Metal fans can see right through you if they sense any kind of in-authenticity. If your band visibly lack passion, sincerity and legitimacy, you won’t get far at all in this tight knit community. On the flip side, if you display all of the above with conviction, a sense of purpose and especially passion for the stage you are performing on, then you will be accepted with open arms for generations. System of a Down are of those who has managed this and after two decades of playing by their own rules, are widely accepted as one of the finest and important metal bands in the world.
Headlining Download Festival is considered by many as an honour of its own, but for their second time round (when many have actually dropped down the bill before) it’s a marker of the Armenian-Americans continued popularity. Plus there’s no better or more significant day for this to happen. Following a day of political unrest and a hung parliament result in the UK General Election, SOAD’s music (that covers critical issues in global politics) makes tonight’s performance feel all the more monumental ahead of an uncertain future.
But this is why metal is one of the finest communities in music. Whilst there is a sense of the unknown going forward in the UK (including the state of the arts, music and culture), System of a Down offer two hours for everybody to bang their heads and scream all of their doubts away.
Providing an urgent sense of warfare themselves, System of a Down start with explosive fan favourites including 'Suite-Pee' and 'Prison Song'.
Having previously be scorned for lackluster performances in the past, tonight’s display is anything but that as Frontman Serj Tankian is his typical eccentric self. There's nobody who sings quite as bizarre yet versatile as Tankian. His utterly brilliant and bonkers style is on perfect form, particularly on 'Psycho'. With his Armenian heritage flavoured in on the likes of 'Chop Suey!' Tankian is captivating to watch.
Not to mention his unique chemistry with lead guitarist Daron Malakian. The pair are in their usual good humour, whilst the guitarist puts on a more animated performance.
Vocally, Malakian himself sounds haunting on 'Lost in Hollywood' and 'Lonely Day' which send a chill down 50,000 spines at once.
Finally closing on the undoubtedly insane ‘Sugar’, System have succeeded in putting on a spectacle. Their OTT show floors you, from the light show to monstrous riffs, it's nonstop.
Tonight, System of a Down give everything that their devoted audience could have possibly wanted from them. Their off-the-wall personalities, slick musicianship, heavy as hell riffs and air of nostalgia will make 7 June remembered by the audience not as the day that an election may have changed the future of a country but the day System of a Down conquered Download Festival, consolidating their status as metal royalty.
Throughout the day, everybody has been enjoying themselves a little bit more as, like some sort of miracle, the weather is the best it’s been for years. Taking on the somewhat coveted slot of opening the main stage on the first day of the festival, Aussie metalcore crew Northlane face the challenge head on. ‘Citzen’ and ‘Quantum Flux’ both demand your attention with their intensity, whilst they create the first mosh pits of the weekend.
Elsewhere at Download, NXT offers the type of physical aggression that you can’t even find in a wall of death. With stars such as Bobby Roode, Asuka and Kassius Ohno throwing out body slams and powerbombs, thousands of people have overspilled out of the tent to watch the future stars of WWE cause carnage. One match even had to stop due to excessive blood!
On the Zippo Encore Stage, hardcore veterans Suicidal Tendencies make everybody forget that they are in the middle of getting sunburned with their old school and in-your-face bangers like ‘You Can’t Bring Me Down’ which wastes no time in opening up the circle pits.
Five Finger Death Punch are slightly harmed by some sound issues, but that doesn’t stop their huge main stage audience go certifiably nuts to band’s selection of metal favourites including ‘The Bleeding’, ‘Got Your Six’ and an acoustic rendition of ‘Remember Everything’.
Over on the Avalanche Stage, New York pop-punkers State Champs barely even need to say a word as the whole tent seem to know every line themselves. ‘Elevated’ does just that as the crowd surfing begins in a frenzy.
Finishing off the Zippo Encore Stage is the perfect combo of Good Charlotte and Sum 41. Combined, their nostalgic greatest hits sets makes it feel like it’s the summer of 2002 again. Whether it’s on ‘Fat Lip’ or ‘Lifestyles of the Rich & The Famous’, the energy and showmanship from both bands is like they and their songs haven’t aged a day. The crowd reaction alone makes them both the surprise highlight of the day.