Epic sets from Holding Absence, Malevolence and Iron Maiden make for a classic day at Donnington
The first thing to note about Saturday at Download is that the weather has largely been kind, so the plethora of bands on view at Donnington today can at least be enjoyed without any fear of traipsing through swamps.
The first big news of the day comes from the main stage where Welsh rockers Those Damn Crows have once again shown their worth with yet another triumphant set. Looking like they are made for this kind of stage, the Bridgend boys’ blast through their abbreviated set which features Sick Of Me and Sin on Skin, as a very healthy early crowd looks on. They seem to be going from strength to strength with every show. That top spot surely beckons.
Judging by the amount of merch being paraded around, hopes are high for scouse nu-metal troupe Death Blooms and I’m happy to report that they rocked The Dogtooth Stage to it’s very core early on, whilst over on the second stage Cassyette delivers the goods with her amazing voice, albeit to a bit of a subdued audience. On the same stage UKHC hit’s the big time with Sheffield’s Malevolence delivering a savage set that sees constant circle pits as well as an epic stage dive from singer Alex Taylor. There’s more scouse action as Loathe take to The Avalanche Stage to another somewhat subdued crowd, but shout out to the guy dressed as a lobster. They play the favourites in Two Way Mirror and Aggressive Evolution, which you would expect to spark a reaction, but there seems to be something of a disconnect between band and crowd today.
Let’s be absolutely clear here. Holding Absence are superstars in the making, and they show just why again as they have the entire Avalanche Stage singing back at them, dancing and generally having a riot. Singer Lucas Woodland has a giant voice and an uncanny knack of delivering every emotion in a way that doesn’t seem forced or contrived. He’s backed by a band who attack their instruments in a way that further conveys the emotion of the material. Finishing with Wilt, Holding Absence are another band who won’t be long for small stages. Making his second appearance of the day is Creeper frontman Will Gould, who also fronts Salem. Showing no ill effects from his earlier adventures Gould and the band deliver a frankly astonishing set of future classics culled mostly from their album Sex, Death And The Infinite Void. The guitar skills and onstage antics of Ian Miles are really something to behold and as Gould and keyboard/vocalist trade off with the crowd who more than happy to assist, you realise that this may be one of the sets of the weekend.
Back to the Dogtooth stage, Brazillian thrash metal titans Sepultura welcome back drummer Eloy Casagrande, who recently recovered from a broken leg, to deliver a brutal set that kicks off with Arise and ends with Roots Bloody Roots. Absolutely impossible to please everybody with such a short time span, but they covered as many bases as possible. Finishing up proceedings back the Avalanche Stage,(the crowd will definitely be getting here steps in today)it’s more Welsh goodness as Funeral For a Friend take to the stage. The Welsh National Anthem is played through the PA as they enter the fray and the tent is absolutely bulging at this point, such is the demand to see the boys. Singer Matt Davies actually thinks twice about encouraging people to dance such is the size of the audience, for fear of an accident, but a set full of classics such as Rookie Of The Year, Juneau and Streetcar make for a happy, albeit sweaty audience. It’s main stage time and something of an anomaly this year as Deftones hit the stage with only three recognisable members in drummer Abe Cunnigham, keyboardist Frank Delgado and frontman Chino Moreno. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter has chosen not fly overseas just yet and long time bass player Sergio Vega was unceremoniously dropped recently, so it’s Deftones, but not as we know it. Opening with the downtuned grind of Genesis from latest album Ohms, their set list is littered with classics, culminating with the 7 Words in what is an absolutely faultless set.
And so onto the main event and is there a band more synonymous with Donnington than Iron Maiden? They seem to defy their age with Jannick Gers, Steve Harris, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith constantly swapping stage positions without missing a beat. Bruce Dickinson uses every inch of the stage and all manner of props to deliver a show that is both theatre and heavy metal majesty They kick off the set with 3 tracks from their latest album Senjitsu with the title track, Stratego and Revelations given an airing, showing that Maiden is very much now and far from being a nostalgia act, but from then on in, it’s wall to wall metal classics. Hallowed Be Thy Name, Flight Of Icarus, The Trooper and a closer of Aces High are all received by a frantic crowd as Bruce demands once again that you “scream for me Donnington.” There’s a certain amount of concern about where the future headlining acts from Download are coming from, but judging by tonight’s performance Iron Maiden are not quite ready to step down just yet….Cerys Andrews/Chris Andrews