The honour of opening up proceedings on the main stage of this year’s instalment of Download falls to Manchester’s Amplifier, whose swirling slabs of prog-rock do a fine job of warming up the ever growing crowd. With her husband Will Smith watching from the wings, Jada Pinket Smith and her band Wicked Wisdom manage to overcome the watching cynics by way of their heavy hitting brand of rap-metal.
Next up, Soil manage to keep things ticking along nicely, but prove to be the mere calm before the storm as Strapping Young Lad lay waste to Donington. Positively oozing evil from his every pore, frontman Devin Townsend soon has the watching thousands in the palm of his hand as his band turn in one of the performances of the day.
The final four bands on the main stage tonight embody the perfect marriage of metal and mind. First up, the pummelling sounds of the legendary spiritual riffmasters Soulfly, with the whining discordant siren of ‘Prophecy’s opening riff a clarion call to the pit. Meanwhile, Coheed and Cambria take things up and notch on the epic scale, filling the main stage with a sweet blend of classic metal and towering riffs to seduce or destroy anything in their path.
The nerves may be showing when Chino Moreno from Deftones picks up his axe for huge anthem ‘Minerva’, but they’re redundant in a set that ticks off the relentless pounding of ‘Korea’ and the seething assault of ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’. A guest appearance from Soulfly’s Max Cavalera for ‘Headup’ is merely icing on the cake.
Most rockstar bravado is simply that, but when Tool’s James Maynard Keenan takes to the stage crowing like a cockerel in heat, he’s bloody well deserved it. Tonight is no easy ride: Opener ‘Rosetta Stoned’ is mental disintegration in audio form, yet ‘The Pot’s wide-eyed lyrical bitchslap fully justifies Maynard’s ape-like macho mic posing. Stubbornly unwilling to compromise, Tool have crafted the perfect combination of challenging tunes and mosh madness that fully justifies their headline slot. There’s no better reason to get down with the (mental) sickness.