in instead. It really took a solid and surprisingly heartfelt performance of "If It Means a Lot to You" to win back some respect, and then promptly lose it again for a unbelievably sloppy rendition of "The Plot To Bomb the Panhandle" to end things. Perhaps the guy firing t-shirts into the crowd on stage was a deliberate distraction, who knows. [6½] BL

Body Count @ 18:45-19:25 on The Maverick Stage

To be totally honest, Body Count wasn't a planned stop of the day, but having some respite from the ongoing weather made this old school heavy metal/hardcore act a fairly appealing prospect under the Maverick tent. But really that appeal must have got lost under one of the muddiest (no pun for the weather intended) mixes ever, and tally that with some unfamiliarity with the majority of their 90s source material, made the entire set a somewhat forgettable one. But subjectivity aside, it was fairly clear the target audience (who would mostly be of an older age range than a lot of the other bands covered thus far) at least enjoyed their kick. And if nothing else, frontman Ice-T made for a fairly entertaining and intimidating stage presence, leading a band that was infamous for the "Cop Killer" song, they certainly meant business and did not shy away from kicking things up into a frenzy now and then. [5] BL

Andrew W.K. @ 19:55-20:40 on The Maverick Stage

Well it's the man himself, the party animal extraordinaire, the one man singer-songwriter, whatever, oh and his backing band were there too. What more can be said? It was difficult to really place the whole experience somewhere between objectively entertaining to down right absurd. At this point there wasn't even room in the tent so many had to stand in the mud to see a small figure of a man in the distance on stage no doubt rocking out and partying hard to each and every song. Given that more or less every song was about partying anyway (yes, not just "Party Hard" and "We Want Fun" would you believe?) made things even more ridiculous, where Andrew introducing to the crowd with "This next song, is ALSO ABOUT PARTYING!" felt every bit as a beaten and muddied dead horse as the music itself. And sure, the songs were played with an energy and intensity that should have blown the tent off, complete with outrageously misplaced piano sweeps everywhere, but it was probably a sign of the toll the wet and sloppy day had taken on the audience that many were content to just stare and witness the wonder that an Andrew W.K. set brings instead of partying out of their minds. [6] BL

Muse - Photo credit: Richard Johnson

Muse @ 21:05-22:50 on Main Stage

There has been a lot of debate about Muse's suitability as a Download headliner since their announcement earlier this year, with people very vocally expressing disgust and optimism in seemingly equal measures. Any doubts were promptly erased as the band ploughed through a selection of heavier material handpicked from throughout their catalogue. Tracks like “New Born" and the thunderous “Hysteria" are met with a rapturous reception, making me wonder why anyone ever doubted Muse's ability to headline this festival and if those that did would still stand by that sentiment. New material is received just as well, with the opener of their recent “Drones" album, “Dead Inside", sitting comfortably alongside the more celebrated “Supermassive Black Hole". Even the still torrential rain can't dampen the effect of the band (although it certainly tries, with Matt Bellamy slipping as he runs on the catwalk) and from my vantage point it certainly looked like Muse drew a bigger crowd than perennial Download favourites Slipknot on the previous night. Also of note was the climax of the set, a spectacular fireworks barrage following an incredible rendition of “Knights of Cydonia", creating a truly memorable ending to another great day at Download festival. Overall this was a truly brilliant set with no real flaws, and Muse silenced any doubters with the best performance of the weekend. [10] LH

SUNDAY

36 Crazyfists - Photo credit: Richard Johnson

36 Crazyfists @ 11:50-12:20 on Main Stage

A friend later described how bizarre it was to see 36 Crazyfists on stage looking like 'old men' playing songs that many of us heard when we were younger. Whilst that doesn't really have anything to do with how good a band can be live, it certainly felt like watching a band past their golden years just laying homage to anthems of old. "Bloodwork" and "Slit Wrist Theory" still had an immense response of sing-alongs and crowd movement, though the rest of the set did suffer from a pretty poor mix which made it harder to really enjoy some of the band's classic pieces. The vocals in particular were sadly drowned out by a cranky sounding bass and the strangely extra booming single guitar, but at this point it didn't really matter because if you knew the songs you would have had enough to smile about already anyway. On the brighter side literally, the sky was clear and there was no rain yet today, so there was at least no discomfort involved in being present by the main stage, all the more important considering how early of a start on a Sunday it was. [5½] BL

We Are Harlot - Photo credit: Joe Okpako

We Are Harlot @ 14:25-14:55 on The Zippo Encore Stage

It was just irresistable to see what the fuss over the former Asking Alexandria frontman's new band was all about. Indeed Danny left the screaming, the breakdowns, the v-neck + black hair imagery for a swaggering rock and roll outfit that seemed every bit as clichéd as his old band imaginable - same game different uniform. Oh and of course Danny had to just come to the stage holding onto a mic stand draped in the stars and stripes flag, sporting some vaguely phoney American accent. If that's not truly next level pretentiousness and the most cringeworthy thing anybody has seen yet at Download then we should all give up and go home right now. Danny's ego-polishing antics aside, he was at least looking at 'home' in this new setting. His bourbon coarse vocals were the perfect black cherry for their swaggering brand of watered down hard rock and roll, and if all else it was at least good to see the man give a damn about the music he's helping make again and not just getting drunk (which he said was his plan after this). [4] BL

Godsmack - Photo credit: Gobinder Jhitta

Godsmack @ 15:20-15:50 on Zippo Encore

Continuing the theme of the 'Sunday oldschool" theme, Godsmack reminded everybody of our once strongly held love for mainstream nu-metal, or not, given your varying mileage. As a big positive, the heavy sound was largely polished to a sheen and well mixed enough to bring the majority of the Zippo hill crowd onto their feet and nodding heads. What was less impressive was just how ordinary the set itself seemed. Lead vocalist Sully Erna certainly kept the proceedings from being a complete bore with his wickedly accurate, snarly rendition of each song from "Cryin' Like a Bitch" to their most famous "I Stand Alone" which did sound pretty memorable. But musically there felt little to take away for non fans, not at all helped by how simplistic the music lends itself because of this genre which has long since fallen from grace. [5] BL

In Flames - Photo credit: Giles Smith

In Flames @ 18:25-19:10 on The Zippo Encore Stage

A slow Sunday lineup meant that people were all that more excited for In Flames to take it up a notch. You'd be hard pressed to not spot numerous Swedish contingents in the crowd as well, flag waving and all. In any case when In Flames exploded from the speakers, it was amazing that they just could not sound sonically bad even if they tried it would seem, opening with fan favourite "Only For The Weak" before pushing some of the newer material like "Everything's Gone". Every song, every hard hitting harmonised riff crisp like sweet poison to the ears of all present company. Considering how mixed to severe their latest albums have been received critically and amongst their immense fanbase, it was great to see the band still knew how to please the audience as a spectacle, vocalist Anders Fridén being strangely charismatic and funny despite his indifferent demeanour. It would have been nice if there were a couple more older songs included in the set aside from the obvious choices in "Cloud Connected" and "Take This Life" but one couldn't complain too much more, as those songs which by the way, still sound fantastic live to this day. [8] BL

Yellowcard - Photo credit: Scott Salt

Yellowcard @ 19:35-20:20 on The Maverick Stage

Yellowcard admitted to being a bit daunted to play time slot-wise alongside the likes of Mötley Crüe, but no less gave it their all as the humbled final band in the Maverick tent to close out the weekend. And boy did these guys put on an amazing show. After a weekend of hit or miss mixes with more being on the miss than on the hit side, it was so cathartic to see a band literally crank the volume through the ceiling like no other, and yet sound fantastically clear (observe for this is how you do it you pretenders the rest of you). The band looked like they were enjoying themselves so much that violionist Sean Mackin just had to backflip. Frontman Ryan Key gave what can only be described as a heartened yet steeled performance, never missing a note as he sang through their soundtrack of nostalgia, lost relationships, what ifs and heartbreaks. If you're the type to wear your heart on your sleeve then no doubt their impeccable performance of "Awakening" and "Only One" would have not only impressed you by being stunningly played out, but would have had you right in the feels. It was almost even more sad to see them having to end on "Ocean Avenue", which rightly had to have been one of the loudest sing-alongs of the entire weekend thus far. Just fantastic, bravo. [9] BL

Chelsea Grin @ 20:15-20:45 on Jake’s Stage

From melting hearts to breaking and bricking faces, that's what seeing Chelsea Grin after Yellowcard felt like. You don't have to really appreciate deathcore to see that Chelsea Grin know that their strength is just playing ground shattering (assuming the ground was solid here) breakdowns and truly vile sounding riffs from the depths. Frankly, anybody and everybody who listens to any sort of guitar orientated heavy music, or aspiring guitarist should also appreciate that guitarist Jason Richardson as one of the best young talents in the heavy music scene currently. Unlike the rest of the band, he brings not just the heavy, but a calculus dissertation level of guitar expertise, which isn't always obvious in a band like Chelsea Grin given how banal some of the songs can be with the endlessly repetitive chugging. Vocalist/bad boy Alex Koehler sounds fantastic as well with some truly harrowing live screams and shrieks, and when the drummer joins in with harmonised screams, the resulting effect is both chilling and enthralling. The best part of the set had to be right at the end (not because it's over or anything), when Alex just says "....aaaaaand that's it... apparently?" - talk about not giving any fucks right until the end. [6½] BL

Enter Shikari @ 21:05-22:15 on The Zippo Encore Stage

So this is it, the final show for Download to really throw everything, all the stops. Enter Shikari are if nothing else, a visual feast. There were and always has been typically enough light patterns that if you were watching the set as a deaf person, you'd probably still enjoy it unless you suffered from epilepsy as well (can't think why you'd be at Download if that were the case). There were rumors abound that there was a slight chance that frontman Rou's health which had been suffering for the past few days would mean the band may have pulled out tonight. Luckily, Rou was at hand to not only rubbish that chance ever happening, but sound, well pretty much as good as ever. Not only did he bring his unique vocal talents to the set, but his live electronics programming made a big part of the experience too as songs often had unique samples added in for effect on the spot. Although one bizarre moment saw him finish a song off to the side just above the edge of the outskirt of the stage platform in front of the supporting wall, only to then return moments later.

Enter Shikari were one of the earliest progenitors of combining heavish hardcore rock music with electronics. People seem to always think bands like Attack Attack!, I See Stars or Asking Alexandria did it first and made it popular, but really Enter Shikari were doing it way before any of them and theirs had a unique flair that is unmatched in the music scene to this day. And so to their credit golden oldies like "Sorry, You're Not a Winner" and "Juggernaut" still manage to sound fresh and innovative, and of course there's arguably the centrepiece "Mothership" driving the crowd into a frenzy. It's just an amazing live song that still blends to their new cutting edge tracks like "Torn Apart" which equally sounds great live. There's an overall feel good vibe about Enter Shikari that resonates so comfortably and easily across when you watch the band go about their lively art, as their livelihood is their passion. They may not have the legend credentials of the other headliners at the festival this weekend, but Enter Shikari are a force to be reckoned with in their own right. [8] BL

SUGGESTIONS

As is customary for our festival coverage, before we wrap things we offer some suggestions for the festival’s improvement in our traditional good/bad/ugly format:

● The Good

The festival food, whilst hideously overpriced, was actually very varied and tasty even if half the places served some variation of a slab of beef between some bread and some chips. Keep up the quality Download, but consider slashing the prices just a bit. The cashless system was also great once it got working and we urge the organisers to optimise it and use it again.

● The Bad

We know that festival conditions are tricky, but the sound mix was too often disappointing and it would look good on Download to do whatever they can to ensure that bands have a chance to at least live up to the expectations that guests have soundwise. The toilet situation also wasn’t too great for regular guests, with queueing at some times taking over half an hour.

● The Ugly

The weather was pretty bad and it's never nice to slosh your way between stages. We wish Download could figure out a way to do more to pad the floor with something to cover it, at the very least in the immediate stage area. And Jeremy McKinnon, dude, I love ADTR and always will, but come on, you sucked, please learn to sing better. BL

Photo credit: Lauren Harris

Final Words

And as we come to the end of Download festival 2015 we summarise that it was one of highs and lows, with many stellar performances contrasted by the mainly awful weather leading to muddy walkways and horrible camping conditions. The initial problems with the cashless system were rectified but it did seem to cause a few problems at the start of the weekend. It has the potential to be a very good system and I can see other festivals following suit in the future. Despite everything though we as a team would be more than happy to return again! BL

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