Download Festival Day 1: Slipknot et al
Much like I did with my Sonisphere 2011 rundown I have split this year’s Download review into 3 articles, one for each day obviously. The majority of day 1 was spent at the 2nd stage and I only got round to 2 main stage performances (Korn and headliner Slipknot) so if anybody came to this article for a Bullet For My Valentine review then look elsewhere ‘cus I regarded their set as a perfect opportunity to grab some dinner. Anyway we’ve got a few bands to get through so the reviews are short and snappy:
Dir En Grey: 8/10
For the uninitiated Dir En Grey is a Japanese metal band whose’ actual subgenre is heavily disputed and allegedly incorporates anything from death metal to progressive rock. But whatever it is, it’s heavy and unconventional. Due to technical difficulties and an already very short time slot the band could only play 4 songs but they certainly made an impact on me in that limited window.
The lead vocalist simply known as Kyo is renowned for having a very versatile voice both in terms of clean singing as well as a variety of death grunts and high-pitched shrieks. It was on full display at this particular show where he chopped and changed between styles seamlessly all the while displaying a lot of power. For such a little guy he’s got a fearsome scream although I’d say Angela Gossow trumps him in this department but then again that’s all she does. The whole band gave a solid performance and I’d definitely check these guys out at their own show. A very interesting metal band indeed but they have virtually no exposure in the UK so go and check them out.
Uriah Heep: 6/10
The ageing rockers of yester-year put on a relatively bland yet on the whole inoffensive set on 2nd stage, while the sound wasn’t particularly bad it wasn’t amazing either (although I should note I was standing much further back than I was for Dir En Grey) and the overall performance seemed uninspired. The songs were decent enough but in my mind seemed to drag on for a while (and this is coming from an Opeth fan) plus the lukewarm response from the crowd didn’t help much either.
That’s not to say they were terrible and I’m not biased against older acts either (Bruce Springsteen FTW!!!) but Uriah Heep’s set was definitely the nadir of the day…
After my somewhat controversial review about a Dragonforce concert at the end of last year I felt I owed it to a few disgruntled DF fans to check them out again – FYI I’m still sticking with my opinion regarding the Shepherd’s Bush gig, they were utter shit!
The band only had a 30 minute slot on 2nd stage, just enough time to play 5 songs and it was a massive improvement on my last encounter with them. Opening with ‘Fury of the Storm’ they were pretty tight as a sound although initially I couldn’t hear Marc Hudson at all, fortunately the levels were quickly re-adjusted and his vocals were actually quite impressive for the duration of the show.
Other songs included 2 tracks off their latest album, ‘Cry Thunder’ and ‘Seasons’ as well as fans favourite ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’ as the finale. Herman Li’s guitar was mixed higher than Sam Totman’s but at least both could be heard in some capacity.
Being honest I still prefer ZP Theart as a vocalist. Marc is technically a superior singer with a wider range and much better at recreating his studio deliveries live but ZP’s voice was more unique and his assertive aggression made him a more entertaining and engaging frontman. Anyways, some faith has been restored here and I would contemplate seeing them again.
In This Moment: 8/10
To kill some time before Korn I headed to the Pepsi Max tent to catch In This Moment’s set. Again, for the uninitiated In This Moment is a female fronted metalcore group and if you were to google search the band and look at their posters then you’d quickly realise that Maria Brink’s cleavage appears to make up 90% of the bands marketing campaign… on a side note their music is also quite good!
The band took to the stage 5 minutes late and there was some faff time between tracks since Maria insisted on 3 costume changes (including a dunce hat and what I can only describe as the lingerie equivalent of a flying squirrel costume) in an already dwindling 30 minute set. Never the less the band played a terrific show if only 6 songs long. Fans of the old stuff would have been disappointed since they played material exclusively from the latest album including the two most recent singles ‘Adrenalize’ and title-track ‘Blood’. Despite that, the crowd response was very positive and the sound was great (for reference, I was inside the tent but pretty far back and to the left of the stage). Incidentally the latest album is the only one I hadn’t heard at the time of the show and from what I could tell it seemed to incorporate a lot more electronic elements compared to previous efforts, I will have to check that out at some point.
My favourite act of the day! While I like some of Korn’s stuff I wouldn’t consider myself a massive fan of their music but I’ve now seen them twice and both times they’ve put on an amazing performance. I was pretty far down to the front for this one and the crowd response was amazing where I was standing but obviously I couldn’t tell you how far back the enthusiasm spread. The sound was solid while energy, charisma and a general sense of fun oozed from each band member. Jonathon Davis is not a talkative man and the band just blistered through a non-stop set for the 60 minutes they had been allocated. Opening with ‘Blind’ and firing out other classics such as ‘Shoots and Ladders’ (with Jon on the bagpipes of course) the band played a widespread set with just a couple of songs from most albums and some of the more recent records receiving no representation at all, curiously ‘A.D.I.D.A.S’ didn’t make the cut but it was a strong 12 song setlist considering the time restraints.
Korn fans will probably kill me for saying this but I prefer Ray Luzier as a drummer to David Silveria (I love how he’s now dyed his hair brown to fit in with the band – adorable!) and it was great to see Welch back on the stage too.
First headliner of the weekend was Slipknot, the band was greeted with an impressive turnout of circa 90,000 (allegedly) as they stormed through a greatest hits set with a heavy emphasis on the debut album and Iowa. Classics such as ‘Wait and Bleed’, ‘Eyeless’ and ‘People = Shit’ inevitably made the cut along with some more obscure numbers such as ‘Get This’ and ‘Gently’ thrown in for good measure. I am not a huge fan of the latest album (barring 2 songs that they never play!) but ‘Psychosocial’ and ‘Sulfur’ make for good live anthems.
The sound quality from where I was standing was pretty impressive and the overwhelming bass levels were causing my organs to shake! I did notice however that one band member was struggling ever so slightly, Corey’s voice was not at 100% this evening and it deteriorated as the show progressed. His screams were strained and lacked their usual power plus the poor man even sounded a little hoarse when he was talking to the crowd. However, this did not deter him from giving it everything he had and the physical energy was certainly there.
I was pretty close to the front and centre and it was turbulent down there. Furious circle pits could be found on all sides and the general pushing and shoving from the massive crowd actually caused the front barrier to break not once, but twice during the set. The audience response from my perspective was very positive, certainly energetic and the crowd singing the intro to ‘Duality’ was deafening.
Slipknot always creates a strong atmosphere, usually quite a dark one and this show was no exception. The eerie ambient noises between songs combined with very effective lighting and other stage trickery (the “snow” machine during ‘Gently’ being a particularly noteworthy point) all added to the event. In short, Slipknot set the bar pretty high for the other headliners to follow – these guys never disappoint.
Review by Al Westlake