Download 2004: Snickers Stage, Saturday
Arizona's hardcore best, The Bled, finish their UK tour opening Download festival. Not bad for relative newbies. Although the crowd can feel how this set should sound, (knee dropping beat downs and searing Will Haven-esque vocals), unfortunately neither luck nor the sound engineer are on their side today. The hardcore sound gets filtered down to such an extent that the raucous chiselling guitars are clean for the whole set. Drummer Mike's rhythmical skills shine in full glory, and vocalist James gives a wholehearted performance, not unlike Jim Morrisson in his stage persona, but the rest of the band are still a mystery to most of the audience today. If only we had heard more of the occasional jarring chord, The Bled would almost certainly have blown the next few bands off the stage and been a real presence for hardcore in a mostly metal line-up.
Even the name 'Viking Skull' smacks of tight leather pants, sweatbands, clenched fists and a horned salute to the gods of rock. So when they stroll defiantly onstage it's no surprise to find these Corby-based metal warriors clad in suitably retro attire, passionately extolling the power of rock through songs such as 'Rock 'n' Roll Suicide (Playing Guitar 'Til I Die)' and 'Crank The Volume Until The Speakers Explode'. Lesser bands may have come off a little tired and cliché, but vocalist Roddy's charisma alone dispels any pre-supposed accusations of them being mere karaoke metal rejects, instead bringing some much welcomed old-school flavour to the Donington bill. Oh, and drummer Gordon's Michael-Eavis-style chin-strap is nothing but pure quality.
After playing twice - yes, TWICE - at Download 2003, sightings of American grungers Instruction have been few and far between. Their venom fuelled return graces the Game On stage and stirs the audience with political sentiment and irate, mussed up guitarlines. Instruction vent sweat, energy and rock-shaped anger at everything from garage rock bands, crap punk music and, of course, an obligatory rant about George Bush.
Biffy Clyro's return to the stage after months of being locked away in a recording
studio was proof positive that the new album is something to look forward to. While old favourites from their two previous
LPs induce a tent-sized sing-a-long, previews of new tracks assures us that the Scottish trio are still on top of their game
and will be for some time to come. Their performance is as heavy as it is emotional and as promising as it is satisfying.
Angela Gossow's voice must've taken a lot of punishment during the past two years, and for the occasion of several thousand fans in a muggy tent watching Arch Enemy, the throat does not disappoint. A tiny blonde with demons inside her vocal chords prowls wolf-like and intimidating clutching a horizontal mic stand as a weapon. She needs no such barrier, growling pure power over a pure metal backdrop. The sheer size of the sound engulfing the crowd incites a massive response as they heave under the band's presence and submit to an aural barrage of female rage vs. melodic riff. Maximum energy points, 'We Will Rise' ends a mind-blowing set.