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Download Festival 2013 review

'Old dog, old tricks, but ones that work!'

Download Festival 2013 review

Photographer:Jamie Boynton

Ali Ryland, Gavin McInally - 17 June 2013

It may well be the case that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but after the 11th successful chapter of the UK's premier metal event, this ageing mutt proved that such a well rehearsed trick continues to be one that will continue to have the masses paying for more.

It didn't have the fresh excitement of the debut years, and it lacked something of a punch which latter instalments provided, but there was a stark reminder that without Download and its multi-coloured, four-legged mascot, these isles would literally be left hoping that Leeds and Reading's rock tents could cut the mustard each year. For that the event should be cherished- even if a large number of the multitude bemoaned the halcyon days of erstwhile rock festival Sonisphere, and its more for-the-fans set up.

Following last year's muddy misery the headline act of Download 2013 wasn't Iowa's masked men, England's rock royalty of even the German pyro circus, but Mother Nature herself. Although she took the piss a little with high winds and sporadic downpours over the weekend (summed up by one sheltering fan's “What is it with this Amazonian Rainforest bullshit?” question) the fact that Sunday ended without relatives being lost in a brown sludge and tents thankfully clean enough to be packed up was something of a victory.

The opening day served up something of a nostalgia trip for the nu-metal hordes as Papa Roach (7/10), Korn (8/10) and headliners Slipknot (9/10) rolled back the years to 2001, with a catalogue of classics Kerrang! built a TV station on.

And as 'Last Resort', 'Blind' and 'Spit It Out' provided welcome throwbacks to misspent childhoods for 2013's Download dads, Down (8/10) offered up a touch of class, Europe (8/10) brought the sing-alongs and the likes of Converge (9/10) and Fidlar (6/10) were welcome new guests to Donington's annual hoe-down. But it was left to Gogol Bordello (10/10) to take the band of Friday crown after the gypsy punk kings took advantage of a sunny evening with raucous renditions of 'Immigraniada' and 'Start Wearing Purple'. Boozy revellers responded with circle jigs upon circle jigs; an unusual site to warm the cockles of many a folk fan.

Painfully frustrating winds wrecked sets throughout Saturday when even the most capable of festival acts failed to push their sound past the T barrier in front of the Main Stage.

Mastodon (6/10) didn't help their cause by orchestrating a prog-infused set instead of the crushing classics they have in their arsenal, Alice In Chains (8/10) and Queens Of The Stone Age (7/10) overcame the elements with performances which reeked of class. The crowning glory of the day however for those who enjoy a return to pogoing had to be Norwegian punk metallers Kvelertak (8/10), whose flag-waving Owl-head antics and crushing choruses cemented them as 'one to watch' for the main stages in future.

Iron Maiden's (6/10) return to 1988 with an old-school classics only affair split the crowd better than the yellow clad security ever could. Their headline set will forever be thought of by the the barrier huggers as a stand out moment of 2013, but sadly for anyone who wasn't within a stone's throw distance of Bruce Dickinson, it was a chilly evening of intermittent sound; even the likes of 'Fear of the Dark' and 'Run to the Hills' sounded as if they'd been played through an iPod Docking station in a neighbouring tent.

Sunday brought proceedings to a close with forgiving overcast skies. Coal Chamber's (6/10) at times strained performance still delighted most nu-metal fans. Closer and most memorable song 'Sway' may not be completely their own material, but this doesn't seem to matter. A similar story is sung of Cancer Bats (8/10) as their best-performed track and illustrious cover 'Sabotage' sets "the roof on fire" more than their successors on the main stage manage.

As fate would have it, Five Finger Death Punch (9/10) also joined the tradition of hard rocking acts with notable stand-out covers; 'Bad Company' elicited a cheering sing-along for the heavy metallers but it was 'White Knuckles' that created one of the biggest crowd reactions of the entire weekend; fans are either split between those aw-ing at dragged-onstage kids singing along better than most, or circle pitting too much to notice. The military-bashing bozos fall short of top marks, however, due to not quite knowing how to skirt the line between classic metal rebellion and health and safety defying dickheadery. Threatening to smash in security guard's faces and throwing mics into the crowd isn't just dangerous for a band who were previously shut off at Download 2009 for encouraging hazardous levels of crowd surfing, but unappealingly stupid.

Aussie hardcore outfit Parkway Drive (8/10) were a punchy distraction from tired legs while occult doom Swedes Ghost (7/10) hosted the strangest Sunday mass anyone has ever attended. But all must bow before the industrial onslaught of Rammstein (10/10). Now it may be far too cliché to rage over the Germanic magnificence of their sets- or rather, dark art alive onstage- but unfortunately, it has to be done. Whether it's opener 'Ich Tu Dir Weh' and Lindeman's fluffy pink jacket that gets you going, or closer 'Pussy' and the infamous spouting giant phallus, the flamboyant metallers by far provide the best set of the weekend. If you can't enjoy the goo-galore, then Download Festival 2013 can't go out with as much of a magnificent bang. So enjoy the goo, it's good for you!

Click here for more in depth act by act coverage from Download Festival.

For information on Download 2014 click here.


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