20 June 2012

Review of Download Festival 2012

A review of the happenings at Download Festival 2012, Donington Park, UK


Our day started with Anthrax playing a half hour show. Since it was the ¼ of the Big 4 for which I had the lesser knowledge about and also the first time I was seeing them live, I was really focused and very open to liking them. I needn’t be though. They were simply powerful. Within those 30 minutes they had us jumping up and down, commanded the crowd to form a well-rounded mosh pit, and entertained us all the way. I was especially happy when I finally heard “Indians” which was stuck in my mind for 2 months. Belladonna did his usual with security guards rushing to “save” a female colleague from his hands when he tried to shake her to the song rhythm! They also forcefully kept him from crowd surfing. Download had officially kicked off for me. I give them a 9/10 purely because it was a 30 min appearance.


This was the only band I somehow wanted to see but didn't know much about them. I wasn’t expecting to be amazed nor was I particularly looking forward to see them- I was curious really. But they were good. Not being familiar with their work didn’t help much. I wasn't enthused but one thing really surprised me: how huge and what a great guitarist Zakk Wylde is. I also learned that his custom-made guitar weighs like a ton and only he can lift it! No wonders there. Unfortunately though, they didn’t make much impact on me and I was left being none the wiser about them. 6/10


Next, on the stage came these guys. Now, I have seen them live one more time when they opened for Heaven & Hell a few years ago. I was disappointed back then and I was disappointed this time too. The reason is simple; I just don’t fancy not being able to understand the song lyrics. Now I’m not saying they should attend a spelling bee class but seriously screaming to the crowd “sing it” and not actually singing it themselves is not much help especially to new fans! To be fair though I was biased towards not enjoying them but here is the thing. They were actually quite good, musically speaking. Their live music was arousing and many times I found myself tapping my leg and moving to the rhythm. On a different note, I seriously need to get Blythe’s vocal instructor’s number! 6.5/10


One of the word composites of the above was true: DETH. I did not experience MEGA in any way. Ok, perhaps Mustaine’s hair! But honestly, I was so excited that I was going to see the Megadeth live that I think I raised my expectations way too high. For starters, I think they were brain-dead during this live. They were barely moving or even entertaining in any way. At some point we thought maybe Mustaine had to leave early for the church mass? Or perhaps his pony was missing him much? The only thing that entertained us briefly was Vic Rattlehead wandering through the stage. Anyway, I was left unimpressed and disappointed in so many ways. On the other hand, again musically speaking, I liked them a lot. I enjoyed the classics like “Peace Sells” and “Symphony of Destruction” and all in all I am glad I saw them live. Not so glad about the white shirt though. So not metal! 5/10 


This was the point where grunge took over the main stage (seriously Soundgarden?) and I moved on to the smaller stages to see some other favourites. I managed to watch Firewind for a while and I can tell without a doubt that they sound even better live. Gus G did his thing as always with those magic fingers of his. On the other hand, Apollo’s vocals were astonishing. Although appearing in one of the smallest stages, it was packed and people were very enthusiastic about them. The sound was not fair to the bands but the good ones got noticed anyway. Firewind make the Greek metal scene proud for sure. 7.5/10


I insisted on standing still for 40 minutes waiting for these guys to show up.  I don’t know what it is about Ghost, but I was hooked when I first heard them by accident on YouTube. What is their deal? What is their music about? What are they? Appearing on stage dressed up like Ku Klux Klan members with their frontman, Papa Emeritus, dressed like a catholic priest with a skull where his face should be and holding a censer blessing the crowd did not solve any of my questions. Especially when their lyrics are filled with satanic elements! Whatever they represent be it humour, irony, or simply fun, their performance was great. I mean, the vocals were magnificent. I thought I was carried by angels (or maybe demons?) into the skies on a soft cloud ! The keyboards compliment their songs so well; I don’t think I have heard anything like this before. But then again I am not into Doom that much (apparently this is their categorisation). I loved them and can’t wait to hear their second album. 8.5/10


And on to the legends! By this time I was so exhausted that I couldn’t wait to go to sleep. I even wondered whether seeing THE Black Sabbath live is worth all this trouble. I have already seen them once with Dio so I thought to myself: “Is Ozzy really going to hit the notes and amaze me as much as Dio did? Is Tony going to be performing at his best? Is it really Black Sabbath I am seeing without Bill?” Then the first chord struck me. They started with “Black Sabbath” which couldn’t have worked better for the explosion that was about to follow. I then forgot all about my tiredness, all the urine, shit, food waste, or anything else I might have stepped or sat on without realising, and l lended my soul to the godfathers. It was phenomenal. For many reasons. Ozzy did hit the notes despite my otherwise expectations. He ran on the stage like a 4-year old, clapped his hands, and said fuck a lot. Only he can sing metal and successfully have the crowd move rhythmically left/right instead of forming a mosh pit! And only he can get angry when he “doesn't see our fucking hands in the air” anymore. Tony was looking like the true iron man and his guitar virtuosity was unaffected. This guy is so stoic I was really surprised when the camera caught him looking at the crowd and smiling at various times during the gig. Geezer shined again as the master of the bass and he did look happy to be sharing the stage with all of them. Clufetos was hitting the drums so hard I’m sure I felt the pain too. He was unbelievable. With 150,000 people and 300,000 set of eyes all watching them I think they felt what I did; that they belong together on a stage. Not Ozzy alone, not as Heaven & Hell, but as Black Sabbath. They had great chemistry and I don’t care where it came from be it money or respect for one another. And despite the fact that only ¾ where performing, based on that performance alone, I can be honest when I say I saw Black Sabbath. 10/10


  1. Anthrax is the best out of the 3 of the “Big 4” thrash metal bands I saw live.
  2. Zakk Wylde is huge and looks like a good guy to have drinks with at a strip club filled with Hell's Angels.
  3. Lamb of God have great music but the sound of Blythe’s screaming and growling voice makes me yawn repeatedly.
  4. Mustaine does not look good in a white shirt and his hair has more volume than his voice.
  5. Firewind sound even better live and I think I am in love with Gus G.
  6. Ghost is perhaps the next big thing in metal; even Anselmo said so.
  7. I pity the fool that will not get the chance to experience Black Sabbath live in front of a 150,000 crowd.

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