So far the weather has held out. Yes it remains a little gloomy, but the ground is dry and, for folks like myself, our pasty white skin remains safe from the sun. After popping a few paracetamols washed down with a bottle of Lucozade to combat the hangover, I prepare to head back to the arena for another day of carnage.
Unfortunately, the day didn’t kick off to a great start over at the Avalanche Stage with US rap/metal supergroup Powerflo suffering massive sound problems. The set eventually got underway with the band who feature members of Cypress Hill, Biohazard and Fear Factory battling through their set to a patient crowd. Given the issues that had taken place we could have probably done without the lengthy intro tape and the unnecessary introductions in place of maybe another song or two.
Things are faring better on the Main Stage where The Pink Slips, the synth-pop / punk band fronted by Grace McKagan (the very talented daughter of Duff McKagan) and Whiskey Myers, a southern rock / country group from Texas are playing to a slowly burning crowd.
Sadly, the backlash from the earlier problems on the Avalanche Stage meant that subsequent stage times all went to shit but fans were still treated to everything they were expecting including a solid set from Von-Hertzen Brothers followed by the brilliant Lawnmower Deth who provided a splash of entertainment with their thrash metal tomfoolery.
Things were back to heavy again as Corrosion of Conformity rained down their barrage of groove-soaked riffs on a crowd who lapped up every minute of it. Pepper Keenan added his throaty vocals to the mix and, while they might not be the most exciting band to watch visually, sonically, COC and their groove-laden metal is the perfect soundtrack for the mid-afternoon sun.
“I’m not allowed to tell you what to do but I want to see this place fuckin’ spinning!” barks Bury Tomorrow vocalist Daniel as the UK metallers bring a bit of heavy to the Avalanche Stage. Tracks like “Black Flame” taken from their upcoming album mix in nicely with tracks like “Earthbound” as the UK band sound like they’re about to knock the UK metal scene flat on its arse.
Next up was a trip to the Dogtooth Stage to witness Sleep Token, an anonymous group of musicians concealing their identities behind masks that added to the mysterious nature of the band. The music was atmospheric, dark with hypnotic metal riffs all held together with clean vocals. They may have performed on the smallest stage, but these guys dominated the small area they had. These guys are my recommended find of Download 2018!
Next up was a trek across the arena to the Zippo Encore Stage to see the pioneers of woman’s punk rock, L7. Although only playing a 6-song set, they played with passion and proved why they were such a huge influence for woman in rock. Unfortunately, drummer, Demetra Plakas, broke her arm not 48 hours prior to the show. Determined to not cancel their appearance L7 enlisted the help of Adam Ant’s drummer Jola. Of course, Plakas was present on stage to join the party. L7 were even able to tempt the sun to start to fight through the clouds.
There was much hype about The Fever 333 making their UK debut and boy, did this band not disappoint. Possibly the highlight of the weekend, the band made up of members of LetLive amongst others caused absolute pandemonium as they exploded into their Rage Against The Machine tinged fury. Frontman Jason flung himself about the tent like a rabid pitbull as The Fever 333 spat out one of the most incendiary sets of the weekend.
It was then time to head to the Main Stage for the hard rock / southern metal band, Black Stone Cherry. These guys first took the stage at Download in 2008 and since then their popularity has sky rocketed and elevated them to the well-deserved place on the bill, directly under the Mighty Guns n’ Roses. It was seriously awesome set with some of their greatest hits from “Blind Man” to Blame it on the Boom Boom” with covers of “Stir it Up” by the The Wailers and the crowd-pleasing cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Foxy Lady” all held nicely together with smoke machines.
There are very few metal bands out there who you can really say are going to step up and rise to the top. Zippo Stage headliners Parkway Drive are one of them. Their new album Reverence has thrown them right into the mainstream and while they still pepper their set with brutal metalcore tracks like “Dedicated”, tracks like opener “Wishing Wells” and “The Void” are surely going to catapult this band to the higher reaches of the main stages of festivals like Download.
Entering the stage to a video intro, Guns n’ Roses quickly kicked into “It’s So Easy”. If you ever wanted to know what an earth quake felt like, you simply needed to be placed in front of the Main Stage! Of course, this was nothing to the atmosphere when “Welcome to the Jungle” was introduced. To say that, in the past, Axl had lost his mojo would be an understatement, but from what we were treated to this evening can only be described as Axl 2.0! He, along with all of Guns n’ Roses were on form from start to finish with only one real noticeable issue with the cover of Velvet Revolver’s “Slither”, Axel just couldn’t seem to pull it off to the standard fans would have expected.
Speaking of covers, we were treated to an array of songs such as “Live and Let Die” by Wings, “Wish You Were Here” by Pick Floyd and an epic rendition of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” giving a touching tribute to the late, great Chris Cornell. The whole band had an exceptional stage presence, with Axl demonstrating what made him such an amazing frontman and Slash proving why he is one of the most well-respected guitarist in the world, although the lengthy guitar solos did become a little monotonous.
A personal highlight for me was the gift of hearing “November Rain” live, with the grand piano’s stool shaped like the rear of a Harley Davison! Light shows and fireworks all closed with “Paradise City” giving the exhausted fans one final wind to shake Donington to the core. This was the way to have seen Guns n’ Roses and something I can now tick of my bucket list.