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Download Festival: 08-12th June 2022

What more can be said about Download Festival? After 2 years of cancellation, the full-size arena large enough to swallow entire smaller festivals opened once more, with 4 glorious stages, masses of hideously expensive vendors, and toilets that almost violate the Geneva convention. (Not that it’s worth complaining about)

The lineup, refined over years since the initial announcement intended for 2020, was full of all aspects of rock’s history, present, and future, and left no free moment to relax, with essentially every waking minute taken up by live music. There was a very healthy mix of bands available, from hugely theatrical virtuosity in the form of Iron Maiden and singalong Indie-tinged rock from Biffy Clyro, to crushing high-energy hardcore from Malevolence and visceral stoner metal from Electric Wizard, with everything in between explored somewhere over the 3 days.

The size this festival has grown to, with over 100 thousand people inside the grounds each day, should be proof enough that it has firmly held on to its moniker of the UK’s premier rock festival, but if you need more proof; take a look at the setup of Iron Maiden’s ridiculous stage show, with massive inflatables, flamethrowers, and live ‘swordfights’ between Bruce and a massive Eddie caricature. 

At this level it becomes difficult to find negatives that weren’t already expected months in advance, such as the food and drink requiring mortgages to afford, and the toilet areas becoming tantamount to chemical warfare, since these grounds have been used for a rock and metal festival most years from 1980 to the present day, now catering for 111 thousand people with 4 stages and almost 100 acts. If any person bought a ticket and, barring any unfortunate circumstance, didn’t have a fantastic time, they did something seriously wrong, as there was simply endless entertainment all weekend. Here’s a few specific moments from the weekend from a 5-day camping ticket holder…

Thursday

Sappenin podcast live – A brilliant little snippet of entertainment including a hilarious chat with Charlie Rolfe of As Everything Unfolds, Paul Barrow of Death Blooms, and Alice Guala from Lake Malice. Even with clear stage nerves, hosts Sean and Morgan were engaging and entertaining throughout. Hopefully this live podcast thing is repeated.

Friday

Skindred – An absolute highlight of any lineup they grace, Newport’s finest once again put on an incredible show, with boundless energy, hilarious inter-song banter from Benji, and massive participation from the friday afternoon crowd. Every festival needs Skindred

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes – once again proving that they need to be higher up festival bills, as they whipped the crowd into a storm, with their unique brand of modernised Punk Rock testing the limits of the second stage’s huge sound system, as well as the ribs of front-row crowd members, as more outright angry tracks like ‘Juggernaut’ and ‘Crowbar’ sent the numerous pits absolutely wild. A must-watch at future festivals

Electric Wizard – crammed into the dogtooth tent whilst Kiss headlined, and still the British stoner metal legends put forward a crushing, visceral performance of fuzz-soaked, sludgy stoner rock that could make even Firebreather jealous.

Saturday

Mastodon – bringing a healthy touch of insanity to the blazing sunshine of saturday, impeccable live performers Mastodon lit up the stage with their rich, saturated alternative metal sound, including finishing with ‘blood and thunder’ from 2004’s ‘Leviathan’ to rapturous appreciation from the crowd.

Megadeth – still riding on the success of latest album ‘Dystopia’, Megadeth took the second stage by storm, with Dave clearly back up to almost his old self, cracking jokes about the meanings of songs, and clearly enjoying his time on stage. The entire set was high-energy, and impeccably virtuosic, as can be expected from a band of their heritage. A real return to form.

Iron Maiden – The band everyone was waiting for this weekend. Judging by eye alone, there were likely around 90,000 in attendance as one of the most legendary bands in metal history graced Download’s main stage once again, bringing energy that seemed almost unachievable from 60+ year-old rockers, ridiculous production value that could put a broadway show to shame. Musically they were incredible, the stage show was worth it all on its own, and the crowd were transfixed. Truly a statement of ‘we’ve still absolutely got what it takes’ backed up by tracks from ‘Senjutsu’ sounding fresh and exciting, and beautifully complementing countless classic tracks they preceded.

Sunday

Baroness – bringing a mature, progressive-tinged brand of sludge metal to a hot sunday afternoon, Baroness delivered a brilliantly entertaining set, and appeared to be the band that simply had the most fun on stage, as all 4 members seemed to have a massive smile at every moment; and isn’t that exactly what festivals should be about?

Biffy Clyro – Despite all the naysayers online, and the poor turnout, Scotland’s Biffy Clyro put on an incredible show to end the weekend, with a setlist picked from their heaviest works, yet also including glorious singalongs to ‘Space’ and closing song ‘Many of Horror’. The actual musical aspect was remarkably stripped back, with multiple times in which the only sound coming out of the huge stacks of speakers was Simon Neil’s stratocaster, a welcome change after a weekend of sometimes 5+ musicians creating the sound. All the gatekeepers that missed this set because ‘they’re not a download band’ seriously missed out, as this was an amazing way to close out a great weekend.

This weekend was testament to the power of rock and metal, and also a message to an increasingly indifferent world that live music is the cornerstone of human connection. So perhaps if you’re as passionate about rock and metal as us here at Metal Digest, buy tickets to Download or Bloodstock, or even just some local gigs instead of another holiday to some too-hot far-flung destination. I promise you won’t regret it.

Come on in!

Metal Digest is an online music magazine specializing in rock and metal. It is aimed at the mobile market, who can get their fix whilst on the go. Whether you walk, drive, fly, sail or teleport make sure you do it with Metal Digest, bitesize heavy metal rock and metal news, reviews and interviews for when you’re on the go.

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