Saturday opens with an enticing set from Brit-punk goers Queen Zee at the Dogtooth Stage. They walk on to a stream of red lights beaming and excessive dry ice; a set-up that’s essentially the Download Starter Pack. Playing, ‘Loner’ from their album dropped early this year, the stage swarms with youths throwing themselves at each other to the punchy riffs. Giving you a splash of HMLTD aesthetic with their own boisterous flare, their charisma and assertiveness on stage make them ones to watch.
The next act are difficult to describe on paper, but dark, theatrical and captivating would be our best bet. Behemoth absolutely tear Download apart as they overthrow Main Stage. Attracting thousands of fans into what feels like a zombie-esque gathering of Satan worshippers, Behemoth set the bar high as they stand amongst black spray painted microphone stands and viciously head-bang alongside vigorous flames. Walking on stage in an almost completely sealed, jet black mask, frontman Adam Darski’s effortless death metal roars and assertiveness have your eyes glued to the spectacle. It feels like Behemoth knew from the moment they set foot on Download’s Main Stage what they were about to create was going to be remembered as one of the most epic moments of the entire weekend.
The familiar sound of a distorted guitar fuzzes in the distance, where sat on a raised platform, drummer of Three Days Grace, Neil Sanderson thuds, sending militant shock waves through your feet. Opening with ‘The Mountain’ it’s unfortunate to say the groups set didn’t turn out the way anyone would’ve anticipated. Throughout, all instruments were louder than any vocal, which, with a screamo band is already a massive strain when trying to keep consistency. At some periods the backing track was out of touch with the live music, but none of this stopped Three Days Grace from putting on a great show visually. Regardless of the technical errors, mosh pits and devil horns were all in good sight.
Playing a handful off their 2006 One-X album, tracks ‘Pain’, ‘I Hate Everything About You’, and ‘Riot!’ drew the biggest responses, but nowhere near much as ‘Animal’ which they merged into The White Stripes' ‘Seven Nation Army’. As the clouds disappear, Saturday sees an almost scorching bit of sunlight during their set, as they proclaim “We’re Three Days Grace from Toronto, Canada and we brought the fucking sun!” before booming into ‘The Good Life’.
Cutting a completely different tone, Die Antwoord take on the Main Stage with a unwelcome shower of rain. Every year Download throws a slightly different group into their line up, in the last few years they’ve had Pendulum, The Prodigy and Chase and Status, but to Die Antwoord’s surprise they were welcomed by a packed crowd - a mix of day-one fans, and just people checking them out for something different.
Making a point of the bizarre booking, Ninja mentions being surprised to play this festival, shouting with excitement that there’s something about their style that the metal heads connect to. Playing with a distorted mask, DJ God sets the tone as his platform flickers neon pornographic images, bouncing on with speed rap lyrics. Ninja sets off Die Antwoord’s set with a solo and soon enough the two are owning their show with backup dancers and guest vocals. Booming tracks like, ‘Banana Brain’, ‘Baby’s On Fire’, ‘I Fink U Freaky’, and later concluding on, ‘Enter the Ninja.’ An industrious set to say the least.
Concluding the erratic Saturday line-up is the reason - judging by the mass of T-shirts - that most people have endured the quagmire. Slipknot are poised at the top of the bill just in time to support their new singles and album cycle, but the talk seems to be centred on the controversial new masks. Corey Taylor’s new face seems to garner unanimous hatred; a little counterintuitive for a band who wear masks to encourage people to focus on the music, not the aesthetic?
Opening with the ever-reliable ‘People=Shit’ (not a sentence I ever thought I would write), the nine-piece thrash their way through a balanced set of old and new material, sliding new single ‘Unsainted’ in to a reception akin to staples like ‘The Devil In I’ and ‘Before I Forget’.
The masked figures move in creature-like ways among raised drum kits, endless pyrotechnics and a stage set-up to rival a full travelling circus. There’s a slightly impersonal tone to the whole affair, and a vague hint at the idea that their peak performance days may be behind them, but the sheer impact and gravity of this band seems to outweigh the doubt in anyone’s mind as the whole crowd bows down for a fervent finale of ‘Spit It Out’ and ‘Surfacing’.
Shawn Crahan walks solo to the end of the runway after their final exit, greeted by a deafening cheer of support in a touching tribute to his late youngest daughter.
A mysterious “We’ll be back very soon” from Corey and nondescript Slipknot posters with “Live.2020” embossed across them suggest that this won’t be the last we see of them for a while. And thank God, because love them or lump them, Slipknot are one of the most established, impressive bands of this generation.