Tribal drumming underneath heavy-as-hell guitars on the main stage? That’ll be Max Cavalera and Soulfly. A riot of colour and sound, Brazilian flags pop up for the only time in the festival as they celebrate Max’s love of the jungle. Roaring like some wild beast, he is truly the epitome of passion on stage. No one will sound as brutally primal for the rest of the day.
Promoted to the main stage thanks to Slayer’s late arrival Damageplan are given a golden opportunity to show the crowd exactly what they’re made of. Of course with Pantera’s Abbott bros in the ranks the crowd was always going to go nuts, but the deafening riffwork of Damageplan’s own songs send them into a riotous fenzy, ensuring that their previous band’s legacy will thankfully remain separate from their blitzkrieg metal ballast.
Machine Head were one of the best new metal bands of the early nineties. Now Rob Flynn is leading them back on another charge. Evilly brutal and relentlessly powerful, they set about tearing the crowd a new arsehole. Flynn seems genuinely moved by the reception from the fans and there’s a rare moment of shared feeling. Then the band rip into ‘Davidian’ and all thoughts are lost in the maelstrom of metal.
It seems like yonks ago since Korn last played Donington, opening up the new bands stage, thanks to a Kerrang! Readers vote back in 1996, on the eve of the release of second album ‘Life Is Peachy’. Back then, with nu-metal still in its infancy, Korn’s solo-less chunky riffs, hip-hop rhythms and Davis’ demon-exorcising squawls were fresh and truly invigorating for any discerning metaller, each song loaded with intent at the big rock shake-up that they were to instigate in the years to follow.
Now, eight years on Korn have achieved the stardom that that ‘big rock shake-up’ (i.e. nu-metal) afforded them, taking the stage with a concerted determination to prove themselves to those who were mere whippersnappers when they first emerged back in 1994. And they certainly do that, drawing from an impressive arsenal of songs that mix the likes of ‘Blind’ and ‘A.D.I.D.A.S’ with later classics like ‘Got The Life’ and ‘Right Now’.
The crowd duly respond and with a better-than-average sound giving a huge boost to the meaty riffs and anthemic, fist-punching choruses they’re a band on top form. While latter recording efforts haven’t equalled the acclaim bestowed upon their earlier classics, what Korn prove all too well today is that the live environment is where their music counts most. And to that several thousand fans give them a sweaty, devil-horned Donington salute...
Speaking of devils, as the sun is suddenly smothered by dark, forboding clouds that herald the imminent arrival of the sickest band in the world, you can actually taste the expectancy. It's like gleefully awaiting a freight train, when you're tied to the tracks. As all (count them) nine members of Slipknot lurch onstage, a mighty roar of approval spreads like a tsunami from the mosh pit to the furthest beer tent.
Ringmaster Corey perches centre stage, voice box rupturing through his new, even more hideous mask, whilst all manner of glorious chaos and violence unfolds around him. The set kicks off brutally with 'The Blister Exits' and 'Duality' (from new album 'The Subliminal Verses'), both serving as a clarion call for psychotic tie-wearing clown 'Shawn' to batter the f**k out of a steel keg with an iron baseball bat. It's a Stomp Halloween Special!
As is too often the case at festivals, it's the old faves that drive the moshpit into one big, sweaty, churning maelstrom. 'Disasterpiece', 'Sic', 'The Heretic Anthem', 'Wait and Bleed', 'Spit it Out' and the superb 'People = Shit' are systematically unleashed onto the frenzied maggots, whilst percussionist Chris 'nose' taunts the front rows, aiming a drum stick, then dropping it nonchalantly behind him. Uberdrummer Joey Jordison (later to be the saviour of Metallica!) powers the onslaught with a typically mind-bending display of lightening speed drum warfare, flanked by twin guitar monoliths Mick and James. We are witnessing one of heavy rock's finest engine rooms in all its twisted glory. As the smoke clears, a sea of breathless, flailing bodies is all that remains of what was, until an hour ago, a pleasantly civilised festival setting.
Like so many before them today, Metallica turn up late on stage. Almost two hours late in fact. As they come out, we find out why; drummer Lars is in hospital and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo filling in for the first three songs is a seriously special treat. ‘Battery’ is played faster and harder than normal, as the rest of the band are forced to step things up to keep up with Lombardo. After that, Joey Jordison of Slipknot comes out to perform a few tracks. Apart from a brief interlude using Lars’s roadie, they stay with Joey for the rest of the show.
Time is kept near perfectly all the way through the gig, both through the efforts of the drummers and also because Metallica help them out. Since St. Anger, Metallica have changed more than just musically. There’s a real sense of friendship between them now. Although the setlist is skewed towards the ‘Black Album’ as it’s the album Joey clearly knows most songs but it’s a pity we miss out on the likes of ‘Master Of Puppets’ and ‘One’, due to time restrictions. Metallica can still hold an audience as effortlessly as a big show with lots of fire.
After an hour they are forced to leave by the ridiculously early curfew, although it’s unclear how many more songs the drummers could have winged given the time! Disappointed with the quantity but blown clear out of the water by the quality, it’s nothing if not a dramatic end to the best heavy rock festival Donington has seen since Guns N' Roses did Monsters of Rock in '88, and nobody died at this one!
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