For the second day of Download, it’s the Avalanche stage where the underbelly of rock music is showing its gritted teeth. Filled with the kind of vitality that can only come with true hunger, you get the feeling that even if they were met with an empty tent, The Faim would still bring everything they have. Already with die-hard fans in tow, it’s a blistering set that never relents.
While The Faim are propelling forward with super-produced rock tracks, Rolo Tomassi are a melding of brutality and melody. Eva Spence seamlessly goes from dancing to lunging about the stage, giving a physical body to their boundary-pushing music.
This weekend, it’s highly unlikely that there will be any other set which comes close to capturing the sheer ferocious spirit of The Fever 333. The spectacle begins with a plain white sheet strung up above the stage. Soon a hooded figure is led to the front and centre, clad in a black jumpsuit. They remain there, head hung, while a projector plays images of various news stories with a countdown intermittently appearing.
As the countdown completes, the sheet drops. Twelve more hooded figures appear – fists defiantly raised in the air. It’s then the turn of the central-focused figure rips they’re hood off to reveal it’s Jason Aalon Butler who swiftly turns into equal parts political protestor and rogue jack-in-the-box. In that one instant, the tent explodes. Stevis Harrison bounds from the side of the stage, unleashed, while Aric Improta seemingly falls from the sky and straight into action at the drum kit.
Throughout the set, nothing is off limits. As Jason swiftly joins the masses, he embraces another crowd surfer, cementing the connection that he preaches. While his past at Download might be complicated, his return – and The Fever 333’s UK debut – proves there’s something far more significant in the works, and all for the good of the people.
Straying away from the Avalanche tent, and over to the Zippo Encore stage something a bit different is afoot. BABYMETAL always deliver a show, with fans thrust into a world of their design with no reasonable escape. As the crowd grows thicker by the minute, the die-hards are clawing their way to the front to get a glimpse of this ever-growing behemoth. Even by-passers are sucked into the lore of BABYMETAL as thousands of hands are raised in the air forming the Kitsune that, if you’re unaware of the whole deal, readily appears like a cult.
The moment smoke starts billowing out in front of the stage, and the Kami band appear in full regalia, the crowd become ignited. Thundering along, ‘In The Name Of’ steadily builds the hype until the crowd are at a fever pitch. That is until Su-Metal finally appears. Then all bets are off. She sombrely walks down centre stage, closely followed by Moametal – though a still missing Yuimetal means there are two backup dancers in her place. Their aesthetic is darker, pointing BABYMETAL in a new direction that delves even deeper into their lore.
From this point on it’s a blur of choreographed dance moves, powering metal and most of all, belief that the world of BABYMETAL is growing into an uncontrollable beast that will, at some point, consume you.
Following such grand theatrics is no easy feat, but Parkway Drive’s rise to the top over the last few years has cemented a show that’s both strong in sound and stage, and the bombardment of fire helps edge them further toward being future giants. On a day that’s consumed by the brutal, Parkway Drive are a crowning moment in organised chaos.
Guns N’ Roses appear on stage a minute early. For any other band, this isn’t noteworthy, but this is one that has been known to be hours late for headline sets. As the sun bathes Donington, the sea of people who’ve been patiently waiting for this moment – a predominantly original lineup of one of the most legendary bands to have ever graced rock music – suddenly springs into life.
Considering the set is a marathon three-and-a-half hours, you’d expect things to wane a little – but while it certainly isn’t banger after banger, the fuel behind this fire is the idea of Guns N’ Roses. A band who are so steeped in legend that you feel immersed in it the moment you see them on the monolith screens.
Captured by just the presence of the band, as soon as the hits start creeping out, that’s when all hell breaks loose. ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ with an extended teasing intro is the first up, and fully reminds the crowd – not that they’d forgotten, mind you – just why they’re still deserving of being on the main stage. ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’, appears halfway through the set, injecting a barrage of retrospection and wonder.
Throughout, Axl bounds about the wings like it’s still the ‘80s, as the might of the machine that is Guns N’ Roses powers through their back catalogue, covers including the seminal ‘Live And Let Die’, and a barrage of extended solos. Finishing off with ‘Paradise City’, you’d be hard-pressed to find any negativity against the band; everything sounds immaculate.
As day two draws to a close with yet another bombardment of fireworks, and legends cementing their place atop the bill, Download 2018 proves itself once again to be a breeding ground for timeless moments.
Words: Steven Loftin; Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.